Paul Dini & Alex Ross,
Superman: Peace on Earth
(DC Comics, 1999)

Superheroes usually expend their comic book efforts beating some nefarious characters, bent on global domination, into the ground. In Peace on Earth, Superman battles a different foe: world hunger.

Inspired by the plight of a starving child in Metropolis one Christmas, Superman vows to do something about the unending problem on a global scale. But the Man of Steel quickly learns that some problems aren't bested as easily as Lex Luthor, Metallo or the Eradicator. Hunger, and the politics which keeps it thriving in many parts of the world, won't go away because a man in colorful tights provides a day's supply of grain to hungry people.

It was, perhaps, arrogant to try. Despite good intentions, Superman could possibly use a Kryptonian version of Star Trek's Prime Directive. By interfering in some tense political situations, he may have stirred the fire sufficiently to bring harsher policies and reprisals down on the heads of those he was trying to help. Still, he did have good intentions.

And maybe reading the book will impart similar intentions to people who might be moved to send a check to one of the many agencies combatting hunger on a more human level.

The story by Paul Dini is concise but poignant. We watch Superman wrestle with a problem he can't easily fix with super strength or x-ray vision. By the end, we learn that maybe the all-too-normal Clark Kent can do more to help than his might alter-ego can.

Alex Ross provides the art on giant pages. Best known for painting the excellent Kingdom Come mini-series, he fills this book with lifelike images which bring an all-too-human dimension to the problems Superman faces. His facial expressions in particular are spot-on, and often are moving even without the accompanying text.

The only downside to Ross's art is Superman himself. For some reason, he was unable to shake the image of an aging hero from Kingdom Come, and in this book Superman looks tired and middle-aged. In some panels, he seems to fill out his tights in the same bulky, awkward way that actor George Reeves did in the old, campy TV series.

But that one problem aside, the art is otherwise spectacular. Combined with the story, Peace on Earth is a touching addition to any comic collector's shelf.

Editor's note: None of us can be real-life supermen (or superwomen) and fly around the world delivering food to the needy. But there is a very easy way everyone can help out -- make it a point to visit The Hunger Site once each day. With a simple click of a button, you can make sure one person gets food for that day. (There's no catch; advertisers pay for the food, content that the money they pay is worth you seeing their ads on the page.) It takes a few seconds, and someone gets fed! Superman would be proud.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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