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DC Comics Presents Superman #1
writers: Stan Lee, Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen
artists: Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone, Giffen and Al Milgrom

Not an issue of this heartfelt summer tribute has gone by without some startlingly good comics work. Much of it has been a fond look back at the Silver Age, with direct acknowledgment of Julie Schwartz' work, not just his influence, on comics.

This week's book continues the high quality, paying tribute to Schwartz' ethic of just making sure that a comic book makes for a fine read.

In addition, and almost too easy to overlook, this has brought out the best in the contributors.

Taking eleven tight pages, Stan Lee offers a Superman story you can feel good about giving to your kids. It highlights the big blue Boy Scout aspect of the character. With all the hullabaloo over Superman this year, it's refreshing for Stan Lee to remind us that Superman is simply a good guy. While Just Imagine… made Lee seem like an out of touch writer, keeping things short, simple and light should remind younger readers why Stan is The Man.

It also helps that DC teamed him with Cooke and Bone. The whole thing looks like the best episode of a Superman animated series from the sixties that never was, but should have been. (Yes, there was a series then, but…)

The book shifts from whimsical to melancholy while remaining fantastical. This is, after all, about trying to justify the cover image of a "phantom quarterback."

Keith Giffen dials down his edginess, and with Paul Levitz gives a dignity to a forgotten supporting player in the Superman Saga: Steve Lombard. Clark Kent's 1970's nemesis gets recast as an athlete struggling with aging and refusing to let go of his pro career. He turns to steroids to regain his edge, but since this is the DCU, the consequences are much greater than a legal scandal.

Inked by Al Milgrom, Giffen's art seems much less labored than it has in a while. It relies a lot less on shadows than usual, getting Giffen back to showing what a good actor he is on pencils.

On a side note, Levitz and Giffen also acknowledge that it wasn't just Schwartz that kept the spirit of Superman alive. The veteran editor commissioned these covers often as a challenge to his creators, and many of those Silver Age talents inhabit this story.

The only thing missing from this DC Comics Presents run is the actual original stories. It might be fun to see how these new tributes compare. As it is, the books are proving that some older talent not scoring on the Wizard Top 10 still have a lot to offer. Somebody should give that Stan Lee guy a book…


Derek McCaw

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