Superman: Man of Tomorrow #2
Written by Robert Venditti
Art by Paul Pelletier, Drew Hennessy and Adriano Lucas
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The Man of Steel continues to illuminate DC’s best path forward on the digital landscape with Superman: Man of Tomorrow #2, as writer Robert Venditti and artist Paul Pelletier deliver a done-in-one adventure that never forgets Superman’s deep humanist roots. While Venditti and Pelletier’s previous installment gave Superman a high-octane head-to-head against the rampaging Parasite, their second installment is a lot more down to Earth – but that doesn’t make it any less engaging.
In many ways, this issue reminds me a lot of the classic Paul Dini episodes of Superman: The Animated Series, as Venditti and Pelletier switch gears to pit Superman against the threat of organized crime. But what’s so special about this sophomore issue is that while there’s the prerequisite application of super-strength as Superman stops bank robberies and arson, Vendetti never forgets to look at the human side of the equation, of ordinary men and women who find themselves in way over their heads.
It’s that empathetic throughline that’s connected both issues of Superman: Man of Tomorrow, and it’s something that fits Clark Kent’s character so well – as an invincible demigod, he’s the embodiment of privilege, and as such, his greatest responsibility is to help everyone he can, even if they’re ostensibly the “bad” guys. Of course, that’s not to say that Venditti’s entire story lacks villains, as the threat of the Gambler recalls the old Dini episodes focusing on Intergang – but he’s able to wring some nice humor from our expectations, as a couple of brass knuckle-wielding heavies aren’t going to exactly intimidate the Man of Steel.
But the thing that might have impressed me the most about Vendetti’s work here is that it’s also deeply grounded in Clark’s personal life. Admittedly, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen don’t exactly have a tone of impact on the actual plot, but as far as added color goes, they really give Superman some much-needed emotional depth. Little details like Lois and Clark having breakfast for dinner as a standby thanks to their crazy work schedules, or the couple’s shorthand for when Clark has to dodge security cameras to go to his “other” job, it goes a long way to getting readers to invest in Superman as a human character. (The fact that Venditti’s plot also neatly ties back to Clark’s investigative journalism is only an added bonus.)
And I’ll say this – while I was impressed with Pelletier’s artwork last issue, I think he’s only improved with practice. While I think he’s still getting the hang of Superman’s unique visual vocabulary – which can sometimes look stilted at the best of times – his expressiveness really sells so much of the book. (Given the additional focus on Superman’s alter ego this issue, you can really sense the Christopher Reeve inspiration to Pelletier’s Clark Kent.) This story feels like the kind of thing that lets Pelletier really flex his muscles, particularly the heartstring-tugging moments where Superman realizes he’s facing would-be criminals who have been coerced into service. Combine that with some energetic but welcoming colors from Adriano Lucas, and you have a truly winning book.
Despite its title, Superman: Man of Tomorrow doesn’t reinvent the wheel – but instead distills a Superman storyline down to its truest essence. Sure, there’s action and adventure, but with their second installment, Vend-tti and Pelletier have really taken the Man of Steel back down to his roots, a champion of the little guy and the scourge of corrupt fat cats rather than a guy who can single-handedly take down Darkseid. It’s the kind of story that isn’t the flashiest – and as such, perhaps anathema to a Direct Market that hinges itself on events – but it’s the sort of self-sustaining and heartwarming story that makes you remember why you loved superheroes in the first place.