Thursday, March 5, 2020

Throwback Thursday: Superman: The Coming of the Supermen #1 Review (2016)

Three Supermen and a Lois Lady

Written By: Neal Adams and Tony Bedard
Art By: Neal Adams, Alex Sinclair
Lettered By: Saida Temofonte
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: February 24, 2016


Let’s be honest with each other. You know why we’re here, reading the first issue of the Coming of the Supermen. First reason is to gawk at Neal Adams’ expert comic book artwork. The second reason is because we read Batman: Odyssey and we hope for another bonkers story from the fertile loam that is the mind of Neal Adams. Don’t kid yourself. You secretly liked Batman: Odyssey. Oh sure, you derided it at first, made fun of bare-chested Bruce Wayne and laughed at the dinosaurs. But a few days later, you took another look. A week after that, you flipped through some choice sections. And now it’s one of your yearly re-reads, along with Watchmen and the Illuminatus! Trilogy. You’re hoping you’ll hit paydirt and get another psychedelic romp through Superman’s most beloved and weirdest tropes. Well, I’ve got good news for you, buddy: you’ve come to the right place. Read on, intrepid traveler of the mindwaves!

Explain It!

Here’s the thing about Neal Adams’ artwork: you either like it, or you’re an idiot. You either understand the fundamentals of comic book line work and how Adams has completely dominated and expanded every single one of them, or you don’t know what you’re talking about. Even his roughest pages still explode with more motion and gesture than some of the two-page spreads of all-out war you see today. So if it’s going to bother you that you’ll see some stray lines in the gutters, or that some parts look partially erased, then turn around and go read the dictionary or something. Every one of those “flaws” you perceive are actually gifts, tiny little art lessons in the form of threads that, when followed, might bring you to the level of Neal Adams’ mastery.

Lois Lane is reporting for WGBS News about the arrival of some mysterious aliens; we can see they are sitting in the cockpit of an awesome spaceship and are wearing the “S” symbol on their chests, but Lois doesn’t seem to know this. Their large ship lands in a field in Iowa, scaring a couple of old folks that probably own the land, but one of the aliens in full Superman suit tells them to take a chill pull and directs the other two Superman cosplayers to hide the spaceship, which they do by picking it up bodily. Okay, so these guys are pretty strong. At just that moment, across the country, a boom tube opens up in Metropolis and Parademons stream out! The Metropolis Police Department is no match for threats of this scale, which really must wreak havoc on their egos since there’s about one a week, so Lex Luthor dispatches his private army who look sort of like contestants from American Gladiators flying parade floats. Then, reports Lois, Kalibak emerges from the boom tube, all wielding his Apokoliptan axe and screaming his own name and looking abso-fucking-lutely awesome! He dispatches Luthor’s troops with ease, then commands the Parademons on to their objective: to burrow behind the Lexcorp Building! For reasons! That’s when the Superman Trio from the beginning of the book show up, and they tussle with Kalibak but, says Lois, appear untrained and no real match for Darkseid’s son.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Superman is just straight up hanging out and shielding people from bombs. Like, that’s just a thing he does. “Oh, I suppose I’ll have a bite to eat and then read the sports page, maybe call on Olsen for a little chat. Then off to the Middle East to save random lives for a couple of hours!” He hears a barking puppy that belongs to a non-barking child, and saves them from a mortar shell by shielding them with his cape. He spirits the kid and his pup to safety, where a tall, green alien demon guy wielding a big staff tells Superman to take the child back to America. Superman resists, so the robot demon alien slows time to ask the child, named Rafi, if he wants to go with ol’ Cape n’ Boots; Rafi says he will if his dog Isa can come. Superman hovers there like a dope listening to people talk about him like he's invisible, then the angel demon android releases him from his temporal prison and he goes crashing to the ground. Superman continues to capitulate, but eventually Rafi says “pwetty pweeease?” and bats his big brown eyes, now who can resist that?

Okay, so then we see something weird: Rafi and Isa hanging out at WGBS while Clark Kent watches the Three Super Stooges on an in-studio monitor. Uh, whaa? Rafi knows Superman is secretly Clark Kent and vice versa? That’s weird, maybe they bonded while flying halfway around the world to Metropolis and Superman thought he could trust him. One thing I always loved about Neal Adams’ Bronze Age Clark Kent is that he always looks really awkward in glasses, they look too big or too chunky and it really works to make him look like a goof. Clark watches Lois report on the fight between the Supermen and Kalibak, noting that they seem unsure of how to use their powers or even what they are. They keep pounding away at Kalibak as best they can while Lois interviews Lex Luthor, who has a near-breakdown on the air in his usual narcissistic routine. Clark leaves Rafi with Jimmy Olsen and tells him to be a good boy—and Rafi even almost calls him Superman! What the heck is going on here? Superman flies out to the Lexcorp Building and literally dispatches Kalibak and the Parademons in seconds.

The Super Fellows are surprised to see their battle has ended, and get all giddy hoping Kal-El will show up—yes, they use his Kryptonian name. Superman is about to go say hello to his three pretenders, when he abruptly makes a U-turn and goes to chat it up with the same alien angel ghost that stopped time in the Middle East, who is standing on top of a very cool-looking eagle’s head protruding from a skyscraper. The winged android devil spectre opens a portal to the past, ten thousand years past to be precise, to what appears to be the construction of the legendary Sphinx—but it seems to have a lion’s face. The horned vampire demon spirit explains it was initially constructed in homage to their new God-King, who happens to be Darkseid! In a completely incredible Egyptian headdress! Ahhhh!

Well folks, you wanted a crazy Superman story, and you’re getting it. Despite my glowing praise in the beginning of this review, I can’t lie: sometimes the art gets a little too loose. But I wasn’t kidding about every pencil stroke being its own lesson in the art form of comics. There’s so much vibrant storytelling and action it’s almost like these characters are going to leap right off of the page. As a fan of Bronze Age Superman, I felt right at home here. As a connoisseur of weird shit, I can already tell this is of the finest vintage. Prepare yourself however you see fit, I have feeling it’s going to get a lot more bananas!

Bits and Pieces:

The only way I could describe this issue without spoiling anything would be to say that it contains virtually nothing you would expect to see in a Superman comic book. Except for Superman acting heroic and behaving like a member of humankind instead of like the Loneliest Kryptonian. Neal Adams is still putting a clinic on sequential art, and any student or armchair critic would do well to study it. I did, and you don’t get more armchair critic than me. I haven’t left my armchair since 2013.



  1. Superman is one of my favorite DC characters, and I really hated this book. 2/10 and that was for the art.

    1. I actually liked it, but I fully went in not expecting to and treated it as a side-side-side-around the corner issue.

  2. I wish I could reread the Illuminatus! Trilogy!! My friends weird Uncle 'borrowed' my copy years ago. Fantastic historical document, that book.