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Superman for all Seasons

| 28.5.03
Superman for all Seasons, by Jeph Loeb (writer) and Tim Sale (artist)

I've been a fan of Superman since I was a kid, but lately I've been more attracted to stories that explore the emotions, spirituality and psychology of the characters, versus the more traditional action-packed superhero type story. Superman for all Seasons delivers on this promise surprisingly well, granting the reader an inside look into the tale of a superhero who comes of age, told from the point of view of Jonathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luther, and Lana Lang. The graphic novel is divided into four parts, named after each season of a year, and metaphorically representing the seasons of our lives.

Part 1, Spring is narrated by Pa Kent and outlines his struggle in coming to terms with his special adopted son. In this version Clark slowly comes into his powers and is actually relatively normal until his senior year of high school. Thus it's a slow discovery that the whole family learns to cope with. Like in the Smallville TV series, Clark learns of new abilities rescuing someone from a tornado.

After the twister, Clark feels he should have done more to save the town from destruction. He talks to his pastor, Pastor Linquist, posing the question --"Pastor, what if one man --just one man-- could've stopped all this destruction? And he didn't..." (p. 41) His pastor somewhat dismissively replies that we each respond according to our gifts, but that in the end when God sets a course no one can stop it. This provides a rare glimpse into the spirituality of the Kents, and paints a kind of generic protestant religious background. Slightly earlier in the narrative, we find out that Martha is the devout one in the family, while Jonathan "didn't put too much stake in being a churchgoing sort." (p. 29)

Spiritual or not, Clark really grapples with the question of how best to use his gifts. In this story, Clark confides in Lana and tells her of his super-powers. The revelation is bittersweet however, since Clark's conviction that he must use his gifts for good means that he will leave her, and leave Smallville.

Part 2, Summer is narrated by Lois Lane. Clark is in Metropolis, just starting his career at The Daily Planet. The rivalry is fierce between Lex Luther and Superman - each competing against each other and for the adulation of Metropolis' citizens. While it also seems like they are competing for Lois' love, Lois' relationship with Lex and with Superman seems to be based more on "shock and awe" than on genuine affection. As on the Smallville television show, this Lex (at least in his own mind) wants to do good and be a hero --but is constantly being shown up and upstaged by Superman.

In this section of the story, we discover that Clark's Fortress of Solitude is Smallville. He flys home to spend time with his parents and regroup. Ironically, Clark is famous in Smallville for being Clark, not Superman. As Pastor Linquist relates to Clark in a kind moment, "We're probably the only town in Kansas that gets The Daily Planet every morning at the general store... Nobody from Smallville has done what you've done." (p. 92)

Part 3, Fall is narrated by Lex Luthor. Jealous of Metropolis' love of Superman, he unleashes a plague on the city in true comic book fashion. Superman is manipulated to believe it's his fault. Like on Smallville, this rendition of Clark seems to have a lot of guilt. While the city is saved with Luther's antidote, Clark returns home to his parents, defeated, while Lex takes credit for rescuing Metropolis.

Part 4, Winter is told by Lana Lang. In this chapter we discover that Lana's dream had been to marry Clark --finding out his secret and his plans to leave crushed her dreams. Having previously left home to wander the world alone, she returns to Smallville and helps Clark come to terms with his limitations and his gifts. The graphic novel truly transcends the genre here as the real struggle is won when Clark takes action to save his parents and Lana from a flood that hits Smallville. Adding a spiritual dimension, the family attends a vigil where Pastor Linquist reflects on the seasons of a life, their meaning, and how our choices define our lives.

PUBLISHER: DC Comics, New York, 1999. ISBN: 1-56389-529-3.

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