Monday, December 16, 2019

Review: Superman #18

In the middle of 2015, DC made the bold announcement that Superman's secret identity was going to be revealed to the world. In a storyline called 'The Truth', Lois reveals Clark's secret identity to before a villain Hodr could use the information to blackmail Superman. The story moved onto to Superman overutilizing his flare power and ultimately depowering and then becoming a wrestler and then ...

Well ... let's not look back.

Anyways, here we are only 4 short years later and Brian Michael Bendis is picking up that baton again. In a storyline I'll also call 'Truth' Superman's identity is revealed to the world. But unlike the last time we did this dance, the decision to reveal is being made by Superman himself.

After a life espousing truth and justice, living by the ethics the Kents taught him and after seeing what path Jor-El's life took after living a life of lies, it seems Superman decides the right thing to do is reveal.

Now I don't know if I am on board for this story as a whole. I can't imagine that this will stick for the super-long term. And frankly, I like the idea of the secret identity of Clark Kent. I went into this issue ready to roll my eyes and say 'here we go again'. But somehow Brian Michael Bendis includes some heart warming moments, some laugh out loud moments, and an inspirational speech that made me think that I wanted to read more. That's high praise.

Add to that Ivan Reis returning and giving us the most modern take on Neal Adams power pencils and you have a winner.

There is even a deep cut homage that made this old-timer laugh out loud.

Suffice it to say, I liked 'The Truth', no lie.

We start with Superman floating near the Daily Planet globe. He listens to the crowd gathered below, all of whom are anticipating what the upcoming announcement will be.

One thing Bendis does well is capture the different voices of Metropolis. The theories run rampant, some think it must be about Perry. Others Lois. Still others Jimmy.

Turns out it isn’t about any of them.

Nice technique here with word balloons of different sizes and boldness of type to indicate Superman’s scanning of the crowd chatter. This is why the Invisible Mafia never says certain words.

We flashback to Thanagar, new home of the United Planets.

The concept of his secret identity is weighing on Superman so much that he opens up to Adam Strange about it.

Yes, it is funny that Adam Strange can’t believe that Superman has a desk job. But it is similar to the famous Byrne issue where Lex can’t believe Superman is Clark Kent ... because why would he be.

But I also love that Superman is so honest and forthright, and so dang friendly, that he’ll have a conversation as deeply personal as this with Adam. This isn’t Batman ... or J’onn ...or Lois ... or Kara. Those are friends and family.

But Adam turns out to be a good sounding board.

The early reasons he was Clark, to fit in and learn, are no longer valid or needed.

And Superman  just witnessed how a life built on a lie (Jor-El’s) quickly spun out of control.

Thankfully we get a lot of praise given to the Kents for raising him to be the person he is today.

It is funny that in the midst of this personal crisis discussion, Superman pauses to vote with the UP. He really is always listening.

But this was a great scene and discussion.

Back on Earth, it is clear that Clark wants to move forward.

After a quick a scan of Perry’s cardiac condition, he reveals himself.

It is a nice tight page of horizontal wordless panels.

The reveal.
The shock.
The respect and love.

This isn’t the Perry in The Truth who admonished Clark for keeping the secret. This is a new Truth.

Now Bendis does a great job of dropping in Easter Eggs for old timers like me. Remember him putting Superman IV’s Atomic Man in the Phantom Zone?

So when I saw the missile bearing murder penguins from Batman Returns, I thought ‘nothing can top this’.

And then we get this scene where Superman reveals himself to Jimmy only to have Olsen say that Clark and Suoerman look nothing alike.

It’s all a gag. Lois told Jimmy earlier.

But there is no mistaking the body positioning or the dialogue.

That is a straight up riff on Superman #330, a retconned story which explained how the glasses fool everyone.

Seriously, if you want to see the Bronze Age at its zenith seek out this issue or a review of it.

But seriously, thank you Brian Michael Bendis for making me laugh and remember. Perhaps the best homage yet.

And then we are back to the present and the ultimate reveal.

He announces to the world he is Clark Kent.

And we get a very solid statement from Superman explaining who he is, where he came from, why he hid his secret. And how now, hiding that he is Clark isn’t the truth. It feels false.

Now we get nice reaction shots from many folks.

One that caught my attention was Red Cloud, still in Red Cloud form, in her apartment. I’m telling you, she can’t change back.

And we see prisoners upset. We see heroes cheering.

We see a very happy Supergirl watching with Krypto.

And we see my boss Leviathan. I would think he is happy given his ‘no more secrets’ edicts.

He isn’t going to stop being Suoerman or Clark. Both sides of him will endure.

And then a very solid ending where Superman says the people of Earth inspire him. That’s great heroic positioning in that last panel. Honestly Reis might be one of my favorite Superman artists of all time when his run is done.

So ...

Do I think in some handful of years the genie will go back in the bottle and we’ll be back to a dorky Clark secret identity. Yes, I do.

But for now the underpinnings of his take on the secret identity reveal seems more real and (no pun intended) more true to the character.

I reserve the right to dislike this arc as a whole. But for an opening chapter, this grabbed me.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Amen, I wasn't looking forward to this at all, but really enjoyed it. I suppose it helps that we're kinda old, and have seen these Big Changes come and go.

Brilliant catch on the Al Schroeder III story!

Jfeer said...

Didn't Marvel do something similar with Spider-Man a few years ago? It seems like this decision will eventually start limiting plot possibilities, it also makes Superman less empathetic and reduces his contact with ordinary people/"rainmakers"....


William Ashley Vaughan said...

I give Bendis credit. He seems to have thought this out beforehand. He has the good sense to make it clear that the Clark Kent identity is an essential part of Superman and will not be going away.I think I can live with this as long as DC editorial doesn't have him making deals with the devil. We don't need a Same Old Grim 'n Gritty Day.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue was well crafted.

Do I think revealing the secret identity was a good idea. No, it's a terrible idea. I don't see why just about every villain won't start offing all his friends and family. Superman is often off-planet and they can't have the justice league wasting resources on point guarding every person Clark has some relationship to.

But... I guess it can be an interesting take for a while.

Interestingly enough, the Supergirl panel of the week came from the Superman book. Nice to see Bendis working on a closer relationship with the Supercousins.

Steve said...

Wouldn't any villain looking to hurt Superman through his loved ones already target Clark Kent's loved ones? There's pretty much on e hundred percent overlap there and Clark's already got what protections he can in place. The only big problem would be a psychopath like Luthor attacking while enraged t hat Superman made a fool out of him by parading under his nose for years as Clark...

Anj said...

Thanks for great comments.

Yes, i cant imagine that the planet staff, friends from Smallville, even acquaintances feel safe right now. I suppose that is going to be grist for the story mill.

We'll have to see how it all plays out.