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Cover date: September 2012
"Superman's New Secret Identity"
Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Rags Morales and Brad Walker
Inker: Rick Bryant and Brad Walker
Writer: Sholly Fisch
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
Superman battles a villain known as Metalek but the fight does a great deal of damage to the neighborhood. The Man of Steel rallies the people that live there to rebuild and in short order they have better housing than they had before. Superman rushes off to his new identity as Johnny Clark; firefighter. He saves some people and a cat from a burning house and spends a little time at the firehouse before visiting George Taylor in the hospital. Later he calls on Batman and talks about his regrets in giving up the Clark Kent identity.
Back in Metropolis Lois has her niece Susie take a look at the hamsters Superman rescued in the previous issue and it is implied that she has special abilities. In his space fortress Superman learns of a larger threat coming to Earth. Meanwhile the stranger from last issue tracks down Lois' niece because it turns out they are both nutants, humans that have jumped the evolutionary ladder by a hundred thousand years. Superman hears of the disturbance thanks to his Johnny Clark identity but on the way a Metalek driver takes over the man behind the wheel of the fire truck. Clark tries to stop him but the truck hits Lois and knocks her into a nearby car.
One quick change later Superman faces the stranger but even though he is big and tough the stranger can still attack his mind. After mentally weakening the Man of Steel he takes control of a nearby crowd to attack Superman as he escorts Susie away from what he considers a doomed species.
Story - 4: I am starting to see a definite pattern in how I react to an issue of Morrison's ACTION COMICS. Originally I thought of it as a rollercoaster ride but that doesn't adequately describe it. There's stuff I like, there's stuff I don't like, there are references I appreciate and in the end I find myself entertained. Sure there are issues I just plain don't care for, like the ninth issue, but on the whole it is this weird stew of feelings that make for, if nothing else, an interesting read.
On the whole I am enjoying this story arc, especially the Superman finding a new identity angle. As with the run as a whole this feels like a classic Golden/Silver Age story done up in a modern setting. The opening scene evokes the original ACTION COMICS #8 where Superman tears down a bunch of sub-standard housing so that the government will have to rebuild it. This, as Michael Bradley pointed out in the eighth episode of his THRILLING ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN podcast, is an oft-cited example of how the Golden Age Superman had, to put it delicately as to not kick up a political debate, somewhat socialistic (or at the very least liberal) leanings. Here Morrison takes that idea but improves on it. The fight with Metalek destroys a bunch of homes but instead of simply letting the government deal with damage Superman rallies the citizens to rebuild their own homes. It's inspirational without being overly cheesy or preachy. Add in the Action News 38 van in the background and this is my favorite scene in the issue.
It makes perfect sense to me that Morrison would cast Superman as a firefighter in his new identity of Johnny Clark. Dan DiDio has described Superman as the firefighter of the DC for years so this is the natural extension of that theory. I don't know if I quite agree with it because, well, Superman goes out on patrol, so it's not the cut and dry "Superman waits for the call, goes out, saves the day and then heads back to wait for the next call," that DiDio has used to describe the Man of Steel's place in the DCU but it still works. I liked that Morrison took the time to show us what the other firefighters thought of Johnny and give us just enough to buy and accept this new identity before the scene with Batman. Morrison also name dropped Bibbo, which is always fine by me.
Except when he is in that third season episode of LOIS AND CLARK, but I really can't blame the character for that. I mean, it's not his fault that he got sucked into a clone story that was fifteen different kinds of awful.
It was the scene with Batman where the issue took a turn for the worse with me. As much as I like to see Superman and Batman together and especially like it when the creators don't try to convince us that Batman could take Superman in a fight (which is just stupid if you ask me) I hate that once again Superman has to go to Batman to solve his problem. I want to see Superman get out of this jam. Sure we have the action movie moment where the heroes dive into danger together but before that it seemed like Superman wasn't smart enough to get out of the jam he put himself in. I do appreciate that Morrison is exploring why giving up the Clark Kent identity was a bad idea but this isn't the way to go about solving it. Hopefully this scene was thrown in for the sheer awesome sauce of seeing the two characters together and nothing more comes of it.
Then Morrison goes into full MORRISON mode with the rest of the issue. The pacing goes all wonky as suddenly we're in the apartment with Lois and her niece, who apparently is a nutant and tied to the proto-Superman from the previous issue, who it turns out is Adam Blake so I was right about the whole Captain Comet thing. Then Morrison doubles down on the MORRISON and alludes to an even BIGGER threat coming down the pike and leaves us with a pretty decent cliffhanger where Lois is wearing only one shoe after getting hit by a fire truck and a bunch of civilians are beating on poor Superman.
The problem (maybe I should type "problem" as it really isn't a problem in the strictest sense of the word) is that these events just barreled into each other and threw off the pacing of the issue. Morrison took his time with the Metalek fight and the scenes with Johnny Clark but then he threw everything important to the overall plot at us right there at the back half. It's like there were two stories going on here and they didn't come together smoothly. I understand that this is how Morrison writes but I just didn't care for it.
So outside of the scene with Batman and the weird pacing this was a rather enjoyable issue. I am expecting the next issue to be the same. Part of me thinks that I should be concerned about Lois but the fact that she's walking around the contemporary stories leads me to believe that she's going to be just fine.
Art - 4: That four is for both artists, in case you were wondering. I have to admit that it was a tad disappointing to see that there were going to be a few pages in this story drawn by someone other than Morales but I really like Brad Walker so the blow was definitely softened. The Morales pages were good, as always. The action pops off the page and the more character driven moments have a lot of impact. I really dug Walker's pages as well and he drew a Superman having fun with his new identity. I wasn't so hot on the design of Johnny Clark, who looks like he should be listening to Dashboard Confessional and cutting himself just so he can feel, but it wasn't terrible so I will have my pithy comment and move on. Part of me wishes Rags could finish a storyline by himself or without a break but as long as the fill-in artists are as good as Walker and the book comes out on time I will be content.
Two business men, one from out of town and the other a native to Metropolis, stop in to Metro Copy and Print so that the out of town man can buy a Superman shirt. The Metropolis native scoffs at the twenty-five dollar charge for the shirt but the owner is insistent that he makes the shirts that Superman actually wears. Apparently when the man that would become Superman was in the store to place his initial order of fifty shirts a gun wielding criminal came in to rob the place. Superman stopped the robbery but refused to accept a reward. Instead he told the owner to help someone in need if he could. The out of town businessman very nearly buys one of the shirts but is stopped by his friend. Once they are outside he asks why his friend stopped him. His friend points out that there are dozens of stores up and down the street that claim to sell authentic Superman merchandise and T-shirts.
Story - 4: This was another enjoyable Sholly Fisch back-up. Sure the whole thing boiled down to a punch line but Fisch managed to take the gag and turn it into a character driven story. I have to admit that I was drawn in by the shop owner's tale and laughed out loud when he offered the 10% discount. The final panel was timed perfectly and while this wasn't the character driven piece going on at the same time as the main story that the back-ups usually are it was awesome just the same.
Art - 4: There is a lot of power in Cafu's artwork and I like that quite a bit. I also dug the hazy effect for the flashback sequence and really dug the homage to the Carlos Pacheco/Jesus Merino cover to SUPERMAN #654 that we got on the second page. Cafu is a fantastic story teller and the transitions between the past and the present are flawless. The art for this story was just fantastic.
Cover Art - 3: I am not a fan of this cover. It just doesn't appeal to me. I think I know what they are going for but as a cover, which ostensibly is supposed to grab the reader and make them want to purchase the book, it falls very flat.
Variant Cover Art - 3: As a variant cover this image works quite well but at the end of the day this is a wonky looking image. I like the composition but the figures look a bit odd. I do dig the fact that Batman appears on this cover as I like to see the World's Finest team together as long as they aren't, you know, trying to kill each other.
Variant Cover Art - 3 (Black and White): Oddly enough I still don't like this cover. Usually the black and white version is better than the main cover but in this case both do very little for me. Again I think I know what they were going for but it wasn't for me.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2012.