21 July 2011

"Superman/Gen Thirteen" by Adam Hughes, Lee Bermejo & John Nyberg

Superman/Gen Thirteen
Story - Adam Hughes
Pencils - Lee Bermejo
Inks - John Nyberg
Letters - Mike Heisler
Colors - Guy Major, Ben Dimagmaliw & Ian Hannin
Original series editor - Eric DeSantis
Collected edition editor - Neal J. Pozner
Book design - Amber Bennett
Originally published as Superman/Gen13 #1-3
Trade Paperback Published: August, 2001
Cover Price: $9.95

A friend of mine, Chad, lent this to me recently.  He's got an infrequently updated blog I recommend.  The premise is simple enough: the Gen13 group of young superheroes takes a field trip to Metropolis.  Caitlin Fairchild is the leader of the group (as much as anyone could be their leader, anyway) and she has long wanted to visit that city largely because of her adoration of Superman.  Her teammates, however, can think of no place less interesting than Metropolis and no one duller than the Man of Steel.  Within minutes of arrival, they're caught up in witnessing Superman fighting a giant gorilla the size of a skyscraper and Caitlin is knocked out.  When she comes to, she has amnesia and mistakenly deduces that she must be Supergirl.  In her efforts to be the Maiden of Steel, though, her klutzy ways make a wreak of Metropolis while her teammates reluctantly join with Superman to find her.

There is a thesis to this charming little story, and it's one that I think is particularly worth exploring and defending in light of DC Comics's current plans to reboot and rewrite the Last Son of Krypton.  The Gen13 team share their criticisms of Superman with Lois Lane and Clark Kent--who takes them to heart.  Later, Lois consoles her husband by reminding him of something he once said about Superman himself: "I've never been fashionable, therefore I can never become unfashionable."  She goes on to declare:
"...Superman isn't a---a fad, something you outgrow and get nostalgic about twenty years later--!  Superman's...Superman's the one thing you can always count on.  Always, Clark."
It's a shame that DC Comics doesn't have more faith in Lois Lane, who ought to know a thing or two about Superman after all these years.  Ten years after this mini-series was published, Superman is being treated like a fad.  Still, I suppose it's better than Gen13 have fared.  They've got a few years left before it's time for anyone to get nostalgic about them.

As for the story itself, it's told with a nice sense of humor and moves at a nice pace.  Even casual readers who aren't familiar with Gen13 at all and haven't read a Superman comic in ages should have no problem discerning from expository information what they need to follow this story.  It's not really about exploring either of their universes, but rather using the Gen13 characters to take a different kind of look at Superman.  If you've ever felt that even as you lost interest in Superman you just kind of liked knowing he was still out there in stories that kids were reading or watching, you should be able to enjoy this story.

Lee Bermejo's art looks nice; everything is clean and easy to follow.  Lois Lane looks an awful lot like Sela Ward to me, for whatever that matters.  The layouts are well spaced, and most panels are of characters with little or no background, so the pages breathe very easily.  John Nyberg's deliberate inks really accentuate each image, and his bountiful use of black really helps the colors pop.  It all creates a very inviting aesthetic suitable for the lighthearted nature of Adam Hughes's story.  Nicely done all around.  I'll have to look for a copy of this for my own library.

By the way, DC Comics offers this preview.

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