For 80 years, the character, the concept, of Superman has been built on hope. In 1938, Superman debuted in Action Comics #1, a strange visitor from another planet. The character is about as “Americana” as you can get, built on the ideals of truth, justice, and the American way. Virtually indestructible, incomparably strong, and touting a wide variety of powerful abilities, Superman is the guy next door, but his unlimited potential has sometimes made him hard to write about over the years.
And yet, here was are, celebrating the Man of Steel’s birthday without a single mullet, CG moustache, or neck snap in sight. In fact, Superman has adopted his red trunks back into his costume for this issue, fully returning him to his most iconic costume. As a longtime fan, I’ve missed this look.
The book is a celebration of all things Superman, and holy Hell, they pulled out the talent for this 80-page issue: Dan Jurgens, Jim Lee, Richard Donner (yes, the director of the sublime 1978 film starring Christopher Reeve), Louise Simonson, Paul Dini (yes, of the excellent DCAU shows such as Batman and Superman), Jerry Ordway, Geoff Johns, and so on, and so on, and so on.
The book is presented as an anthology collection, highlighting Superman past, present, and future. It gets to the heart of who Superman is: Friend, father, husband, hero, icon. Superman inspires others as much as those he helps inspire him. Many of the stories are touching, emotional, funny, and hit the core of who Superman is.
There’s a part of me that wants to get into story details of each of the tales told in this book, but I don’t think it would be fair. This is a book that deserves a visit with open eyes. I can say that every influential hero and villain makes at least some level of appearance or cameo within the pages, so there truly is something for everyone here. I will say that I am glad that this issue only mentioned the Death of Superman storyline in passing. Yes, it was a big deal when it happened in 1992, but there’s so much more ground to cover than that one moment. It’s wise to finally move on.
The various art styles are great, as is the writing within each story. The final featured adventure does take a tonal shift to set the new chapter of Superman’s ongoing saga, and I do feel a little mixed. Call me sentimental, but for a special issue such as this, I would have liked it more had they simply let Superman do what he does best: Inspire something better within humanity, and not face a “To Be Continued” level conflict, which felt out of place. Still, I have always had a soft spot for Jim Lee art.
As a comics reader, I’ve been very pleased with the direction that DC has taken with their books since the “Rebirth” initiative. There have been a number of solid titles, and for the 1,000th issue, I’m happy to see Superman treated with the reverence and wonder that he deserves. It’s a satisfying “love letter” to an icon filled with action, heart, nostalgia, and anticipation for the future. Granted, the $7.99 cover and multiple cover options highlighting the last eight decades is a daunting financial proposition, but it’s worth grabbing at least one copy of this book. Just grab your favorite era and/or artist, and you’ll be fine.
The true magic lies within this book’s pages, and much like Superman’s weakness, you’ll find yourself unable to resist as well.
Up, up, and away!
(Please keep the trunks.)