Superman Returns
The Prequels

Authors: Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris and others
Artists: Various
Titan Books
RRP: 6.99, US $12.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 84576 379 4
ISBN-10: 1 84576 379 3
Available 24 November 2006

Superman has returned to our cinema screens - but what happened while he was away? This volume explores the five-year gap between the Man of Steel's departure from Earth and his homecoming in
Superman Returns. Revisit his origins during the last days of Krypton; learn what role his adoptive mother played in keeping anyone from suspecting that Clark Kent's disappearance had anything to do with Superman's; see how Lex Luthor proved his genius in the absence of his greatest foe even while imprisoned; and discover how Lois Lane coped without her true love and what led her to write that the world doesn't need Superman...

The movie's scriptwriters Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris provided the storylines for the four-issue miniseries collected here. As such, these prequels inhabit the same muddled world as Superman Returns, a strange parallel universe in which it seems that the events of Superman: The Movie and Superman II took place, though about twenty years later than the versions we've seen, while those of Superman III and IV did not (Martha Kent is still alive and well).

Each of these stories elaborates upon pivotal moments from the first movie, such as Jor-El's unheeded warnings about the destruction of Krypton, the Kents' discovery of the infant Kal-El, Lex Luthor's original real-estate scam, and Lois Lane's interview and subsequent flight with Superman.

Sometimes the artists choose to depict the actors as they appeared in the Christopher Reeve movies. Such is the case with Jor-El and his fellow Kryptonians and with Jonathan and Martha Kent in Krypton to Earth, as realised by Ariel Olivetti. Conversely, Karl Kerschl shows Eva Marie Saint's version of Martha in Ma Kent. Penciller Wellington Dias and inker Doug Hazlewood combine the two approaches in Lois Lane, giving us the old-style Perry White, the new-look Jimmy Olsen and a generic Lois and Superman. Superman and Lex are similarly generic in Lex Luthor, with pencils by Rick Leonardi and inks by Nelson, though Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's script does explain the change in Luthor's physique during his time in prison. I must also mention Adam Hughes's beautiful cover art for Lois Lane, which skilfully blends the likenesses of Kate Bosworth and Margot Kidder.

I found myself in what must be the rare position of not having seen the film until after I had read this graphic novel. I can therefore tell you that it does work and does make sense even if you haven't seen the movie - though Marc Andreyko's script for Lois Lane appears to contradict the film on the matter of Jason's paternity. (Highlight the following spoiler if you wish to read it: Perhaps Kryptonian pregnancies last longer than regular human ones, so initially Lois thinks Richard is the father. In Krypton to Earth, Jor-El indicates that Kryptonians age at a slower rate than humans.)

On the whole, these prequels work a heck of a lot better than George Lucas's Star Wars ones.

Richard McGinlay

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