REVIEW: “Superman: Sacrifice” graphic novel

Superman: Sacrifice graphic novel (DC Comics, 2006 compilation)
Writers:
Greg Rucka, Mark Verheiden, and Gail Simone
Pencillers: Ed Benes, et al.

Inkers: Alex Lei, et al.
Colorists: Rod Reis, et al.
Letterers: Todd Klein, et al.
Front cover art: J.G. Jones (Wonder Woman #219)

Trademark Film Frontier Long-Winded Review Intro

When Richard Donner announced that he would begin writing for DC’s Action Comics Superman title, I’d not read a new Superman comic book in 10 years.

And that’s not due a dislike of Superman comic books.

Since the storylines back then spread between Action Comics, Superman, Adventures of Superman, and Superman: The Man of Steel, there was a Superman comic to buy every week.

On those odd months that included five weeks, there was even a Superman: The Man of Tomorrow title to fill in the gap. So it was hard to keep up with, in terms of both time and money, so I eventually stopped trying.

Another reason I was able to let Superman go back then was because I really don’t like comic book stores. Harrowing experiences with “comic snob” staff members at a certain store as a child and teenager still make me hesitate to this day to go into them.

But hey, if Richard Donner’s gonna start writing Superman stories, I’m there. Donner’s vision of Superman in his 1978 movie pretty much defined the character for me. 2006 is notable to me as a Superman fan not only because Superman returned to theaters, and because it will soon see the release of the Donner version of Superman II, but also because it marks a new era of Superman stories written by the Richard Donner/Geoff Johns team.

Fortunately, I found out that DC now offers a third-party subscription service. So, I won’t have to go into a scary comic book store to check out Action Comics. Sure, I’ll get them two to three weeks later, but I can live with that.

I’ve missed a number of things in the last ten years. You see, when I stopped buying the Superman comics, I’d planned to keep up as much as I could by buying graphic novel compilations every now and then.

Well, ten years comes around real quick, let me tell you. From the time I stopped buying the weekly comics until the time Donner made his announcement earlier this year, I’d bought exactly three graphic novels, all of which took place before that last comic I bought back in 1996: Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (the first half of which I’d read back in 1986), Crisis On Infinite Earths, and Superman: The Man of Steel.

I’ve recently placed myself in a “Superman boot camp” of sorts, to get me caught up on comics continuity. Or at least caught up enough to start reading the Donner/Johns Action Comics.

I’ve found that each Superman title can now be read stand-alone, that the stories generally don’t intermingle between titles. That’s great news, since I only have to subscribe to one for now.
My Superman boot camp consists of the following graphic novels:

Superman: Birthright
Superman: Sacrifice
Infinite Crisis
Superman: Infinite Crisis
Superman: Up, Up, and Away

I read Birthright first. I’m not going to write a full review of that one, since the compilation was released two years ago and it was my first foray back into Superman comics. It was definitely enjoyable, though it raised a number of comics continuity issues just based on the Superman I was familiar with from 10 years ago.

I don’t want to get too hung up on that kind of stuff. In some ways, Birthright is actually similar to the Superman Returns movie in that they both represented “soft” reboots of their incarnations of the character. In both cases, you have to allow for the fact that the continuity logic may be a bit fuzzy. I’m fine with that, since the stories were so strong.

Up next, Superman: Sacrifice. The topic of today’s review, which I’m finally getting around to presenting.

Story

First of all, as stories go, wow, this was a great one. Though perhaps not recently, I’ve read a lot of Superman stories over the years. And, despite the many changes to the character, all of those stories shared one thing in common: Superman was the hero.

The true hero of Sacrifice, though, is not Superman. For Superman, albeit under the mind control of Maxwell Lord, is actually the antagonist of the piece.

The true hero of Sacrifice, as demonstrated in an extremely compelling scene that I will not soon forget, is Wonder Woman. If this whole Donner/Action Comics thing doesn’t work out, I think I know which comic I’ll make my backup.

I would have liked to have seen the Superman vs. Batman fight depicted from Batman’s point of view. Despite her powers, Wonder Woman barely survives her brawl with Superman, so it would have been interesting to see how Batman was handling the situation in reality.

Art

Everyone has favorite Superman artists. For some, Curt Swan was the ultimate. While I admire and respect Swan’s work and understand its historical significance, for me, coming from a later generation, the ultimate Superman depiction was by the Dan Jurgens/Brett Breeding team.

As for the art in Sacrifice, it was a mixed bag. Sacrifice was originally released last year as eight individual comic books drawn from Superman, Adventures of Superman, Action Comics, and Wonder Woman. So there were a lot of different art teams.

The best art in the series was from Action Comics #829 (John Byrne/Nelson). The characters, particularly Superman, looked more realistic there. I don’t like Superman to be built like the Incredible Hulk, as he seems prone to appear these days. His strength should come primarily from his superpowers, not the enormity of his muscles. Anyway, he seems better proportioned in the Action art.

The worst art in Sacrifice was, by far, the sections consisting of Adventures of Superman #642 and #643 (Karl Kerschl, et al./Cam Smith, et al.). Everyone has beady eyes, Superman looks like a big dope, and I found the whole thing distracting.

The other issues fall somewhere in between, though closer to Action than Adventures—fortunately.

Perhaps the disparity in the art wouldn’t have been as noticeable if I had collected the series on a comic by comic basis.

All eight covers are included in full size. Of the eight, only two truly stand out as being noteworthy: Wonder Woman #219 and #220, both by J.G. Jones. They are both beautiful paintings. #219 makes up the graphic novel’s cover as well.

All in all, though, definitely a very compelling story and a great graphic novel.

Story/Writing: 9 (out of 10)
Art: 7
Cover Art: 10
Overall Experience: 9
Recommended: Yes