13th Dec2019

‘Superman #18′ Review (DC Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Brian Michael Bendis | Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado | Published by DC Comics

superman-18-cover

If you’ve read any of my previous reviews (you’ve read them all, obviously) or know me personally you may have picked up on the fact that I am a bit of a Superman fan. Ever since I started reading comics back in the late 1970′s, Superman has been my favourite character in any medium. What I love about the character, apart from what he obviously stands for, is just how adaptable he is. Adaptable to different eras, different circumstances, different writers and different artists. That’s because the idea of Superman is a powerful one. What would we do? Save the world? Destroy it? Remake it in our image? Juggle the Earth and the Moon? It’s nice to dream.

Of late there has been a lot of talk about trying to keep Superman ‘relevant’. Brian Michael Bendis, as part of his pitch when coming to DC, wanted to do just that. His run to date has been up and down, hit and miss, but DC have been really pushing this issue as one to take note of. So here I am and here you are. Behind a great cover, gently teasing us with yet another ‘Clark Kent is Superman’ reveal, can Bendis redefine Superman for the next decade? Make him ‘relevant’?. Let’s take a look see.

As if the cover wasn’t a big enough tease, we start with a press conference outside the Daily Planet, with Superman about to make a big announcement. Just as he is about to spill the beans, we cut back to a week earlier, on Thanagar, and the first meeting of the United Planets, at which Superman was present. Adam Strange was there, and Superman has something of a heart to heart, questioning why he needs a secret identity at all, after recent events in the Superman books. The banter between Kal and Adam is classic Bendis, always ready to put a human face on the superhuman character. Kal explains that when he first developed his secret identity, he needed it, to fit in, to understand humanity, to help it. Now as a father and husband that part of it is no longer even relevant. Good point Bendis, hadn’t even thought of that aspect before.

Back to Earth, Clark goes to see Perry White and, in a fantastic three page sequence by Reis and Prado, with no dialogue at all, reveals his identity to Perry. Pretty moving sequence for a funny book, knowing those characters history and relationship. Next up, Jimmy Olsen. As befits motor mouth Jimmy, this one was all talking. Clark reveals he is Superman to Jimmy, who doesn’t believe him. Actually, he does, Lois had already told him so just Bendis using Jimmy to get some of that trademark humour in with the trademark banter. How many trademarks does Bendis have? We return back to the press conference, which I’m guessing you have a slight inkling as to what it’s about. Superman reveals to the entire world he is Clark Kent. Really. No imaginary story, no what if, no mind control, just Superman deciding his role in the world, his mission, has changed. Cue a lot of open mouths, both superhuman and human alike.

So DC weren’t kidding. Clark’s revealed his identity before to a few people, but never everyone. A real ‘I am Iron Man’ moment. Bendis has obviously unleashed seismic changes to the Super books, but he did it in a very organic way that made complete sense. Clark had outgrown the need to hide, in fact he felt a bit disingenuous by doing it. He is not going to stop being Clark or Superman as he is both, so he will continue in both roles, they just represent different aspects of the same man. The world rejoices…though not in the lair of a certain Lex Luthor. Lex has been made to look an idiot, and he can’t let that go without a reprisal of some sort. Game on.

Yes, this was a bit crowd pleasing and sensationalist, designed to get all the headlines in the comic and mainstream press, but it was also sensitively written by Bendis, made perfect sense for the character, and had the hell drawn out of it by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. Some of the multi page spreads by the artists are insanely good, and boy do they draw a great Superman. Noble, humble, strong, burdened, it’s all there in the posture and facial expressions. Great stuff.

Although I’m not in general a big fan of these types of ‘reveal’ issues, this was superbly done. A very nice character piece. Bendis putting the Super into Superman.

****½  4.5/5

Superman #18 is out now from DC Comics.

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