Superman: Redemption by Kurt Busiek

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Superman: Redemption by Kurt Busiek

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Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A very strong collection of three comic stories for Krypton's last son, all with a strong religious theme and stronger entertaining narrative, that makes for a fully rounded and recommendable compendium.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 112 Date: February 2008
Publisher: Titan Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1845767440

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Right from the get-go there was some criticism that the creators of Superman had simply invented a messiah figure for their own amusement. Whether that kind of talk was anti-Semitic comment against Siegel and Shuster, it has to be said that there are similarities – an only son, landing on earth to help the human race he is not exactly a part of, all the while being highly unlikely to truly die. Perhaps people were reading too much into a character that only wanted to outrun a speeding bullet, and to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

However, as far as I am aware there has never been a Superman book that has covered such theological ground, with a perfectly entertaining basis at the same time, before this one.

The first episode herein has a most unusual character for Supes to combat – one on the side of good, as well. A little old biddy gets rescued by our hero, and decides he must be the Lord's Angel, who she can call down in vengeance on any gangsters, hoodlums and crooks she wishes to remove from her slum neighbourhood. Superman, of course, is all too aware that however godly he might appear, he is more than fallible.

The title story also has a strong religious bent, when a super-powered young man protects some missionaries in Africa with markedly violent techniques. He appears to be gaining his powers from the power gained by the prayers of his brethren back in Hicksville, Colorado.

This is not a dull excursion into theology, however, as all entries in the book provide comics fans with just what they want – a different dilemma or combatant for Kal-El to counter every time. Nor, though, is this just 'ker-pow, look at him go' fighting for no reason. Superman has reason to pull back from the fray too, and ask himself just what and why he might be fighting – does an alien have a right to pick a side in an Earthly battle, when he might be taking a side against God's will? Has he even upset a god just by being on this planet? Can he force his idea of right on people, unasked?

This being a graphic novel, the pictures have to be discussed, and they are nigh-on perfect. The pacing of large and small images, with dialogue or without, the lettering – all are fine. The colouring provides a mood to every scene while maintaining a high level of realism – until a particularly pneumatic Lois Lane turns up and spoils that (trust me, I've met journalists, and they don't look like her…).

Until, that is, we get to the fourth chapter. This looks too trashily comic for my initial taste, but the story is one that fits fully into the collection's ethos, concerning as it does an element of religion transposed from one world to another, and makes me laugh at the same time. And with the entry of the delicious Zatanna, raises a great unasked question – in a world with magic, where might that end and religion begin? A topic for many a tipsy conversation, I'm sure you'll agree.

It is entries like this in a decades-old canon that makes looking out for Superman books worthwhile. He might have suffered the slings and arrows of ridiculous tie-ins and bizarre contrivances before now in his publishing career, but this book at least goes close to the benchmark of adult comics. While not particularly having an adult feel or content, it certainly scores highly on so many levels, with a deep meaning to the pieces here.

There is also a lovely message of humanity here, which works without being a clunky message TO humanity. Roughly, it asks us how, when Metropolis has an angel-figure (alright, a messiah) and people there still try their best to do good, can we think of stepping away from that goal?

This Superman book is a must-buy for graphic novel fans, and is the only one that is so full of laser-eyes, punching people through solid rock and Shakkabooom yet is still worth recommending to those who don't normally read this kind of thing. There is a little bit of awkwardness regarding unmentioned back-story and returning characters, but no more to prevent the novice getting much out of this book. Here endeth the lesson.

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