Review: SUPERMAN #18
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Colours: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Superman #18: With Superman’s family scattered across the galaxy, our hero must confront some of his greatest concerns about himself and his place in the galaxy. Legendary artist Ivan Reis joins writer Brian Michael Bendis as they introduce the biggest change in the Man of Steel’s life ever!
Superman #18 is a major milestone in the history of Superman. However, it is destined to be an extremely divisive issue. As DC has been teasing recently, Superman has publicly revealed his secret identity. This is sure to cause much debate about whether this is a bold new development for the character or an unmitigated disaster.
With the advance warning, I had some time to consider my own feelings about Superman going public as Clark Kent. I found that my feeling were somewhat mixed, but I think that I could accept this, if the story was handled correctly. However, it could easily make a mess out of the Superman mythos that would necessitate yet another continuity reset.
So, is Brian Michael Bendis the writer who can thread the needle and make this fundamental progression to the legend work? Although, I have some strong reservations to the changes he has introduced to the Superman books, he has always managed to produce an enjoyable story. And I have unreservedly loved his work on Young Justice and Ultimate Spider-Man. So, if I could accept this change on the basis of how well the story is written, it seemed to me that Bendis would be up to the job.
So now that the actual issue is in my hands, do I feel that he delivered? Indeed he did. I loved this story. If Superman has to take this historic step, this is exactly how it should happen.
My favourite section is when Clark reveals his dual identity to Perry White. Bendis is quite adept at writing dialogue, but here he forgoes words altogether, letting the gorgeous art of Reis and Prado tell the story. The artwork beautifully shows us Clark’s apprehension as he approaches his friend and mentor to reveal his secret.
And Perry’s reaction is perfect. Words are not needed. All we needed to see was Perry getting up and embracing Clark. Whether or not the overall story proves to be successful, this will surely be remembered as one of the most touching emotional moments in DC history.
And it certainly makes more sense than Perry’s reaction to the same news during the New 52, where he reacted with anger and fired Clark.
And the reasoning for the revelation seems appropriate to me. Clark seems to come to the realization that hiding his secret identity is inherently a lie. A lie that was necessary when starting out. Also, it didn’t hurt anybody, but rather protected Clark and his loved ones. But at it’s root, it was a dishonest, even if a small one.
I recall once having a discussion with another comics fan that contended that Superman never lies. I retorted by paraphrasing the Man of Steel himself, “Of course, I’m not Superman Lois. What ridiculous idea.” Yes, Superman is a paragon of honesty, yet he still told that one lie to the world.
Thus, I have always felt that someday, Clark would go public with his dual identity. However, I had always assumed that this would happen in a nebulous future that the DC Universe’s timeline would never quite reach. We might see it in stories involving a future timeline, but not in the canon present.
Superman’s secret identity has happened before, as recently as 2015. The story was overall handled rather poorly and was likely one of the prime reasons for DC giving up on the New 52 and relaunching their line in Rebirth. So, it seems to me that it might have been wiser for DC to give fans longer to forget that story before going back to the same well.
Also, that revelation was undone by Rebirth and the Superman Reborn storyline. So, it’s understandable that fans might think that this is another gimmick and not really an evolution of the mythos. Why bother getting excited by a storyline that DC will reverse or retcon away at the first sign of dropping sales?
On the other hand, having an easy way out may not be a bad thing. If this new direction Bendis has given us proves unpopular with readers, then it will be easy enough for DC to wipe it away. Bendis is making a risky move with this story, but the fluid nature of DC’s continuity gives him a safety net.
DC has been marketing this story as a major milestone in their comics. Bendis has a difficult task in living up to this hype, but I believe he is up to the job, and he is off to an amazing start with the landmark issue Superman #18.