Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Review: Superman Heroes #1

Superman Heroes came out last week, a sort of anthology book by the current gaggle of Superman writers and artists. Think of it as this season's Leviathan Rising. It is a sort of pulse check on what is happening in the super-books while giving us some back story and future hints about the latest major story arc, the reveal that Superman is Clark Kent.

I found most of the book to be quite enjoyable with solid plot and art throughout. In particular, the sort of reaction pieces, those stories to check in on how the news has hit them. Jimmy's story is wonderful and Superman thanking an old professor is another good tale.There is also a very nice 'wisdom of Pa Kent' story. You know I am a sucker for those.

The art is a nice mix. Scott Godlewski lends a folksy feel to the Pa story. Steve Lieber and Mike Perkins draw the Jimmy and Lois stories respectively, keeping up with their current assignments. And Kevin Maguire and Mike Norton add nice panache.

For the price point, I was very happy with this.

Remember, the impetus to reveal his identity was out of Superman's belief in the truth. How can he live a life of truth and deceive everyone?

The first story is a flashback of Pa teaching young Clark a lesson about doing the right thing and persevering.

Clark comes home, upset about something he did. Pa just tells him. All Clark can be expected to do ... all anyone can be expected to do ... is their honest best. And if you slip up, you just get up and go out and try to do your honest best the next time.

"What's the best thing I can do right now?"

That's the question I want Superman to be asking himself all the time. Heck, that's a question I should be asking myself all the time.

Next is another flashback story to when Superman told Lois his plan.

She supports him, especially since she knows people are talking about her having an affair with Superman.

I'll have to really start picking apart the timeline here but it seems odd that Superman is surprised by this. And that took me out of this story a bit.

Next, we have an introspective story as we get Clark's monologue, an article he is crafting about how he is reacting to this. He realizes he needs some time to settle into the new reality.

I do like this change of pace, a young boy thanking Clark Kent for saving him, the first to do it in that context.

Cute moment.

Clark decides the best thing he can do is hear how his friends, the collected superhero community at the Hall of Justice have reacted.

Imagine a two page spread with small panels like this.

I love Diana hoping for the best.
I like Damian's dismissive 'good luck'.
I like that Zatanna says she can't just say 'tegrof'. That would be a sort of identity crisis.

But John Constantine being there seems wrong.
And a typo in Dr. Fate's line is jarringly distracting.

Perhaps the story with the most to mull over is a private discussion between Bruce and Diana in the batcave. There was a ton for me to think about here to the point where I reread this section immediately after finishing it before moving on.

He thinks all this is going to do is endanger everyone linked to Superman, even peripherally.

Bruce's harsh response to Clark living his truth is biting. The 'hiding of selfishness behind the veneer of agency' is an excellent line. You can really feel the anger in Batman's response. And Diana admits that might be true sometimes. But not here.

But then Diana turns the tables.

Perhaps Bruce is upset because he could never reveal his identity to the world at large. He has finally been outdone by Clark.

The moody, black soaked art is perfect for this story of a somewhat bitter Batman transferring some inner issues back on Superman.  That last panel, Batman small in the panel reflecting that diminishing by Diana is pretty solid.

While not my favorite story, this one is the one I'll probably remember best.

 Then we get a story by Matt Fraction and Mike Norton. In it Superman talks to his old chemistry teacher about how he never cheated on his exams. He earned his grade, a C-.

The teacher says he knew Clark never cheated. Whenever he fell, he got up and tried harder. Of course Clark would be Superman.

It is interesting that the teacher looks like he does and is Mr. McKay, perhaps a sort of avatar of the preacher in Kingdom Come who had some faith in Superman and his abilities.

Hearing about Clark's resiliency in chemistry (something I can actually empathize with) shows the sort of hero he is. He won't stop fighting, trying to do his honest best.

Then a funny story about how after the reveal, the mail coming into Superman has grown enormously. Some are fans. Some are haters. Others have legitimate need.

Superman is in a warehouse where there are three huge piles of letters on the floor, corresponding to that breakdown.

Then, in a nice, humorous twist, we learn this is Lois' fan mail room. Superman's is next door. It nicely shows that Lois is as big a rock star as her husband. I assume current Lois team of Rucka and Perkins did this one.

Just like I'll assume Fraction with Lieber drew the Jimmy one.

I love how Superman is sheepish, worried Jimmy will be upset that Clark never revealed this truth to his pal. Then we hear how Jimmy had already figured it out and is about as far away from upset as you can be.

Pretty slick.

I think I heard this reason before somewhere. Or do I have deja vu?

And then a nice little bait for future stories.

The gift Apex Lex gave Lois was concrete information that Marisol Leone is the head of the Invisible Mafia. Lois and Clark know her better as the owner of the Daily Planet.

And thus the conundrum.

Go after Leone and basically destroy the Planet and all it stands for. Or don't go after her, the head of organized crime.

It is a pickle, a perfect toxic gift from Lex Luthor.

Now that is a pretty decent hook to get me excited for the future.

So the Jimmy story is my favorite. The Bruce/Diana one was the one I'll be thinking about for a while. And this ending story builds the sort of suspense and anticipation I love in comics. The teacher story and the Pa story both hammer home the truth and honesty part of Superman's character.

All in all, a very solid special.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

"I think I heard this reason before somewhere. Or do I have deja vu?"

Maybe you're thinking of the recent scene in Superman #18, where Superman goes to tell Jimmy in advance of his announcement?

But in that scene, Jimmy doesn't say he always knew - though that is what I was expecting. Superman asks him how long he knew, and Jimmy says Lois told him that morning.

This time, we get the story I really wanted the first time.

I'd call this a glitch. Too many writers and not enough coordination.

Otherwise we'd have to assume Jimmy already knew, but then acted dumb when Lois told him, then acted dumb again the first time Superman told him, and has finally told the truth.

Or: Jimmy is now pretending that he always knew, to let Lois off the hook, since it really wasn't her secret to tell.

Nah. It's a glitch.

Anyway, Superman and Lois were speaking pretty openly in front of Jimmy in the Fortress many months ago - which was weird.


Martin Gray said...

Great review.

Look again though, at the composition of that story, how Jimmy is positioned in relation to Superman... back to his friend in a darkened room, sad face except when he turns and claims he's OK. I'd say he has hurt feelings. He's happier at the end, but I'd say he's been feeling deflated that 'Superman's pal' was considered untrustworthy and is only being told know because everyone is getting told.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this comic.

It will be my last Superman purchase until Kara returns. I cannot stand by a company that can have two SuperMAN ongoings, one SuperBOY ongoing, an upcoming SuperMAN+SuperBOY comic, a slew of comics where SuperMAN appears and zero f-n comics where a SuperGIRL appears.

I'm tired.


Rob S. said...

I’m not sure that I agree with Mart that Jim’s hiding being hurt when he says he’s fine. But I need to look at the story again to decide for sure.

As for the “only two people called me Jim...and then I realized it was just one” -- Matt Fraction revealed that as the reason on his recent Word Balloon interview. It came out a month or so before this book was published. Maybe that’s where you heard it?

Anj said...

That’s it Rob! Word Balloon!

Martin Gray said...

The ‘Jim’ business is so Silver Age... Jimmy doesn’t notice that Clark and Superman are doubles (I imagine there’s some slumping going on) but because a second person calls hum ‘Jim’ they’re the same guy. Only one person ever calls me ‘Marty’, now if anyone else ever does it, I know to be suspicious.

Now go look at that art again, boys! It’s entirely possible that Jimmy has figured things out, but is yet upset.