Reviews: 2000s Superman Storylines, Ranked From Best To Good

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REVIEWS

Superman: For Tomorrow. AP Photo/DC Comics.

IN Reading Guides, Lists, Reviews

2000s SUPERMAN STORYLINES RANKED BEST TO GOOD

STAR RATINGS:

Best: 5 to 4.5 stars.

Good: 4 to 3 stars.

Bad: 2.5 to 2 stars.

Worst: 1.5 to 0 stars.

BEST: “WHAT’S SO FUNNY ABOUT TRUTH, JUSTICE AND THE AMERICAN WAY” (2001).

Collects ‘Action Comics’ #775.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dialogue: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Plot: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Characterization: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Art: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

In 2001, Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo collaborated on “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice And The American Way”. The extra-sized issue of ‘Action Comics’ #775, has been collected in the “Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told Vol. 1” Trade Paperback. According to Brian Cronin at CBR.com, ‘Action Comics’ #775 contains a meta-message.

Normally, comics are commentaries, criticisms and causes against society, mores and even political climates. However, here, the story comments on the place of Superman in the modern age. The question aptly put is whether the world still needs the old-fashioned Superman.

The storyline is about the Elite, a new breed of violent metahumans. Its team members are leader Manchester Black, a psychokinetic; Hat, with a magic hat; Coldcast, endowed with power over subatomic particles; and Menagerie. After they stop a terrorist threat in Libya, they announce themselves as the new breed of superheroes the world needs. Moreover, the people actually celebrate this new brand of violence. Due to the great loss of life involved, Superman questions their methods.

As Mr. Cronin points out, the meta-message is the popularity of the Authority at the time. In fact, the series was out-selling the Superman titles. Certainly, there have been plenty of stories involving Superman’s idealism and modern penchant for nihilism. One story, which is a classic, is “Kingdom Come” published in the 1990s. Nevertheless, where this story stands out is the fact it showcases how far Superman is willing to go to protect the people. Embracing their brutal tactics, the Man of Steel shows the Elite that American idealism is the best protection against violence.

Definitely, this story is one of the greatest Superman stories ever told. Successfully, the comic has been adapted to animation as “Superman vs The Elite.” In fact, it is available on Amazon in DVD and Blu-Ray formats.

INTERESTED IN THIS STORY? CLICK ON “Action Comics (1938-2011) #775 BELOW TO PURCHASE THE COMIC ON AMAZON.

BEST: “SUPERMAN: FOR TOMORROW” (2004).

Collects ‘Superman’ #204-215.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dialogue: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Plot: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Characterization: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Art: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

“Superman: For Tomorrow” is one of the less celebrated and more controversial Superman stories. But this is precisely why it is near the top of this list. Normally, Superman is a man of action. Here, Superman is both a man of brain and brawn.

The collaboration on the work is top-notch. If Brian Azzarello seems to lose the subject in the second half of the storyline, Jim Lee’s pencils and art only get stronger over the course of the issues. Perhaps, one of the most original stories that cause Superman to question his place in the world. The plot centers about disappearances on Earth called the Vanishings which Superman has traced to an obscure corner of the Middle East. Moreover, the threat is personal since Superman’s wife, Lois Lane, disappeared during the events. So, Superman goes to confess his sins to a Catholic priest named Father Leone. He tells the priest: “My sin, was to save the world.”1

Throughout his history, Superman has been a vigilante, superhero and cosmic being. But here, he is something else. Indeed, Superman appears as a messiah. What makes this story stand out is because it covers the breadth of the character from a journey in space, to his work with the Justice League, to what he means to Metropolis and to his sanctum at the Fortress of Solitude. Though the writing can be cryptic, this is certainly one of the most innovative Superman stories both with regards to art and to story-telling.

Definitely, this story is essential Superman and belongs in your Superman collection.

INTERESTED IN THIS STORY? CLICK ON “Superman: For Tomorrow (Superman (1987-2006))” BELOW TO PURCHASE THE COMIC ON AMAZON.

BEST: ‘SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT’ (2003).

Collects ‘Superman: Birthright’ #1-12.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dialogue: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Plot: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars.

Characterization: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Art: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars.

In 2003, Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu created ‘Superman: Birthright.’ At the time, the 12-issue series was meant to be the de-facto origin story of Superman. In fact, it replaced the 1986 ‘Man of Steel.’ Julian Beauvais at CBR.com, states five reasons why ‘Superman: Birthright’ is the definitive modern take on Superman’s origin story.

Generally, ‘Superman: Birthright’ may be divided in two halves. The first half is Superman’s proper origin story and discovering his alien heritage. The second is Lex Luthor’s origin story in Smallville and his connection to Krypton. In truth, fans of Smallville, will definitely love the pairing of both characters and of how Luthor played a hand in one of Superman’s weaknesses.

Certainly, Birthright works well as a coming-of-age story. Indeed, Clark discovers his origins from an alien Kryptonian pad. In true fashion, he decides to don his Kryptonian family’s costume in order to help humanity. In some sense, it is a modern approach that focuses on Clark’s humanity despite his alien nature. Moreover, another element works well. The public initially does not trust Superman, and Lex Luthor is chiefly the reason why. However, the problem that subsists is that despite Superman’s obvious intelligence, he shows little interest in decoding his history. In the end, Luthor unwittingly connects him to his past.

This series is certainly a must-have for your Superman collection, with a blend of adventure, action, plenty of comedy and sci-fi themes.

INTERESTED IN THIS STORY? CLICK ON ‘Superman: Birthright’ BELOW TO PURCHASE THE COMIC ON AMAZON.

CHECK OUT THE REVIEW: ’80s HE-MAN AND MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE STORYLINES RANKED FROM BEST TO WORST.

BEST: ‘SUPERMAN/SHAZAM!: FIRST THUNDER’ (2005-2006).

Collects ‘Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder’ #1-4

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dialogue: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Plot: 4.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Characterization: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Art: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars.

Over the years, Superman and Captain Marvel (who became Shazam in the New 52 and Rebirth) have shared amazing adventures. Similarly, Judd Winick’s 2005 four-issue mini-series is no exception.

In truth, “Superman/Shazam” is the tale of the explosive first meeting between Superman and Captain Marvel. Successfully, Judd Winick has crafted a strong story narrated by the wizard Shazam. At the same time, Joshua Middleton’s art shines by its vibrant coloring and its strong lines.

In a few words, let’s discuss the storytelling. The storytelling is fast-paced and action-packed. Centrally, the action and the plot focus mainly on Doctor Sivana’s latest plot to destroy Captain Marvel. In fact, Marvel and his world are the focus of the story. Also, Superman plays an important part to the story and his dynamic with Captain Marvel adds heart. The final pages bring a satisfying conclusion to the story arc.

Winick’s mini-series is certainly a fan-favorite and a reason why Superman and Captain Marvel as a dynamic duo has tremendous potential. Fans of Captain Marvel will love this series.

INTERESTED IN THIS STORY? CLICK ON ‘Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder‘ BELOW TO PURCHASE THE COMIC ON AMAZON.

GOOD: “SUPERMAN/BATMAN: SUPERGIRL” (2005).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dialogue: 4.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Plot: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars.

Characterization: 4.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Art: 3.5 out of 5.0 stars.

Surely, “Superman/Batman: Supergirl,” is the high point of Jeph Loeb’s run. On the heels of the hardcover sell-out, DC rushed solicits of the trade paperback. At the time, the popularity of Supergirl was at an all-time high. Successfully, the comic has even been adapted to the very popular “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.”

Supergirl’s return to the DC Universe created tremendous enthusiasm. In fact, the new origin story of Supergirl showed her common heritage with Kal-El. At the same time, it distinguished her from him. Perhaps, Supergirl’s brashness are the results of her age, Kryptonian upbringing and her unfamiliarity with Earth.

What makes this comic work is the inherent tension within DC’s Trinity. First, Superman recognizes Kara Zor-El as his cousin and trusts her. Second, Wonder Woman wants to train her as an Amazon in the use of her super powers. Third, Batman does not trust her and fears his enemies might exploit her. In fact, Batman is correct. A threat looms large that threatens the DC Universe.

Michael Turner is the penciler and Peter Steigerwald is the colorist. There is a sense of eroticism in the art. Indeed, the male superheroes are drawn as exaggeratedly muscle-bound. In contrast, the females are drawn with large breasts and petite physiques. Though the art is appealing, the story and the action carry it. Definitely, the trade paperback offers a great experience.

INTERESTED IN THIS STORY? CLICK ON “Superman/Batman, Vol. 2: Supergirl” BELOW TO PURCHASE THE COMIC ON AMAZON.

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GOOD: “OUR WORLDS AT WAR” (2001).

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dialogue: 3.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Plot: 3.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Characterization: 4.0 out of 5.0 stars.

Art: 3.0 out of 5.0 stars.

“Our Worlds At War” was a massive crossover event in the early 2000s. Though, it has not had any earth-shaking impact on DC continuity. Nevertheless, it did show Superman making compromises with then President Luthor in order to save the DC Universe. Certainly, the existential threat is Imperiex, the embodiment of entropy. As usual, the cosmic villain seeks to hollow the universe in order to create a perfect one.

The event crossed over all the major DC titles at the time: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Young Justice, Green Lantern to name a few. The comic documents Superman’s progress in space along Doomsday, destroying the Imperiex probes. Finally, Superman has to unlock his cosmic power and with the help of DC’s cosmic powers, triumph.

The crossover is collected under “Superman: Our Worlds At War.”

INTERESTED IN THIS STORY? CLICK ON “Superman: Our Worlds at War – The Complete Collection by Jeph Loeb (Jun 10 2006)” BELOW TO PURCHASE THE COMIC ON AMAZON.


RESOURCES

VISIT SUPERMAN READING ORDERS:

Comic Book Herald: Superman Reading Order.

Comic Book Reading Orders: Superman.

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SOURCES

Review: Superman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics) in Collected Editions.
Meta-Messages – Joe Kelly Wonders What IS So Funny ‘Bout Truth, Justice and the American Way? in CBR.com.
Action Comics Vol 1 775 in DC Database.
Superman: For Tomorrow in DC Database.
Super-Stars (Part 1): Mark Waid’s “Birthright,” The Official Origin in CBR.com.
Superman: 5 Reasons Why Birthright Is His Definitive Origin (& 5 Why It’s Man Of Steel) in CBR.com.
Superman: Birthright in DC Database.
Smallville: 10 Changes To Superman’s Origin Story That Made Him A Better Character in CBR.com.
Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder Vol 1 in DC Database.
DC Comics Rush Solicits “Superman/Batman: Supergirl” TP in CBR.com.
Superman/Batman Apocalypse Blu-ray Review in IGN.
Our Worlds at War in DC Database.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Superman #204.

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