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‘Superman Vol. 4: Black Dawn’ review: Tomasi and Gleason’s excellent run continues

‘Superman’ highlights the best of Rebirth.

Having read the initial three volumes of Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s Superman run, it’s been interesting to see how DC is retconning the Man of Steel throughout the Rebirth initiative. Although I have not read Action Comics as well as the crossover event Superman Reborn, based on this fourth volume, some things have changed (with a suit with a new belt buckle) and some haven’t (failing to maintain a normal family life in Hamilton County, USA).

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When Batman and Robin make a visit at the Kent farm, Bruce Wayne confirms that Superman’s human-Kryptonian son Jon is becoming more powerful and could be seen as a potential threat, much to the chagrin of Clark. However, when a darkness lurks beneath their adopted home of Hamilton, the relationship between father and son is put to the test.

Following the third volume, which featured a clustered storyline about the Multiverse, Tomasi and Gleason keep Superman ground this time around as what works best about this run is how Superman functions as both father and husband, as well as how his son is trying to follow his footsteps while also forging his own life. At the start of the first issue, Jon is trying to jump off a tree in order to fly and throughout the course of the volume, not only does he come to the realization that he might be more even powerful than his dad, but his sense of justice may not be as simple, especially during a reprisal of the giant squid from issue #2.

I have said this in previous articles about recent DC titles, but both the curse and blessing of Rebirth is the telling of stories that strongly evoke the publisher’s history, and certainly this run has fallen into this pitfall. Yes, Superman at his heart is the “Big Blue Boy Scout,” and can be difficult to write. Tomasi and Gleason have no problem here as the character begins to discover that Hamilton County may not have the simplicity he’d expected from Smallville and the darkness he confronts makes things complicated, including friends and family.

Although in the later stages when the sci-fi element becomes more bombastic and less interesting as the main antagonist is revealed (hence the curse of Rebirth), what ultimately keeps the book entertaining is its cast of heroes such as Batman, who shows off his detective skills in the fields of Hamilton County as opposed to the streets of Gotham City, while the typically boyish chemistry of the Super Sons continues to shine. There’s even an issue where Lois Lane shows she can kick ass against the outlandish threat without the help of her super-husband.

Throughout this run as co-storyteller, Patrick Gleason has gotten better with his art, which is known for his big-eyed, cartoonish character designs. However, in collaboration with numerous inks, Gleason illustrates great sequences that balances big action and family intimacy, the standout being the squid fight in issue #21. Along with Gleason, regular artist Doug Mahnke takes art duties and his strengths here lean towards sci-fi and horror elements that gave this arc an appropriate action-packed visceral feel.

The Verdict

Although things certainly got darker for the Kent family and their hometown, the creators never lose sight of what makes their Superman run great.

Superman Vol. 4: Black Dawn
Is it good?
Although things certainly got darker for the Kent family and their hometown, the creators never lose sight of what makes their Superman run great.
A return to the central father-son relationship
Great moments from its ensemble cast, from the Super Sons to Lois Lane
Stunning art from Patrick Gleason and Doug Mahnke
A darker action-packed story that balances horror and sci-fi...
...even if the sci-fi element becomes more bombastic and less interesting, especially the reveal of the big villain.

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