There’s something about the 60’s that feels perpetually relevant. The Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, and the brinks of annihilation. It hasn’t really made any difference. We’ve just given these things new names. Writer Mark Russell, artist Michael “Spike” Allred, colorist Laura Allred, and letterer Dave Sharpe are firmly aware of the undying nature of the Silver Age. Together they uncover the many echoes from the past that echo around us. Superman Space Age #1This is for This age.
Russell’s script is as moving as it is funny. He alternates between writing about death and warfare to writing about psychic dogs, all the while not skipping a beat. Superman from the Space Age The story begins in the crumbling Fortress of Solitude. Kal-El’s captions calmly discuss the meaning of existence as his world falls to pieces around him. It’s a perfect way to set the mood and Russell’s writing stays in that place. Characters discuss their chances for survival as the Cold War appears to be spiraling out of control. The possibility of global meltdown is one possible outcome for their futures. Amazingly, the whole script plays with dramatic irony. We’re familiar with the characters Lois Lane, Hal Jordan and Bruce Wayne. We see their futures unfolding familiarly, but with new twists.
Some writers couldn’t get away with a script like this. There’s plenty of philosophizing, many punchy aphorisms, and lots of social commentary. It would all feel heavy-handed if it weren’t Russell penning these words. He manages to seamlessly integrate discussions of war, wealth disparity, and hope into his story. He writes in parables and punchlines – all of which are full of meaning and depth. Superman from the Space Age It is both human and entertaining.
Michael Allred pays tribute to the Silver Age comics and keeps his visual language current. Circular panels show up on pages, playfully framing characters’ faces. Each page is unique because of the way gutters tilt and swerve. Each page is different. Clark Kent and a different character are seen in the dark foreground. We can only see their shoulders. They’re looking over at the panel behind them – a flashback that they’re discussing – like audience members in a play. Allred’s thick linework and characters are instantly recognizable, but his dynamism and variety are also on full display in Superman in the Spage Age His style is often a bit outlandish to emphasize scenes of intimacy or destruction. He will zoom us in on a character’s face, showing us the thin wrinkles along their face, or draw explosions in scratchy lines that underscore the chaos of the moment.
Laura Allred’s colors look simply realistic at first glance. There doesn’t seem to be much of an emphasis on symbolism. Her colors can have a lot of meaning if you examine them closely. One thing is that the comic opens in a very dark place. The majority of the pages are shown in a shade of blue. It matches with Clark Kent’s blue-collar upbringing. It’s the color of his dad’s jeans, the color of the suit he wears to work at the Daily Planet, the color of the Fortress of Solitude. In this way, we get the feeling that Superman is a man who’s only half formed. Red slowly creeps into the color palette, eventually forming a splash page that propels Clark to become a full-fledged hero. Allred’s work is subtle, but when you begin picking it apart it’s absolutely mesmerizing.
Sharpe’s lettering is chock full of sound effects that you can just Hear. The building’s rumbling sound is displayed in large red letters that appear to crack at their edges, much like the walls of a shaking room. The O’s in the “KAFOOOOOOOM” sound of an explosion grow as the word goes on, before shrinking again. The noise can be heard growing and then dissipating as you read. Sharpe’s captions are just as brilliant as his sound effects. Clark’s look like they’ve been ripped out of a notebook and have a handwritten font to them. Bruce’s are in neat black boxes with white lettering. These small selections will give us all the information we need about these characters. Clark is human, humble and farm-grown. Bruce is controlling, driven, and brooding. Sharpe’s most ingenious choices are brilliantly used to tell the story.
Superman from the Space Age isn’t about the 60’s. Well, it’s not all about the 60s. It is. But it’s also about our uncertain times. It’s about our fears of impending annihilation. It’s about wealth, human rights, and hope. In all of these things, it’s a beautiful meditation on our visions of an unsettling future. Grab your copy Superman Space Age #1DC Comics in a comic shop near me on July 26th. You don’t want to miss it!