Friday, July 9, 2010
Superman For All Seasons
Title: Superman For All Seasons
Author: Jeph Loeb
Artist; Colorist: Tim Sale; Bjarne Hansen
I have to admit right at front that this book was hard for me to grade. I am pretty sure that I am prejudiced to some extent because my heart already belongs to Batman (I will give you one good reason - even though there are so many more than that - he is not an alien. . .just kind of a plus). However, I really enjoyed some parts of this book, though I thought there were some issues. Ultimately, I love the quiet classic American feel that pervades this piece, and I find it refreshing that this is not a plot driven graphic novel; rather, it is more of a character sketch of Clark Kent. All that being said, it did feel like it was missing something. It did not take the time to connect me with all the people it seems like they should have. I left the book wanting more (which is always a good thing) and still being hungry (this is where it worries me a little).
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the people who wrote and drew this book, have teamed up before, having great success with their wonderful and compelling Batman comics, most noticeably in The Long Halloween. I would suggest anyone who has extra time should read this as soon as possible.
This image from the first chapter (of which there are four, named after the seasons of the year) epitomizes what Loeb was trying to do in this book. He wanted to capture the thinking Superman who is attempting to understand what to do with the gifts he has been given. This idea really struck the proverbial nerve with me because I am always struggling with trying to do what I need to do and accepting that I cannot save the world all by myself - I cannot help every person, which is fundamentally hard to accept, which is precisely what is seen in this book. However, Loeb did not explore it enough for me. I found that I wanted him to dive deeper and really pull at the nature of this and how one might find a solution. His ending did not satisfy me, even though the two pages that contain the churchyard candlelit vigil was beautiful and perfect.
For me, what makes this book shine, bringing it from a "G" to a "G+" is the simple, evocative art. Tim Sale, the artist, is one of my favorites because of his amazing depiction of the Dark Knight (he might draw my favorite version). His work illuminates the story, bringing out the classic American feel that the whole story seems focused on.
Bjarne Hansen, the colorist, did a truly amazing job with this book. Typically, I dislike pastels, but the way he depicts the sunset and makes his colors shine and come to life is sublime (and I do not use this word lightly). I also love the way he colors the sky (see below). He captures the life of the color, not weakening it as often happens with this style. Also, I have usually thought of Superman as irritatingly bright, but in this graphic novel, though he is as bright as ever, it seemed to work and not look cheesy, even when they gave us a closeup of his truly odd choice of clothing in which to save the world (his cape has just never been able to work for me. Batman's becomes an extension of himself, a way to dominate the frame and control the panel, while Superman's often seems superfluous - though I do appreciate certain things they do in this work with Superman's cape).
This above picture is wonderful because of the undertones it is speaking. I love the way Smallville is a part of his cape indicating that without it Superman would not be the same if he would exist at all. Also, I love how the clouds form behind him, reminiscent of Thayer's depiction of his daughter representing winged victory after her mother had died (see below). Overall, I enjoy the cool tones that are used in this picture as well because even though warmer tones would normally be used to bring about a feeling of peace in the viewer, the cool tones are just as effective, if eerier.
In the end, I found Superman For All Seasons to be well worth the read, but not quite life changing or stimulating. It was deep in many ways, and enjoyed a great deal of hidden complexities that are rewarding upon reading. Also, it is very approachable for those new to comic books. It is a self-contained story and, as Miles Millar and Alfred Gough note, connects well with any number of John Ford's lyrical American films. If you would like a link to look into it more here you are: http://www.amazon.com/Superman-All-Seasons-Jeph-Loeb/dp/1563895285
Until next time; go enjoy some art!