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Superman: Up, Up And Away!
Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns
DC Comics / Titan graphic novel $19.95 / £8.99

review by Christopher Geary

Billed as a re-introduction to Superman comics, this superbly written graphic novel is not a revisionist piece like those alternative origin myths (True Brit, Red Son), or the intriguing 'Elseworlds' series, but it's a kick-start from post-Infinite Crisis doldrums for the world's greatest superhero, balancing numerous postmodern in-jokes (Clark and Lois watch a 'Superman' movie) and some instantly engaging character development with a refreshing lack of pretension (Superman's favourite snack is revealed).

The story begins a year after Superman mysteriously lost all of his powers, and finds Clark Kent enjoying a more contented life as a mortal, happily married to Lois, and making a name for himself at last as The Daily Planet's top reporter, winning approval from grouchy editor Perry White and earnest respect from his office colleagues. Metropolis is currently under the protection of a feisty but efficient Supergirl, who's doing a respectable job as stand-in for cousin Kal-El, but there's serious trouble on the horizon as Clark is targeted by vengeful Lex Luthor, after our hero's investigative newspaper expos have spoilt the plans of major crime syndicate Intergang. Much is made of the fact that, even without the incredible powers of his Kryptonian heritage, Clark still has the finely honed instincts of a hero. And, despite the generally lightweight tone of this astutely plotted storyline about the 'resurrection' of a legend, and the sometimes amusing threats to the city (dealt with, in part, by Superman's former team mates - such as Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, in the Justice League of America), the essence of this particular comic book is certainly not that of a simple-minded and ultimately frivolous adventure.

Clearly intended as a hopefully fortune-reviving graphic novel, especially in the wake of the deifying aspects of this year's blockbuster movie, Superman Returns, the sensitive work by sympathetic-to-fandom writers Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns, and clean lines of the realistic art by pencillers Pete Woods and Renato Guedes, throughout the 190 pages of Up, Up And Away!, goes a long way towards recapturing the essential spirit of what's always made Superman iconic and popular: his intelligence, his forthright optimism, and his integrity. Clark enjoys the idolisation he receives as Superman but he never wallows in it, and it's definitely not what drives him to further acts of super heroics on and above the streets of Metropolis.

Although the plotting here borrows riffs from successful TV show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman, and its themes are lifted from the Hollywood franchise of Superman movies (including Superman Returns), and this book's principal themes offer us little more than a rehash of stuff from various earlier Superman comics, the writers and artists have crafted a satisfyingly reverential minor epic that skilfully avoids the unbearable smugness and many of the clichés which, in the past, often undermined any genuine human interest in the exploits of invulnerable figures like Superman.

With the slow but sure return of his super-powers, Clark Kent struggles to remember how to be Kal-El, once again, finding the strength, speed, flying, and sensory aspects of the Superman legend much easier to regain than winning the public's trust, while proving to all concerned that he can, by setting an example, still inspire others to (comparatively) far greater selfless acts of heroism than he could ever achieve himself.
Superman: Up, Up and Away

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Superman Returns:
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