Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (1997)

Author: Alan Moore | Illustrator: Curt Swan | Page Count: 48

By the time we heard the screams ... the nightmare was already underway. There must have been hundreds of them and they all wanted the same thing…

Whatever Happened...? is the final Superman story. The end. It was decided that the entire comic Universe be revamped after the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, wiping out years of complicated back-story and killing off redundant characters. It’s a move that’s generally regarded to coincide with the ending of the Bronze Age of comics. Moore had a hand in the direction of what followed that era, but it seems he wanted a hand in what had preceded it, too. So he penned a belated, final Silver Age Man of Steel story, giving it another emotional end. We all know Superman continued, but beneath the bright colours was a darker canvas.

It's a love story to that Silver time, filled with weird and wonderful things, including the caped-dog Krypto and Jimmy Olsen's signal-watch. Readers of the modern era may not appreciate the allusions and the changes that it heralded, but older readers, those of us that grew up with comics, that read them under bed covers with a flashlight, will see the real importance and heart of the story. The majority of which is told in flashback. Lois tells the tale of Superman's final days to an aspiring Daily Planet reporter ten years after they happened.

The book is saturated with aspects of finality and loss. It uses the kind of language those old stories used, but it’s more streamlined—there's a weight to them that a lesser writer would need twice as much space to convey. In that way, Moore put a nail in the coffin of not just the character but of a style of writing that had endured for decades. It was the right time to do it. A new breed of storytellers had emerged, influenced by the past but equally ready to sculpt something shiny and new from the ashes of the old. So long, Superman.

The book collects together Superman 423 and Action Comics 583, both originally published in 1986.

3½ (Super)man-sized statues in memoriam out of 5

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