The nice cover by Kenneth Rocafort should immediately catch your attention.
What about the rest? One of the complaints I had about the SUPERMAN series was a lack of a firm direction, character appearances/villains and repercussions. The stories were okay but I felt they didn't really matter in a way that would change or guide Superman in the New 52. Right away you get the clear indication that all that is going to change.
It's not mentioned in the solicit (which is completely wrong) but Helspont is the antagonist here. We've seen him before in the pages of SUPERMAN. My complaint after that two issue arc was it sort of fizzled out. I was hoping Helspont could have become a big threat and nemesis for Superman. Looks like that could indeed be happening. Helspont is back and in a bigger way than he was just a few months ago.
What was most surprising here (besides Helspont's new wardrobe) was the number of guest appearances. Because it wasn't mentioned in the solicit, you're pretty much walking into this blind (except I just revealed that Helspont is here). With so many other characters appearing, it's clear that this has to be the set up for some big event crossing over into several titles. Superman's days of sitting around and getting attacked by nameless villains seems to be over.
There was almost too many appearances. It's great to see the 'first' Superman annual kick off this big event but there were times even I felt a little lost. Some of the characters felt like they dropped in. If you haven't been reading some of the their titles, like GRIFTER, you won't know what's going on or how they got to where they are. I like the idea of annuals being self-contained and was thankful this wasn't the conclusion to SUPERMAN #12, like we're seeing with other titles this month.
Superman's dialogue and behavior felt a little off at times. I can't picture the New 52 Superman saying "You think...?" to someone. I also don't see him simply discarding his clothing in the subway to change into Superman. If only they brought back his ability to compress his clothing and store it in the tiny pocket in his cape. Too many times Superman gets hit from behind. He's also mentioned as the "most powerful being on the planet." The last issue of SUPERGIRL mentions (again) how she's more powerful that Superman and explained why. And can Superman breathe in space/hold his breath while unconscious in space?
The art was good but felt a little too all over the place. There's five different artist credited for this annual. That's too many.
This Superman annual delivers plenty of action that has been missing in the regular series. With all the guest appearances and the set up of this story, it's almost as if Superman has entered a Wildstorm comic. Helspont has returned and makes up for his last appearance. He's seems more powerful and is definitely going to cause problems for Superman. There are plenty of other guest appearances that gives the impression this is just the beginning of a major crossover with a bunch of other titles. There might be a tiny bit of confusion if you're not familiar with the other characters but you'll get swept up in the action and be able to find your way. Some of Superman's dialogue and actions felt different from what we've been seeing in the New 52 but then again, we have almost had three different versions of him so far. If these events are leading into the regular series, SUPERMAN is going to be getting a lot more exciting.