It's been a while since I've read a Superman, and with the exception of back issues and occasional wikipedia browsing, I haven't been up to date with the character's current situation in the comics. All I know is that he's juggling between visiting Earth and "New Krypton", and he's placed his pal, Mon-El, in charge of protecting Metropolis while he's gone. From the look of things, the Man Of Steel's got his hands full alright. However, with Blackest Night happening, things are going to get a lot worse before they get any better, and in the Man Of Steel's case, he's going to deal with a figure he thought he'd never see again; one that can go toe to toe with him at any given moment. The cover alone is an indication in itself - ALL HELL WILL BREAK LOOSE IN SMALLVILLE.
Blackest Night: Superman #1
Written By: James Robinson
Illustrated By: Eddy Barrows
Smallville is a quiet community, and a place that Clark Kent/ Superman lived and grew up in. It also happens to be the final resting place of one of the greatest heroes the multiverse has ever known - the Earth-2 Superman. Resting in a memorial dedicated to him and his wife, Lois Lane, all is peaceful... until Black Rings rain from the sky and bring the dead back to life. Now resurrected as a dark shell of his former self, Kal-L seeks to spread the word of death around his New Earth counterpart's home, stalking and preying every living being in the rural little town. Even as Superman and Superboy spring into action, they are unable to deal with the situation, and things become much worse for the Superman family when they all find out the grotesque plan the Black Lanterns have for their loved ones.
One of the more prominent comic figures I've come to respect and admire over the years is the Earth-2 Superman. An older version of the character we all know and love, he is also known to fans as "The Golden Age Superman", having a slightly different origin story and "S" shield logo as part of his costume. Before going into details with the story at hand, I probably should give a brief history lesson for those not familiar with the guy... it's kind of a doozy reading about him in wikipedia, so here's the short version of his story:
Unlike our world's Superman, Kal-L is portrayed as an older and wiser hero, happily married to Lois Lane and fighting the good fight... until the events of Crisis Of Infinite Earths happened. Together with his wife, Superboy-Prime, and Alexander Luthor III, they defeated the Anti-Monitor, and subsequently "exiled themselves" into a world akin to that of limbo. Life was peaceful for the quartet... until Lois' failing health, coupled with tragic events he witnessed in our Earth, force the older Kryptonian to take action and reveal himself at the beginning of Infinite Crisis. Believing he could save his wife by bringing back his own counterpart world called Earth-2, Kal-L was instead manipulated by the machinations of Alexander Luthor III, whose only interest was to recreate the Multiverse and find the "perfect earth". After Lois' death and a brutal fight with our very own Supes, Kal realizes his mistake too late, and is there to witness the death of Superboy (Conner Kent) at the hands of a now mad Superboy-Prime. Determined to right his wrongs, both Supermen join forces to stop Luthor and Prime, but he perishes after a brutal beating from the latter, dying in the arms of his cousin, Power Girl.
Over three years after his death, Kal-L finally returns... but as an undead minion of the Black Lantern Corps. Before it was spoiled, I never expected this to happen to the guy considering his heroic history, but let's face it - It was writer Geoff Johns who killed him off in the first place, and it's only natural that he brings him back... in a twisted manner though. I'm sure he'll be using the newest member of the Black Lantern family in the main Blackest Night book soon, but for now, we'll have to follow his adventures in the tie-in. Handling the writing duties of this book will be none other than writing veteran, James Robinson, who's no stranger to the Man Of Steel either. Prior to this tale, he's already done work with the Superman titles, especially with recent events on "New Krypton". He clearly tries to make Blackest Night happen concurrently with that time period, and even the denizens from that world are affected by the Black Ring invasion, as explored in a short, two-page segment I won't spoil here. Given the fact that he knows about all this and Clark's current predicament, I have faith that he can handle writing about Kal-L from Earth-2 and give a clear representation of his actions as this mini progresses. The book also has wonderful art by Eddy Barrows. While the quality is not as strong as Ethan Van Sciver or Ivan Reis' material, the artsyle fits in nicely with the tone of this book, and he draws one mean, ghoulish looking Earth-2 Superman to boot.
Definitely a must read for any Superman fan, Blackest Night: Superman #1 will get you back into the Man Of Steel's game if you feel out of touch with the character. Like the other BN tie-ins, it serves to expand the bigger picture of the series, aiming to please the Superman community if you really want to know how characters from that universe react to the invasion. It might not click with everybody though if they haven't read Crisis Of Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis. Given that this is a Earth-2 Supes story, they might be a bit confused. Putting that aside, the writing is solid and the art is fantastic, and even if the story feels a tad inaccessible at first, the action will carry you through. If the first page of the book doesn't convince that trouble's brewing, you bet your asses that things will be worse once the story's over. The final page says it all, and hopefully when the next issue comes, a backstory will flesh out and we'll find out the fate of Smallville and the entire Kent family.
Score - 8/10