By Patrick Gleason, Peter J. Tomasi, Mick Gray, John Kalisz, and Rob Leigh
Superman #20 is the start of the new “Black Dawn” arc with story by Gleason and Tomasi, pencils by Gleason, inks by Gray, colors by Kalisz and letters by Leigh. The issue focuses on the Kent family with a surprise visit from the Bat family and continues to look into the issue of Jon’s on and off again powers.
One of the charms of Rebirth’s “new” Superman is the Kent family and their portrayal as an iconic family of optimism, happiness, and love. This seems to have been further cemented due to the events of Action Comics #976: the merging of the New 52 and Post-Crisis Superman. Although we don’t yet know the entire reach of the effects of this combination, we do get few visual hints throughout the issue. However, as Clark tells Lois, it seems it will be a matter to be discussed in a future issue. Overall, the theme and focus of this issue is “iconic.” There are a number of poses, interactions and crowd reactions that all hearken back to a classic “slice of apple pie” Superman. One of the best moments was not even of the Man of Steel, but a classic Batman and Robin pose taken from the ‘43 cover of Batman #19.
Gleason’s artwork continues to be the best complement for the aforementioned family dynamic and iconic moments. His pencils and Kalisz’ coloring convey a child-like innocence, optimism, and levity to all the characters (even Batman) which, for the most part, is a good thing. This of course works especially well for Jon and Damian’s moments at the dinner table. Gleason is especially effective at conveying emotions in each character’s expressions. Too often, books will have people expressing emotion in what they are saying, but the artwork just does not match up. It’s a hard task to accomplish since expressions are largely tied to movements of the face and hard to capture in one static image. The best artists are able to do it and Gleason excels at capturing these key moments in his character’s expression conveying looks of love, sadness, or being up to no good. Mick Gray’s inking does not overpower the pencil work and really acts as a complementary frame for each drawing. Even with all the stark blacks of Batman, Clark and John’s hair, and the night scenes Kalisz’ bright and warm saturated colors balances and brightens each panel. However, where this doesn’t work well is when we get to the dark end of the issue. There is almost too much levity for what is going on with Batman and the black goo. One of the last panels featuring a discovery made by Batman looks more like Adam West than Ben Affleck’s portrayal of the Dark Knight. It was a little jarring and can definitely bring one out of the moment.
This is more of a transitional issue between the “Superman Reborn” and the new “Black Dawn” story-lines. We really don’t get to see much of the titular Black Dawn until the last page or two of the issue. The first half of this issue’s story is told in mostly wordless panels and the rest with short moments of dialogue. This is a very good thing: “Show, don’t tell.” In the later half of the book, though, the characters seem to have a lot to say. Even the typically stoic Batman carries on a conversation with a cow, which is more of a Dick Grayson thing and not Bruce Wayne. A really great scene, though, is the full-page apple pie moment. It perfectly conveys each character’s core traits without having to say much at all. As far as what Black Dawn will be, it’s fair to be a little skeptical, as it appears to be another black goo alien/monster that we run into ALL the time in comics, sci-fi, and monster movies. Hopefully, there will be more to it when we get to part two.
Overall the issue is enjoyable even though it lacked a better look at the fallout from the last part of “Superman Reborn”. Although we get some hints as to what has changed, it just wasn’t enough considering this seems to be a pretty big thing for the DC Universe. Hopefully we will get a better look into the merging of the Supermen very soon and that the black goo is more than just a “monster of the week.” If you are a fan of iconic Superman moments or just looking to jump into Superman before we get into heavier plot-lines, you should definitely pick up this issue.