Sunday, 28 November 2010

DC Comics Presents Superman Team-Ups, Vol. 1

These stories date from perhaps the dimmest period of DC's history – long after the glories of the Silver Age, but before the 1986 reboots kicked in. Neither classic, nor in continuity, stories from this period don't seem to get referenced or reprinted as much as those before or after. These were the stories being published when I was a child, but they didn't make their way to our local newsagents so most were new to me. Two came with fond memories: I bought a German edition of issue 14 – Superman vs. Superboy! – during a school skiing trip to Austria when I was about ten years old, and issue 26 was reprinted in one of the hardback Superman Annuals: I think it was probably my first Green Lantern story. Reading those stories in the context of the series didn't affect my enjoyment of them for good or ill, but there are nice links here from one story to the next, especially in the first half of the book.

The team-ups feel organic, a natural part of Superman's everyday life, rather than contrived. But this is a very angry, emotional Superman... He's hardly recognisable as the same character. Whether it's his jealousy of teenage girls paying attention to Mister Miracle in Steve Englehart's "Winner Take Metropolis", or leaving Pete Ross's son on an alien world for the slimmest of reasons in Paul Levitz's "To Live in Peace Nevermore", this wasn't my Superman – interesting as he was! In "Plight of the Giant Atom" by Cary Bates, he's all sunshine and light again, calling Ray Palmer "old buddy", and then he's off on a bunch of lightweight, standalone adventures that make for easy reading. Some interesting things happen: Firestorm is invited into the JLA, Superman discovers that magic is simply a form of radiation, and I discovered that Batgirl is merely a brown belt.

Considering the random assortment of writers and artists involved, and the variable tone, this is a surprisingly good book; perhaps that variety is exactly what makes it so readable. No classics here, but lots of entertainment, and the artwork looks fantastic in black and white: I developed a real fondness for the work of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Dick Dillin over the course of this book. I hope we'll see lots more DC comics from the late seventies and early eighties reprinted like this.

DC Comics Presents Superman Team-Ups, Vol. 1, Martin Pasko, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and many, many others. DC Comics/Titan Books, tpb, 512pp.

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