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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Superman: Secret Identity #2

Superman: Secret Identity #2 [of 4]

Scheduled to arrive in stores: February 11, 2004

Cover date: April 2004

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Stuart Immonen

Reviewed by: Jason Larouche

Clark Kent finds a picture on his desk, depicting a Silver Age Superman comic book scene in which Lois rips open Clark's shirt to reveal the S underneath.

Clark is now an adult and living in New York as a writer for the New Yorker, still living under the constant taunting over his name, this time led by a guy named Russ. Clark mentally looks back to an incident the previous evening involving a corporate jet whose engine was lost. As Superman, Clark was able to bring the plane to a safe landing by keeping it level by the wing. Camoflaged by the smoke, he's easily undetected and makes an easy disappearance. However, the secret agents from last issue are quick to respond and find Clark's handprints imbedded in the surface of the wing.

Back in the present, Clark is called into the office of his editor, Ms. Mittelmark. Mittelmark sees great potential in Clark's writing, but finds that it's mostly "all head and no heart." Nonetheless, a representative of Pantheon books, Adam Bilnes, had taken a look at one of his stories and is inquiring about a possible book deal with Clark. Clark agrees to think about it.

Later that evening at Rossi Restaurante, Clark's friends set him up on a blind date. The woman, an attractive black-haired lady named Lois, is instantly insulted and walks out. Clark catches up with her and apologizes for his friends' cruelty, saying he's under the same kind of treatment. He makes it up to her by offering to buy her dinner... at another restaurant of course. Over dinner, Clark is impressed that they like the same author and have other common qualities, except in the job market. Lois Chaudhari (not Lane) is a graphic designer. Clark is instantly smitten by her, even moreso after the kiss on her doorstep. He expresses this by flying away into the night.

Over the next few months, the relationship deepens, and so does the nagging guilt of Clark's over the needed secrecy regarding his double life.

One evening, on patrol, Clark sees a capsized sailboat in the waters and immediately dives into the water and guides it onto the shorelines. However, it turns out to be an elaborate scheme to lure him into a barrage of bazooka strikes that bring him down.

Later, in an undisclosed location, scientists in containment suits insert a naked and sedated Clark into an immersion tank. Due to a miscalculation as to the dosage they give him, Clark drifts in and out of consciousness, picking up on phrases like "previous twelve" and "estimated ages at the time of the meteor strikes." His mind also causes him to hallucinate, seeing one scientist as Brainiac, and another as a kryptonite armed Lex Luthor. Finally alone, Clark wakes up, breaks out of the tank and easily subdues the guards. He stumbles onto a morgue containing possibly the other twelve they mentioned... as well as an infant. He's repulsed and in his anger destroys the lab and sets the entire complex on fire. After dragging the guards to safety in the woods outside, Clark takes off.

Kent doesn't leave his apartment for four days, both afraid of the government agents tracking him and shocked that even after all these years since he first manifested his abilities that they're still after him. As for an explanation regarding his absence from work and Lois, he says his father's had a heart attack. Finally gaining the courage to step outside, he chooses to wear glasses so that none on the street would recognize him. At the New Yorker, he's instantly taunted by Russ about the glasses. Clark snaps and almost gets physical with Russ, but Mittelmark breaks it up by reminding him of his deadline.

At the offices of Pantheon books, armed with an idea for a book, Clark meets with Adam Bilnes and gets the job. He celebrates later that evening with Lois and company on his progression from writer to author. Still, the guilt of secrecy plagues him and he excuses himself. This guilt and paranoia begins to affect his work on the book and his relationship with Lois. The increased Superman sightings on the internet only adds to the fear. As a response, his heroics become more discreet (i.e., heating a carjacker's Uzi from a distance overhead, a swift save of a car falling off the Brooklyn Bridge, and getting a rescue dog in the mountains closer to his quarry) out of a suspicion that one of them may be another hoax to entrap him. At the top of the world, he screams in anger and confusion as to what the agents want with him.

After much debate, admitting to himself that he's in love for the first time in his life, he finally gets the courage to tell Lois the truth. He shows up at her apartment with a picnic basket for dinner on the roof. After dinner, Clark picks Lois up in his arms and asks her to unbutton his shirt. She shrugs off the possible "Lois-Clark" gag, but then Clark asks her to look down. Instead of the roof, they're standing in mid-air over Central Park seven stories high. They descend on the roof of the Cloisters where Clark comes clean with his secret. Instead of being frightened or angry... Lois relates to her boyfriend by confessing to a hidden shame. At fourteen she was arrested for shoplifting, although juvenile court sealed the records, she's afraid of it ever getting out. Finally at a point of reconciliation, Clark takes the native New Yorker on a tour of the city "as the city was meant to be seen". The tour culminates with a romantic kiss on top of the Statue of Liberty, then ends at a crab shack in North Carolina after Lois jokes about his having a "fortress of solitude". Internally Clark knows he made the right choice and, after one more passionate embrace, they both walk hand in hand to the shack.


4Story - 4: This was a difficult rating because I was debating whether or not Busiek made the right choice by reestablishing the stereotypical Lois and Clark relationship. But after taking another look at the book, I see that a guy with the nagging burden of constant comparison to a fictional character could easily fall for a woman with the same problem. I'm just thankful Lois's last name is Chaudari rather than Lane. That'd be too much of a stretch. During the suspended animation scene, the mention of a meteor strike and more people like Clark seems too much like a "Smallville" tie-in, but then again how else would someone explain his abilities? The same elements of the first issue seem expanded on in this one, such as the journal entries, which serve to give the story a sense of movement. Again, I give props to Busiek's handling of Lois and Clark's budding romance. It doesn't seem exaggerated or unrealistic. I also like how Clark is a struggling writer instead of an ace-but-mild-mannered-reporter. And stationing it in New York rather than a fictional city of Metropolis serves to further that distinction between fact and fiction. Still, I don't like the notion of him wearing glasses. The best way that Kurt can handle the story is if he strays a little from the normal Superman conventions like that. But keeping Clark in costume is still a good strategy to cement him to the role and express how he's accepted that part of his life. How he handles it is where the realism gets across; rather than announce his presence to the world, he does this in secret, and the lack of Superman-related villains and subtrefuge works well in establishing a psuedo-realistic take on the Man of Steel.

5Art - 5: Nothing new from Issue #1 with notable exceptions. The costume Clark wears looks more professional and traditional. The extra bulk he has really gives off the feeling of power that's required for the role. But where Immonen excels in again is his design of the characters. Keeping the government agents hidden in shadow during the immersion tank scene was good at continuing the secrecy and tight-lipped nature of Clark's pursuers. And the escape scene really captures the revulsion and anger in Clark's eyes at the government's tactics. But where I praise Stuart Immonen is in his design of Lois Chaudari. It's a mix of originality and tradition. The black hair is stereotypical Lois, but her mannerisms, wardrobe and tanned skin serve to set her apart from her comic book counterpart. The painted art really captures her exotic beauty and mischievious smile. It also serves to add depth and dimension to New York, giving it the romantic edge the flight between Lois and Clark required. Keep up the good work, Stuart.

5Cover Art - 5: Immonen really nails this cover by having a classic Superman-carrying-Lois shot that puts the emphasis on this new relationship. And having the city in the background adds to the drama of the real-life super-couple.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2004

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