The problem with this iteration of Superman so far isn't that it's that it's too punchy or not deep enough: it's that it's not good at being action-packed or thoughtful when it tries to go in either direction.
My Comic Bastard bio is a product of its time: I started reviewing comics not too long after I first started reading them and, as a result, my disdain for DC's relaunch via the New 52 was still a fresh wound. I remember my first time really browsing the shelves at a comic store in Manhattan, gawking at all the new DC comics, excited about what might be inside. "Superman, in jeans?!" thought a young wide-eyed Austin (with much more hair), as he gazed upon Morrison's Man of Steel and Denim. Of course, the content of many of those comics disappointed, but it wasn't all bad.
Rebirth has decidedly retconned my opinion of the previous relaunch. Because this Superman, whatever this comic is supposed to be, is dull. Dull, dull, dull. In addition to bordering on mindless, the constant rotation of pencilers seems more apparent than is typical even on double-shipped books.
The father-son (and now father-son-mother) fight with this iteration of the Eradicator is in its third issue and still has at least one issue to go. Maybe I've just been reading too much manga, but the pacing of this fight feels absolutely languid considering it's the first fight of this new series and the fight animation itself isn't up to snuff. Careful readers will notice in this issue that not one page ever really feels like a kinetic showdown; rather, characters are constantly posing. What should feel like constant motion and powerful movement instead reads like anatomy porn.
What's more disappointing is that it hasn't always been the case throughout the fight. Of the previous issues, the one featuring Jimenez's pencils had some convincing set pieces where the imposing physical strength involved among these figures was more than obvious. Unfortunately, we don't get consistent pencils because of how quickly these pages are being cranked out. It's one thing if the rotating pencilers can elicit the same feel from the pages and have equally successful sequences; however, it's another thing entirely when the issues feel distinctly visually different and the sequences become as static as they are here in issue 5.
It's not entirely the artist's fault. The languid pace could use a little more motion and character in its images, but that doesn't excuse how little room there is for character in the plot itself. The Eradicator is an intensely one-dimensional character: he's a sexy buff dalek that says "eradicate" instead of "exterminate." Making him the foil for a substantial relaunch of a flagship title doesn't make any sense. And it makes even less sense when you make it a punchy-punch showdown that only serves to put Superman's son in danger.
What at first seemed like a promising exploration of Jon's human/Kyrptonian heritage is really just a dick-measuring contest that used his heritage as a touchstone. The moment at which Superman takes all the Kryptonian souls inside of himself from the Eradicator is just too on-the nose: we get it, he's the best possible torch-bearer of his race, not some unthinking xenophobic genocidal alien. It's weird to see that metaphor so explicitly evinced when almost every goddamn Superman story gets this point across.
[su_box title="Score: 1/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Publisher: DC Comics
Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital