Every so often DC and MARVEL tend to reboot their titles in order to make it easier for new fans to join and start with continuity timelines. Not that many people would be tempted to pick up a series which is already at #357. This year it was the turn of DC’s Animated Universe (DCAU) after the events of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War wrapped up the DCAU until then.
The first new animated movie to be launched in DCAU’s reboot was Superman: Man of Tomorrow. There isn’t much comic fans loathe more than yet another “origins story” as too often they are a retelling of a rather well-known already story, with few smaller details the new author adds. But overall, nothing much changes. Bruce Wayne’s parents are still dead, Superman is still the last Kryptonian and was sent off by his parents, etc etc etc.
While Superman: Man of Tomorrow is a sort of origins story, the animated movie doesn’t fall in the same strap and picks up later in the life of Clark Kent, leading to an interesting take on the topic of “origins stories”.
Superman: Man of Tomorrow Review
The new movie, written by Tim Sheridan and directed by Chris Palmer, takes us to the Daily Planet, where Superman — voiced by Darren Criss — has just started as intern/coffee boy. Gradually, we get introduced to most characters which will play a major role through the life of Clark and Superman. Of course, there’s Lois Lane (Alexandra Daddario) and Lex Luthor (Zachary Quinta), as well as Clark’s parents: Martha (Bellamy Young) and Jonathan Kent (Neil Flynn). In a more interesting turn of events Kent who has just discovered his abilities and is coming to terms with them, is also joined by J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter (Ike Amadi) and the “Main Man”, AKA Lobo (Ryan Hurst).
The only regular Superman character missing in Superman: Man of Tomorrow is Kent’s friend Jimmy Olsen, the photographer, which makes sense since Kent has only just joined the Daily Planet as an intern.
Throughout the movie we get to see all the characters as we know them, from their earlier beginnings. Lois Lane is already the always eager for a scoop journalist, even if only just promoted to staff member at the Daily Planet. We get to see the Martian Manhunter in his regular authoritarian — and also slightly enigmatic — shapeshifter wise man guise. And Lex, well he’s just Lex. Good at times, rotten at other times, generally not to be trusted and that seeps through from his earliest appearances in Man of Tomorrow.
As for Lobo, he’s the “Main Man” and is probably even be the MVP of this first entry in DCAU’s reboot. Although I must confess a bias towards the “bastid”, a bias only increased by Lobo’s apparent viewing of Battlestar Galactica (reimagined) and use of “Frak”.
As antagonist Sheridan and Palmer have opted for The Parasite. The villain evolved from a simple janitor who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and afterwards can absorb anything he comes in touch with: energy, sense, mind. Parasite is a powerful villain, with some hints at Doomsday but also a Godzilla Silke touch in action scenes, yet not one to be remembered long.
In Superman: Man of Tomorrow everything revolves around Kent’s initial struggles about his powers and how to present them in real life. How to present himself. The influence of Martha and Jonathan Kent is obvious as Kent — or Superman — clearly is both a super hero but also a gently soul with common feelings and worries. Worries that humans may reject him, the alien.
One striking detail to Superman: Man of Tomorrow is the seemingly new art direction, which is mostly reflected by thick outlines to all characters. It almost feels like watching an episode of Archer but without Archer. All in all though it’s a welcome new animation style.
Should I Watch It?
As “origin stories” go, *Superman: Man of Tomorrow” is a compelling watch and good use of 80 minutes of one’s life. The movie is supported by solid voices, led by Criss doing a sound job of relaying the Man of Steel, his emotions, his power, and his doubts as he comes to terms with being Supes. While Alexandra Dadario delivers a strong Lois Lane, her role could have been developed more. As expected Zachary Quinta plays a strong, cold, and emotionless Luthor, juts as we imagine Luthor. Martian Manhunter and Lobo both are portrayed in ways most fans will approve of.
But Superman: Man of Tomorrow isn’t perfect. Like most “origin stories” the targeted audience is newcomers to the character, rather than fans. The uncommon, yet interesting, angle to Clark growing up without knowing of his own origin only to find it out via Lobo and J’onzz leaves many plot holes. Luckily, because of the focus on Kent developing his dual persona, these holes are relegated to the background and may go unnoticed to new fans. Superman geeks will regularly love to throw up their arms in the air though, even more so Lois Lane lovers.
While The Parasite is a strong opponent, at times it feels that his strength is over portrayed to the behest of his character development. Maybe Sheridan had better chosen for a villain who could return at a later stage in further animated movies in the DCAU.
Over all Superman: Man of Tomorrow is rather easygoing entertainment, a step away from the New 52 and much of the grittier DCAU , and also DCU, work of last decade. There’s little rewatch value to it, even though Sheridan and Palmer perfectly nailed what the Man of Steel is about. It will be interesting to see their next steps in the development of Superman in the DC Animated Universe.
But Superman: Man of Tomorrow has Lobo and anything with the “Main Man” is worth a watch.
Past Comic Reviews
- The Black Monday Murders, by Jonathan Hickman
- Plastic, by Doug Wagner
- House of Penance, by Peter J. Tomasi
- Southern Bastards Vol. 1, by Jason Aaron
- Ether Vol. 1, by Matt Kindt