T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
Action Comics #41 is on the shelf and we have everything you need to know right here on ComiConverse.
The New 52 is now old hat.
We all have graduated from Grant Morrison’s Multiversity, the DC Universe has converged, and, now, we move on to what’s next. For Superman, that means losing the glasses, the cape, his secret identity, and most of his powers, and setting out across the country on a motorcycle wearing jeans and a T-shirt.
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This storyline called, simply, “Truth”, traces a convoluted path through four DC Comics titles after having been teased via recent revelations, changes to the Man of Steel’s power set, and “sneak peek” shorts. The gist of it, though, is this: Superman’s secret identity has been discovered, and publicly revealed, by Lois Lane, and, just as the world is coming to recognize the Man of Tomorrow as Clark Kent, the Fortress of Solitude refuses to acknowledge Kal-El as the Last Son of Krypton, stripping him of his iconic costume. Exposed in every sense of the word, the vulnerable and weakened Superman must work his way back to Metropolis without the protections of secrecy and invulnerability, and without the promise of a warm welcome when he makes it home.
Although I am not as dour in my outlook as the Superman Homepage’s Michael Bailey, I share his basic perspective of being skeptical of the story conceptually while respecting its execution. I’m not sure I like the idea behind “Truth” but I like the way Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder delivered the first full installment of the series in Action Comics #41. It is open to debate whether this is a tale that ought to have been told, but, given that it is, this is the way to go about telling it.
First of all, if it was to happen that Clark Kent was outed as being secretly Superman, it was absolutely essential that the story be broken publicly by Lois Lane. The fearless Daily Planet reporter, who made her debut alongside her mild-mannered colleague and his caped double identity in the first issue of Action Comics in 1938, sought for decades to expose Kent as Superman, so it was only right that she get the scoop, particularly at a time when many fans are calling for Lane to be given the chance to star in her own book once more.
Some commentators have faulted Lois for violating journalistic ethics in this instance, citing the harm limitation principle as a reason why she should have protected Superman’s secret identity. However, the harm limitation principle applies to children, crime victims, criminal suspects who have not been charged, and private individuals who are not public figures. Superman, obviously, falls into none of those categories and neither, for that matter, does Clark Kent.
Lane did her duty and was true to her defining principles as the top reporter at a major Metropolitan newspaper. The editorial decision to have Lois Lane publish the groundbreaking expose was an enriching, affirming, and empowering choice for a character who often has not been given her due.
Likewise, the “Truth” story arc has given renewed relevance to Superman’s longtime pal, Jimmy Olsen, beginning with Clark’s revelation of his secret identity to the young photojournalist in Superman #38 and continuing with Olsen’s role in the Man of Steel’s homecoming in Action Comics #41. The latter issue added a new character to the mix, as well, as Lee Lambert — another woman in Superman’s life sporting the ubiquitous double-L initials — made her debut as a self-assured Metropolis firefighter. Fresh starts are being given to more characters than merely the Man of Tomorrow.
At the heart of the story, though, is Superman, whose powers are fading, whose long-held secret is now known by everyone, and who is susceptible to the physical world in ways he has not been before. I am not entirely persuaded that the Last Son of Krypton is a hero who truly needs humanizing, but, since it is inevitable, anyway, it is for the best that he be stripped down and scaled back in this manner.
Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr., got the ball rolling in that direction in the right way in Superman #39, when a temporarily powerless Action Ace asked Olsen, “You think I only step in front of guns because I’m bullet-proof?” That rhetorical question powerfully summed up the hero’s essence, and, after an unfortunate misstep in the transition issue of Superman #40, Pak and Kuder got the story back on track, offering up a version of “Superman unplugged” that shows, in words and deeds, that the Man of Steel is still the Man of Steel, with or without heat vision. (I would, however, add one constructive criticism about the writing: I don’t care for Superman using profanity; he would seem to be the DC superhero most likely to echo Captain America’s “Language!” admonition from Age of Ultron.)
I still am unsure whether this is the road that should have been taken for the post-Convergence Superman, but capable hands are at the wheel as we together take a journey that illuminates and underscores the timeless essence of the first superhero. So far, this ambitious story arc is delivering on its titular promise of “Truth” which, we might reasonably hope, is to be followed, as always, by justice and the American way.
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing