The curious reader might be frustrated that there is no answer to the question of, “Why does Superman need kneepads?” in this book. But little else is left to the imagination as Superman#1 paints the entire world of Metropolis with a broad yet discerning brush. The creators should be commended for building a world that both intrigues the reader on the superficial level as well as subtly investigating deeper questions.
For all of the planet-punching moments that this book is bound to yield, the richness of the mythos comes from Clark Kent’s role as a journalist in a city ruled by the rich and corrupt. This story is really about telling stories, but from the supposed objectiveness of a journalistic perspective. The rift between Lois and Clark has everything to do with their desire to write the news as a firm reflection of reality. Edge, a character who might seem much more familiar to the reader than the idealized paragons that Lois and Clark represent, knows that there is money to be made by selling marketable news rather than the cold hard truth. But where this battle of the ethical free press versus the greed of capitalism gets complicated is that Lois and Clark are hardly spotless lambs.
Lois’ transgressions are obvious. Letting the Daily Planet fall without a protest might have been a judgment call, but hacking into cameras? That leads right down the slippery slope that those concerned with personal privacy have railed against.
Clark Kent’s failures are more easily overlooked but even more damaging. The inherent flaw in his character is that while is seemingly so dedicated to exposing the truth, the biggest secret of all is the one that he’s keeping. It lends something to the charge of hypocrisy against Superman. He has no issue revealing humanity’s dirty laundry, but he will not allow any intrusion upon his personal life. And yes, it does matter. Journalism is never bias-free and cannot be isolated from its authors. It does indeed matter that the narration, which the public believes to be a second-hand account from the perspective of Clark Kent, is more accurately a firsthand account from Superman. Superman is noticeably taciturn in this story, giving the false impression that he does not have much to say to the public. Instead, through an alias, it is Superman’s own words that everyone reads to discover the facts of the event. It is a shame that the narration didn’t read like an actual newspaper style, and one of the drawbacks that becomes evident when an inexperienced writer takes on scripting duties.
Nevertheless, the key to journalistic integrity, something lacking not only in comic books but also in the real world, is accountability, and writing under a pen name (which is essentially what Kal-El does) offers none.
And the problems with keeping secrets come all the way back to haunt Clark in his relationship with Lois. As long as Clark keeps up his secret identity and never reveals his true feelings to Lois, he has no complaint against her. Without revealing the whole truth, even the strongest superhero is powerless.
So. Truth, Justice, and the American Way? The definitions for those words seem less clear than ever both in Superman’s world and ours. Readers who dismiss Superman stories as thoughtless slugfests should look deeper into this story.
WRITING: 4 / ART: 4 / OVERALL: 4