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Superman: For Tomorrow Vol. 1
Review by James W. Powell

Superman For Tomorrow Review Cover Image
Superman: For Tomorrow Vol. 1

Brian Azzarello
Jim Lee
Scott Williams
Alex Sinclair
Rob Leigh and
Nick Napolitano

DC Comics
Hardcover Collection
Publish Date
March 30, 2005
Cover Price
A darker, edgier Superman? If anyone needs an update to become more of the modern hero, it’s the clean-cut Man of Steel who pretty much embodies the essence of goodness. At the same time, however, modernizing this hero would certainly be risky.

So in steps Brian Azzarello, the writer best known for his realistic, hard-nosed stories found in Vertigo’s 100 Bullets. While he can certainly create an exciting shoot-out in the city streets, what’s not immediately recognizable to the casual fan is the fact that Azzarello takes care to develop his characters so the key scenes have a solid impact on the readers. It’s this development that makes Superman: For Tomorrow Vol. 1 a must read for superhero fans looking for a small dose of reality mixed in with the spandex-style of action.

The story opens with a priest questioning his faith. It’s a somber, touching moment, one that sets the tone for the entire story. When Superman comes to the priest to share his own worries and fears, the story begins to take shape. A year before, Superman was unable to avert a disaster known as The Vanishing, when one million people around the world suddenly disappeared — including Lois Lane, Superman’s wife. The man from Krypton blames himself and can’t get over the fact that he failed. Not only that, but he questions the actions he took after the event, actions the reader only begins to learn about as the story progresses.

As the two men grow closer, Superman’s tale begins to parallel that of the priest, who is battling cancer. It’s a flawless narrative device that ties these two men together in their struggles to understand and to accept themselves. The use of flashbacks and realistic dialog really shows the pain these two men are suffering, which creates a surprisingly emotional story.

But don’t worry, it’s not all about emotion. Azzarello includes a healthy dose of action and drama you. Our hero faces Nox, a war general who happens to have the weapon that caused The Vanishing. But he also has Equus, an apparently unstoppable beast who loves to kill. There are some exciting battle scenes between this evil brute and Superman, fight scenes that are made only more powerful because of way the flashbacks showcase the mystery revolving around the weapon and because of the pain we know it caused Superman.

One problem this collection does face is the lack of chapter breaks. The story flows one chapter into the next, making it impossible to readily know where is a good place to pause. This trips up the flow a few times, and that’s never a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy to read this entire book in one sitting, but there needs to be a pause in the action and drama to really catch up and reflect on what’s happening.

Regardless of this small yet valid complaint, I think the six issues (Superman 204-209) contained in Superman: For Tomorrow Vol. 1 are a perfect mix of action, suspense, and mystery. When the JLA face Superman to tell him they’re not sure they agree with his actions, it’s readily apparent that there’s much more to this story then we get in these six issues. I wish DC had chosen to put the entire story into one volume (which I think would’ve been more effective for this story), but I don’t hold it against them. I just look forward to being involved in the second half, and I hope it lives up to the expectations created by the first.

Superman For Tomorrow Review Interior ImageJim Lee really captures the essence of Superman with his magnificent pencils in his take on the iconic character, but he also stays true to the tone set by the scribe. There’s a darkness to the story and to the hero, and Lee adds a touch of menace to the look. The art really becomes impressive during the quiet moments where each panel conveys just the right emotion for the scene. Lee helps humanize Superman, more so than what might be expected from a Superman comic.

Of course, the inks of Scott Williams help create depth and detail to the image, and the colors by Alex Sinclair make the panels jump off the page. The contrast between light and dark, the contrast between the vibrant primary colors associated with the hero and the shadows that invade most panels, is essential to the tone of this book, and the art team really nails it.

With that said, however, there’s something missing here. Each panel, while certainly artistically beautiful, comes across as a snap shot of the action. There’s no real sense of motion. The motion lines and the blur of moving backgrounds help convey that feeling of movement, but it doesn't quite break away from being a static image. This is a minor gripe, but it’s still something that I noticed several times in key action scenes.

Bonus Features
As is becoming the norm for the DC hardcover collections, Superman: For Tomorrow Vol. 1 offers fans a few bonus features to make the book a little more attractive. While the extras shouldn’t make or break your decision about purchasing the book, they do provide a little more bang for your buck.

First up, Azzarello shares his recollections of being asked to write Superman in a lighthearted and sometimes funny introduction. Next up is a cover gallery that showcases the cover art from the serialized version of the story. Lee, Williams, and Sinclair really shine with these spectacular pieces. Of course, the alternate cover for issue #205 is also featured here, showing that Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald have a pretty good handle on the Man of Steel, too.

Lastly there’s a 5-page Jim Lee sketchbook. This section shows a number of Lee’s preliminary sketches and notes as he began to design the look and feel for his run on the title. The artist also includes some interesting facts about the process and how he developed Superman’s appearance.

Final Words

Azzarello creates a darker, more human side of the Man of Steel, and the art team captures the tone nearly perfectly. This is definitely a book to read slowly so you can not only take in the quality of the art, but also the tension of the story. Those fans looking for a little reality mixed in with their super hero action should enjoy this book, but those die-hard readers who only appreciate the Boy Scout image of Superman might want to steer clear.

Highly Recommended

James has written for such fine web sites as DVDtalk, Broken Frontier, and Paperback Reader. He lives in Denver with his lovely wife and two cats who wake him up at 3 a.m.
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