Monday, April 27, 2009

Review: Superman: Secret Identity.

Superman: Secret Identity 1-4.
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Stuart Immonen

This book came out in 2004. Now, I am incredibly behind the times when it comes to certain things. Mainstream comic series is one of them. I probably should have read this before, but, as they say, better late than never.

Superman: Secret Identity tells the story of a teen-ager named - in an ironic and annoying gesture by his parents - Clark Kent from Picketsville (Smallville), Kansas. For years Clark, mostly because of his name, has been somewhat anti-social. Keeping to himself, he keeps a journal, typed out on an old typewriter he keeps in a tractor dubbed the 'Fortress of Solitude' by his father. One night, during one of the many private camping trips Kent takes and after having one of the most accurate bad dreams I have ever seen in a comic, Clark awakes to find himself floating over mid-air. He soon comes to realise he has the powers of Superman.

Now, at first this concept seems... I don't know... fucking lame? A kid from our world, named Clark Kent, gaining powers equal to that of Superman. Thin, yes, but wait, there is more to this than one would think. Each book covers roughly a decade of Kent's life, while jumping roughly a decade in between each book.

Book one deals with how Kent comes to terms with his powers, his struggle to decide if he should or should not reveal himself to the world - there is a great subplot featuring a reported trying to make Kent out himself for her own selfish gain - and the first real test of his powers. Book two covers Kent's move to Manhattan (Metropolis), his career as a writer for The New Yorker and meeting the women who will be his wife, Lois (Lane) Chaudhari and his decision to share with her his powers.

Now Book Two is probably my favorite and here's why: A subplot involving the government hunting Clark Kent. Yeah, this is kinda trait but at the same time, it works so well. It adds limited information and explanation to why Kent has his power while at the same time adds a new level of mystery. Now in book three, Lois becomes pregnant and Kent decides to reach out and help the one's after him in a deal - with conditions - to get them off his back and to protect his family.

With all this in mind, I must say that where this series really grows its legs is in its four and final book. So much is uncovered here. The origin of his powers, who the people he is working for really are and what happens to an aging superhero - seeing Superman with a giant gray beard is brilliant.

Busiek treats this story with so much care. I think he knew how flimsy the book could have been if not written with a loving hand. There are moments of real tenderness and joy mixed in with all the crash and bang we expect in a Superman comic. All the characters are human and practical and never does the story, which is mainly driven by it's characters, get outlandish or stupid.

However, I do have a few complaints. They are minor but still worth mentioning. The book's tone is very light, don't expect a brute of a main character, this isn't Watchmen. Immonen's art, at times beautiful, becomes a wash at certain spots. Also, if Clark Kent hated all the Superman joke, then why oh why would he wear a Superman costume?

Beside these minor offenses, I would highly recommend this book.

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