The world now knows Superman is Clark Kent. With this revelation setting both our world and the DC Universe abuzz, we get this Superman: Heroes special to showcase reactions and little stories about Superman’s allies and the big identity reveal. This anthology features writing by Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, and Greg Rucka, with art by Kevin Maguire, Mike Perkins, Steve Lieber, Mike Norton, and Scott Godlewski. Joining them is Paul Mounts, Gabe Eltaeb, Andy Troy, and Nathan Fairbairn on colors and Troy Peteri, Clayton Cowles, and Simon Bowland on letters. It’s a whole host of creators on a big issue to celebrate the occasion, and we get a few standout stories. Unfortunately, most of them don’t quite live up to this moment in Superman’s history.
Our first story is a flashback to Clark’s childhood about his struggles with fitting in. Clark expresses his anxieties to his parents, and they comfort him with the idea that everyone goes through this at his age, and that this is all a part of growing up. While this may sound like a nice little story, it’s something I personally resent. Clark is not like the other kids, literally. He has something inside him that he doesn’t know how to handle, and he interacts with the world in a completely different way than other kids. To say everyone goes through what he does is blatantly false and an erasure of his experience. As a queer man, I’ve found a level of relatability with Clark’s childhood stories. To me, this is so reductive and takes away everything unique about Clark’s upbringing. He wasn’t a normal kid, and his inability to fit in wasn’t just standard middle America adolescence, it was his own unique experience. Jon also calls Clark “Clarky” and I can’t really explain this with objective criticism but that’s just weird and I don’t like that.
From here we jump to a present-day story where Clark meets up with many other superheroes. There’s a big double splash of Justice League members reacting to Superman’s identity reveal. The page is generally fine, but it lacks the kind of gravity you’d expect from this moment. Somehow Dan Abnett’s new Justice League Odyssey team is present here despite being outside space and time in their book — perhaps Doctor Manhattan has expanded the reach of his continuity-juggling antics. Speaking of Doomsday Clock, there’s a reference to Clark’s parents in the present day here that suggests they’re alive again. Scott Snyder’s Justice League hand-waved the events of Doomsday Clock, so this came as a bit of a surprise to me. I think at this point, DC continuity is whatever you want it to be.
Our first proper story in this anthology collection is a two-page Booster Gold gag. I’m not a Booster fan but the whole thing is a pretty fun gag and there’s a reference to Elliot Maggin’s Miracle Monday. It’s a solid addition to this collection. One of the more major stories here follows Booster’s with Batman and Wonder Woman’s reactions. This story seems to be written by Greg Rucka, though I cannot confirm for sure. Wonder Woman is written great here (as she usually is when written by Rucka) and that’s a rarity I fully appreciate. Batman, however, is not my cup of tea. This Batman is prickly, dark, and honestly a bit mean. I see where they were trying to go with this story, but it really doesn’t work for me at all.
The next story has Clark revisit a childhood teacher to tell him he didn’t use his superpowers to cheat. It’s a nice enough story, but ultimately it falls into that same area of small-town middle America whatever as the prologue story. I realize that’s baked into the character to some degree, but my enjoyment from Superman very much comes from him being othered. I love a Clark Kent story that’s less an idealized fiction of small-town America and taps into what it’s like growing up different in a place like this. Superman: Secret Identity is a particular favorite of mine in that respect. Ultimately this one doesn’t work for me, but fans who enjoy simple small-town Superman stories might get something out of this. Following this, we get another story that’s just Lois and Clark focused on the letters they receive from people in response to Superman revealing his identity. Like the Booster one, it’s a two pager with a great gag at the end. Its short and sweet and carries a lot of enjoyment for so little length.
The last story in this anthology is by far the best. It’s a Jimmy Olsen story by (I assume) Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber. Most of the stuff in this issue has felt mediocre and doesn’t quite live up to the momentous occasion that is Superman revealing his identity, but this one does. It’s a beautiful moment between Superman and Jimmy that feels fitting and earned. Fraction (once again, assumed) nails the dialogue between the characters, and Lieber brings these perfect facial expressions and body language. It feels like an all time great moment between Jimmy and Clark, and it really hit me emotionally.
We end on a sort of epilogue teasing future things to come in the Bendis Superman books. It’s something that could have been exciting but comes far too late with far too little payoff to be interesting. It’s a problem I’ve been feeling with a lot of Bendis’ DC output lately. The ideas are all there, but it takes so long for his threads to amount to anything that there’s so little tension.
Despite the occasional hits, Superman: Heroes is a mediocre anthology. Most of the longer stories didn’t really work for me, and the only ones I think are worthwhile are the two two-pagers and the Jimmy story. Personally, I think its skippable as it carries few plot developments and offers little to this big identity reveal arc.
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