This review contains marked spoilers. Skip To The Verdict? »
In my previous review of the excellent Superman Returns: The Prequels, I mentioned that the actual film tie-in wasn’t of the same quality.
Generally speaking, comics based on films tend to be of a lower quality than most other comics. Superman Returns: The Movie and Other Tales manages to sink a new low.
The collection stands at roughly 170 pages in length with around 70 of them given to the film adaptation.
The other 100 are filled with rather mediocre one off stories intending to get first-time readers interested in Superman enough to purchase more titles in the future.
This is quite standard of movie tie-in collections and it means that the main story is squeezed into a space too short for the writer to be able to adapt the script with decent quality. More on this later.
Despite the overall poor grade of the book, the story starts off quite promisingly; however, it is short lived and soon spirals out of control.
The opening deals with Superman’s background before Superman Returns, with him setting off to find Krypton at the end of the second film. These two pages are drawn using a dot-screen effect and limited colours to give the feel of a comic from a previous era. It works quite nicely to separate the back story from the rest of the book.
The book then swiftly moves onto the main film plot, starting with a scene removed from the final edit of the film as it was deemed too costly: Superman’s return to Krypton.
It is a scene made semi-famous by the sheer amount of hype about it being a possible special feature on the DVD. Sadly it never was and this only added to it’s notoriety among the completionists. Unfortunately these few pages are the most they will ever see of this famous scene, but serve as a nice treat to the reader.
So far so good. Over the next 10 or so pages we have the several introductory scenes that set up all the major characters in the story; most of these scenes are entirely in the film.
There is one new sequence at the Kent farm. Martha Kent barely features in the film only appearing to help Clark out of the crater when landing back on Earth.
In one of these extra sequences it is revealed Martha is now dating Ben Hubbard and is planning on moving to Montana with him. Arguably not a real loss to be cut from the film, but a little bonus all the same.
From here on, the story follows the film with no extra bits or at least nothing good enough that I noticed it.
One apparent downside to having these neat little extras thrown our way was that it meant the number of pages left to complete the story were very low, leading to some disastrous consequences.
The most harrowing one can only be pointed out by telling exactly how it is in the book, so for this reason this next section after the image contains spoilers. Beware… there be spoilers ahead!
Spoilers: There comes a point in the story when Lois and her family are locked in a quickly filling container, which itself is submerged and sinking in the Atlantic Ocean. In the film they are saved by Superman flying in and heroically pulling the ship out of the ocean. It is probably one of the best scenes, the greatest depiction of Superman’s heroics in the entire film.
So now in the book we have come to that same scene but it plays out slightly differently:
– Oh no, Lois and company are trapped! How will they ever survive? Quick, turn the page to find out! (turns page)
– Why is Superman fighting Lex on the new island? This scene is another 5 minutes later! What about Lois? (turns page again)
– Oh, I see they were saved ”off camera” and then Superman flew to fight Lex Luthor once they were safe. How do I know this if it was off camera? Well, on the first panel on the next page Richard White (Lois’s husband) explains all of this to her…
As you can probably tell from my tone of how this scene was handled, it got under my skin just a tiny wee bit. They didn’t technically ruin one of the best scenes in the film, because they instead removed it altogether and replaced it with an 11 word sentence summing up what had happened. Badly, I might add.
The art for the title is provided by a trio of artists Matt Haley (Ghost), Mike Collins (Doctor Who) and Ron Randall (Predator). With quite a big team of artists, you might expect something of good standard, however we are left with artwork that’s pretty dull and tame, even awkward.
What makes the artwork particularly bad is that it is clearly intended that the characters resemble the actors from the film. Some of the characters look like bad drawings of their actors, with both Clark and Lois often looking more like actors than fully fleshed characters.
It is Lex Luthor that ensures that the artwork gets a slating from me. It’s doubly bad – not a single panel of him looks remotely like Kevin Spacey at all, and he actually manages to look like a different character in almost every panel.
I wrote earlier that the back-up stories in this volume aren’t of a high quality and don’t contain anything of real note. This being the case I feel it would have been far better to cut one or more of these stories and flesh out the film-tie in (originally released as a prestige format one-shot.)
If they had done this it still wouldn’t be a high quality book but it would be a book with some interesting extra scenes for a fan of the film. The downsides of the book outweigh the bonus of the extras and make the it one to avoid at all costs.
I bought my copy for £0.01, plus postage, off of Amazon.co.uk a few years back and I actually doubted whether it was worth the price.
It is still on the UK Amazon for this price (and a similar one cent at US Amazon). At the time of writing, 25 out of the 43 market place sellers with this book are selling it at this price. One particular seller is obviously very keen to get rid of the title as their description for the item it:
”RRP £7.99 Graphic Novel :)” – A 99.99875% deflation of the original retail price, yet it still wont sell. Perhaps that says everything you need to know about Superman Returns: The Movie and Other Tales.
It gets one star for the contents of the first dozen pages and the mediocre backups, which are of a 3 star quality; the rest fails to even rate 1 out of five.
To even follow the book you would have had to watch the film. This contains nothing more and is strictly unessential.
If you do decide to give this a shot, you may as well read the much higher quality Superman Returns: The Prequels first.
Watch the film again and remind yourself how good the story is, if handled correctly.