It’s been a while since the last Comic Book Club, hasn’t it? Don’t think I haven’t been neglecting my comic and graphic novel side. Oh no, I’ve been quite busy reading some excellent material (seriously, check out Wolverine: Old Man Logan if you can tolerate a lot of gore), but the tricky thing is finding something worth really sharing. I started with a Marvel-based book, so I realized it was time to balance the scale with a DC-based book. And what better comic to talk about than Superman? Except I’m not talking about a normal Superman comic, I’m talking about Super: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen, and it’s not like the other Superman stories.
A Superman We Can Relate To
I must confess that when it comes to superheroes, I was never a fan of Superman. But no matter how much I wanted to hate the Man of Steel, I couldn’t, mostly because I realized that the character isn’t the problem so much as the writers. In the wrong hands, Superman plays like he always does, with the usual clichés and the final solution to the plot resolving with Superman punching harder. Even when faced with an impossible solution, Superman or a variation of Superman can find closure by punching something hard enough, even if there’s nothing around to punch, forcing him to just punch time.
This isn’t the case with Superman: Secret Identity, partly because the Superman in question isn’t actually Superman. The concept is sheer brilliance as the story revolves around a kid in the “real” world named Clark Kent. His parents were fans of Superman and thought it’d be funny to name their son Clark, so he grows up hating Superman since everyone assumes he absolutely loves and knows everything about Superman, having the same name.
It starts on a very relatable level with the coming-of-age story, but where things get great is when one day Clark actually manifests Superman’s powers, just not to the godly amount you see in the usual comics. He can still fly, has super strength, and is mostly indestructible, among other things. Suddenly the story shifts to him dealing with these powers in a world grounded in slightly more reality than the Superman we’re used to, and throughout the 4-issue arc I couldn’t be happier.
As I said, Superman is good when written correctly, and Busiek nails it here, probably because it isn’t really Superman he’s writing for. I could actually feel for this character rather than just wonder when he’ll remember to punch harderest in the correct direction (any). Immonen’s artwork just adds to the mood by being colorful without going over the top. It’s just enough to work perfectly.
If I had to pick any Superman story to recommend, this is the one, even if you don’t consider it “Superman.” There’s just enough here to get into without feeling let down and there’s not so much that it’s overwhelming. It’s perfect. Superman couldn’t write a better story if he tried. Maybe if he punched harder.