What is Superman? Not who is Superman, but what is he? He is a hero, of course. He is the Last Son of Krypton. But what else? How exactly does this Superman, who was not originally a native of the current timeline, after all, relate to the reality in which he and his family find themselves? Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason launch a new story arc in Superman #14 aimed at investigating this question, which they touched on earlier in the Superman Annual #1. These two, particular Tomasi, have always been among the most respectful writers of DC’s greater universe, and to explore the meaning and identity of Superman they reach out to one of DC’s most creative and eccentric creations, the Multiversity saga of Grant Morrison. I mean, if you have a 52 Earths just sitting around, why not use them.
The story opens as Superman encounters his counterpart from the Red Son universe, known in this context as the Superman of Earth 30. It would seem that some force is abducting the Supermen from across the various universes. This force is represented by powerful goblin-like creatures who are capturing Supermen in accordance with a directive known as “The Lyst.” The Justice League Incarnate, a band of multiversal heroes, informs Superman that they cannot track the location of the vanished Supermen. These vanished heroes have seemingly been taken out of the Multiverse altogether.
It turns out, however, that there is an interesting wrinkle. The Lyst identifies the target of Earth 0 as the New Super-Man of China. He was born in the Earth 0 timeline, and his powers may derive from those of the original New 52 Superman. Superman himself, coming from another timeline, is a wrench in the gears, a factor that they cannot easily compute. Superman, the New Super-Man, and the Justice League Incarnate manage to turn back the gatherers, but the final panels show their mysterious overlord is already far progressed in his plans. Let’s just say that Captain Carrot has a very bad day, although one hopes it isn’t anything cartoon physics can’t eventually conquer.
Art duties for this issue fall to Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, with Marcelo Maiolo on colors. Their work is naturalistic, with just a hint of the idealized forms favored by Jim Lee or Tony Daniel. It is a look that is well-suited for a story an Earth touching on the realm of the gods. Or at the very least, an Earth on the border of infinity. The only problem is the preference for tight close-ups and straight camera angles that somewhat lesson the feel of the bizarre and the magnificent. Only the very last pages truly communicate the visual sweep of the story and its stakes. Still, this is only an introduction, and maybe they are saving the grandiose for a later, more dramatic set of reveals.
Of all the DC REBIRTH books, Superman has been the most consistent with driving forward the underlying story of multiversal mischief that underlies the initiative, followed by, interestingly enough, TITANS. Whether or not this arc truly addresses the ultimate themes of REBIRTH, it promises to reveal further truths about Superman and his nature, and presumably the nature of his family. And any story that resurrects the MULTIVERSITY worthy of initial interest.