Written by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and John Kalisz
Lettered by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Matthew Sibley
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Kicking off the spring spate of mini-crossovers at DC is "Superman: Reborn taking place in Superman and Action Comics with various tie-ins to chronicle the aftermath. This, in conjunction with "The Button" and "The Lazarus Contract," look as if DC intends to tee up the next year of "Rebirth" as the company builds towards whatever altercation may come from the Watchmen and classic DC characters meeting. This should be an exciting time, regardless of whether you’re able to look past the ethical conundrum of the whole set-up or if you accept the rights issue as legitimate and treat "Rebirth" as your problematic fave, but Superman #18 doesn’t feel that exciting, feeling more like a whimper than a bang.
The premise of this crossover involves someone escaping from Mr. Oz’s prison, a thread which has been in the background since last May, with Lois and Clark’s anniversary being crashed by a mysterious Clark Kent who isn’t who he appears to be. The story of the issue isn’t solely there so new readers are caught up to speed, the final third of the issue has a sense of urgency, but it seems strange that the pieces on the board needed to be shuffled around once again to get them into place, despite these threads building over the past 10 months. Especially in a book which has, for the most part, eschewed decompression. The big problem with this is that the last series touted as the next big piece of the puzzle, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, spent so long needing to set up the board, it never had chance to accomplish anything. This certainly doesn’t feel as drawn out as that series was in retrospect, but it shouldn’t be a feeling or impression the book gives off. If this were a crossover in the "New 52" era, it may be less of a negative than it is here, but within the context of "Rebirth," the two-year plan and the two previous crossovers that proved to ring hollow by the end. It’s not really a good sign that concerns about the momentum of this crossover nor the Rebirth plot, which still has to keep people interested for at least one more year.
On the bright side, Patrick Gleason is back on art for the crossover and while the art of the past five issues has been clean, Gleason’s ability to show scale was one of the aspects that made immediate sense for a Superman book. An early scene in the issue with Mr. Oz has an almost top-down perspective and the sheer scale of the room and the many etchings feel intricately carved. Something should be said for his ability to portray how Mr. Oz feels about the situation without actually showing his face. That said, his line work being reinforced by Mick Gray’s inks mean that when we do see the faces of characters, the emotion is real. It’s been very common that Jon’s wide-eyed sensibilities have been conveyed as such in the art instead of trying to convince us of this through dialogue alone. The same applies to the love and concern that emanates from Lois and Clark in their general demeanour. That emotion does come through and feel appropriate for the story being told, none of the art team can be faulted for the amount of work they put into making this series look so stunning when they’re in the rotation.
This isn’t to suggest that the blame lies with Tomasi and Gleason as storytellers either. As already stated, when the issue does start to build in that final third, the genuine emotion hits in the same way the best issues of this series have already. Which means that the problem is the connection to the wider "Rebirth" plot and as a result, it’s possible to make links between this and Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, which also started with residents of a prison escaping. The stuff with the Kents feels like it could be a normal arc of this series, easily fitting into the two or three issue structure that the book has followed since that opening arc, but instead it’s a part of the "Rebirth" narrative and you’d think that after all this time that it’s spent simmering, it might finally want to feel like a rush.