By Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Doug Mahnke, John Mendoza, Wil Quintana
Superman is currently in a weird place. DC is really pushing to get some of those angry internet trolls back into comic shops and buying Superman comics again (assuming they ever did). What’s the best way to do that? Well, DC decided the best course of action was to unceremoniously kill the New 52 Superman and showcase the pre-Crisis Supes that has been creeping around in the background for a year.
To be fair, Tomasi’s Final Days of Superman was a great story that harkened back to the classic Last Days of Superman. Superman: Rebirth #1 is a continuation of that arc, with New 52 Clark dead and gone. Pre-Crisis Superman and New 52 Lana Lang take center stage as Tomasi and Gleason deal with the fallout of the new Clark’s death and what that means for them personally, as well as the world at large.
In many ways, the story can be a touching tribute to the past five years, showing that New 52 Supes had a real positive impact. Pre-Crisis Clark’s reaction to New 52 Clark’s statues of his parents was the emotional shot that this issue needed and something that our fallen social justice warrior Superman deserved.
However, this comic repeatedly goes out of its way to remind you that this is the Superman that you grew up with. “Come back, internet trolls that weren’t buying Superman comics to begin with! The Superman that you so DESPERATELY wanted is back!” Thankfully, it’s all written and presented well enough, because it starts to come off as emotional manipulation that is simply cashing in on your nostalgia. There’s barely even a proper allegory; it’s just “here’s your Superman back.” Honestly, this is more than likely an editorial mandate and not something that Tomasi and Gleason really wanted to put out there. At the very least, it’s an interesting setup that has a cliffhanger that will make getting the next one a minor priority.
Those giant splash pages of Pre-Crisis Superman pounding on Doomsday is obvious pandering, but it’s hard to care when the art is this freakin’ beautiful. The Death of Superman flashback pages is insane superhero comic perfection. This issue is worth it just for those seven pages. Colorist Wil Quintana should share the credit because this is one of the best colored comic books in recent memory. The level of detail on those Doomsday pages is unbelievable. Unfortunately, the detail in the rest of the issue is nowhere near as striking.
Superman: Rebirth #1 is not perfect, but it’s not awful either. Tomasi has already shown that he’s able to write a compelling Superman and no amount of nostalgia cash-grabs is going to change that. The upcoming Superman #1 will hopefully be a more proper start. If DC focuses more on telling great stories and less on pleasing people that aren’t even their customers (and never will be), things should be just fine.