Superman #8 is the opening chapter of a new arc entitled “Escape From Dinosaur Island”, which sees Superman and his son Jon, aka the new Superboy, inexplicably transported to a mysterious island where danger lurks in the form of….well….dinosaurs, obviously. Like the “Night of the Monster Men” arc currently running in the Batman titles, this issue has the feel of a modern reimagining of Silver Age adventures that unfurled on just the right side of ridiculous to wind up being rousing adventure. Writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason capture the light-hearted and overtly fantastic tone of those kinds of stories while merging them with modern sensibilities enough so that the overall feeling of the book is one of fun without being silly.
Jon and Superman, along with Krypto, find themselves trapped on the mysterious island with no way to get home, and hunted by prehistoric beasts eager to make them their next meal. The issue not only features tons of high-flying adventure for our three heroes, but also serves as a memorial for one of the great comic creators who we tragically lost not so long ago, the great Darwyn Cooke. Dinosaur Island featured heavily in the opening instalments of his seminal work “New Frontier” and this issue is direct call-back to that issue, which is great. DC’s recent return, following Rebirth, to a spirit less of grim and brooding “realism” to more one of adventure, would definitely be in keeping with how Cooke most often preferred to think of the DCU. But though Cooke’s super-hero work may have been in many ways nostalgic or classic in tone and style, he never delivered a simplified or old-fashioned story. His spirit may have embraced the Silver Age, but his content and concerns were always modern.
Doug Mahnke is an artist I really like, particularly on Superman. He knows when to draw the Man of Steel with power and impact, and how to just keep his posture simple and human. His Superman doesn’t do a lot of posing. But Mahnke knows how to bring the goods when Superman needs to lay the smack down on a dinosaur. And he draws an unexpectedly hilarious Krypto panel that is perfect.
This issue doesn’t feel like a throwback. What it feels like is similar to what most of the Superman line is capturing right now; a familiar, warm and engaging tone that allows us to embrace Superman and his family easily without turning them into simple nostalgic cardboard cut-outs of a “simpler time.” This issue isn’t complicated; it’s focused mainly with setting up the central mystery or where Superman and Jon are trapped, along with paying tribute to Cooke. But the simple pleasure of just diving into a fun Superman book where he fights dinosaurs and tries to solve an outlandish mystery is harder to achieve than you might think. And the creative team nails it. 8.5/10