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Superman: Metropolis #1 By Matt Martin
DC Comics – Chuck Austen (w); Danijel Zezelj (a)
The creative team on this book is an interesting mixture, I must say. Chuck Austen is a name that’s recently been associated with the Superman family of books, doing fill-ins (seemingly alternating with Geoff Johns) on Superman in the wake of Jeph Loeb’s departure from the title. Danijel Zezelj, however, is not a frequent contributor to the line, to say the least. His dark, thickly-lined artwork is impressive (and, in my opinion, tragically underrated), but probably not the sort of thing that the average Superman fan would feel was appropriate for rendering the world’s favorite Boy Scout. So it’s surprising in a way that an unlikely pair like this manages to pull off such an intriguing story.
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Superman: Metropolis is a bit of a misnomer. The mini-series should have just been called Metropolis, but I imagine it couldn’t be, for copyright reasons. In any event, Superman is only tangentially connected to this story and when he does appear, that appearance is filtered through the perceptions of our real main character, Jimmy Olsen (best known to the world as “Superman’s Pal”).
In any event, the plot of the story revolves around the B-13 technology, or “the tech” in the common parlance, and its influence on the rapidly developing infrastructure of Metropolis. That is to say, during a recent battle between Superman and Brainiac-13, assorted bits and pieces of the time-traveling villains technology were scattered about the city. At some point, those pieces began to reconstruct themselves into one cohesive system and integrate into the very streets and buildings of Metropolis itself. The end result is a different looking Metropolis than that of the Silver Age, less of a modern Chicago and more of a city from a science fiction book. Now living in a city known as the City of Tomorrow, the citizens of Metropolis remain unsure of how to react to this sudden change in their surroundings, a sentiment echoed by their legendary champion.
The death of a prominent politician gives them new reason to reconsider the effects of the alien hardware, as his very public assassination is undermined only by his nearly immediate (and completely unexplainable) resurrection at a nearby hospital. Superman, however, suspects that the Tech has some hand in the sudden return of the very dead to the world of the living and investigates. As well, the Man of Steel continues to harbor suspicions that the disappearance of Lex Luthor’s young daughter holds some connection to Luthor’s holding of the copyrights to the Tech (and hence, the rights to a veritable fortune). All the while, Jimmy Olsen, ace photojournalist, is there to capture the action on film.
What makes the book worthwhile is that despite its reliance on past continuity, its grounding in the events of a crossover from some time back, it’s entirely accessible to new readers (as evidenced by my understanding of it, since I haven’t read the Superman titles in years). As well, Austen has taken Olsen from the “Gee whiz, Superman!” sort of schtick that I think we all expect of him and given him some real guts. While it seems a bit crass, Olsen mounting the podium at the site of the assassination in an effort to get a better shot of the body is a definite turnaround for the character and was not entirely unwelcome to me. Silver Age purists will undoubtedly be irritated by the freckle-faced photographer’s change in attitude, but I thought it worked, showing that he’s grown up a bit (something that was always sort of lacking for him).
Additionally, it seems that DC will be using Metropolis to fill in for the now-cancelled Superman: Man of Steel in the family of books’ weekly shipping schedule. A cynical man would suspect that this twelve-issue mini is a trial run for a relaunch of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, but I’m not a cynical man. No, not at all.