I’m totally okay with Brian Michael Bendis finally allowing Superman to reveal his secret identity as Clark Kent. It seems like a sales gimmick or one that will be walked back in a couple years. It’s remarkably in-character and makes up for the half-assed “mystery” that was Event Leviathan. Superman: Heroes #1 shows the reactions to the big reveal. It does so from a variety of perspectives from Lois Lane to the Justice League. Drawn by the fantastic Kevin Maguire! to Clark Kent’s high school chemistry teacher in a sweet story by Matt Fraction and Scott Godlewski. Fraction also pens Jimmy Olsen’s reaction to his “pal” losing the secret identity. That features slick, emotive art from his Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen collaborator Steve Lieber.
And wait, that not’s all. After being terse in the Maguire 12 panel grid sequences, Batman gets to open up to Wonder Woman about his true feelings in regards to Superman’s reveal. It’s a powerful story written by Greg Rucka and drawn in atmospheric shadows by Mike Perkins. However, there’s room for comedy too. Booster Gold finally gets to shout that Superman is Clark Kent after keeping it in for so long because he’s from the future. This comic is a true marriage of different tones. Art and writing styles from Bendis and Maguire set up a running Plastic man gag to Batman coming up with legit, devil’s advocate style arguments for why Superman revealing his secret identity to the world is a terrible idea.
Bendis, Fraction, Rucka, Maguire, Perkins, Lieber, Mike Norton, and Godlewski use Superman: Heroes to show how important Superman is to the both the community of heroes in the DC Universe and the superhero genre as a whole. They also show his roots in Smallville, connections to Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, and the consequences of his actions. The best parts of this comic are connected to Smallville. The opening scene features a great conversation between Ma and Pa Kent and young Clark about feeling different or weird and having a greater responsibility to the world because of his abilities.
The Fraction/Godlewski Superman and his chemistry teacher scene is really Eisner-worthy. From Godlewski’s clean line and the vivid colors to the underlying theme that it’s been Clark’s work ethic and moral compass that made him a great hero and man and not his superpowers. I also love how he draws Superman’s smile. Even if this means he got a C- in molecular chemistry. Clark Kent is the kid at the end of the bench who hustles for every loose ball, or the student that stays up late and goes to extra tutoring sessions that just happens to have the power of a god. Matt Fraction demonstrates his understanding of Superman’s moral character that pervades the “Truth” storyline as well as his, Rucka, and Bendis’ take on the Metropolis side of the DC Universe.
As evidenced by the “King Superman” plotline brewing over in Superman, Bendis isn’t afraid to look at the negative consequences of Superman revealing his secret identity. That extends to the moral dilemma he’s in as the Daily Planet is owned by Marisol Leone. However, that will be covered in later stories. Maybe Action Comics once the “Year of the Villain” shenanigans are over.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, Rucka and Perkins dig into it immediately in the form of the other 2/3 of the Trinity have a spirited conversation where neither Bruce or Diana is in the right. I really love the panels at the end of scene where Perkins’ heavy shadows lighten, and Diana tells Bruce that maybe he’s jealous that Superman can live his life out in the open and whole. The specters of Tom King’s botched Bat-marriage hang in the shadows of this one. Rucka’s dialogue gets to the core of Batman’s identity issues that have pervaded his best stories. He can’t retire or be a public-facing, but must strike fear into criminals as an archetype of fear.
Superman: Heroes #1 is a high note for Brian Michael Bendis’ current run on the Superman titles. It also features insightful writing from Matt Fraction as well as Greg Rucka reminding readers that he’s one of the greatest Batman and Wonder Woman writers. On the visual side, Mike Perkins shows a conversation can have just as much power as a good fight scene. Kevin Maguire is still the master of the superhero group shot. Steve Lieber’s comedic timing and use of beats works for friends being open and vulnerable together. Even if you aren’t current on Bendis’ Superman comics, Superman: Heroes #1 is worth picking up and dropping $5.99 on. It’s an intelligent and heartwarming take on the first superhero.
Story: Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Greg Rucka
Art: Kevin Maguire, Mike Perkins, Steve Lieber
Art: Mike Norton, Scott Godlewski Colors: Paul Mounts, Gabe Eltaeb
Colors: Andy Troy, Nathan Fairbairn
Letters: Clayton Cowles, Troy Peteri, Simon Bowland
Story: 9.5 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy