REVIEW: Man and Superman
Since Man And Superman was announced I have been very excited to read it. The tale of Clark Kent’s early days in Metropolis on his Journey to becoming Superman has been told many times throughout history, particularly in recent times. From the movie Man of Steel directed by Zack Snyder, to comic book runs such as Superman: Earth One by J.Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis and Superman: Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. This era in Clark Kent’s life has proven to be fertile ground for creators to plant seeds, into which fresh and unique ideas can grow and in turn add to the Superman mythology for that generation. Man And Superman truly continues this fine tradition.
Words such as legendary and iconic are often used to describe creators who have touched us all through their own unique way of storytelling, and impact they have made on a character. Well ICONIC and LEGENDARY are words that describe the one and only Marv Wolfman. He has co-created a plethora of characters such as Raven, Cyborg and Deathstroke, and written some of comics’ most iconic series including The New Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths. Thankfully Marv has returned to DC Comics’ and Superman with this latest story – ‘Man and Superman’, along with artist Claudio Castellini. Man and Superman was originally created between 2006 and 2009. It is presented to us today as a prestige format – a 100 page Super Spectacular featuring pin up pieces in Monochrome by interior artist Claudio Castellini.
As soon as you see the cover art, you just know this is going to be an epic issue. Castellini has done a fantastic job, the cover is truly spectacular. The cover perfectly showcases the heart and feel of the issue, and I love when that happens. The colours only enhance that, and combined the cover is just beautiful.
Man and Superman chronicles Clark Kent’s early days in Metropolis. The young man from Smallville finds himself in the big city. Drawn to it with the promise of gaining employment at the one and only Daily Planet. The city is full of colour and character from top to bottom as Clark soon learns from encounters with characters we now know and love. As Clark struggles with gaining a foothold in Metropolis, the city comes under siege as it is targeted with explosives and flying machinery intent on causing mass destruction and fear. I really enjoyed this set of circumstances, along with the terrorists who have claimed responsibility of being the main antagonists. It just feels very current and very grounded. Events that we have seen occur in real life. The heightened sense of worry and uncertainty among the inhabitants of Metropolis feels all to real, and radiates not only from the city but from a young Clark Kent too. To the outsider, Superman is looked upon as this infallible, powerful god like being who is totally unrelatable to the audience. On occasion this can be true, but in this story Clark is very relatable and often showcases fear and doubt, which are traits that everyone of us feels.
Enraged by this act, the terrorists strike once again, only Metropolis now has a guardian angel in the form of the ‘Flying Man’ to help protect them. Still in his infancy as a hero, Clark cannot prevent the attack but can help with damage control and the saving of lives. Whilst doing so, his heroic gestures are construed by some to be acts of violence. Only one person truly believes in the good of this individual and that of course comes in the form of Lois Lane. This interpretation of Lois is totally on point and a perfect representation of the character. Lois is a feisty go-getter who is hell bent on uncovering the truth. Her relationship with Perry White in this story is quintessential, and built on respect for what each other have accomplished and built. That all bark and no bite banter is also represented really well too. One thing I did love, was the story of how Clark meets Lois. It was so well, done. In a few interpretations of this story, Superman is dumbfounded by her beauty, but we all know it is so much more than that, and this story really brings that to life. He starts off as a huge fan of her work and her ballsy attitude and I love that. Was it just me, or did her outfit remind you of anything… Superman: The Animated Series’ Lois by Bruce Timm!
As the story progresses, a familiar face returns to Metropolis – Lex Luthor, just in time to stop the terrorist menace. For Clark this all feels to much like a coincidence and begins to dig. Naturally this leads to an exchange with none other than Lois Lane. I absolutely adored this exchange between the two. Lois is confident and bold without being brash or brazen while Clark isn’t intimidated as such, but certainly in awe and enamored with Lois, more so for her guile and unwavering belief in the importance of the truth.
As Lois and Clark investigate, events take an explosive turn that very much galvanize Clark’s resolve and sets him on his path to becoming Superman. In recent years Lex Luthor has been portrayed in many different ways from Jessie Eisenberg’s polarizing portrayal in BvS, to Rainn Wilson in the Death of Superman Animated movie. However the voice of Michael Rosenbaum who portrayed Lex in Smallville really entered my head when reading this interpretation. This is definitely a positive for me as Rosenbaum portrayed Lex with excellence as this interpretation of the character feels like a slightly older version of Rosenbaum’. Not the mad scientist but shrewd ruthless businessman.
Marv Wolfman has created a true masterpiece in Man and Superman. The Superman persona doesn’t even appear in this story, yet it is so compelling and captures the true essence of what the character will become and values he will stand for. The flashback sequences that feature Ma & Pa Kent are very poignant, full of hope and optimism. To be all you can be and to give what you can to others. These sentiments are truly the ideals of Jonathan and Martha, and weave into Clark’s narrative perfectly. It feels like every character in this story are a quintessential take on that character. I got a lot of Christopher Reeve in this portrayal of the character. Reeve’s movies and take on the character really carried a sense of wonder, and gravitas even to this day, and I really got a sense of that reading Man and Superman. This book just feels like a completely different take to Superman and Clark, one that is rarely seen – well in fact, hasn’t been seen before. Marv made a bold statement when this was first released, in which he said it was “the best story he has ever written”… And he is NOT wrong. It’s safe to say that he has not lost his touch.
Artist Claudio Castellini has crafted something truly magnificent in Man and Superman. The interior feels like it could marry up to Wolfman’s other work such as The New Teen Titans. It really has that intangible old school feel to it. In this book, Metropolis feels like it has got so much depth to it. The habitat created feels very layered indeed. Not to mention the details, I love how he has portrayed Clark wearing a pair of tights over his head, (at least that’s what I think it is), like I said before, it’s something we haven’t seen before. And those are the kinds of details that makes this book a masterpiece. Like the artwork, Metropolis feels hard to date. It certainly doesn’t feel like its taking place in 2019. This makes this story all the more timeless. Christopher Reeve likeness has definitely been used or at least influenced this interpretation of the character and I absolutely adore that. Christopher Reeve to this very day is considered many peoples favourite iteration of the character and his likeness certainly delivers that emotional response with the reader.
Colourist HI-FI added so much atmosphere and emotion to every panel. The sky above Metropolis has never looked better. The orange and purple hews during explosions and fires really add a sense of warmth, and that the atmosphere has changed. Combined, Hi-Fi & Castellini have created one of the most dynamic and eye catching covers I’ve ever seen. The composition of the Superman iconography really marries up to the idea of Superman being the Man of Tomorrow.
Man and Superman just felt really special to me. It felt like an event book. The format was perfect for this kind of epic storytelling. I for one would love to see a sequel in this format and for Marv Wolfman to return to the character that he understands all to well. I have been a Superman fan and reader for many years now, and I can honestly say this is one of my favourite books. It feels like an instant classic. If DC Films ever decide to reboot the characters’ origin, I truly hope they go in this direction.