Last week’s Superman #47 ended with a cliffhanger explored in Superman Annual #3 and the cover seems to suggest a certain “savage” villain is making an appearance. Is it good?
Superman Annual #3 (DC Comics)
If you ever wanted to learn more about Vandal Savage this is your chance. A full origin story awaits, save for what he’s been up to in the last 70 or so years. Meanwhile Superman has to deal with Lex shutting him out and making him feel small now that his powers are still missing.
Why does this book matter?
We haven’t seen Vandal Savage in a while and last we saw him he was picking fights with Pandora. He also appeared in Demon Knights, although he was more of a good guy then. He’s clearly back to being a big bad though based on this read and who doesn’t like a fleshed out origin story?
How is that dude in the air so high?
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This book opens on Krypton “a long time ago” which harkens to Star Wars a bit, which is fitting since this story begins in space. We quickly learn an asteroid meant for Krypton was deflected to Earth 50,000 years ago where a young Vandal Savage is waging war on a rival tribe. It’s here we learn how he gained his invulnerability and long lifespan and where the story begins to cut back and forth between Savage’s story and Superman’s. This cross cutting works to tether Savage and Superman’s stories in this issue together as Supes continues to deal with feeling smaller than ever. Once the issue reaches its climactic reveal it’s very clear the stakes have never been higher for Superman and that’s good storytelling.
The writing is shared between Greg Pak, Gene Yang, Peter J. Tomasi, and Aaron Kuder which does affect the reading experience. The general tone for Vandal Savage’s portions are spot on, each detailing his madness and lust for power as his story jumps ahead every few thousand years. It’s fun to see him in different time periods and get inside his head with the narration. Superman’s portions are a little less compelling namely because he’s a bit of a whiner when it comes to his new lack of power. The connection between them isn’t very obvious – both want more power – but Superman isn’t so much lusting for his old powers but instead wishing he wasn’t powerless. It’s an important distinction, even though the writers are trying to tie these characters together. The connection is there though which is saying something.
Krypton must be pretty close to keep messing with Earth eh?
The art is split between Bill Sienkiewicz, Ben Oliver, Dan Jurgens and Rafa Sandoval and while their styles aren’t similar they congeal well in the story since one is used for Savage and another for Superman. Savage’s portions are very clean and modern, making them pop and feel more exciting. Superman’s are sketchy and dark leaving a sadder feel that looks a bit like late 80s and 90s comics. Based on the tone they are going for this works well. Savage is bright and sharp like his personality while Superman is dark and gloomy like his right now. The art is fantastic throughout from all artists. Superman only gets a brief action scene in the entire issue (much of his pages left for him moping around), but those work too.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I’m not sure the juxtaposition of the two characters works, largely because the actions they cross-cut to and from don’t relate. It’s also hard to root for Superman in this issue since he’s so sad and down on himself in the issue. Plus it makes it hard to like him when he’s whining about Lex singling him out. Do something dude! After reading this, putting it down and giving it some thought, it’s clear the message is there, but it’s not convincing.
There’s also an odd cut from Superman getting a distress signal, to Savage, then back to Superman saving folks from a falling truck. Was he called to save the truck or to arrive and see the big reveal at the end? It took me out of the story, however briefly.
For those of you who read Superman #47 expecting some answers will be disappointed. How Vandal Savage ties into HORDR_Root isn’t explained or even touched upon. Nor are the actions of Savage at the end of that issue explored here.
Is It Good?
You’re going to become a Vandal Savage fan after reading this issue. He’s a strong character developed well over the course of the issue as the story cuts from 50,000 years ago to today. While that’s epic the Superman story falls flat and doesn’t do enough to connect both of their needs to gain more power.