Superman Annual #1
Written by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Art by Jorge Jimenez and Alejandro Sanchez
Lettering by Saida Temofonte
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The Avatar of the Green sends the Man of Tomorrow on a vision quest of sorts in Superman Annual #1. Focusing on a minor loose thread in their ongoing story, writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason use a trippy Swamp Thing team-up to finally fully acclimate "Rebirth"’s new Clark Kent to his new home through an inspired but ultimately disposable story, perfect for the annual format.
The real stars of the show prove to be artist Jorge Jimenez and colorist Alejandro Sanchez, both of whom return to the title for the first time since the charming Superman #7 cooldown after the opening arc. Jimenez and Sanchez provide an Vertigo-like tone for this annual, mixing the rustic, grounded look of Hamilton County with trippy mindscapes as Swamp Thing and Superman merge minds in order to solve the problems plaguing Clark’s mind and farm. Though not exactly a blockbuster, Superman Annual #1 continues the title’s endearing streak while showing that Tomasi and Gleason aren’t afraid to get a little weird doing it.
“Pa always made it look so easy,” Clark muses as he looks upon yet another dried-out crop. A water shortage is plaguing Hamilton County and for the life of him, Clark can’t figure out why. The reason so reveals itself in the form of a deeply-burrowed Swamp Thing, who has been siphoning the water of the land in order to gain Superman’s attention. It is here that Gleason and Tomasi cut to the real meat of the annual.
Though it has been touched on a few times in past issues, this new Superman absorbs the Earth’s yellow sun at a heightened rate, thus upsetting things in the Green and Swamp Thing has come to correct that. But while Gleason and Tomasi’s attention to resolving this minor narrative quibble is admirable, it is the foundation for much more emotionally-based fare.
While the world at large has accepted this new Superman, he is still holding onto memories and emotions tied to his former Earth, keeping him from fully accepting this Earth as his home. Though Gleason and Tomasi can’t help but indulge in the requisite scuffle before the team-up proper, the script quickly turns introspective with Alec Holland serving almost like a arcane therapist to Superman, merging with the Man of Steel to purge his mind of what is holding him back while at the same time acclimating the Green to his solar intake.
Annuals are usually the place to present some sort of flashy, all-encompassing story that wows readers and send them away breathless, however this writing team takes a much more muted approach, focusing on Clark’s state of mind and his quietly noble repression, despite his newfound public acceptance. It is a nicely unexpected track to take, one that keeps this annual firmly within the heartfelt tone that the pair have made great use of during their ongoing stories.
The writing team of Tomasi and Gleason place mind over matter in Superman Annual #1, but while their script is focused on the inward, artist Jorge Jimenez and colorist Alejandro Sanchez explode outward with multiple beautifully hallucinatory splash pages. Starting in the Norman Rockwell-inspired Hamilton County, Sanchez drenches Kent’s land in the warm glow of the sun, while Jimenez highlights the simple beauty of Clark’s home with lush backgrounds. But when the Green’s warrior king makes the scene, the team gets big and weird in a way that would please even the most stalwart of Swamp Thing fans. Spreading strange vistas pulled from Superman’s mind and colors ready made for a blacklight poster across detailed splashes, the art team move gracefully from the rural to the mind-bending while keeping the visuals firmly rooted in the emotionally thematic thread that Tomasi and Gleason have presented for this annual.
By melding the unearthly and the heartfelt, Superman Annual #1 regales readers with a team-up that pits the heroes against an existential crisis instead of a more literal one. Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Jorge Jimenez, and Alejandro Sanchez strike a nice balance between big ideas and smallish stakes while at the same time stitching a hanging thread for the more detail-oriented reader. Making the most out of an unexpected team-up, Superman Annual #1 shows that you can find heart even amid the strange and metaphysical.