Monday, January 2, 2023

Review: Action Comics #1050

Action Comics #1050 came out last week and was a great opening salvo to the next chapter of Superman and his family. The cover says it correctly. A new era rises.

Two years ago, Brian Michael Bendis has Superman reveal he was Clark Kent to the world. The sentiment, that someone whose mantra is starts with 'Truth'  lives a lie, makes some philosophical sense. But the reality of that reveal within the DCU didn't work. It diminished the Clark side. It diminished Lois. Surely Lois' journalistic integrity could be questioned. It made Ma and Pa live under a dome. And it definitely put a lot of people in danger. 

So it is time to put the genie back in the bottle. Writers Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Tom Taylor, and Joshua Williamson do so effectively. Who better to disrupt Superman's life than Lex Luthor! Luthor's reasoning behind it is unanticipated. And the consequences of anyone trying to undo it is deliciously evil. 

Bringing the story to life are three great artists - Mike Perkins, Clayton Henry, and Nick Dragotta. In particular, Dragotta's pages sing with energy, bringing a sort of Japanese animation flair to the proceedings. Perkins more shadowy energy works for the darker segments of the story. The book is beautiful.

Add to the main story some previews of the upcoming arcs in Action, Adventures of Superman, and Superman and you have a fantastic intro of the next year's stories. Bring it on!

One thing that grabbed me in this story was Lex's feelings towards Superman. Usually there is pure hate of Superman. In the past, Lex has said Superman is stunting humanity's growth. That he is an alien and people should be more in awe of Luthor himself.

This story, it just seems a little more personal. Lex seems like he wants to have some sort of relationship with Superman and not an adversarial one.

To get that, he needs to erase the knowledge of Superman's identity from the world. He will use Manchester Black, hooked into some large machine, to achieve it. It'll kill Black but he is expendable.

I like how Black, initially working for Luthor on Warworld, admits he was inspired by Superman. Now that is impressive. 

Black gets the last laugh though.

While Lex might be obsessing over Superman, Superman doesn't think about Lex at all.

The pinched face of Luthor shows how enraged he is by this reveal. Superman should be thinking about him all the time.

But perhaps even better than Lex's face is the lackey in the back with the 'oooh ... he just said that' look. He is avoiding even looking at Lex.

Lex throws the switch and everywhere over the world, everyone's knowledge of Superman's identity is wiped. The heroes with mental blocks are spared. And those under the Kent shields on the farm are safe.

But everyone else, people like Perry White? 

Well Perry is heading to the Kent farm for a get together and doesn't understand why Superman is there. When Superman says he is Clark, Perry suffers a small stroke. 

It seems if you are forced to face the truth of the secret identity, it is harmful to your health.

So Superman can't just blurt out his secret again. Not without hurting a lot of people.

That is brilliant.

While trying to figure out what is happening, a sort of signal watch noise gets Clark's attention.

It's Lex. He made his own version of Jimmy's watch. And now he wants to team up with Superman. 

After his Apex Lex time during Metal and after Dark Crisis, Lex realizes that the world needs a god-like Superman to lift up humanity. To be 'Clark' lowers him. 

Having erased all knowledge of the identity from everyone else, Lex wants to work with Superman. 

Now this is interesting. I can understand why Lex doesn't want Superman to be humanized. He isn't human.

But working with him? That is new. And fascinating. I don't know if I am completely behind this Lex who seems to want to be chummy, or at least the boss of Superman. But I'll see how it plays out.

When Superman rejects the idea, it is time for a throwdown.

Lex dons a new battle armor and it time for a fight.

Nick Dragotta does the art on this whole sequence - the Lex/Superman discussion and resulting fight - and it is brilliant.

Here there is almost a Dragon Ball Z energy. Superman moving so fast that you don't see him leave the car and appear behind Lex. 

And what a punch!

Seriously, this is fun and entertaining art. Quite innovative in it's use of sound effects.

Not wanting people to be hurt, Superman brings the fight to the moon.

Here we see how Superman's reveal personally hurt Lex. We seem to be back to a continuity where Lex and Clark were both in Smallville.

Why didn't Superman share his secret with Lex then. They were both outsiders! Why did he wait? Why didn't he help Lex? Why would he share it with everybody.

More and more it sounds like this obsession has become very personal and a little bit overly emotional. Perhaps Manchester Black was right when he called Lex an 'lovesick tween' before. Lex feeling slighted by Superman's ambivalence or ignorance feels very new to me.

Lex confesses to killing Manchester Black with the aid of Warworld and Gamorran technology to erase the knowledge of the secret.

I love how angry Superman gets over this.

I think Superman was proud of Black's turnaround. I think he respected Black's decision to join the Authority and head to Warworld. Remember, the JLA wouldn't. I like that Superman reacts so strongly to the death of his former enemy, one who has nearly brought him to his knees.

Great topsy turvy action here again. 

Realizing he may have bit off more than he could chew, Lex decides to just teleport Superman far away. (Notice the 'ping' his armor gave off? Perhaps there is some Orphan Box tech in there from Warworld?)

But Superman is different now. It looks like he has the power to fold space-time. He simply returns.

Is this more Dragon Ball Z stuff for me to devour? Does Superman now have Goku's 'Instant Transmission' ability?

Just like that the fight is over. Superman touches the armor and it flies apart (tactile telekinesis?). 

Lex confessed to killing Manchester Black. So it is off to jail for him.

Will these new powers stick? 

Nothing left but to tidy up the identity issues.

One question I immediately wondered was how they would explain all the pictures, videos, and stories of the reveal. It seems the spell is so powerful people simply gloss over it, reject it.

I cannot tell you how happy this panel made me as I was wondering as I read the book how they would explain that away.

And then this great exchange. The reveal diminished Lois from being a great reporter to being 'Mrs. Superman'. She deserved better. Even Clark knows it.

So now no one knows. 

I have to admit, this was a clever way of returning to a classic secret identity environment. I like that some teeth was built into the maneuver so that Superman can't just reveal it again. He has to hold it in now to protect everyone. 

Personally, I like the secret identity. I can imagine that people who were somehow linked to Superman lived a little in fear of being a pawn of revenge. And it brings some oomph back to Clark as a persona. 

So sign me up for the new era! I'm ready!

And bring back Nick Dragotta now and then! Smashing stuff!

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

I never liked Kal revealing he is Clark either. It didn't work in the 'Injustice' animated movie.

And what about Kara, ending the TV series season 6, revealing her identity as well?

Martin Gray said...

A big fat ‘Amen’ from me too, this was a treat of an issue and bodes well for the future.

Anonymous said...

This seemed like an unusually convoluted scheme, even from Lex Luthor and that is saying something. It ends up justifiable only if you think Lex has a deeply closeted “thing” for Superman.
Which would, explain a lot really.
On the other hand if you want to bring back the Clark Kent guise, there are probably few paths to it that are NOT convoluted in nature.
Otherwise this remains a solidly readable book, who knows maybe Supergirl will decide to create a secret identity for herself…?
Although, why, would be an open question.


Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

Maybe Kara can adopt a secret identity too>?