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"Relic" (Part 1)
Writer: JT Krul
Penciller: Howard Porter
Inker: John Livesay
Reviewed by: Shawn Morrissey
In Metropolis, a young woman squanders her time in resentment of those who don't give her a chance. Out of work and having had the opportunity taken away to claim her late mother's estate, the young woman receives a phone call that may change her course of luck. Something lies in wait at Metropolis United Bank.
Meanwhile, a shoot-out at Hobb's Bay gets the attention of Superman. However, as he begins to get the situation under control, Superman is startled by the arrival of a group of tech-armored heroes. Just who are they, and what does their presence mean for the Man of Steel?
Story - 4: Honestly, I had to ruminate a while about what score to give this story before settling. I was initially leaning towards a three, but finally settled with what you see here after a couple rereads. The story's meat uses a concept we've seen before: Superman unsure about his place and whether he's really making a difference.
Some fans don't like an unsure Superman. They don't like him sad, upset, unloved or uncertain about himself. I'm not one of those fans. I like my Superman confident, no doubt, but a constant and unmoving intrepidity makes for a fairly uninspiring continuum for a character as timeless as the Last Son. I find it odd that while some fans want Superman to be less alien and more human - more Clark and less Kal-El - they scoff at the idea of Clark actually portraying any kind of onus or affectivity synonymous with humanity. Good characterization involves vulnerability, and if nothing less than a bursting shell can penetrate Superman's skin, it is good literary practice to capitalize on Superman's most powerful weakness: himself. Superman Beyond provides a great setting through which that context can be played out.
One of the most striking scenes in the comic book, one that highlights better than anything else the pathos of this issue, is when Superman's monologue describes the things he's lost in his life, both distantly and more recently, while he ambles by display cases in which rest suits he wore at various times in decades long gone.
There was really only thing that bothered me about the story: Superman throwing the flaming car into the bay. Why would he do that? This happened all the time in the Animated Series and it really burned my potato then, too. He could use his breath to put out the flames, so why pollute Hobb's Bay with a car filled with oil, gasoline, and other chemicals? Within the confines of comic book believability, it isn't very believable that Superman would do that. Alas...
Just a quick note on the presentation of this digital first. This is made-for-digital done right. Some digital exclusive titles mess up the inherently wonderful opportunity of crisp paneling via guided view technology. Smallville: Season 11 #1 is a great example of how panels should not be utilized in exclusive-digital, specifically the substitution of zooming with repeated panels presented at different depths. Superman Beyond #1 has clean changes and well-placed zooms, and this makes for a top shelf digital reading experience.
Art - 4: Porter's pencils were hard at work and it shows. Stand out among the art are the first two panels depicting the destruction of Krypton, which are accentuated by Mayor's colors. There's been particular care taken in drawing Superman with a weathered yet distinguished look for this elderly hero-of-ours.
Cover Art - 3: Covers for exclusive-digitals are a different game. DC has chosen to alter the angles, providing a wide rather than tall perspective for the artists to render their covers. It seems the artists are still getting used to it. There's nothing much to look at, and what's worse is the cover is incomplete. The cover we were shown in promotional photos of the issue gave us the tall view, but this wide view cuts off the top of the cover. It's a bit baffling, but nonetheless a minor technicality.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2012.