This week: In Superman #18, Superman lets something big off his chest.
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: Ivan Reis
Inker: Joe Prado
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Reis, Prado and Sinclair
Just four years ago, DC revealed Superman’s identity to the world, in Gene Luen Yang’s Superman run (also titled “Truth”). That reveal was reversed with “Superman Reborn” when the Post-Crisis and New 52 Superman’s histories merged, but fandom still remembers it. So when it was revealed that Bendis was also going to have Superman’s identity get revealed, a lot of us were hesitant about it, as we were only very recently burned. But I think the differences in that “Truth” arc and this “The Truth” arc (beyond the additional “The”) are enough to make it much better.
The biggest difference is that of agency. In Yang’s “Truth”, Superman was forcibly outed, betrayed by someone he trusted intimately. His privacy was violated in a way that many people don’t understand. When you hold a secret as close as the one Superman is, it becomes so integral to who you are, that someone else forcibly exposing that secret is painful. I use the term outed, because that’s what it compares to in real life. Here we don’t have superheroes with secret identities, but we do have LGBT people that are stuck in the closet. Whether for safety purposes or for personal ones, they are people who choose to or are forced to hide a part of themselves. As someone who has had this part of their life revealed to people they weren’t ready to tell by someone they had trusted with that secret, Yang’s story hurt on a level I didn’t expect.
In Superman #18, its different. Bendis is giving Clark his agency back. There’s something intimate and personal about the way this issue builds. Its full of private moments that speak to how very personal this story is. Especially resonant for me was the scene of Clark building himself up to tell Perry. As a trans woman who has had to tell her boss a deeply personal secret, this conversation and the lead up to it hit very close to home. Telling someone with any sort of power over you something this personal is hard, and scary, even to someone like Superman. It’s a conversation I have had to have, and I only wish that I had had a boss as wonderful as Perry White. In a book full of very personal conversations, this is the one that hit me the hardest, and made me stop to cry for a moment.
On the flip side, you have Clark’s conversation with Jimmy. More lighthearted, but Clark is not the one to tell Jimmy the secret. Like in the New 52, this time Lois disclosed the information first. Yet, its still different. This isn’t a case of Lois exposing Clark’s secret, its a case of her knowing that he was ready to tell Jimmy, and also her having kept this secret for a long time from her own friend.
While the writing was powerful and extremely touching, the art really helped to drive the story. Reis’s face acting in this issue is some of the best I’ve ever seen from him. From the look of pride on Batman’s face during the announcement, to Kara’s unfettered joy, everyone’s emotions in this issue are pure and readable. Going back to the Perry White scene, the entire three page sequence is silent, and yet, some of the best storytelling I’ve seen in comics. You can read every doubt and anxiety in both Clark’s body language and facial expressions. I also appreciated the parallel panels on the two page spread, with Clark tightening his tie in the opening panel and loosening it in the final panel. In the first panel, he’s big, and confident, and in the last panel he was smaller, and you get a sense of the nerves overtaking him.
So while I was hesitant about this story, because Yang’s “Truth” was still fresh in my mind, Bendis won me over with a deeply personal story that I didn’t expect. I hope that all the people leery for the similar reasons as I was give this story the chance to breathe that it deserves. Bendis keeps scaring the fandom with changes he’s making to tell his stories, but each time the changes have been worth it in the end. I feel like this one will be too. Clark Kent isn’t gone, he’s just finally able to live his truth. Superman #18 is just the start of a promising new era.
- Supergirl #38 starts the Jody Houser and Rachael Stott era with a bang, telling a story that I didn’t expect to like as much as I did. Focusing on Kara’s drive to still be heroic despite the infection is a nice touch. And Stott’s artwork was incredible, especially the panel of Kara lounging midair.
- Mark Russell gives us two fantastic issues this week with both Wonder Twins and Harley Quinn: Villain of the Year. Wonder Twins has been at the top of my buy pile all year, and has catapulted Russell to the top of my favorite writers list, and the Villain of the Year awards did nothing to change that. I especially loved Russell canonizing the forty cakes incident for Lex Luthor’s in memoriam slide.
- We got a triple helping of Batman books this week, and they truly fell all over the spectrum. Tom Taylor provided a fill-in issue of Detective Comics that was phenomenal. Frank Miller, Rafael Grampá, and Jordie Bellaire gave us unexpectedly deep political commentary in The Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child. While still not my cup of tea, it was much better than I expected. And well, the less said about Sean Murphy’s Curse of the White Knight the better.
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