Voices In Your Head
With any critical relaunch mounted by DC, the first thing many turn their eyes to is Superman. He received a controversial change of origin following Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985), his ongoing series depicted the backstory of the new DC Universe following Flashpoint (2011), and post-Rebirth (2016), his titles featured additional details on how DC wide canon operated. Even outside of comics we see James Gunn launching a new DC cinematic universe on his back. So, with the Dawn of DC relaunch, DC has unsurprisingly put Clark at the forefront, with his standalone and Action Comics painting both the future of Superman, and their universe as a whole.
The issue leads with a gorgeous wraparound cover penciled and inked by the spectacular Jamal Campbell (as is the case with the rest of the issue), an artist most well-known for his previous Eisner-nominated work as the artist on Far Sector. His art is grandiose, extremely vivid, and never fails to meet the high expectations set by the cover. Williamson has highlighted Superman: The Animated Series as a tonal influence, and while I will get into the writing later, it can also very much be felt within the art. Campbell’s art is bright and expressive, and while it does not directly draw from the style of that series, it would absolutely feel at home in a new Superman animated series.
Besides the bright colors, the art is also distinct in its spreads and paneling. When Campbell draws a spread, whether one page or two, it’s rarely just a wider image, there are panels built into the spread itself, but they don’t detract enough from the larger image to be a traditionally paneled page. One incredibly unique example of this is a spread in which key moments from Clark’s past are depicted within the folds of his cape. It’s an incredibly distinct style that I can only hope continues on throughout Campbell’s time on the title.
Moving from the art to the writing, I must first confess that in the past, I have not been impressed by Williamson’s writing. I found what I read of his Flash to be decent if a bit generic, his Robin started strong, but I felt it went downhill, and I have little nice to say about Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths. Due to these factors, I was quite surprised that I really enjoyed his script and ideas here. The first of these established (and the reason for this issue’s titling) is that Lex Luthor has established a telepathic link with Clark, using it to taunt him at all times from his prison cell. This hook immediately got me invested, and, true to Williamson’s word, absolutely felt like something I could have seen in STAS.
But Williamson has more than one way for Luthor to make Clark’s life into a living hell, though as it’s not directly revealed in the title, it’s best left as a surprise.
New and familiar faces
Outside of Lex’s now inescapable torment is the rest of the supporting cast, most notably a new addition, and another one considered inseparable. First, Neo Kekoa, Metropolis’ new chief of police. Judging by his introduction as well as his presence on the cover, he will likely be a mainstay throughout Williamson’s time on the title. I will admit it is difficult to give any thoughts on him though, as he appears only for one page, so I’ll save that for later issues.
Besides Neo, we also see perhaps the most important Superman mainstay, his wife, Lois Lane. Williamson clearly knows their reputation as the most famous and consistent relationship in comics, rivaled only by Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson. While they only share a brief scene together, it features the intimacy and love for each other that made them so popular, and its presence can be felt throughout the issue as a whole. Furthermore, placing her as editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet is a unique angle, and allows her to have conflict outside of Clark that I expect will be a side plot that gets explored further throughout this run.
I did save my only negative comment for last, being a certain tease at the end of the issue. I will refrain from going into further detail about what exactly is being teased other than it is almost certainly lying down the road for future events. During the time between this issue’s release and this review’s writing, Knight Terrors (teased as “Horror”) has been officially announced, with the other teased crossovers yet to be seen but obviously on the horizon. Quite frankly, just coming off the back-to-back releases of Dark Crisis and Lazarus Planet, I think more events are the last thing DC should be prioritizing. I, and I suspect many others, feel exhausted by the rate at which they have been released recently and I feel DC needs to give this relaunch time to breathe before plunging down into further large-scale crossovers.
In spite of the rather disappointing ending tease, I couldn’t help but look positively on this issue. The art is beautiful, and the writing is equally bright to match. Williamson and Campbell have provided a first issue that I can’t be anything but excited about, even if I believe it sets a rather dour state of affairs for this relaunch overall. While I may lack enthusiasm for the future of DC’s grander universe, Metropolis’ future looks incredibly promising.