DC’s Superman Space Age Book One delivers the dream team of creatives — author Mark Russell, artist Michael Allred, and colorist Laura Allred. Playing to these creators’ strengths, Space Age captures the nostalgia of classic Superman stories while delivering both a critique of the faults of humanity and an optimistic look at what it means to be a hero.
Taking place primarily in 1960s America, Superman Space: Age Book One is a brief retelling of Clark Kent’s origin, accompanied by his first major mission as Superman — protecting humanity from itself during a nuclear standoff between The United States of America and Russia. However, there seems to be a larger threat on the horizon, Clark wonders if he’s truly saved the world or if the worst has yet to come.
Fans familiar with Russell’s other work, like Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles spirit The Flintstones, know that he likes to use pop-culture icons and nostalgia to comment on the modern day. While it isn’t his strongest cultural critique, Superman: Space Age has the potential to be an excellent take on what it feels like to watch the world set itself up for destruction without truly knowing when things will come to an end — or if there is a way to fix things. Readers living through the climate crisis, the pandemic, and much more are sure to identify with the feelings of apprehension and helplessness that Superman is grappling with. The Man of Steel is an excellent figure to represent these feelings, as he is the sole survivor of a planet that went through something similar. He is supposed to be a beacon of hope, but even Clark Kent has moments of vulnerability.
Superman: Space Age Book One shows that anyone can be a hero. This comic highlights the human heroes in Superman’s life, from journalists like Lois Lane to activists like John Lewis. This issue also explores Clark’s relationship with his work as a journalist. It’s clear that he truly enjoys writing as much as he does flying through Metropolis. Superman and Lois’ narration makes a lot of sense, but there is a lot of it to sift through, especially as other characters and teams are introduced. While this can be exciting for fans of said characters, Superman: Space Age could benefit from keeping the focus on Superman and his main connections instead of trying to deliver a broader look at the DC Universe.
As always, the Allreds are a dynamic duo. Having worked together before on countless projects, it’s a joy to see their work on Superman. Michael’s art screams pop art, meshing perfectly with this period piece. Meanwhile, Laura brings a vibrancy and brightness to the comic, complimenting the themes of hope, even in the more heartbreaking moments. The artwork truly pops, but it also heightens the emotions of the characters, as much is conveyed in how the characters look at one another or situations. The style also lends itself to comedic moments, which makes it feel reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons, but these moments do not overshadow the heavier scenes and interactions. Fans of cartoons, classic comics, or pop art are certainly in for a treat, thanks to the Allreds.
Superman: Space Age Book One is a great introduction for fans looking for a way to dive into Superman, as it captures his origin and what makes Clark — not just Superman — a hero. Even with the extra characters, he is the focus, and the audience will be intrigued by the themes touched on in this book, especially when the art is so captivating and fresh. There is plenty of potential for Superman: Space Age to take off even further in future instalments. Superman is the hero the world needs right now, and this first issue makes that crystal clear.