For eighty years of his whole existence, Superman has always stood for "truth, justice, and the American way" despite his alien heritage, as he grew up in Kansas, where he learned the simple values of life and saving others from peril, regardless of where they came from. But in the last few decades, the aforementioned three things that Supes stood for sound like such a cliché, even causing some to consider the character too simple and old-fashioned.
However, considering where America is at the moment, truth, justice, and the American way are more important than ever, as people’s beliefs in them are challenged during the current administration. No matter how dark things are getting, we need a light to guide us out of the shadows, even if it’s a fictional creation as iconic as Superman. In their current run on the main Superman title, how does Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason explore this responsibility? By taking the Kent family on a road trip.
What opens this volume are two issues where Clark takes a break from being the Man of Steel as Lois insists on a family vacation across various American areas, from New York to Washington, where they see numerous historical monuments (nicely drawn by Scott Godlewski) and discuss historical stories of heroism. As a story that features nearly no action at all, it’s more of an educational program about American history, and although one can smell of the reek of patriotism (given these two issues were published in last July), it’s a nice and simple tale about how heroism can come from anywhere, and at least Superman does a great deed towards the end that is all about comfort and a positive resolution.
Sadly, for the rest of the volume, it all goes downhill as Tomasi and Gleason take a break from the writing. Duties are picked up by Keith Champagne and James Bonny, both of whom neglect the central theme of the run: the simple pleasantry of the Kent family. In the second arc, written by Champagne, Superman investigates the disappearance of numerous children in Metropolis, leading him to discover that they are under the control of the fear-based entity Parallax. Because this is more in the Green Lantern mythos, it detracts from being a Superman story and thus I felt no attachment to it, especially when it ends up being a slugfest drawn by multiple artists.
Concluding this volume is another two-parter, in which Lois Lane is trying to locate the Terminator himself, Deathstroke, for an interview for the Daily Planet. Although this arc is trying to showcase how fearless a reporter Lois can be, due to the "subject" that is Slade Wilson, it ends up feeling more like a Deathstroke comic with him hack-and-slashing enemies in graphic bloody detail. Once again, it just detracts from being a Superman story and despite how the creators try to craft a different type of battle between its hero and villain, it ends up being anti-climactic and just sets up something for later issues.
As we approach the 80th anniversary of the Man of Steel, this latest volume hits a major downfall in the Tomasi/Gleason run with arcs that keep detracting from what we love about DC’s number one superhero.