Action Comics (vol.2) #41 (August, 2015)
“Hard Truth, Part One”
Story/Script – Greg Pak
Story/Art – Aaron Kuder
Colors – Tomeu Morey & Hi-Fi
Letters – Steve Wands
Assistant Editor – Andrew Merino
Group Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $3.99
We haven’t talked much about DCYOU here on the humble blog. By the time I took up the digital-pen, the initiative was barely limping to the finish line.
I’ve mentioned in past discussions of The New-52!, that it felt like DC was pulling something of an “Ultimate Marvel” with their entire line… but, I gotta say… these books never felt more “Ultimate” than they did during DCYOU. In their attempt to look “with it”, it seemed as though DC went further and further out of their way to prove just how out of touch they really were.
We open with a de-powered, beaten, buzz-cutted, bare-chested… and rather chilly Superman shambling out of an Alaskan field onto a highway. He makes his way to a convenience store to buy a shirt… and burrito. He notices that a Superman-logo t-shirt is on clearance, likely a result of the big secret coming out. Wha–? Clark eats a burrito, actually satiating his hunger for the first time ever.
Outside, he approaches a pair of friendly-looking Alaskans and offers to buy their motorcycle. The incredulous fella tells him it’ll cost him eight-hundred bucks… and is shocked to find that our man is able to peel that much off with ease.
Clark drives away, when a bunch of young rubelettes from inside recognize him as Superman. The goobers give chase, and lucky for them, their target hasn’t gone far… just across the street to a Motel. They proceed to jump the former Man of Steel… but get their clocks cleaned for their trouble.
At this point, Superman realizes he just might’ve outstayed his welcome in the near-Arctic… so he hops on the motorbike and putt putts his way back to the east coast. Along the way, he eats some corn! He also comments on how his life has been ruined since his secret was made public. Fired from The Daily Planet and sued by all sorts of folks.
Arriving back in Metropolis, Clark is surprised to see that a block leading to his old neighborhood has been quarantined. The officers tell him to “turn it around”, before one recognizes him as Superman. They draw their guns on him… until a stand-down order comes across on the walkies. Further, they’re told to allow him to pass.
The next two pages feature a rather unfortunate Twix ad with a creepy humanoid synthetic robot… or something. In the slim bits of the page that actually feature comics, Superman is reacquainted with a very Bohemian-looking (and apologetic) Jimmy Olsen. Clark tells him he doesn’t blame him for what happened.
Jim brings him around the corner, where it’s a party in Kentville! I guess Clarksville was already taken. Anyhoo, this is Clark’s old neighborhood… and a place where Superman is still celebrated as a hero. Women still love him, kids aren’t scared of him… it’s a pretty nice place, if you’re Superman.
While Superman play-wrestles with some kids we’re introduced to a short-lived L.L. in his life, Lee Lambert of the Fire Brigade. I remember feeling like this was kind of forced… and a couple of years later… yeah, it still kinda feels that way.
As they flirt each other up, an emergency call comes over Lee’s radio. Without much thinking, Clark rushes into action. It takes him a bit longer to get to his destination… plus, he’s gotta be a bit more creative about the path he takes. Remember, he’s somewhat depowered at present. He finally arrives to confront this Gozer-looking creature. After wrapping his cape around his fist, he socks the shadow-beast.
Off to the side, an officer passes the information along to… somebody. He notes that, while depowered, Superman is still much stronger than a normal human.
With Superman occupied for awhile, the order is given to… burn down Kentville!
This isn’t a bad issue… nor is it a bad story. To me it’s not really a Superman story… but that’s okay… I doubt very highly that it was written for me either.
It feels like over the past few comics-reading generations (if that’s even a “thing” anymore) we’ve written off concepts as “silly”… among them, the secret identity. Not sure why all of a sudden we’re too cool for that… but, here we are letting just about the biggest cat out of the bag. I thought it was a bad idea than… and still do today. I’ve gone on at length in the past… it’s just one of those genies you can never fully put back in the bottle. Sure, you can wipe memories of the people inside the books… but, we readers now know how such a thing would pan out. We know how everyone would react. There’s no putting that away.
There’s also this ridiculous (at least to me) notion that superheroes need to be relatable. Superman’s supposed to be… young and cool? Hell, how many comicbook readers are (or ever were) young and cool? This smacks of rattling the chains of an audience that doesn’t exist. I look at this cover… and it’s a nice cover… but I think to myself, would a “young person” even give this a second look? And, let’s say they do… what happens when they look to the left and see that it costs four-dollars? I don’t think it matters how “relatable” the character is at that point… they probably have a better use for their four-and-change.
Not really sure where this rant is going… I probably ought to reel it in. Well, maybe a bit more. I know I’ve mentioned this… either here or on the podcast, but I have a theory that most kids picture Superman as being their father’s age when they start reading. I don’t ever recall wanting Superman to be “my” age (or God forbid, younger)… for that, we had Superboy! This “look” they’re going for here would make for a really good Superboy! But… it’s not Superboy. Thankfully, post-Rebirth, it’s not Superman either.
With that disjointed ramble out of the way, let’s talk story. Superman’s been outed and depowered… but how? Well, ya gotta pony up another four-bucks a month for that, kemo sabe. It’s all well and good though… working our way through a mystery isn’t a bad thing. His homecoming is… odd. He meets a new L.L. who I have a sneaking suspicion was supposed to become a love interest had DCYOU panned out the way DC hoped. Then he fights a shadow-beast. The story gets Superman where he needs to be, so I can’t fault it. It flew by, while at the same time didn’t feel decompressed… which is a testament to the creative team.
Speaking of the creative team… this Aaron Kuder is pretty phenomenal! Just wonderful work here. From beating up baddies to eating an ear of corn… this was a very pretty book to look at. I wasn’t sold on his Bohemian-Jimmy, but whattayagonnado?
Before we call it a day, a bit more on DCYOU, since I’m not sure if we’ll be talking about it again anytime soon. I remember when the solicits came out, a lot of eyebrows were raised (mine included). It seemed like DC was using a shotgun to look for an audience. Everything had this kind of “pinch” of relevancy… but, there was an undercurrent of non-commitment. It was easy to look at the upcoming books and know which ones were going to be supported… and which ones were going to get the ol’ Marvel “they were always meant to be miniseries” line of bullcrap two-months down the line.
I mentioned during the preamble that DC seemed rather out of touch throughout this era. This was the year of Convergence and DCYOU… now, when was the last time any of us thought about either of those things? I mean, even looking at some of the ads placed in these books… a Grayson ad with “You don’t know dick” as a tagline… a Justice League of America (by Bryan Hitch) ad that uses the buzzword “widescreen” as a selling point. Widescreen comics? That was a big deal in the late 1990’s… fifteen years before these books! What the hell was going on?
Okay, okay… I’m done. Apologies for the rantiness today… I guess sometimes it just happens. Even with all my gobbledy-gook, I still think this is a fairly decent story… even if I don’t like it as a Superman story. At this point, it might be worth a pull just for the novelty (and the amazing art).