There’s a scene in this week’s Action Comics in which Clark Kent confronts Lois Lane regarding her having falsely accused him of being secretly Superman. But this isn’t actually that Clark Kent. The latter really was the New 52 Superman, and the story reporting such entirely accurate. Whatever the provenance of this particular Clark proves, it’s fairly certain that he was neither now nor in the past ever was Superman. Moreover, this isn’t actually that Lois Lane; rather, it’s Lois Lane secretly disguised as Lois Lane. Specifically, it’s a Lois from an earlier epicycle of Earth-Prime investigating the disappearance of her doppelgänger from the current multiverse. So this Clark is wrong to accuse this Lois because she wasn’t the one to actually write the article, but he’s right to accuse it of being liable against himself because he’s really not Superman, but he’s wrong to say that the article was inaccurate because what was written about Clark Kent being Superman was entirely true. Comic books!
Action Comics #965 (DC Comics)
The secret identity has long been a staple of superhero stories, starting with and most prominently in the Superman franchise. Dan Jurgens has not merely been playing with the established mythology by separating the characters of Clark Kent and Superman; he’s taken the trope of the secret identity and turned it up to eleven. Everyone has an alter ego, a dual identity, a secret origin, some as much of a mystery to the reader as to the denizens of the DC universe. There’s a great deal of fun being put in the position of Lois from the Silver Age, looking over at Clark Kent and suspecting him of being more than just a mild-mannered reporter, but not knowing for certain what that might be and lacking the evidence to prove as much… for now. Every bit as much as Lois used to back in the sixties, I’m looking for every scrap, every shred, every potential piece of proof as to who Clark really is, and who the man in the red hat is, and even who the New 52 Lois and Clark were before their deaths. Approbation to Dan Jurgens for engaging the reader into the story in such as way.
And the conversations between characters, if more convoluted, are all the more full of interest and intrigue as well. All those times Aunt Harriet obliviously compared Bruce and Dick to Batman and Robin? Or when Matt Murdock pretended to be his own twin brother Mike Murdock who was secretly Daredevil so that no one would suspect that Matt himself was actually Daredevil? The same is happing practically every other panel in throughout this issue. The example between not-that-Lois and not-that-Clark is certainly the most layered, but her interactions with all the various staff members of the Daily Planet share some of the same suspense.
It may have taken an arc or so for Jurgens to finally win me over on Action Comics, and the same goes for Stephen Segovia as well. I critiqued his last installment of the series in Action Comics #961 as derivative of Brett Breeding’s art for the classic Superman #75 (Death of Superman). There’s nothing derivative whatsoever to the current comic, however. True, it is stylistically very similar to his fellow Action artists Tyler Kirkham and Patch Zircher. But that’s unambiguously a compliment. Were the art styles of the three overly distinct, having them share duties on the series would be unbearable; better to have four or five months between issues than rotating artists or fill-ins of different tone or quality (I’m looking at you, Ultimates).
As importantly, Segovia can actually draw Superman. Despite being the first and most famous superhero, the Man of Steel is the character that most trips up otherwise excellent superstar artists, ranging from Frank Quitely to Gary Frank to Lienil Yu. The problem is that Curt Swan and John Byrne created too definitive an image of Superman over their illustrious tenures. Kirkham and Segovia wisely steer into such, channeling Byrne’s sensibilities subtly while establishing an energetic new house style for the Postmodern Age Superman.
Between Jurgens finally hitting his stride and Segovia proving his chops as well, Action Comics is beginning to make me a believer in Rebirth. Like the rest of DC’s offering since the start of the initiative, its neither revolutionary or outstanding, but it’s solid storytelling month-in and month out. Add to the novel ways in which Jurgens is playing with the secret identity trope and the Superman mythos as a whole, and now’s not a great time to be a Superman fan, but it’s at least a genuinely good one.