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Book Review

Book Cover

The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel (Hardback)


Author: Daniel Wallace
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley
RRP: £17.99
ISBN: 978 1 4093 2888 9
Release Date: 01 May 2013

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel! This book takes you on a journey spanning worlds, ages and countless adventures. Follow Superman’s entire career, with full details of his powers, battles, loves, allies and of course, his enemies. How was Superman created? Where did he come from? What is his deal with Kryptonite? Created in full collaboration with DC Comics and packed with original comic book art, this guide allows fans to see how Superman has developed over the past 75 years. A timeline of events follows the twists and turns of his career at the Daily Planet, his battles with Lex Luthor, Darkseid and Doomsday, and his relationship with Lois Lane. For the die-hard Superman fan, or for those who are in the first stages of their journey to Krypton, this book sheds light on every aspect of his life...

Riding on the back of the imminent Man of Steel movie, like Lois Lane clinging to the famous hero as he flies through the skies above Metropolis, this colourful hardback is a timely exploration of Superman’s 75-year career in comics. Illustrated throughout, this is a rich 200-page tapestry of the life – or rather lives – of the original and most enduring comic-book superhero.

The first third of the book explores general themes, such as Superman’s costume, his powers and weaknesses, his friends and enemies, and the varied settings of Krypton, Smallville and Metropolis. All the essential characters are covered, including his Kryptonian and adoptive parents; Lois Lane, Lana Lang and other alliterative loves in his life; Daily Planet colleagues Perry White and Jimmy Olsen; Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Mr Mxyzptlk, General Zod and other villains; and the various incarnations of Superboy and Supergirl.

The remainder of the book takes a more chronological approach, detailing all the major storylines that have (often literally) rocked Superman’s world, and showing how the mythology has developed through the decades, from the Golden Age to the present day. Interspersed throughout the book are pages devoted to eight key issues in the character’s history, from Action Comics #1 in 1938 to, um, Action Comics #1 in 2011! No, that’s not a typo – the numbering across the entire DC Comics range started all over again with the New 52 revamp.

The complexities of the chronology and the number of times that Superman’s life story has been rebooted may at first appear baffling to the more casual reader picking up this busily-designed book. However, there is a valuable lesson here for newbies and die-hard fans alike: the Man of Steel’s costume in the latest movie might look darker than you had expected or would have liked, but that’s nothing compared to the changes that took place during the Reign of the Supermen / Return of Superman and Superman Red / Superman Blue sagas, all of which are covered here. We all have our favourite versions of this hero (I have a fondness for the John Byrne era of late 1980s), but there is no “one true” Man of Steel.

Superman’s mythology never stays put for very long, and his publishing programme continues, so this book will not remain an “ultimate guide” forever. For the moment, though, Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel is supremely eye-catching and approachable – rather like the man himself.


Richard McGinlay

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