It’s safe to say that Superman has had it rough since the New 52 changed the DC Universe as we know it. The drive to introduce younger, modern versions of our favorite characters left fans with a new Superman who was a far cry from the Big Blue Boy Scout we were used too. Then when DC rebirth came along, DC used this opportunity to switch out New 52 Superman with the Pre-Flashpoint version, this time complete with wife Lois and son Jon, returning the character to his roots but also opening new story avenues thanks to his superfamily.
With Superman #1, which follows the events of new writer Brian Michael Bendis’ Man of Steel mini-series, Superman is once again stripped down to the basics as the red trunks return and Jon and Lois are off in space with
Mr. Oz Jor-El, leaving Clark alone in Metropolis, much like his New 52 counterpart was, though that’s where the similarities end. Bendis’ Superman is much more open to the audience which allows us to relate to the character in ways that might not feel as natural anymore but is certainly welcome. Early scenes hit hard emotionally as we see the life of Clark Kent at home without his family, far from the bluster of the superhero life.
The first of the new Superman ongoings from Bendis – Action Comics #1001 hits shelves this month – starts off pretty big as we see Superman searching the galaxy for his family. When Jor-El took off with Lois and Jon he left a communicator with Clark that was unfortunately destroyed during his battle with Rogol Zaar in Man of Steel, a battle which also caused the destruction of the Fortress of Solitude and the bottled city of Kandor. With the communicator destroyed Superman has no idea where his family could be and his initial search through the galaxy proves fruitless, though it did help him stop an oncoming invasion from the Dominator Armada, who are going to wish they never headed out into space in the first place after their encounter with Supes.
While his lost family isn’t something he’s able to deal with at this time (unless you count the crushing loneliness as him dealing with it), he’s joined by the Justice League at the remains of his Fortress of Solitude, which he is able to rebuild. This time he’s moved away from the Arctic and set up shop in the Bermuda Triangle, effectively creating a new base of operations for Superman in another dangerous and mysterious part of the world. The new fortress is breathtaking, though we would expect nothing less from series artist Ivan Reis, whose work in this first issue is a testament to his ability to tell grand stories, reminiscent of his time with Geoff Johns on the Green Lantern series.
While we see the reconstruction of Superman’s home base, Clark Kent’s home at the Daily Planet seems to be out of sorts as well. He’s initially writing a story about Superman’s new fortress before he shrugs that off as ego and decides to focus on the rash of fires that have been tearing through the city, which was first revealed in the Man of Steel mini-series. This moment at the Daily Planet gives us the first indication that Clark Kent/Superman is flying without a direction, which can be very dangerous. This leads us to an interesting discussion with J’onn J’onzz AKA the Martian Manhunter, the current leader of the Justice League. J’onn reveals during the conversation – which Superman frequently has to pause to quickly deal with a few potential disasters throughout – that he feels he and Superman are now kindred spirits, having lost both of their planets to war, thanks to the recent revelations of Rogol Zaar.
He lays out a plan for Superman to help him save their adopted world by having Superman step up and offer the people of Earth his leadership. Leadership and the drive to do better and work together to become a better civilization, which both Superman and Martian Manhunter know can exist and have seen many times in the larger universe. Unfortunately, some of the words J’onn chooses in his pitch are a little troubling, with his suggestion to take control of the world quickly amended to offering his leadership, but something about J’onn in this scene is questionable. it does fit into the larger theme of Superman working without direction currently.
Is he just putting out fires on Earth without stopping the arsonist? Could he be doing better, both as Clark Kent and Superman? These are all questions that are sure to be explored further after Superman deals with the big twist of this first issue – the entire Earth has been trapped in the Phantom Zone! But wait, isn’t that where Supergirl just trapped Rogol Zaar in Man of Steel?
Images: DC Comics