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In a way, I guess that I should be thankful to DC Comics every time they try to do something new with Superman, and just screw it up. After events like Reign of the Supermen, Superman Blue, or Infinite Crisis, there’s usually something of a reaction afterwards where a new creative team goes all in on what makes the character work. I keep thinking of the post Infinite Crisis story, Up, Up, and Away by Kurt Busiek, Geoff Johns, and Pete Woods as a touchstone, where the approach wasn’t so much to reboot everything in the continuity as much as it was to refocus on what Superman stands for, which had gotten somewhat lost in the years since the original Crisis in the midst of the soap operatics of the Lois and Clark marriage and the hugeness of the Silver Age tribute that was the Loeb era. Despite the character’s growing power set during the post-Crisis era, many writers would lose sight of the heart that made those Silver Age stories so worthwhile despite their kookier indulgences.
DC has been struggling to find an approach to the character in the New 52 era. A lot of this has to do with what seems to have been the grittier tonal approach of the New 52 initiative, an attempt at maturity that belied a host of juvenile assumptions. With the announcement of their Divergence slate, DC seems to be taking their reboot in its next phase where we get to jettison what didn’t work about the approach, keep the stuff that did, and bring in some new ideas. And the announced slate has me really excited for what’s to come, showing a gusto for progressive ideas that the publisher has been balking from in lieu of slapping a coat of paint on classic ideas in order to make them seem less classic. It’s pretty obvious that the success of Batgirl and Gotham Academy are at the heart of the publisher’s willingness to move forward on these new ideas, but I think that the vanguard has its roots in Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder’s run on Action Comics, which used the New 52 milieu to its advantage, giving Superman a continuing growth arc that feels true to character and making room for some new stylistic influences.
The core Superman books, Action and Superman, feel like they’ve been rebuilding for some time after the mess that was the Lobdell run. This was particularly true of the Doomed event, which wrapped up all of the threads from that run in a rather satisfying way. In the aftermath, we’ve had the continuing Pak/Kuder run, and the arrival of Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr. to Superman. This week, the Superman rehabilitation project continues with two stories that focus on very different but equally key aspects of the character.
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