Ricky Church reviews Superman: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 4…
One of the best series to come out of DC’s Rebirth initiative was Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s run on Superman. By bringing back the pre-New 52 Superman and his marriage to Lois Lane, but adding in a young super-powered son named Jon, the pair brought a much needed boost to DC’s Man of Steel. Superman: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 4 closes out their run on the title before Brian Michael Bendis’ stewardship and Tomasi and Gleason go out in style. With great characterization, fun and heartfelt stories and an examination on what makes Superman and his family so special, this final collection is a worthy conclusion to what has been one of the best Superman runs in years.
There are some pretty great Superman adventures featured in the book. From Superman and Jon attempting to save another doomed planet to a trip to Bizarro world, Tomasi taps into some quintessential Superman stuff, but none moreso than taking a bunch of young cancer ridden kids on a spur of the moment trip to the Justice League’s Watchtower for some fun. The fact that Superman didn’t even plan ahead for the trip and took the time out of the day after spotting them watching him after a fight just speaks to how much compassion he has in his bones. It’s a fun issue as the kids get to meet the Justice League and perform a scavenger hunt in the Watchtower – the most difficult item being a pic of Batman smiling – but Tomasi and Gleason (who helped writer this issue) still make the heartfelt emotions the focus of the story, particularly in its final scene.
‘The Last Days’ sees James Robinson fill in as writer for a couple issues with Superman and Jon travelling to another planet on the cusp of suffering the same fate as Krypton in order. When they arrive to offer help, they are shocked that the majority of the planet’s deeply religious inhabitants wish to die with their home, believing it to be the will of their god. It’s a nice, short two-issue story that asks some tough questions of Superman, namely his right to interfere with another planet’s destiny or the wishes of their populace, but it also doesn’t go too far into examining those questions and ultimately makes Superman right by default. It would have been nice to have seen a bit more of a discussion on Superman’s actions and the potential consequences of him asserting his own will on another world. Still, ‘Last Days’ is an entertaining adventure that has some nice moments between the father and son duo.
The main highlight of the collection is ‘Bizarroverse’, where Superman, Jon and others meet Boyzarroand travel to his world. It’s another fun tale and Gleason, who wrote these issues as well as illustrating them, does well with Bizarro and his backwards way of speaking for all the Bizarre versions of the characters. The chemistry Gleason writes between them all feels authentic to their characters and is full of snappy dialogue. It’s also nice that other characters from his Superman run are included for the final arc of the series, such as Kathy and Maya. The very final issue, though, takes readers through a long trip of what the run has been as the Kents say goodbye to Hamilton County before their move to Metropolis. Featuring cameos from plenty of Hamilton residents to references to past stories, it’s a nice and heartwarming conclusion to Tomasi’s run.
Other stories included are Tomasi and Gleason’s short from Action Comics #1000 that not only go over much of Superman’s 80-year history, but speaks to his unending faith and willpower to save the day. There is also Superman Special #1 which sees Superman and Jon attempt to fulfill a promise to a surprise character from very early in Tomasi’s run, tying that loose end up nicely. The only weakness of the book’s stories is that it opens with the ‘Super Sons of Tomorrow’ crossover between Superman, Super Sons and Teen Titans, yet it only collects the Superman issues of the story, which are the first and fourth parts of the crossover. It leads to some confusion for those who haven’t read the whole story, especially since it doesn’t even conclude with Part 4 and also requires some knowledge to James Tynion IV’s Detective Comics. It’s not a great way to start the collection, but thankfully picks up from there.
The art throughout the book is great thanks to the work from Gleason, Dough Mahnke, Barry Kitson, Jorge Jimenez, Ed Benes, Scott Godlewski and more. Each artist makes Superman shine with his various powers and body language while also conveying the emotional weight of each story. Even with their different styles, the art flows pretty well throughout the book from artist to artist. The colours vividly pop due to Alejandro Sanchez, Gabe Eltaeb, Wil Quintana, Alex Sinclair and others. There’s a nice colour palette presented and some stories, like ‘Last Days’ and ‘Bizarroverse’, feature a good mixture of lights and darks for a moody atmosphere in such a hostile environment. The deluxe sized format is also great to pour over all the details during some of the bigger splash pages or moments. Also included is a small collection of Jonboy Meyers’ variant covers, which are good but it would have been nice to get some more bonus material like Gleason’s sketches or perhaps words from the pair on ending their story and contributing to Superman’s massive legacy. Nevertheless, it’s a nice book just to sift through for the artwork.
Superman: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 4 brings Tomasi and Gleason’s time on the Man of Steel to a close in an endearing and emotional way. Their stories focus not on the powers Superman has, but on his compassion, will and connection to his family and friends in interesting ways that speak to the heart of the character. The supporting cast is also given a fair bit to do and it’s nice to see familiar faces from throughout their run pop up to tie things up. While not every story in this collection is a home run, it will make fans of Tomasi and Gleason very happy with how they depicted Superman and added new and interesting elements to his 80 years.
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