DC is rolling out some one-shot issues to try and cash in on the big storyline centered on Superman’s decision to reveal to the world that he is Clark Kent. I have yet to be convinced that Bendis’ idea of junking Superman’s secret identity is actually a good idea that will benefit the Superman franchise or the DCU at large. This move still seems like a cheap and lazy idea designed to generate a huge reaction and allow for a quick cash grab. Nothing about this concept is novel or creative. However, perhaps Bendis can demonstrate why getting rid of Superman’s secret identity is actually a logical decision that enhances both the Superman franchise and the DCU in general. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Superman: Heroes #1.
Words: Brian Bendis, Matt Fraction, and Greg Rucka
Art: Kevin Maguire, Mike Perkins, Steve Liever, Mike Norton, and Scott Godlewski
Colors: Paul Mounts, Gave Eltaeb, Andy Troy, and Nathan Fairbairn
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with a flashback scene in Smallville. Clark comes home from school all upset about something that happened that day. Clark is frustrated that he cannot just use his powers to solve his problems at school.
Pa Kent gives Clark some sage advice. Pa demonstrates his love, kindness, and patience with Clark. Pa reassures Clark that he knows and understands what Clark is going through. Pa Kent says that Clark can make mistakes and then try again the next day to do better. That all Clark has to ask is what is the best thing he can do right now. And then do it. All Clark needs to be is himself at his honest best.
We then cut to “The day before.” (The day before Superman reveals to the world that he is Clark Kent.) Lois tells Clark that if he wants to change his mind that she will support him. Lois then reveals to Clark that Lex Luthor gave her a metal box last week. Lois says that if Clark is doing to reveal his secret identity then he needs to deal with what is inside the box.
We shift to the present. Superman is flying through Metropolis. People are calling Superman “Clark Kent.” (Gross.) Some kids say that they prefer to continue to call Superman “Superman” rather than “Clark Kent.”
Superman flies to the Hall of Justice. Superman needs to hear from his teammates about what they think of his decision to reveal his secret identity. Superman appreciates their honesty and needs their perspectives. (Well, it is a bit damn late for that since Superman has already revealed his secret identity to the public. Shouldn’t this scene have taken place prior to revealing his secret identity if Superman truly wanted his teammates’ perspectives? The whole point in getting people’s honest feedback is to help make a difficult decision. It is utterly useless to do this after you have already revealed your secret identity.)
We see Superman standing in front of the members of the Justice League. (Hey, look who we see in this group shot. BLUE AND GOLD, BABY!!!! And….since when is Harley Quinn a Justice Leaguer? And Damien Wayne? Dude is a Teen Titan. Okay, whatever.)
We then get two pages of tiny panels of talking heads giving us the reactions of various Justice Leaguers. Wonder Woman support Superman. Batman thinks it is stupid. (Batman is always right.) Damien thinks it is dumb, too. Zatanna says that she cannot use her magic to undo what Superman has just done. John Constantine thinks Superman is stupid. Doctor Fate wants Superman to meet him privately at his tower at midnight. (Uhhhh…okay, creepy.) Barry Allen says that he would never reveal his secret identity. (Yeah, because Barry is smart and doesn’t want to put his loved ones at risk just to satisfy his selfish needs.) Hawkman says he relishes in Superman’s happiness. (Riiiiight.) Jessica Cruz says that she supports Superman. Aquaman tells Superman that this is stupid.
Plastic Man yucks it up about how people thought he was Superman. Plastic Man then bemoans how Superman’s flimsy disguise of glasses fooled Plastic Man. Mr. Terrific then acts like a spaz and is played for laughs by talking about how this is a great social experiment. (….Stunning. This scene was definitely written by Bendis or Fraction. They clearly have never read a single comic starring Mr. Terrific.)
We cut to Booster Gold high on a mountain top. Booster yells the name “Clark Kent.” Superman suddenly appears and asks if everything is okay. Booster replies that he is happy Clark revealed his secret identity. Booster says that there were several times that he almost accidentally revealed Superman’s secret identity. Booster says that all the school kids in his time period (The 25th Century. 500 years before The Legion of Super-Heroes’ time period. Well, I guess since the Legion is now set in the 31st century that Booster is now from the 26th century?) know the name Clark Kent. Booster says that he won’t spoil anything, but what comes next is going to be amazing. (That is definitely true. It may be amazingly good or amazingly bad. But, I am sure it will be amazing.)
We hop over to Wayne Manor. We see Bruce Wayne at his parents’ graves. Wonder Woman appears on the scene. Bruce says that he is in no mood for company. Wonder Woman then asks if Bruce wants to talk about it. Bruce says no and then walks into the mansion.
We see Wonder Woman wandering through Wayne Manor. Wonder Woman walks into the kitchen where Bruce is making tea. Wonder Woman sits down and smiles and waits. Bruce finally asks if Diana wants some tea. Diana replies that she would love some.
The two sip tea and Bruce says that Superman revealing his secret identity is a bad idea. Bruce says that this will put everyone Superman knows at risk. That it puts greater scrutiny on Superman. That it could compromise the Justice League. (I love Batman. The dude always nails it.) Wonder Woman then asks what is this really all about.
We then shift to Bruce and Diana in the Batcave. Diana says that she thought Batman would be happy for Clark, Lois, and Jon. Bruce says that when someone says that they are speaking their truth that it is just a way of hiding their selfishness behind a veneer of agency. It is just another way of saying that what the person wants is more important than anything anyone else may desire or need or care about. It is an excuse to disregard others. (Damn, Batman. Speak the truth!)
Wonder Woman agrees that what Batman says certainly could be the case. But, Superman has never been selfish. Bruce says that there is always a first time. Diana then says that Superman has done something that Batman cannot replicate. That Batman has always been able to match or meet everything else. Sometimes, Batman even does it better. But not this time.
Bruce says that he does not want to be jealous of Clark, Lois, and Jon. And most of the time he is not. But, sometimes he wonders what it would be like to have a family as Clark has. Diana says maybe Bruce will have that one day. Bruce says that he would not hold his breath.
We shift over to Superman visiting his High School science teacher, Mr. McKay, in Smallville. Superman says that he never used his powers to cheat even though he wanted to. Mr. McKay says that he knows how hard he pushed Clark. But, that Clark was a good kid and that when Clark got knocked down he always got back up. Mr. McKay said that when he heard the news that Clark was Superman that he was not surprised at all.
We zip to Lois and Superman in a large warehouse with three massive piles of letters. One pile is full of hate mail. One pile is full of requests for autographs. One pile is full of people in desperate need of help. Lois says that this mail is actually addressed to her. That the mail addressed to Clark is in the warehouse next door.
We cut to Superman’s meeting with Jimmy Olsen. Superman asks if the two of them are okay. Superman apologizes for never telling Jimmy his secret identity before. Jimmy says that the two of them are fine. Jimmy also says that he already knew Clark was Superman. Jimmy says that at first, he thought there were only two people on Earth who called him “Jim.” Then Jimmy realized that there is only one.
Jimmy finishes uploading his file for work. Jimmy then asks Superman for a lift. We then see Superman carrying Jimmy as they fly through the air.
We then get an epilogue with Lois and Superman at the Fortress of Solitude. Lois and Clark have examined the information in the metal box from Lex. It is proof that Marisol Leone is the leader of Metropolis’ invisible mafia. Leone is the owner of the Daily Planet. Lois says if they publish this information then they will vanquish Lex’s newest competitor for him and bury the Daily Planet. Superman says that they have to tell the truth. Lois says that this truth is going to ruin their lives and the lives of almost everyone they love. Superman gets an angry look on his face and says, “Lex Luthor.” End of issue.
The Good: Superman: Heroes #1 is a fluff piece. There is very little of actual substance in this issue that warrants the incredibly expensive $6.00 cover price. Having said that, there are some positive aspects of Superman: Heroes #1.
The clear highlight of Superman: Heroes #1 is the brilliantly written scene between Bruce and Diana. I adored this scene. I am confident that this scene was written by Greg Rucka given that it starred both Wonder Woman and Batman. This eight-page scene is the most immersive scene in the entire issue. Rucka captivates the reader’s attention and pulls them deep into this scene.
The character and dialogue are the two strengths of this scene. Rucka has an excellent feel for both Bruce and Diana’s personalities. Both Diana and Bruce are well written and have such depth to their characters. The dialogue is well done as Rucka gives Bruce and Diana clearly defined external voices. The chemistry between Bruce and Diana is undeniable. I have always been intrigued by the combination of Bruce and Diana. These two are the most compelling couple. I have always believed in DC pulling the trigger on a Bruce and Diana relationship and this scene only increases my desire to see these two characters together.
Rucka gives this scene such weight. There is so much power even in the panels that lack any dialogue. It is the small details like Diana smiling silently and waiting for Bruce to offer her some tea that makes this scene such a gem. The give and play between Bruce and Diana feels so natural. This scene is packed full of small moments that help build-up to the climactic moment where Bruce reveals his jealousy of Superman having such a loving family.
Another enjoyable aspect of this scene is that Bruce is completely correct about Superman’s decision to reveal his secret identity. It is selfish. It does put all of his loved ones at risk. It does place the JLA in a position to be compromised. However, it is also true that Batman’s jealousy is fueling his passionate response to Superman’s decisions to reveal his secret identity. Rucka handles Bruce’s jealousy in a sublime fashion. It is perfectly logical for Bruce to be jealous of Superman and his family. This is an excellent use of Batman’s core character traits.
Rucka does an excellent job making the reader believe that Batman is correct that Superman’s decision to reveal his secret identity is foolish while also believing that Bruce’s reaction is partly fueled by jealousy. Both of these facts can be true at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive. This is what helps to make this scene so immersive and complex. This is a nuanced take on Superman’s decision that we simply do not see in the other scenes in Superman: Heroes #1.
The artwork in the scene with Bruce and Diana is equally impressive. The style of art is a perfect match for the mood of the scene and the tone of the conversation. The art does an impressive job carrying the story in the panels where there is no dialogue.
The Booster Gold scene is enjoyable. This is a logical scene, too. It makes sense that Booster Gold would already know about Superman’s secret identity. Booster admitting that he struggled to keep the secret is also consistent with his flighty and comedic nature. This scene does a good job reaffirming how important of a role that Clark plays in the Legion of Super-Heroes’ future. This is another nice connection between the Legion’s time and the present-day DCU.
All of the artwork in Superman: Heroes #1 was top notch. This was truly some excellent artwork by committee. Each artist’s style perfectly matches the tone and mood of each scene.
The Bad: Outside of the Bruce and Diana scene, Superman: Heroes #1 lacks any real depth or content. The rest of this issue is pure fluff. The remainder of the issue presents the reader with rather shallow scenes. Outside of the Bruce and Diana scene, the writing lacks much substance and comes across as juvenile at certain points.
The dialogue and character work outside of the scene with Bruce and Diana is unimpressive. The dialogue is generic with all of the characters having largely the same external voice. The character work is as bland as possible. There is also very little chemistry between the characters.
Normally, I enjoy any scene between a young Clark Kent and Pa Kent. However, the one that we get in Superman: Heroes #1 lacked any heart or soul. This scene felt like an obligatory scene rather than a unique and creative scene. The scene is mechanical and rote. The reader has seen this same scene numerous times before and in a far super fashion.
The Justice League scene is a train wreck. The entire scene lacks logic since it should have taken place before Superman revealed his secret identity. Bendis or Fraction built up the fact that Superman really needed the feedback and advice from his peers in the Justice League concerning his decision to reveal his secret identity. If that was the case, then this scene should have taken place before Superman revealed his secret identity.
The fact that this scene takes place after Superman revealed his secret identity makes Superman’s repeated statement that he needs the feedback of his peers to seem hollow. This makes Superman appear selfish and uninterested in his peers’ feedback. This leads the reader to believe that Superman was going to reveal his secret identity no matter what and assembling his peers after the fact is nothing more than lip service.
On top of this, the character work with the Justice Leaguers is unimpressive. Most of the Justice Leaguers are simply generic. However, the terrible handling of Mr. Terrific’s character leaps off the page at the reader. It is obvious that either Bendis or Fraction has no clue about Mr. Terrific’s character and could care less. All that Bendis or Fraction wanted to do is get across their “witty” dialogue to the reader. Bendis and Fraction have consistently shown the willingness to sacrifice a character’s established personality and character traits for the sake of their “comedy.” That is exactly what happens to Mr. Terrific in this scene. Unfortunately, a great character like Mr. Terrific comes across as an absolute spaz and a moron.
The scene with Clark and Mr. McKay is pure filler. There is little actual substance to this scene. The attempt at character work is pedestrian at best and predictable and hackneyed at best. This scene is just a collection of tired cliches.
The scene with Superman and Jimmy Olsen actually has some nice moments to it. Unfortunately, the scene is atrociously paced and the result is that about four pages of actual content get pointlessly stretched out to eight pages. The poor pacing and plotting of this scene make what could have been a powerful and impactful scene come across as meandering and tedious. This completely robs this scene of the strong impact it could have had on the reader had it been delivered in four pages instead.
The Epilogue in Superman: Heroes #1 is average at best. Nothing seems particularly creative or exciting. Bendis resorts to his usual approach of deconstructing and tearing down aspects of a character’s world. In this case, it is the Daily Planet and the supporting characters who populate the Daily Planet. Destroying is always the easier and lazier route to take rather than growing and creating. So, I certainly cannot say that I am surprised.
The entire epilogue just had that tired feeling where the reader gets the impression that there is nothing unique or interesting in store for them. There is a lack of substance and weight to the story at this point. Perhaps Bendis will be able to grow this story into something with some more depth and originality as we move forward.
Overall: Superman: Heroes #1 offers little in terms of content and excitement. Slap on top of the bland story a massive $6.00 cover price and you get a comic book that feels like a blatant cash grab. There is simply nothing in the pages of Superman: Heroes #1 that warrants the ridiculous $6.00 cover price. You are better served to save your money for other far more deserving DC titles that are currently on the market.
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