Superman #18 review

In which Superman votes for the first time as Earth’s representative to the new United Planets and reveals to the world – heck, the universe – that he’s also Clark Kent.

This is the issue I’ve been waiting for these last several months, since the DC Comics publicity machine told us what the latest twist in the modern Superman saga was going to be. It seemed apparent that writer Brian Michael Bendis would justify the move with the Truth argument – if Superman is all about Truth, Justice and the American Way (what that last means today, no one seems to know), how can he lie to almost everybody, every day of his life?

But why now? What’s that motivating factor? We find out in a conversation with the planet Rann’s resident Earth hero, Adam Strange.

I think, yes, he’s overreacting to Jor-El’s actions (the warping of Jor-El got so convoluted that I can no longer recall what his first ’dirty little secret’ might have been). Still, you can’t argue with gut feelings, and if this is what Superman feels he has to do to be true to himself, and become a better person and example to his son, then I’m good to see where Bendis goes with that. It’s not like this is going to be forever – Superman’s other identity was revealed only a couple of years ago, just before DC Rebirth, and that was quickly waved away.

I hugely appreciate that before Superman shares his news, he tells boss and father figure Perry White, and best pal Jimmy Olsen, privately. And I love that Lois has already given ‘Mr Action’ the scoop.

Lois makes sense; it hasn’t been just Clark’s secret for years. And that fact ties into the biggest question I have around this storyline – how the heck will Superman protect Lois, Perry, Jimmy and his other friends and loved ones from criminals wanting to hurt him? He lives in a world where villains can teleport, run at super speed, cast magic spells… in Silver Age imaginary stories it would take the Man of Steel having invented a super serum to make everyone invulnerable before he even considered admitting that he was also Clark Kent.

Bendis is a smart guy, though, he’s factored this in, if I’m correctly reading the powerful penultimate page.

Lex Luthor hears the news and immediately drops his ridiculous new appearance, using his recently gained Martian shape-shifting powers to look like his original self, not the lackey to a mad god in DC’s current crossover, but the criminal genius we all love. The proverbial *#$% is going to hit the fan.

Speaking of which…

Nah, that’s not how Adam Strange speaks – he’s a total square. So square he’d use the word ‘square’. Adam shouldn’t cuss for the sake of a gag, and Bendis is smart enough to have come up with something better had he thought for a few minutes more. It’s no biggie, but did jar a little.

Things I did like include a tweak as to why Clark took a job in the regular world, the wordless reveal to Perry, Superman solving a typical Gotham crime in a single panel and Wonder Woman’s expression as she watches the press conference.

The embodiment of Truth seems less that delighted that Superman is no longer ‘lying’… I can only guess she worries for Lois and Superman’s other unpowered loved ones.

It’s a nice detail from penciller Ivan Reis, inker Joe Prado and colourist Alex Sinclair, as is Lois watching Clark in the background of the Daily Planet city room. The team do a fine job with the other environments this issue, too, whether it be lush Thanagar or the press-filled plaza outside the Daily Planet. The compositions are also commendable, working to tell the story while giving us such standout images as that down-shot of Superman and Adam Strange. Crucially, they nail the emotions – it’s fair to say this is a pretty conflicted Kryptonian, he only looks truly at ease as he’s introducing himself, once more, to the world. In the scenes around it, he looks unconvinced, as if he thinks he’s doing the right thing, but isn’t actually doing what’s right for him. Time will tell.

7 thoughts on “Superman #18 review

  1. I really loved this issue. I actually think this *will* stick for a while. Not necessarily in all media — if we get another Superman movie, he’ll have a secret ID, I suspect — but in the comics, I think DC wants to take a big swing here and see what comes of it. It’ll eventually revert back — these things do — but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bendis doesn’t have an exit plan in mind.

    And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find Clark’s speech moving, and his discussion with Adam persuasive. And as he mentions in his speech, Clark’s friends became known as Superman’s friends. If villains wanted to get to him through the people he loves, they already knew they could go through Lois, Perry, Jimmy, and the rest. So nothing’s really changed there, risk-wise. (Unless Clark’s parents are alive, but I don’t think they are.)

    And as for Adam Strange, I think he used to be a square, sure…but this issue’s Adam has been written very much in line with Adam Strange ever since Bendis started writing him. And I’ve got no complaints.. it’s more character than he usually gets.

    Oh, man, and that Jimmy scene. Priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand the impulse, definitely! I know I’ve felt it once or twice myself, particularly around Barry Allen. With Adam, I figure all bets have been off since Alan Moore worked his magic on him. But in any event, I think a straight-arrow who was born in 1989 (let’s assume he’s 30) would probably use different language choices than one born in 1928 (if he were 30 in 1958, when he first appeared).

        One thing I love that Brian does is have people try to be on their best behavior around Superman. Like how Adam immediately apologizes after he curses. He wouldn’t do that for The Flash.

        Regardless, we’ll probably have a different personality for Adam — or maybe two, given what looks like a Rashamon-like structure of the new series — when Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Evan Shaner take the helm in March.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. The Alan Moore magic… was that the business about Sardath wanting him there to breed with his daughter? Honestly!

      Hey, maybe he was born in 1928 but the zeta beam travels in time as well as space!

      I’m half dreading that coming mini, though it will at least look great.

      I like the Christmas handle… were you not tempted to be ‘Myrhhwhydden’?

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      1. Oh, man…Myrhhwhydden is BRILLIANT! Hadn’t even occurred to me.

        The idea that the Zeta Beam travels in time is a really neat one, actually. Worth playing around with!

        And yeah, the breeding thing was Moore. That never sat well with me. On the other hand, I think I’m really going to like the mini. There’s another character that’s co-starring with Adam, who hasn’t been revealed yet. I’m hoping it’s Space Cabbie. (But I’m actually wondering if it’s Deadman, another Strange Adventures alum.)

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  2. “Lois makes sense; it hasn’t been just Clark’s secret for years.”

    It’s Superman’s secret to share, not Lois’. Batman has known Superman’s secret well before Lois, and that doesn’t allow him to tell anyone simply because he’s known them longer than Superman. When Lois is rendered in this manner, the “I can do no wrong” trope, she is at her most repellant, and I say this as someone who thoroughly loves Lois Lane as a character. Her detractors feast on this sort of thing. . .and they would not be wrong to call her out for it.

    Superman’s decision, as rendered here, is a juvenscent error. He hasn’t thought it through further than it feels good to lift the burden of his secret identity from his shoulders, only it was never a burden. He has placed countless people at risk, and his reveal may force the exposure of other superheroes by default.

    Bendis worked this same magic on Daredevil and it was a yoke about the character for 15 years. He could easily do the same here, with his ability to stretch a story for all its elasticity and then some.

    Bottomline, what’s the point? Sales bump? 5G? Clark Kent to Superman isn’t Matt Murdock to Daredevil. Superman and Clark Kent are synonymous unlike any other hero and alter ego in fiction. Bendis either has a top story in his pocket, or enough hubris to believe he can remake Siegel and Shuster’s masterpiece without one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d certainly agree with you about Lois telling Jimmy were she to do it at a time when she didn’t know Clark was about to tell the world. As a journalist, she’s probably been driven mad for years wanting to tell someone!

      I definitely agree this is a move Superman will regret – he’s inviting everyone into his private space, there’s no Off button now.

      Like

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