Thursday, January 12, 2012

Superman: Whatever happened to the man of tomorrow?(DC, 1986)

By now almost a cult book, this Alan Moore-Curt Swan- Julius Schwartz-George Perez team up is more of a reverential Superman tale than a shocking what-if arc. When I turned the last page(or screen page!)I wrote it off thinking of it as immature and not quite there. But in retrospect it does come out as a comic arc I would like to revisit, it is certainly important from Superman essentials point of view, and a must read for all Alan Moore fans(Moore offers his signature thought-provoking and existential crisis of superheores elements here, albeit a little underplayed). I think of the book as an ode to Silver Age and ever-geeky innocent charm one associates with the character and his universe(DCU).

10 Superman essentials

A great companion read for this would be For the man who has everything (DC, 1985) by Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons. While I was a little underwhelmed by Whatever happened, For the man truly satisfied me with its complex and evolved storytelling and in-depth treatment of the characters. The arc is essentially about Mongul attacking Superman with a mystery plant (catching him unawares on his birthday), Black Mercy that makes its victim go in a state of inertia/pleasant dream. It is only Moore perhaps who can handle so many themes in a mere 50 pages single issue – Superman’s dream of life at the El’s, his differences with father Jor-El, Krypton’s political upturns, Batman’s pleasant dream (a different version)of the event that changed his life and the dynamics between the holy trinity, this is some achievement.

It is a delight how the book captures both significant events and minor character dynamics with equal ease. There are the indulgent riffs at Robin(Moore hates Robin!), the sexual air of Wonder Woman, suitably placed humor, a unique look at Superman’s little road trip to Kandor crater with his son, Van-El, and the usual strong political world view in describing the events at Krypton(involving a rebel movement against Phantom Zone). Though at time Moore does get beyond the reader (typical of him) in his rendering of Mongul’s dream and encounter with Superman, but it stays a dilemma any fan loves to solve. Great, great classic tale, must say one of the best Superman tales that I have read.

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