SYNOPSIS: When the planet Krypton exploded, its last son was rocketed across the cosmos and came to settle in a small town in Kansas. But what else came with him, and what if a piece of his home landed somewhere we never knew about? As Superman has become a symbol of strength and pride for America, the Soviet Union looks to crush that image with a creation of their own, built by their own might and forged by their own power! Robert Venditti returns to the Man of Steel with new artist Gavin Guidry!
The adventure continues!
After the warm reception volume 1 of Superman ‘78 received, it should come as no surprise that it got a sequel comic!
Venditti returns as writer, bringing us back once again to the destruction of Krypton. This time, we get a new perspective, following an errant meteorite on its journey to Earth. (Wait, was that a Bizarro Earth it just passed? Vol. 3 anyone?) It eventually crashes at an unassuming farm in the USSR in 1951. Despite shades of Superman: Red Son, that isn’t where this story is going!
Cut to decades later, Lois Lane is doing her investigative best on an arms deal before getting into her usual amount of trouble, having to call for Superman. Venditti once again captures that classic Superman feel as the Metropolis Marvel rushes to the rescue. With some shades of Superman III, it’s easy to feel immersed in the cinematic universe of Reeve’s Man of Steel.
Meanwhile, at the Daily Planet, we get reintroduced to the paper’s usual cast of supporting characters. Venditti demonstrates his grasp on everyone’s characterization, peppering in his understanding with familiar traits from the films. It’s so easy to hear the actors’ voices in your head as you read and if you love those movies you’ll definitely get a kick out of seeing their interactions.
From here we get to the villain of the story, Metallo. It’s a stroke of genius having his origins tied in with the Soviet military, making this an ideological battle for Superman at the height of the Cold War. Eschewing the traditional comic book backstory, Venditti instead sets us up for the equivalent of Rocky IV, with a threat potentially more deadly than Nuclear Man. This new angle has me definitely intrigued as to how Venditti is going to utilize it!
Of course, the key to this issue’s success is the art. Absent is volume 1’s Wilfredo Torres and stepping into the phone booth is Gavin Guidry. I’m largely unfamiliar with Guidry’s work, but I like what I see here. Like Torres before him, he’s not going for detailed realism, but the essence of the actors is present. There’s something in his linework that at times makes me think of Tim Sale, although his art style is his own. You can definitely see the influence of the movies as certain panels capture key mannerisms and familiar shots. It all adds to grounding this in that universe, though.
I’ve said it before, but despite growing up with it, the Reeve movies aren’t my preferred take on Superman. That aside, this continues to be a well-told love letter to that era of films. I would’ve liked to have seen some connective tissue to the past story, but that’s a minor quibble. This comic stands on its own, allowing for easy entry if you haven’t read “Brainiac” and have only seen the movies. I’m all for seeing other Superman villains get the “big screen treatment” as if Donner was around to shepherd them to the general audience and I think the context Venditti brings gives new life to the material. This is an excellent throwback, capturing the fun of a Saturday matinee! – Javier E. Trujillo