This is a story of an ordinary man who is extraordinary.  Usually, a paradox like that involves a physically normal person with heroic moral qualities.  That isn’t the case in the story Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder tell in Action Comics #41.  Clark Kent is certainly a moral hero, but he is also far from physically normal.  Rather, in this comic he is an ordinary man in a way that Arthur Miller would have appreciated and understood.  In his famous play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Miller said that the victory of a feline in that strange situation was just staying in place.  Sometimes, in other words,  survival is a heroic act.  It has been a long time since mere continued existence, since just going on, was heroic for Clark Kent.

This story is part of the large-scale TRUTH crossover currently underway across the Superman titles, and as such it features a partly underpowered  Clark Kent who has been exposed to the world as Superman.  The details behind those events await the publication of this month’s Superman. In Action Comics #41, we join the story in medias res, as Clark deals with the fallout from these events.  Kuder’s layout is a masterpiece of pacing and perspective.  His generous use of small panels serves to distance the reader from the action, lending the proceedings something of a documentary feel reminiscent of such 1980s classics as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns.  However, instead of rigidly maintaining this effect by sticking to square, uniform windows, Kuder fluidly varies the panel dimensions to regulate the passage of story time, using row of tall, thin panels to suggest rapid action, alternated with larger, broader windows to create pauses.  We feel Clark’s desperation and relief, his fear and his wonder.

The story follows last month’s preview in which Clark is locked out of the Fortress of Solitude and beset by shadow monsters.  The bulk of the book is Clark dealing with the fundamental experience of human life in a way he has never quite faced.  He learns the bitter fact of ingratitude as he loses his job and is beset by a wave of legal action springing from Superman’s actions.  But he also encounters the sweetness of loyalty and compassion embodied in the steadfast Jimmy Olsen and the enthusiastic support from his former neighbors in Metropolis, a city whose darker nature is beginning to become dominant in the absence of its bright defender.  The end of this issue promises that both the bitter and the sweet are likely to grow more intense.

The overall tone of the story also rests on the subtle color work of Tomeu Morey and the ever-busy Hi-Fi.  The palette is clear but restrained in intensity, as if the world has taken a couple of trips too many through a washing machine.  The result is to emphasise Clark’s weariness and weakness, his sudden entry into a world more ordinary.






The TRUTH storyline is well begun. What is this truth? How did Clark lose most of his powers? What led Lois to make the decisions she did? We await answers with satisfaction that we are in good hands, and in hope that the revelations to come will neither outrage nor disappoint. It may prove to be a gain hope, but so far, the creative team of ACTION COMICS has earned our trust.