Superman ’78 (2021) #4

S4

Well, it’s easily Robert Venditti’s best writing of the series so far. After an utterly pointless waste of a couple pages on Brainiac’s origin story, we get to Kal-El in the Bottle City of Kandor. Where, surprise, it’s not the adventures of Nightwing and Flamebird, but the continued adventures of Marlon Brando and Susannah York. Yes, Superman ’78 is what could’ve been if Brando had been as desperate in 1983 as he would be in the nineties or whatever.

Brando’s Jor-El is thrilled to have his son back because now he can make Kal-El become a politician and figure out all the problems of living in a finite bottle city. But, of course, Kal-El just wants to put on the tights and head back to Earth, not be a politician.

Luckily, Lex Luthor slipped an interstellar transmitter on him and can communicate, but that communication only pisses off Brainiac, who heads back to Earth. But what if Luthor’s gadget could somehow bring Kal-El back to regular size so he could defeat Brainiac and save Earth? Sure would be weird if his mom was like, nah, to hell with those humans.

Now, when I say it’s Venditti’s best writing, I mean it’s a terrible comic book adaptation of a not-bad movie. Like if they’d gotten Jeannot Szwarc to do Superman III and given him a bunch of money and a decent script. It’s the first and only time Christopher Reeve Superman has gotten to think about himself as anything but the last son of Krypton and whatnot.

So it’s an added bummer Wilfredo Torres can’t seem to figure out how to draw it. This comic is cursed. When Venditti’s writing to Torres’s strengths, all Venditti’s doing is regurgitating Superman: The Movie and The Sequels scenes. When Venditti actually finds a plot, Torres is lost trying to make his Reeve Superman “act.”

There’s some terrible stuff from Venditti, to be sure. Not just the Brainiac intro, but also Gene Hackman Lex Luthor, and Margot Kidder Lois Lane. Venditti writes them both particularly badly, especially when together. But at least Torres is on the ball drawing those scenes. The stuff “on Krypton”? Not so much. Though his Marlon Brando’s always on point. The less said about Susannah York Lara, the better.

There’s no way to save Superman ’78 but I really didn’t think Venditti had even the limited good ideas of this issue in him, so I guess it’s a plus. Like, it implied the possibility of a good movie for this series to be poorly adapting, which has never happened before.

Shame about the Torres art, though. Hopefully, it gets back on track.

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