Following the initial volume that left a disappointing taste despite an intriguing premise of Superman’s adventures as a family man, Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason step up their game with a second volume of Superman that relies more on short stories evoking the character’s history during the Silver Age–much like how DC Rebirth is all about looking back at the legacy–resulting in books that either rise or fall.
What we get with the third volume are stories that once again are looking back at Superman’s history. Beginning with the first annual issue, Superman has a strange encounter with Swamp Thing, who senses a disturbance in The Green and he believes the presence of this Man of Steel existing in a foreign universe may have something to do with it.
Clearly this tale owes a debt to Superman Annual #11 by Alan Moore and Rick Veitch, as both stories are deep conversations about nature between Supes and Alec Holland that conclude without a well explained resolution. However, the art of Jorge Jimenez is what makes it an exceptional read as these two icons who come from completely different backgrounds duke it out, while his unique layouts and Alejandro Sanchez’s stunning colors offer a surreal presentation, particularly when the two characters literally form as one.
When it comes to the writers of DC nowadays, I get the sense that they are always learning from their ancestors, and in the case of the central arc of this volume, Multiplicity is clearly influenced by the work of Grant Morrison. Taking cues from Morrison’s The Multiversity and even a side-story of Final Crisis, Superman joins the Justice League–who responds to cosmic-level forces that threaten the life, potential and existence of the Multiverse–to save the numerous versions of himself from numerous universes, e.g. the Superman from Mark Millar and Dave Johnson’s Red Son.
Over the course of three issues and with many different artists thrown into the mix, let alone the many Supermen and Superwomen, there is so much happening thrown at every page that you just don’t care as the hero of this very title doesn’t do much, and perhaps the only interesting thing to come out of this ordeal is that Captain Carrot becomes a cute little rabbit.
Fortunately, the volume ends on a high note with a horror-filled issue that is all about Jon Kent, who, while he may have all the powers his super-dad inherits, is still a child who is not without his fears. As his neighbor Kathy’s dad and their cow go missing, Jon and Kathy enter the woods of Hamilton County to find out what has happened, only to face a horror you would see in a Stephen King story. It is certainly a departure from the main Superman book, although the presence of Jon Kent is always welcoming. Meanwile, the writing and Sébastian Fiumara’s moody art does not pull back from the horror, including the most unsettling use of a cow I’ve seen in a long time.
As it is slowly building to something big for Superman, particularly the mysterious Mr. Oz, this volume suffers from a central arc that is too big to detract from the simplistic brilliance of the Man of Steel. There is enough to enjoy from the small and intimate stories, though, which are the best things about Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s run.