Superman #45 came out this week and continued to complete deconstruction of Superman. We have seen Superman alone, depowered, on the run, and angry this whole arc. So why not make him broke as well? Why not make him even more ethically bankrupt, veering from the lessons he learned in life that made him the hero he once was. Superman himself says in this issue that he isn't using his gifts in the way they should be used.
Now I have been trying to follow the nonlinear storytelling of The Truth throughout the four Superman books and we finally seemed to be nearing something of a nexus. The four main villains who have been pulling the strings were together to start a combined assault. Clark has been researching this cabal and has a data stream. I want to get to that eventual fight, if only because I hope it will end this arc and bring back a more classic Superman.
Unfortunately, writer Gene Luen Yang decided that Superman would be the place to put Clark through another side adventure.
And the main idea of this story, a fight club where dying older gods try to whip up some believers or fans, is an interesting one. I just don't know if it is right for a Superman book. (I imagine it more as a Vertigo miniseries.) That said, if I look at this story from a metatextual angle, it speaks a lot about what is going on with Superman this last decade.
Artist Howard Porter comes onto the book and is a welcome relief from the boxy Romita Jr. Porter brings a nice mix of page layouts and panels. While I think his style is better suited for JLA 3001, I'll take him on Superman any day.
The book opens with Clark realizing he has hit something of a wall in his investigation.
Everyone seems to have forgotten about Hordr despite Lois' reveal. I bet this is the first mention of whatever deus ex machina that leads to everyone forgetting Clark is Superman.
With no new lead on Hordr Prime, Clark contacts Condesa to see if he can get some inside information. Now I have had some concerns that Condesa might still be working for Hordr (or maybe is Hordr) and I like that Clark had the same worries. She is a last resort. At a diner, Condesa reveals that Hordr-Root took over a company called Sungetix, so off goes Clark to investigate.
I like that Condesa asked Lois to come, trying to clear the air between the two. But this is still an immature Clark who still doesn't get why Lois revealed his secret. He storms off. It is ridiculous.
At Sungetix, Clark tries to wily sneak in but his face is far too famous. He is confronted by Hordr-Root. But just as before, Hordr leaves the body he is in. We learn that he can jump from one body to another, a sort of pixilated Deadman.
There are a couple of things about this. This power makes capturing Hordr almost impossible, unless you get him somewhere where there isn't another body to jump into. Of course, it means he is stuck in some poor innocent's body.
I also don't like that Clark is still harping on Lois. He briefly wonders if she revealed him while under Hordr's control. Maybe, just maybe, if he gave her two minutes to explain things he might realize that her decision was done to save him.
At Sungetix, Hordr-Root calls on a super-being named Apolaki to come and fight Clark.
Apolaki looks like a Sun Boy derivative. He tries to blast Clark but his blast is deflected by a Quarmer mask Clark has grabbed. Drained of his power, Apolaki disintegrates into sand.
Good thing it wasn't someone with a physical power.
Good thing Clark rationalizes that this wasn't a living person but instead a construct. Makes this possible murder more easily swallowed.
Apolaki is the God of the Sun in Phillipine mythology.
The brawl brings the authorities to Sungetix. That essentially closes down that Hordr stronghold. But Clark decides to investigate Apolaki more. Clark hears his opponent was a big name at a club called The Thousand One House.
Inside, Clark learns the place hosts a fight club called Mythbrawl. The emcee is Queen Shahrazad who talks about how the fights are more real than blood, life or truth itself.
Now a place called Mythbrawl hosted by someone out of myth is interesting.
Superman watches as two metans - Haemosu and Mayari brawl. It becomes clear that Haemosu has the upper hand and might kill Mayari forcing Superman to enter the ring.
And the crowd recognizes him.
Porter really shines during the fight sequence. Lovely stuff.
After a brawl where Superman beats down Haemosu, he is greeted with the crowd's howls of lust and fury.
Even Superman knows that he wasn't sent to this Earth to engage in bareknuckle brawls. He knows Pa would tell him that 'this isn't what our gifts are for.'
So hurray that Superman still feels the impetus to enter a fight to defend someone defenseless.
But this is still pretty low for Superman to have fallen. What's next?
And Shahrazad looks awful pleased by this, doesn't she? Could she be part of the Cabal, bent on defeating Superman mentally and physically?
And as I said before, the purpose of this fight club becomes clear. This is the place for Shahrazad to tell the stories of these gods in a sort of WWE wrestling fashion, a way to stay remembered and survive. Haemosu is the Korean sun god (a decent replacement for Apolaki). And Mayari is the Tagalog moon goddess.
Shahrazad knows a draw when she sees one. Why shouldn't Superman join this fight club and earn some money?
Now this doesn't explain why Apolaki would be working for Hordr. You think that Superman might be worried that all these people are in league together. But he doesn't seem to dwell on that little fact at all.
And Superman fighting for money? We don't hear him think that this is a way to investigate more. We don't hear him thinking that he needs to worm in deeper to uncover the Apolaki link. Instead he seems swayed by his lack of cash.
And so we end the book with this splash page of Superman entering the ring like a pro wrestler, caped again and greeted to cheers.
Given what we are seeing in comics, this is pretty meta.
The myth of Superman is over. The idea of Superman is done. Gone is the super-strong hero who is here to help. Gone is the guy who wants to do what's right because it is the right thing to do. Gone is the smiling hero who is happy to assist. Those stories are dead, in the past, forgotten. We haven't read those stories in a long long time ... because DC doesn't understand that. When I talk about Superman stories from the past, I probably sound like Shahrazad, blowing the dust off of ancient tomes.
So why not have this Superman, trying to stay relevant and remembered, fight for pennies. That sounds like the current comic market.
And yet the stories this crowd wants the classic ones. Just like I want to read a more classic Superman.
I don't know ... maybe I am overthinking this. Maybe Yang wasn't thinking this.
But I know I am totally sick of this cruel, crass Superman.
It is too bad this idea of Mythbrawl is used here. Because I wouldn't mind reading a book about this on its own and away from Superman.