DC Comics Presents Superman (2004)

This is one of the series of Julius Schwartz tributes that came out last year, and it features a most unusual creative team: Stan Lee and Darwyn Cooke. Cooke, the mastermind behind the brilliant New Frontier, draws a charmingly old-fashioned story by the comics master Lee. Lee’s story of "The Phantom Quarterback" is so hoary and old-school that only a pair of masters could pull it off. This story reads like something Julie Schwartz might have edited in the 1960s or ’70s, a charming little romance tale in which a science geek rigs up some sort of scientific creation to win the girl of his dreams. If you like old comics, you’ve read this story a dozen times. But under Lee and Cooke, the story gains new life. Lee’s writing is wonderfully sincere and light, full of charming character moments that add extra zest to the story. Cooke’s art, as always, is amazingly iconic. His presentation of Superman, square-chinned and graceful, is wonderfully timeless. And his depictions of the secondary characters have a wonderful cartoonish broadness that can’t help but make you smile. Together the team presents a winner of a story. It’s not the most memorable Superman story you’ll ever read, but it’s as well-crafted a story of this type as you’ll ever read.

The second story, by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen and Al Milgrom, can’t help but to suffer in comparison with the lead feature. It’s nice story by some solid comics professionals, but the story just lacks a spark that the lead story has. It doesn’t help that Giffen’s art seems uniquely badly suited for Superman; the character just has an odd feel under Giffen and Milgrom.

Finally, the issue winds up with a nice piece by Alan Moore, full of classic Moore lines that twist and bend around each other in his wonderfully poetic style. We really see Moore’s love and respect for Schwartz shine through in every line.

I wish they still did old-school Superman books like this one, every once in awhile.

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