Review: Superman: Heroes #1
[Editors Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction & Greg Rucka
Art: Kevin Maguire, Mike Perkins, Steve Leiber, Mike Norton & Scott Godlewski
Colors: Paul Mounts, Gabe Eltaeb, Andy Troy & Nathan Fairbairn
Letters: Troy Peteri, Simon Bowland & Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Brian Michael Bendis’s jumbled Superman tapestry grows sideways once again as Superman: Heroes #1 explores not only a few moments in the past, but the moments immediately following his identity reveal to the world in Superman #18. His meeting with the Justice League and other heroes, (just what is Harley Quinn doing there!?!?!?) leads to some personal moments and sets up Superman: Villains #1 presenting Lois and Clark with a real poser.
Whether or not you like the idea of Superman revealing his identity to the world or not, Superman: Heroes #1 provides some much needed exploration of reactions While this week’s Superman #20 takes a look at rival newspaper The Daily Star, Superman: Heroes #1 gets personal, both with Lois and Jimmy, but also Batman and Wonder Woman.
One of the best moments in the issue is definitely Bruce and Diana’s talk about Clark’s decision. This section is illustrated by Mike Perkins and presumably written by Greg Rucka (they are teamed up on the current Lois Lane 12-issue limited series.) Interestingly, Diana attempts to call out Bruce on his B.S. Bruce claims that Clark’s reveal has put others in danger (duh!), and that his act is essentially selfish. While I’m not one to disagree with Batman, Diana thinks Bruce’s reaction is about his own jealousy of Clark’s ability to do this because Bruce doesn’t have the luxury of having super-powers to protect his loved ones. It’s a compelling moment, whether you agree with Diana’s logic or not. But, has Diana has actually gotten at Bruce’s truth?
In one of the sequences, Clark goes back to Smallville to talk to a teacher to explain how much that teacher meant to a young Clark and how at the same time he never used his powers as a kid to cheat or to help himself along in school. It’s a nice moment that works really well mostly.
Lastly, the finale reveals what’s in that box Lex Luthor gave Lois as part of the “Year of the Villain” tie in back in Superman #13. So what’s in that box? It’s the best “surprise” in Bendis’s run and one which gives Lois and Clark a huge decision to make, so it’s better to not reveal it here. Bendis hasn’t spoiled this one ahead of time like so many of his “shocking moments” in his run on Superman.
Bendis will write what he wants, not what is in character. He’s been doing it throughout his Superman run. Additionally, many of his ideas don’t hold water upon further reflection. It’s this way with aspects of both of the best moments mentioned above.
To begin with, Diana makes a the comment that “…in revealing this, he has made those he knows and cares for safer.” The obvious question is how? In Superman #20, also out this week, Lois puts on a wig just to go out. And earlier in this issue Bruce confirms for Clark that his parents are safe, telling him “Your parents farm is completely off the grid.” The only reason his parents are safer is because of Batman, not because he’s revealed himself. If revealing his identity didn’t endanger his parents, then why does Batman need to cloak them? This makes Diana look very naive and lost. It also makes what Batman says next confusing.
Bruce reluctantly admitting to Diana that that he wishes he could have all that Superman has with family and such is a terrible misunderstanding of what Batman does have. Since making up with Catwoman (“City of Bane,” finale) Batman has an even bigger family than Superman. He essentially has 4 sons, Dick, Jason, Tim and Damian, and now a “wife.” He also has Batwoman (actual blood relation with whom he’s gotten closer in the past couple years) as well as Batgirl. Sure, his parents are gone, as well as Alfred, but it doesn’t mean he hasn’t had their presence in his life. This scene in Superman: Heroes #1 is written as if Batman is a complete loner with no one in his life. Either Rucka or Bendis have completely misrepresented Batman’s status quo. If Tom King’s epic run on the character showed anything, it was that Bruce is not alone….and that he CAN be happy AND be Batman.
That’s sort of what he got out of it. When he needed them, they all came through for him. The scene essentially functions as Bendis attempting to use Batman to validate the reveal, and yet it doesn’t really work if you think about it for a few minutes.
Additionally, the scene with Clark’s old teacher, while touching and demonstrating how forthright Superman is trying to be, it’s a little meticulous. Are we to believe that Superman will now have to explain to EVERY teacher that he didn’t cheat? Will he have to apologize to EVERYONE? Will he have to be like Earl in that TV show? Will his newfound understanding of “Truth” lead him to a ridiculous trip through his past? If he’d really wanted Mr. McKay to know how much he meant to him, he certainly could’ve let him know as Clark at any time.
Finally, there’s a montage of heroes who react directly to Superman upon having learned of the reveal. While most of them ring true, Mister Terrific’s continued reaction feels more like a Ted Kord Blue Beetle reaction instead of the smartest man on the planet. Coupled with Plastic Man’s response, what was working becomes tedious.
At some point editorial has to step in force Bendis to make some adjustments. He’s not the second coming of Alan Moore or Grant Morrison. He’s not even the second coming of Bob Haney. These’s things have to make sense.
One thing that has yet to be addressed, and it’s odd that one of his super-powered friends didn’t corner him on it: why did he reveal his identity? Bendis has suggested that Superman felt like he was being untruthful, but there’s been no exploration of that issue to give it any weight or gravitas. Superman’s secret identity is not a deception that hurts anyone. Therefore, it is incumbent on Bendis to make sense to the reader WHY Superman would suddenly decide that having a secret identity was a problem.
Despite some nice moments, overall, Superman: Heroes #1 doesn’t go very far in selling the positives on the identity reveal. The issue is nice as an exercise, but it does just as much to point out why it’s a bad idea. Getting characterization wrong is perhaps not only the biggest drawback in the issue, which easily takes the reader out of the story, but one of the biggest problems with Bendis’s writing overall.
At least the surprise in Lex’s box still has the potential to put Lois and Clark to the test when the figure out how to address that information. The only question will be in what comic the story continues after Superman: Villains #1?