This issue of Superman leaves a lasting impression of density. This book has a lot going on, rewarding the careful and patient reader.
George Perez’s plot has added a layer with each issue, slowly bringing to a head the confrontation between the elemental creatures and our title character. The mystery of who or what these things are, as it turns out, is only superficially different from the conflict taking place in the costumeless section of the story.
Who is Superman? Who is Clark Kent?
The thought balloons on page seven give the first clue. The thoughts of Clark are also the thoughts of the homeless man and the security guard. Later, Heather is added to the mix. These three people represent different aspects of Clark and Superman. Kal-El have feelings of displacement, alienation, and isolation in the same way a homeless person might. As Superman, he serves as a powerful security guard for all of Metropolis. And as Clark Kent, he partners with Heather Kelley to bring truth to the public. There seems to be a symmetry to Superman’s powers in the creatures as well: heat vision for the flame creature and cold breath for the ice creature. The invisible creature might be analogous for his x-ray vision, or it might match his strength. In any case, the monsters may be correct in more ways than one when they say that they have been created by Superman.
And here is proof that thought balloons are not dead. They provide a clarity of attribution that captions cannot match.
The delivery of this story adds to the density of content by the sheer number of panels and quantity of dialogue. Reading this story with full comprehension requires patience and perhaps even the effort of rereading the previous issue in order to make sense of the different stories being told by the characters. It is difficult for the reader to make out what Clark is covering up when even he does not know. This reader had to reread the last issue in order to figure out what the point of Heather hiding Clark’s role in the investigative report was. And it seems that it has still been left unexplained. Missing information can be forgiven for one issue, but unexplained motives stretching over two issues into a third? Hopefully this gets resolved.
Jesus Merino’s art makes noticeable use of extensive blacks on Superman’s costume, including the cape. Here it appears that the blue suit and cape are a matte material and the emblem is a shiny metallic shield. But more importantly, the level of detail included in every scene serves the story extremely well. What is also striking is the variance in coloring style. For a few panels, either Brian Buccellato or Brett Smith chose to use a technique like an ink wash rather than solid blacks. It is used sparingly, but with great effect, signalling to the reader that something out of the ordinary is going on.
This series is turning out to be quite the read, with plenty more on the horizon. Lois has some nice circumstantial evidence tying Clark and Superman together. This time, it might only take her five years to figure it out.
WRITING: 4.5 / ART: 5 / OVERALL: 4.75