This is a monumental issue. Brian Michael Bendis and the entirety of DC Comics have been hyping up this issue as one that will change Superman potentially forever, redefining the character for the generations to come. And, credit to Brian Michael Bendis, the issue does exactly what it promises. Its long-term effects remain to be seen, but this issue does a fantastic job turning over the status quo Superman has had for the majority of his existence in favor of something far more modern.
The structure of the issue is weird. It begins with Superman flying down for a press conference, then immediately flashes back to a conversation he had with Adam Strange on Thanagar during the first gathering of the United Planets. Adam and Superman’s conversation is bogged down by some of the worst instances of Bendis’s idiosyncratic dialogue, but it’s got some fun quirks and little scenes that make it at least enjoyable to read. The overall message, once you’re able to parse through the conversation to reach it, is very important to the idea of who Superman is, and who he should be for the future. Unfortunately, this scene is tarnished a bit by Ivan Reis’s art — he’s usually been a fantastic artist on Superman, but in this scene Reis and Joe Prado don’t do a great job drawing faces, which is especially frustrating given that the scene is entirely reliant on facial expression to tell the whole story.
Thankfully, the next segment of the issue is much better with its visual storytelling than this one. The scenes of Clark (not Superman) telling his loved ones who he really is, after all these years, really hit home in the best way. Specifically, the silent page where Clark tells Perry White, one of the men he respects most in the world, is incredibly powerful and resonant. I could not ask for a better identity reveal scene than that — where Reis and Prado failed with the emotion on Thanagar, they absolutely nailed in this one page. It’s incredibly emotional and feels like a proper next step for these characters who have had such a strong relationship for decades. The scene with Jimmy is just as well done, in an entirely different way. Just like the scene with Perry showcases the relationship between Clark and Perry in its best light, the scene between Clark and Jimmy is a perfect microcosm of their relationship and how they view each other. It’s really great, and Bendis is able to lay on the comedy perfectly.
This all culminates in Superman’s speech to the world, where he finally does what DC has been promising for the last few months and reveals his identity as Clark Kent to the public. This is something Bendis has done to a character before, albeit in a very different context in his run on Daredevil. This time, rather than feel invasive and wrong, Clark’s “coming out” scene feels right – like a proper next step for the character. While this change for the character will ultimately be judged by how it’s handled down the line, as a standalone event it’s done very well and is portrayed exactly as it should be. I often complain about Bendis’s decompression, because it results in issues that feel purposeless. This issue, however, has a very clear purpose from beginning to end, and achieves its purpose by the end. The decompression allows Bendis to give a proper reverence and gravity to this story, making it feel far more significant.
This issue has its flaws, but as a whole I’d say it’s the strongest single issue that Bendis has written since he came over to DC. Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Alex Sinclair, and Dave Sharpe all put forth solid work in this issue, but the brunt of the effort really did fall to Bendis here — he was the one who had to make this event feel significant, and he aced it. This is a story that’ll be a must-read for years to come, and it’s good enough to be worth the read for anyone, even people disinterested with the overall run.