Superman: Godfall

Remember the terrible covers on those Superman comics a year and a half ago? I mocked them as toilet paper and laughed at everyone who bought them, even as every issue sold out and DC ran rare second printings of each, then sold out of those.

Well, it turns out only the covers were shitty, because they were penciled by Michael Turner and inked by someone worse. But the interior art of all six issues was done by Talent Caldwell, who — though his style is undoubtedly in the Turner vein — is simply a much better artist. And his inker doesn’t have Parkinson’s, which is another big plus.

But it’s the story that makes these issues great. In fact, this is the most theologically provocative Superman story since Marlon Brando liturgically blessed his one and only son and sent him to Earth in a Nativity Star-ship. Joe Kelly’s script finally exploits the rich mythological potential inherent in Superman and makes you wish you’d thought of it first.

A standard issue of a monthly comic book, if you take out the ads, contains 22 pages of story artwork. But for some reason, in February and March 2004 when the Godfall arc ran through them, Action Comics, Superman, and Adventures of Superman evidently contained only 16 pages of story. The effect is that, while the collected story is the page-equivalent of only 4⅓ standard-sized issues, the pacing is actually improved with major story beats occurring at five semi-cliffhanger moments instead of three spread out through the arc.

The first two issues are admittedly slower while the premise is set up, but it’s worth the payoff. After rolling my eyes a few times early on, the last page of the second issue made me go “Wha…!?” and from then on I was hooked. My mind raced throughout the mind-warping third issue, pausing after each caption, trying to integrate the allusive narration piece-by-piece as I gradually realized what was really going on. After that, the second half of the arc flew by as I couldn’t wait to see how the unusual predicament would play out.

In the last month I’ve read Miller’s Year One, Sam Hamm’s Blind Justice, Loeb’s Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and Hush, Azzarello’s Broken City, Wagner’s Trinity, and even Kevin Smith’s prolix resurrection of Green Arrow; yet, though not the most perfect, Godfall seems the most innovative of all 70-issues-worth of comics. It has its flaws — you feel something missing between panels on occasion — but they are overshadowed by how much is accomplished in just 96 pages. Having dwelt perhaps too long in the gritty realism of Batman’s world of late, it felt great to be awed for a moment by a cosmic Superman story whose philosophical suggestiveness lingers even after the last panel.

Though collected in hardcover for the devoted fan with $19.95, a paperback edition was released last month setting you back just $9.95 — cheaper than buying the issues originally. Some of the plot elements suggest that it might not be welcoming to first-time Superman readers, but as long as you read the synopsis of what immediately preceeded it you should be okay.

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One thought on “Superman: Godfall

  1. […] On the positive side, since Superman is practically omnipotent, ethical issues are his only credible challenges, so Azzarello is using Superman as he is best used — as an allegorical representation of either divine or American superpower — and he is doing both simultaneously. But on the other hand, extended Socratic dialogue does not fully exploit sequential art, which is better suited to iconic than to dramatic narrative. In that sense, the title's immediately preceding arc, Godfall, was (contrary to the appearance of its covers) a superior exploration of the Superman-as-Christ allegory, cleverly depicting a condescension resembling the incarnation of God in human form. Azzarello's arc is no doubt an appropriate follow-up, highlighting the transcendent rather than immanent Superman, though its ultimate success will be dependent on Volume 2. […]

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