The Adventures of Superman Annual #3
By Louise Simonson and Bryan Hitch
Armageddon 2001 is always my favourite of all the big annual crossovers, although comparing it to things like Bloodline or that interminable Eclipso stuff isn’t saying much.
It wasn’t the shock deaths or apocalyptic endings that appealed – even though there is always something weirdly compelling about seeing the bright and shiny DC universe go completely to shit – it was that each Armageddon 2001 story was a standalone tale, where anything could happen. Superman could retire, or become president, or a ruthless dictator, or just bugger off into space with Maxima after the tragic death of Lois Lane.
That’s what he does in this annual, and it’s nice to see the big man get something like a happy ending. Apart from that, it’s nothing special, like a whole lot of early nineties DC comics were. But this twenty-year-old comic still has some charm, is written by the always dependable Louis Simonson, and it features some incredibly early art by Bryan Hitch.
I’m fairly sure there are examples of his earlier work available, including a Doctor Who comic written by Grant Morrison, but this is still primordial Hitch – he hasn’t even got into his Alan Davis emulating phase. I actually thought it was drawn by Art Thirbert for a while, because there was six months there where every DC book looked like it had been inked by Art Thirbet. (He’s still out there in the inking trenches, but for a second he managed to be everywhere.)
While Hitch’s work has been weirdly underwhelming in the past couple of years – comics like the Fantastic Four and Captain America: Reborn have looked as good as ever, but lack some spark – the incredible leap in quality his art took around the turn of the century is still remarkable to look back at.
There aren’t many traces of that later inspiration in this Superman comic, but there are moments when one of Superman’s expressions looks just like Ultimate Captain America. The earliest signs are there. And even though Hitch is keeping things as basic and simple as possible, there is a real momentum in the panels Superman flies through.
Adventures of Superman annual #3 isn’t a great comic, but it’s all right, and it’s always fascinating to watch an interesting artist’s development. It would be even better to see what Hitch could do with Superman now. Armageddon 2011, anybody?