Pulp and Dagger

Graphic Novel Review


for January 14, 2007


Superman: Infinite City

cover2005 - available in hard and soft cover

Written by Mike Kennedy. Illustrated and coloured by Carlos Meglia.
Letters: Rob Leigh. Editor: Eddie Berganza.

96 pages

Published by DC Comics

Cover price: $24.95 USA (hardcover -- soft cover, less)

Superman and Lois Lane track an illegal super-weapon to a deserted California town and find a doorway to another dimension. Travelling (unexpectedly) to the otherworldly Infinite City they quickly get caught up in the machinations there...and Superman discovers an unexpected connection to Krypton.

I have a certain knee jerk fondness for these sorts of 96 pagers -- or, at least, the idea of them. That's because they seem a little more like their meant to justify the "graphic novel" label (or at least, graphic movie). Most graphic novels are either collections of comic books, or simply 48 pages, or occasionally 64 pages. As well, though Batman has been featured in a handful of these epic graphic "novels" over the years (such as Absolution and Nine Lives), Superman has only starred in a very few.

Infinite City feels a little like the script and storyboards for an aborted Superman animated movie, ala the mega-hit The Incredibles. With both good and bad results.

On the good, it's an entirely self-contained tale -- not continued from, or into, anything. And the Superman mythos seems to have gradually done a full 180 over the years, ignoring the John Byrne mid-'80s revamp and reflecting more of an earlier interpretation of Krypton. There's a good naturedness to it all. Though there's a dastardly villain or two threatening the very spacial stability of this pocket dimension, and action, there's also a light-heartedness to it, where no one gets tortured or killed (at least, not obviously). The underlying tone is, basically, straight-faced, but there are plenty of quips and humorous bits keeping it all light. And there's enough going on in the story that it comfortably justifies its length, with a few twists and turns and some surprises along the way.

The art by Carlos Meglia likewise evokes an animated movie in that it's highly cartoony. And this is where I have mixed feelings. I tend to lean towards more serious, realist art in comics, particularly with Superman (having grown up with Curt Swan's classic depiction), so the cartooniness took some adjusting to. Though, by now, with, say, Tim Sale's Superman for All Seasons and others, I'm sort of comfortable with Superman as a big chested, lantern jawed caricature -- though Lois and some of other characters took a bit of adjusting to. And there's an undeniable energy and enthusiasm to Meglia's art, that maybe is particularly suited to depicting the otherworldliness of Infinite City. And, as I said, taken as a kind of Superman-by-way-of-The-Incredibles it doesn't seem so outrageous. As well, this is painted art, further lending the book a grandiose extravagance (that also evokes an animated movie in that often there's a stylistic difference between the characters and the backgrounds).

But the downside to the art (and a lot of reviews have singled the art out as the book's biggest appeal) is that it can be a bit confusing in the action scenes, as Meglia doesn't fully know how to emphasize the key elements in a scene, particularly as the colours can often be a bit too much the same, further failing to distinguish elements. And the problem with the cartoony, caricaturist figures is that it can be harder to tell what you're looking at, particularly against an alien backdrop ("if that a pipe? shrapnel? a sleeve? no -- it's a leg!").

Likewise, the downside to the light-hearted script is that there can be a certain...frothiness to it all. Even though there are some emotional concepts, and potential for deep, human drama as Superman encounters aspects of his Kryptonian past, it all seems kind of light-weight. Superman even describes the adventure as "emotionally exhausting"...but it doesn't quite feel that way. This may also be another problem with the cartoony art -- it's hard to become emotionally involved with figures that look like cartoons.

There are also a few plot lapses and confusing bits -- not so much as if the story doesn't make sense, so much as if somewhere in the editing process, a line or scene that would've explained something, or how a character jumped to a certain conclusion, was lost.

Put one way -- it's like an animated cartoon: fun, but leaves you a bit unfulfilled.

But the bottom line is: Infinite City is enjoyable. A fun, reasonably complex epic that, if not fully heart tugging, does nonetheless keep the focus on the humanity of the characters; there's plenty of action and super feats...but not just mindless fistfights for twenty pages. And at a time where DC Comics seems mired in violence and brutality for its own sake, it's a refreshingly good-natured adventure.

Reviewed by D.K. Latta

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