Action Comics #963 came out this week and was something of a rest issue. After the brutal Doomsday arc, filled with action, the creative team of writer Dan Jurgens and artist Patch Zircher slow things down a little to give us a character issue. And the character is, cue dramatic music, Clark Kent.
The mystery of who is this Clark Kent has been as big a riddle in my mind as 'who is Mr. Oz?' Is he a clone? A creation by Mr. Oz? A robot? A Clark from another dimension? As readers, we haven't got much to work on. There haven't been many, if any, clues for readers to mull over.
One thing I have to say though. This Clark strikes me as what Superman would be like if he were robbed of his powers by Gold Kryptonite. He acts like 'Mr. Action', the rough and tumble investigative reporter willing to bend the rules if he needs to if that leads to justice. In some ways it reminded me of the old 'Private Life of Clark Kent' stories I read as back-ups or featured in Superman Family. This is all Clark.
But who is he?
Writer Dan Jurgens does a good job of mining this mystery, allowing Clark to tell his story and showing him in the field. But there hasn't been a morsel for me to chew on to figure out who the heck he is. I have some vague notions. But I'm grasping at air.
Patch Zircher continues to bring powerful art to the book. I will point out some subtle things that struck me. As always, I may be over-reading these things. But art is subjective. If it works for me, I'm okay.
The book opens up with Clark being chased down a corridor. We quickly learn that he is in the Geneticron industries headquarters trying to follow up on a story. And security isn't happy about his trespassing.
And this Clark isn't afraid to mix it up if needed. He actually knocks out this a guard, claiming his rough life on the farm made him ready for this, despite his mild-mannered nature. I suppose Clark would be a rugged sort after hoisting hay bales and digging fence posts.
But his sort of dismayed expression in the last panel makes me wonder if he is trying to talk himself into believing that he is tough. Subtle art there which added something to this exchange.
We then flashback to earlier that day. Lex, as president of the Daily Planet, is holding a press conference. Remember, Superman was outed as Clark just months ago. Then Superman died and Clark returned. He is big news. And not everyone knows what to think, including Lex.
I love these panels. Lex is in an extreme close-up, giving the feel that he is important, or self-important, or the 'biggest' thing in the room. Meanwhile, Perry and Clark are smaller. Even their panel is smaller.
The layout adds to the feel of the people in the scene.
Whoever Clark is, he is truly a dead ringer for the 'real' Clark, that is the pre-Flashpoint Superman. Whether it his voice or his befuddled expression, even Lois and Jon are amazed.
I love how Lois' arms are crossed. She has been through so much, seen so much. She just oozes annoyance at this.
And then Clark tells his story. Clark was investigating a story (we learn it is Geneticron) and Superman was worried that Clark was in danger. And so Superman convinced Clark to go into hiding. Superman would take his place. And that is the story...
Except we know it isn't.
Is that true on some other timeline? A shape-shifter (could it be Matrix???)?
We've seen these stories before in the Bronze Age. When 'Clark' was revealed as Superman, he would have Batman, a robot, or just about anyone sub for him so Clark and Superman could be seen together.
Whoever or whatever he is, he believes his story.
Someone (hinted that it may be Batman) gives him a polygraph test where he 'proves' that he isn't Superman, has no powers, etc.
What I like about this issue is that we are reminded how 'The Truth' hurt the staff. Perry was so angry then, almost too irate. At least he acknowledges he was 'thrown for a loop'. And, of course, Lois was in the storm as well.
That is, that Lois, who is now dead.
But with the new truth out, Clark decides to pick up where he left off, investigating Geneticron.
We are reminded that Doomsday was released from the massive chamber on the top floor. How did Doomsday end up there? How did they hold him? Was he the pre-Flashpoint Doomsday?
And again, who is this Clark that thinks he existed and was investigating this place?
Even if Geneticron feels dirty, how does this Clark know? I have an idea.
Forcing his way in, Clark is able to get in front of the company's president.
But interestingly enough, or maybe not interesting at all, this man denies ever meeting Clark or promising to talk to him.
So where/when/what reality did this Clark have that talk? Or is it all implanted memories.
Suffice it to say, I am pretty confused.
But certainly, everyone denying the particulars Clark is describing makes it feel like he is new to this Earth.
Unfortunately, Clark works his way all the way up to Geneticron's top floors. And security is so hellbent on protecting their secrets that they pitch him off the roof.
There is a lot to dissect in this quick rooftop scene.
First off, a crowd is looking up and saying 'look, there's that reporter guy!' It is a fun riff on the classic 'look up in the sky' moments we see in shows.
But then we see this bearded, ball-capped man. We saw him at the press conference too. Is that Bruce in costume? Or a new mystery??
Bottom line, Superman flies and rescues the plummeting Clark (so reminiscent of classic Lois rescues). And then demands a conversation.
This was a fun issue. There was the 'street level' action of Clark. There was some background information from Clark about his life, should we choose to believe it. And Geneticron has a bigger presence, looming like a new Cadmus.
And so my guess. I will bet that this Clark is a clone created in Geneticron. Why not? They have 'Genetic' in their name. They had Doomsday. Clark is obsessed with them. It is only the motive for creating a Clark that escapes me.
But a tidy story, some nice riffs, and some great art. I continue to like the super-titles post-Rebirth.