Best Shots Review: SUPERMAN #45 (10/10)

Superman #45
Credit: Patrick Gleason/Steven Downer (DC Comics)
Credit: Patrick Gleason/Steven Downer (DC Comics)

Superman #45
Written by Patrick Gleason and Peter Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason and Steven Downer
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Credit: Patrick Gleason/Steven Downer (DC Comics)

Moving on is hard to do - especially when you’re moving on from a run of comic books as terrific as Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s run on Superman, which over the course of 45 issues has been more consistent and heartfelt than anything the Man of Steel has seen since the days of All-Star Superman. And what’s more, in superhero comic books especially, it’s difficult to stick the landing in a satisfying way - all too often, runs will end with a whimper rather than a bang, often with a feeling of defeat rather than triumph. But with their last issue on this series, Tomasi and Gleason wrap up their run with class and style, giving even a superstar like Brian Michael Bendis tremendous shoes to fill.

Credit: Patrick Gleason/Steven Downer (DC Comics)

From the very first page of the issue, there’s a bittersweet tone to Superman #45, as the Kents move all their belongings from their house in Hamilton. The big red “sold” sign can’t help but draw some parallels, as Gleason and Tomasi are having their own idyllic property - namely, the Man of Steel - sold from under them, but there’s never a sense of bitterness or teeth-gnashing to the story here. Instead, there’s a maturity with the themes brought forth in this finale: nothing lasts forever, but at the end of the day, change and risk are ultimately good things. And if someone accuses Clark Kent of preaching, well, what other character could so organically deliver such homespun wisdom not only to his young son, but to his readers, as well?

There’s always been a sense of warmth and humanity to Tomasi and Gleason’s run on Superman, and it’s that character-driven engagement that lets them close this final issue with a comforting touch. In particular, Lois’s sadness and irritability over leaving their home - embodied by her ripping their mailbox from the ground and taking it with her — will leave a lump in your throat, while a guest appearance from the Flash feels like as stellar an audition reel for the Fastest Man Alive as I’ve ever seen it, as Barry’s cool uncle dynamic clicks nicely with Jon Kent’s inherent enthusiasm. But Gleason and Tomasi also check in with other guest stars from the rest of the series, ranging from Kathy and Maya to Boyzarro and Robzarro - while these characters aren’t necessarily as engaging for more casual readers, it still illustrates a point: that the Kents had built a life in Hamilton, and it can’t help but hurt to say goodbye.

Credit: Patrick Gleason/Steven Downer (DC Comics)

Given the ambition of the pair’s 20-page finale, Gleason’s artwork does a lot of the heavy lifting - on occasion, he even delivers 11-panel pages which somehow don’t feel particularly cramped. In many ways, Gleason often emphasizes the vastness of the Hamilton landscape, particularly with a panel that stretches across two pages of Clark and Jon walking across a cornfield. Granted, there are a few sequences where Gleason’s eyes might be a little bigger than his stomach - particularly when cramming together a four-panel beat in the space of maybe a quarter of a page - but beats like the Flash’s faster-than-fast moving job shows a powerful economy of storytelling that flows so nicely with his emotive style. Colorist Steven Downer proves to be a good find, as well, really reveling in the brightness of Hamilton by day, as well as the colorful carnival by night.

While one might argue that this finale could be a little dialogue-heavy at times, one might respond that it is because Gleason and Tomasi have something to say in their final issue of Superman - a flagship series that they did a tremendous job revitalizing, after many, many creators before them had tried and failed. In a perfect world, Tomasi and Gleason might have had another two years with the characters - or maybe even another 10. Their unique method of characterization, idealism and family is distilled so sweetly in Superman #45, as this team goes out on the highest of notes. Wherever Tomasi and Gleason wind up next, I hope it’s on something special - after this run on Superman, they’ve definitely earned it.

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