Since Rebirth revamped the Superman books, a question that I have been mulling over is 'who is Clark Kent'? Now I have 40 years of comic reading under my belt to have a pretty good idea who Clark is. But in this new DCU, one that has been reborn, there is a new Clark. One that seems human. One that is vehement that he is not Superman. One that believes what he is saying. Who is this guy? Where did he come from?
In Action Comics #964, writer Dan Jurgens and artist Patrick Zircher begin to answer the question. We get this Clark's origin story, at least the one he is telling us. We get some clues into his humanity. We get to read his writing style. And we add some new clues and plot threads into a comic already pretty mysterious. Do I have some new guesses about who this Clark is? A couple.
I have to say I was thrilled with this issue. Much like Superman #7, this was something of a pause after the Doomsday story and before the upcoming Godkiller one. And yet this wasn't wasted space as the story and overall arc continued to move forward.
As usual Patrick Zircher brings some artistic heft to the issue. Everything is pretty bold and complements the words tremendously. My favorite panel, filled with portent, is probably one glossed over by many. I hope at some point this book ratchets back to monthly and Zircher signs some long term deal to stay with the character.
On to the book.
Last issue, Superman ran into Clark and demanded they have a talk. And he meant it. He brings Clark into his mountainside Fortress to ask him some important questions. Immediately we are reminded that this Clark is human. He complains about the cold and the thin air. And his heart rate seems to corroborate his feelings. This Kent physiologically seems human.
Clark is in awe of the Fortress, especially the statue of Jor-El and Lara. The plaque reads "Let hope be your greatest strength", a nice reminder to Superman to keep his heart in the right place.
In a bit of deus ex machina, Superman has brought Clark to the Fortress to use the Globe of Revelation on him, a device which looks into a person and brings out their deepest memories. It is all very Harry Potter and a bit too convenient. But I suppose this Superman is still learning about his colleagues on this Earth and asking any of the super-telepaths to scan Kent might be too intrusive and 'noisy'.
So instead we get this plot device.
I do like that this Clark is almost eager to interact with it. He is sick of people thinking he has powers and if this will put those notions behind him, so be it. He has always been Clark Kent.
Whoever he is, I like this Clark. He is a sort of no-nonsense Mr. Action with just a hint of meekness and mild-manneredness to him.
And then we get an origin story. Clark's parents died in an explosion (hmmm...).
He was adopted by the Kents who taught him about life. He was friends with Lana and Kenny Braverman! And he became a reporter.
It all sounds close enough to the 'real' origin doesn't it?
But for me, the thing that struck me was the rings of memories. Sure, it's a globe. But don't these overlapping circles have an 'infinite Earths' feel to them?? I mean, it could have been the 'Gem of Revelations' or 'The Mirror of Revelation'. But it's a globe. Is that a subtle hint?
Could this Clark be an Earth-Whatever version?
Whatever he is, he is human. He has a broken arm, high blood pressure, and an appendectomy scar. (Maybe we can find his electronic health record to corroborate? Where is his surgeon??)
Even Superman knows this Kent can be an ally. Someone needs to tell the world they can trust this new Superman. Superman also knows that developing a friendship with this Kent means he'll be close, close enough to keep tabs on. Superman even gives Clark a signal watch!
Once that is out of the way, Superman decides to help Clark investigate Geneticron. Now they both know that the company held Doomsday ... and others. Who else could be there? Black Adam? Wonder Woman's Genocide?
What is that place? Another mystery.
The issue ends with Clark's article telling the world they can trust this new Superman.I like this technique of the article next to a smaller panel.
Here Clark says that living a double life is absurd. (That reminds me of the classic Byrne story where Lex didn't believe Superman would ever live a moment as Clark.)
And then this juicy nugget.
For one, Superman has built a secret tunnel out of the Smith home basement. That is totally Silver Age when Superboy had a similar tunnel leading away from the Kent farm.
But then this panel. Clark walking out with lighting that gives him two shadows. Maybe he has another identity? Maybe he is one of the 'threats' he is writing about.
There is no reason to light this panel this way unless it is meant to foreshadow, or be foreboding. Who is this Clark? What is he hiding?
That is my favorite panel.
And then the book ends on a good cliffhanger.
Earlier we saw this man in a ball cap (remember him from the crowd in the last issue) place a device on the Geneticron building. Later we see that the whole building has disappeared. And now we see that in his apartment is some sort of Apokolips/Warworld donned with the Superman S-shield.
Is this the godslayer? And why the ball cap?
There remains a lot to love about this book. This two-parter, scratching the surface of the Clark mystery, was great break from the Doomsday plot. There is a ton to love here, from the art to the clues to the secret tunnels. Kudos to Jurgens and Zircher for really making this a character driven but gripping read.