Superman #40 Review
A doomed planet. A desperate scientist who just wants to save his race. For every Superman fan, this is a familiar story, but Superman #40, by James Robinson, Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza, Scott Hanna, and Wil Quintana,subverts this story and gives us something different…while also feeling quite average.
The issue opens on a very special day--the anniversary of the destruction of Krypton. Clark and Jon are in the Fortress of Solitude, watching a holographic recreation when an alarm goes off: another planet is about to suffer the fate of Krypton. Clark gets ready to jump into action, but Jon begs him to come with him. Clark agrees and the two are off. They get to the planet, ready to save the day, but are met with a surprise: the leaders of the planet are okay with the coming destruction because of their religion, a religion which even prophesied Superman coming to save them. From there, it’s a mad dash to escape a better prepared enemy than Clark and Jon were ready for, until they meet an ally who just wants his planet to survive.
Superman #40 highlights the relationship between Clark and Jon, and that’s definitely one of its strengths. In the comic industry in the last decade, certain voices in said industry have said that fans can’t relate to married characters and definitely not married characters with kids, but these last few years of Superman have put the lie to this opinion. The idea of Superman is a timeless one, but Superman’s stories have always been highly dependent on the quality of the creative team. A subpar creative team will turn in subpar Superman stories that elevate the super more than the man. The Superman books have been firing on all cylinders since Rebirth because the creative teams have found a way to balance Kal-El’s life as Superman and Clark Kent perfectly and one the best parts of that has been the familial relationship between Clark, Lois, and Jon.
That said, there’s something that is exceedingly average about the issue. First off, we are dealing with what is a version of the Superman origin story. Even with the little differences, one almost expects for the ally at the end to break out a rocket with his only child in it, ready to rocket said child off to safety. The twist with the leaders of the planet being okay with its coming destruction is cool, as is their way of dealing with Superman and Jon’s powers, but Superman, for the most part, has been a stellar book and this issue just comes across as good, but not as great as it could have been. The regular writing team of Pete Tomasi and Pat Gleason are gone for this issue and replaced by DC veteran James Robinson. Robinson does a good job, but there’s something missing. It’s not that Robinson gets anything wrong, but this story is very cliché and heavy-handed and it feels like Tomasi and Gleason would have done a better job.
Regular back up artist Doug Mahnke handles pencils (although calling him a back-up artist is a little weird- he’s done most of the issues of the book in reality) and they’re better than usual. Mahnke's art heavily depends on the inking and coloring and in this issue both are stellar, helping the art really pop. Mankhe is one of the better DC artists of the last twenty years and this issue is a good example of why: his acting and faces are great, the actions scenes are clear and easy to follow, and everything is very well detailed. It’s a shame that Mankhe is only a “fill-in” artist for the book. Even back in the Major Bummer days, it was easy to see that he was born to draw to Superman.
All in all, Superman #40 is an average chapter in what has mostly been a rather stellar Superman book. It’s not bad, at all, it’s just nothing special, but the story does have the potential to get better. Robinson introduces some interesting wrinkles into the whole thing and Mahnke’s art is great.