‘Superman Space Age’ #1 offers up a Superman in the making. A hero shaped and influenced by the best, making him the hero he blooms to becoming in this debut issue. Superman is a beacon of hope in a world of much pessimism and national misery from Mark Russell and Mike Allred. Silver Age shenanigans with real-world politics and deadly consequences.
Post World War II America was a time of prosperity and plenty, but it also had a darker side to it with the ramping up of the Cold War, nuclear armament and the assassination of President John F Kennedy. And it is both these sides we see illustrated in Mark Russell and Mike Allred’s Superman Space Age #1. A trip down memory lane and a story of Superman that is one part Silver Age, one part rites-of-passage and other part a thought piece, through the medium of comics, on what it is to be someone. Who we become and who shapes us, as Superman learns from not one but two fathers.
While the debut issue opens up on a dramatic, dark end-of-the-world scenario in 1985, much of the action takes place in the ‘60s. An era effortlessly evoked through Allred’s art style that has a strong pop-art aesthetic to it, as many a reviewer has long commented on throughout Allred’s illustrious career. A pop-art style that Laura Allred adds the pop to with her colours too. But, it’s what makes the duos synergistic styling so suitable for the story Russell is weaving. A story that sees Russell once more move away from familiar territory as a satirist and deliver a well-crafted plot-line that further cements his reputation as one of the best, and versatile, writers in the biz, as he has done so recently in his Fantastic Four: Life Story miniseries for Marvel. And while he has taken on Superman before now, this is the first big tentpole series he has steered.
Being tied to real life events, we get a Pa Kent scarred by what he saw during the war, as well as a Luthor who’s maniacal nuclear plans are matched against Bruce Wayne’s own plans for a less lethal style of combat. A plan from which his alter ego of the Batman springs in this alternative timeline that brings many an original new takes on the familiar. Although it is Luthor’s avaricious desire for a healthy military contract that fuels a good part of this issue’s conflict. We also get such original moments as Hal Jordan’s acquirement of the Green Lantern power ring. An object he gains simply for being close enough to the dying Abin Sur to take up the mantel, rather than for any more noble reasons. As well as a very different take on events that led to the seminal Crisis on Infinite Earths. Which this series may be leading up to, given its 1985 setting, maybe? All-in-all this version of the DCU is a one is plagued by realism in places as well as the extraordinary too. All seen through the subjective eye of hindsight.
In recent weeks the age-old online debate of why Warner Bros. Can’t seem to do Superman justice on the silver screen has reared its head. Well, the execs at Warner could do with reading up on this promising first issue. Superman, at his best, reflects what is best in those who have nurtured him, those who have given him sound and sage advise; a Superman who listens first and in doing so, is a more philosophical hero once he does finally done his famous red, blue and yellows. And in a comic book that has plenty of pessimism, it is Superman that shines through and offers hope. And in doing so, inspiration too. An inspiration I cannot wait to se the outcome of in the next issue, as teased on the last page of this issue.
Superman Space Age #1 is out now from DC Comics