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Superman: For Tomorrow - volume one
Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee
DC Comics / Titan graphic novel £8.99

review by J.C. Hartley

This graphic novel (first published in 2004 as Superman #204 - 209) points up some of the current thinking about the character as you would expect from such a prestigious creative team.

I first became aware of artist Jim Lee back on X-Men #248 and #256-8 (that's 1989 kiddies, the title, like the world, is older than you know); pretty soon he was running the show. In 1992 with other creative personnel seeking more creative freedom he formed Image Comics of which his own little universe was Wildstorm Productions but in 1998 tiring of life as a publisher he sold up and returned literally to the drawing board with DC. After Batman: Hush with Jeph Loeb in 2003 he did a year on Superman with Brian Azzarello of Jonny Double and 100 Bullets fame. Azzarello provides a nice little introduction to this title, in the style of the late great Hunter S. Thompson.

While off saving Green Lantern in deep space Superman has missed a mysterious event back on Earth which has resulted in a million people, including his wife Lois Lane, vanishing without trace. The action begins a year on with Superman, racked with guilt, visiting a priest, Father Daniel, to talk out the events surrounding the vanishing and what he has discovered about its cause. The story unfolds in a mixture of real time and flashback, in a heavily decompressed style allowing for cinematic framing and moody reaction shots from Lee's distinctively detailed pencilling, and inked to perfection by his long-time associate Scott Williams.

The whole event has made Superman question the work he is doing on Earth and whether the time has come to take charge, something he has always been reluctant to do; the interesting thing about this quandary is that the catalyst was not a major internalised philosophical debate about the state of the world but the loss of his wife.

Tracking a resonance anomaly caused by the vanishing event, Superman travels to an unnamed war zone where he unilaterally disarms the combatants; in a nice touch, bereft of their automatic weapons the protagonists barely miss a breath before pitching into each other with rocks (yay for us!). Superman meets the popular revolutionary leader General Nox and his hybrid cyborg muscle Equus, and solves part of the mystery surrounding the vanishing but, tragically, is unable to prevent a repeat event resulting in the disappearance of a further 300,000 people. Mr Orr, the representative of General Nox's backers, puts in an appearance and Father Daniel finds himself being drawn into the plot; Superman comes up against his fellow members of the Justice League who sanction him for his interference in a nation's internal struggles, and anthropomorphic representations of Earth elements challenge him in battle.

For Tomorrow asks that old question, if someone had the power to right all the wrongs in the world do they have the moral right to do so. Some of the decisions Superman takes, although swinging along with the internal logic of the book, don't necessarily bear close scrutiny; 'What's my motivation here, Mr Azzarello?' The decompressed style, although effective in say the first third, starts to pall a little by the end, and some of the action seems to have been inserted just to prevent the book from becoming too talky. The art is impressive as you would expect but while the standard is tip-top it isn't radically innovative, but having said that there are some lovely splashes and Wonder Woman looks fab!

I would like to know what happens in volume two and, in the end that is all you can ask of a book.
Superman: For Tomorrow





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