The title Return to Glory is an apt one for this book, but in another sense it’s actually a bit misleading. If you’ve been reading the Rebirth titles you know exactly why and you’ll learn that if you read this hardcover too. An even more apt subtitle for this book would be A Hero’s New Beginning and Untimely End. There’s quite a journey in this very thick hardcover, but is it good?
Superman Vol. 2: Return to Glory (DC Comics)
So what’s it about? The DC summary reads:
In “Savage Dawn,” Superman is forced to join a super-fight club—and the stakes couldn’t be higher. The Man of Steel must make a fateful choice: Can he risk exposing himself to the one thing that could save him? Then, Superman and Wonder Woman lead an army of gods and monsters against Vandal Savage and his deadly spawn! Collects SUPERMAN #45-52 and ANNUAL #3.
It opens with Superman depowered in a God fight club…
Why does this book matter?
The heroes journey typically starts with a character being called to action, who is then thrust into a world outside of their own. Facing adversity, they then acquire a magical elixir and return to where they came from to help their family and people. This volume follows that story arc and it’s an indication this is a strong story. This is everything that leads to Superman in the recent Rebirth issues so if you’re looking to understand who the character is this is the best place to mine for information.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Gene Luen Yang and Peter J. Tomasi craft quite an epic yarn within this book by including robust backstories for Savage and Hodor_Root, which helps raise the stakes and improve upon the final showdown. Not to spoil too much, using Kryptonite as a means to reenergize Superman is a clever one. It might not make sense given his history with the stuff, but it allows them to utilize his greatest poison as a way to motivate himself when he’s at his lowest. Naysayers will cry foul as it changes the character, but the end of this book says otherwise.
The end of this book includes the Final Days of Superman part 1 and part 8 (the beginning and end) which culminate into a tragic climax for Superman. One might wonder why, but Tomasi’s story deals heavily with the fallout of the main events of this book.
This volume also contains the Superman: Rebirth #1 issue so in many ways it delivers on a very long and tumultuous arc, but closes with a new beginning. Clearly DC Comics wants you to be reading the current series–and while it does feel a bit out of left field given the version of Superman in the suit, it does allow anyone to pick up this volume and understand how we got where we are.
The artists on this volume vary quite a bit, but for the most part Howard Porter takes the reigns for the main feature. A flashback issue dealing with Savage switches to a very different set of artists, but it isn’t jarring given the focus of a new time and place. Porter rocks the art when he’s lead, with very big and bombastic splash and double page splashes (just look at the images above and below). He helps give the book an important larger than life feel. Mikel Janin closes the book with the Final Days of Superman issues and his ability to capture nuanced facial expressions help make the story feel personal to Superman.
Superman is just an average dude.
It can’t be perfect can it?
This volume starts at a logical place, with Superman leaving Metropolis due to his identity being revealed, but it does start in a place where you want to know more. Buy the first volume, you might say, but it reduces the definitive feel the book is very close to exhibiting.
There are a few swings in the story that aren’t quite as clean as one might want. You get the impression the creative team was forced to zig when they wanted to continue on and zag (which could be for a variety reasons, not least which the grand scheme of where Superman needs to be was changed due to Rebirth), which hurts the balance of the story. I for one loved the opening fight club element, but it ends too soon (though others might not agree).
…and concludes with him back in power fighting in space!
Is It Good?
This is a fantastic primer if you’re interested in finding out what happened to the New 52 Superman that lead to his Rebirth. On top of that, this hardcover delivers a strong heroic journey for Superman as he rises up from a street level power to his super self.