Superman Annual #1 officially kicks off the Scott Lobdell era of Superman comics, and it doesn’t start small. Lobdell provided the plot for this one while his long-time partner in crime, Fabian Nicieza, took scripting duties. To begin with, I enjoyed the fact that this issue was an action-packed, sci-fi romp. It was fun to see Superman battle against Helspont and his Daemonite legions, and struggle in the process. Lobdell also fleshed out the backstory for this New 52 version of Helspont. He gave the cosmically distant villain a human motivation for interfering with Earth. It was by far the most compelling plot point of the issue and gave Helspont some solid context going forward. It was also interesting to witness Nicieza teasing some future plots linked to the Daemonites. It made me question exactly why we keep hearing about the number “13” in connection with the Wildstorm characters. Hmm..
Unfortunately, I’m not sold on Nicieza’s ability to write Superman as a character. He started the issue by laying in on the “he’s just like you and me” gimmick pretty hard. If that’s the way he wants to play it then he should embrace the motto: Show, don’t tell. The fact he used thought bubbles along with that scene probably didn’t do him any favors either. The story also felt a bit contrived at points. The whole battle started after Helspont flew his giant spaceship a little too close to Earth. Why did he do this, though? We’re told Grifter #12 might have the answer, but that might’ve been nice to know ahead of time. It’s also questionable as to whether Helspont’s new backstory really sychs up with everything else we’ve learned about him and the Daemonites so far. We could chalk that up to it being a work in progress.
It should also be noted that this Annual was referred to by Rob Liefeld during one of his rants after he quit DC. Rob stated that this issue was supposed to set up a crossover event involving Superman, Grifter, and Hawkman against the Daemonites. According to the writer-artist, that crossover was canceled after the Superman office changed their minds about it. I assume that’s because the Superman family crossover Hel on Earth was green-lighted in its place. However, that makes me question just how relevant this issue will be and how many of these plot points will be revisited. Obviously, the direction of some of these titles is a constant work in progress.
Five different artists worked on finishing this issue. That isn’t out of the ordinary for an Annual or for this era of DC, for that matter. It did make the issue inconsistent in that area, though. Helspont seemed to look different every time he reappeared in the comic. Sometimes the art was line-heavy and filled with shadows while other times it was slick and light. If we have to have that many artists it would be nice if they shared a similar style or if DC at least told us who did what pages. I did like the coloring, however. It made the cosmic battles scenes beautiful and vibrant and gave the book some consistency the art lacked. Overall, I was underwhelmed by this issue and hope that Lobdell puts forth a better effort in the Superman monthly where he’ll be doing all the scripting himself.