Written by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and John Kalisz
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s Superman has been an even, slow burn that puts its characters front and center. The approach has worked well so far, allowing the two creators to build a superhero story into a family drama without doing a disservice to either. This month’s issue sees the pair push the throttle on action though, as the Eradicator threatens everything that Clark holds near and dear - namely, his family. Tomasi, Gleason, inker Mick Gray and colorist John Kalisz are at the top of their game here, as Superman #4 continues to fly in the face of everyone that said that stories featuring married heroes were boring and unexciting.
Tomasi and Gleason are really nailing the father-son dynamic between Clark and Jonathan. Clark’s parenting is stern yet loving, allowing his son to make mistakes and decisions that he can learn from. As readers, it gives us something to root for. For Clark, it creates incredible stakes. He’s not just a role model for the world, but he’s directly responsible for the danger that his profession places his family in. That said, Tomasi and Gleason still give Lois the shaft pretty consistently. They’ve already provided an interesting twist on the character - Lois writes books under a pseudonym to protect her identity - but they never address it after introducing it. Instead, Lois is relegated to an also-ran in the plotting, not getting any truly meaningful moments with her husband, and as a result, she basically becomes another damsel in distress.
But the action sequences are fun. We get to see a little father-son team-up and the Eradicator feels like a worthy opponent for Kents. As noted in some of the dialogue, the Eradicator does kind of play like a Super Terminator (think Terminator 2: Judgement Day), repeatedly being dispatched but coming back each time. He’s powered by the ghosts of Clark’s lost planet, and his singular mission to restart the Kryptonian race is simple enough to allow the writers to avoid lengthy exposition. But the fight is awkwardly split between the Fortress of Solitude before jumping to a bar in Metropolis. This shifting setting does add an additional human element to the story, but it's a big change that doesn’t immediately benefit the story. It does feel like these are characters, or at least a setting, that could return, given the bar owner’s Superman obsession, but it seems like a strange narrative choice.
Artwise, Gleason, Gray and Kalisz deliver on all fronts.They jump in on the action immediately, providing the script with interesting visuals and dynamic layouts. There are multiple standout moments in the script - Clark and Jonathan taking on the Eradicator, Jonathan suiting up for battle, the release of souls that are housed inside of the Eradicator. There’s a lot for the art team to handle, but they’re up to the task. Kalisz’s color work is especially great in this issue. He’s able to switch between the bright yellows and oranges of the initial fight with Eradicator to the more muted tones of the barroom scene without it seeming truly jarring because he’s able to use a bridge color to tie the two together. Gleason’s expression work is excellent as well. He uses a good number of close-ups to really take advantage of one of his biggest strengths and it brings a lot of balance to the big, widescreen action sequences elsewhere in the book.
Superman has continued to be a bright spot in DC's "Rebirth" era publishing line. Tomasi and Gleason are writing a compelling narrative that puts the characters first, even if they aren’t exactly as many fans would remember them. Their work with Jonathan has greatly improved since the debut issue, even as Lois is still getting the short end of the stick. The art, however, is still some of the best in comic books right now, so hopefully the writing will catch up. Superman reminds us that there is no such thing as a bad or broken character. Tomasi and Gleason and the rest of the art team are elevating the concept of Superman while keeping the character’s core intact. It’s a model that many other creators could stand to learn from.