By: Grant Morrison (writer), Rags Morales (penciller), Rick Bryant (inker), Gene Ha (guest artist), Brad Anderson & Art Lyon (colorists)

The Story: Corrupt people rabidly spouting nonsense on TV—what will fiction think of next?

The Review: Anybody who’s read much of Superman has wondered this question at some point: which is the real alter-ego, Superman or Clark Kent?  For most superheroes, their secret identity serves as a mere cover for their vigilantism; their true selves emerge when they spring into action.  For a while now, interpretations of Superman have gone the opposite route.  When Clark slips on those tights and spit-curls his hair, he’s still Clark at heart, only more so.

In this issue, we spend most of our time with him out of costume, getting to know him beyond the proletariat grandstanding he does when he’s got his cape on.  If anything, Clark the man is even more stridently principled than Clark the Superman.  As a citizen, his powers can’t come into play, so his indignation becomes more hot and vocal: “You need to be the cop you wanted to be when you were a kid…  Back to cop school, guys!

It makes perfect sense that at this younger segment of his life, Clark would be rasher, bolder, and more competitive, all of which makes him a more compelling figure now than the endearing but slightly straight-laced reporter of DC past.  You just relate to him more, like when he says in exasperation, “Aliens on the news!  This is what I’m saying…”  If you’re a reader who finds the media at large a mind-boggling place to be these days, you know what Clark means.

Actually, that line builds upon a mystery from last issue, namely how much Superman knows about his origins.  Judging from his scoffs at the sensational reportage of “space monsters,” he really seems to have no clue.  This, of course, explains why he demonstrates such a singularly human lack of self-restraint in his temperament, and why he has such passionate, folksy ideals.  Once he learns the truth, he’ll have to re-evaluate both these qualities, and it may be rough, especially since the public negativity has him already doubting this whole Superman thing.

We see that somewhere in the deep recesses of his subconscious is the memory of Krypton, and what an astonishing, exotic world it is, where food and drink is inhaled, twinkling lights is the fashion, technology allows telepathic communication, and people socialize as easily from the ceiling as from the floor.  For all that, they can only watch in horror as an unidentified robotic intelligence uses “dwarf star lensing” to take the city of Kandor.  Wonder who that can be?

Morrison doesn’t have any plans to keep the identity of this intruder secret for too long, as it reappears, this time during Clark’s waking hours.  As it did in Kandor, it seeps control into technological mechanisms and animates them, vowing, “In advance of imminent destruction and the extinction of all lifewill preserve significant artifacts.”  It should surprise no one that the only person with a clue about this invader is Luthor, and he’s already made a deal with it.

While Morales’ nerdification of Clark in the first issue looked brilliant, now there’s an inconsistent quality to Clark’s portrayal that really makes it look like Morales is drawing two different characters.  The actual jawline of his face changes, often in the same page, going from narrow and pointed at one point, then squared later.  The real artistic star is Ha, whose fantastic depiction of Krypton and its denizens makes you hope the storyboarders of the upcoming Man of Steel take note.  The costume design alone merits high praise.

Conclusion: While still a bit light on the “Action” side of things, the issue has plenty of dramatics to keep you invested, and all signs point to a major confrontation with a classic foe next time around—though it might not be the one you expect.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I admire Jimmy’s ability to bring food from elsewhere and eat it blatantly in a different restaurant.  Call me cowardly, but I get pins of anxious awkwardness shooting through me just thinking about doing that myself.

– Anyone notice that John Corben shaved off his mustache after Lois’ less than enthused remark about it last issue?  Or maybe Morales forgot to put it in.