A Review of Superman #18 (2019)
The concept of a secret identity is arguably one of the most recognizable aspects of the superhero archetype. Oftentimes, a superhero will take on a secret identity to protect the wellbeing and identities of their loved ones. Other times, a superhero simply wishes to disassociate their alter ego from the persona they present to the world.
Ultimately, there are varying reasons as to why one chooses to maintain a secret identity, but it is safe to say that the dual identities of Superman himself have been a captivating aspect of the character for quite some time.
Of course, Superman is Kryptonian by biological nature, and this very nature is what enables him to save the world day after day as it provides him with unique abilities. With this though, Superman is also human by trade as he has spent the majority of his life existing as Clark Kent of Smallville, Kansas, living among the people.
Now, Superman #18 presents an incredibly dramatic deviation within the Superman mythos as the Man of Steel reveals his identity as Clark Kent to the world.
I'm not going to lie, I haven't particularly enjoyed writer Brian Michael Bendis' latest run on Superman. However, this issue is undoubtedly something to celebrate. Bendis alongside artists Ivan Reis and Joe Prado deliver a monumental issue, leaving plenty of nuances to unpack.
The Death of Clark Kent?
There is an ongoing debate as to which identity of Superman serves as his true persona's "mask". It should come as no surprise that his alter ego of Clark Kent is often perceived as that mask as it is the one he wears to blend in with human society.
In Superman #18, our titular character states how he will continue living as Clark Kent since there a variety of qualities his alter ego maintains that he adores, including being a journalist.
Thus, that aforementioned perception that Clark Kent is Superman's mask may not be totally accurate as one can argue that the persona of Clark Kent is what fuels the motives of Superman. Superman has made it his life's duty to serve as Earth's guardian because of his affinity for humanity. Despite maintaining incredible abilities, Superman considers himself a member of human civilization.
Without his Clark Kent persona and, thus, his tether to humankind, the disposition of Superman may have been quite different throughout his career.
It is not uncommon to perceive a person and their respective superhero persona as two different individuals, with only one of the personas exemplifying the true nature of the person.
In the context of this review, I believe we have come to the conclusion that this perception is far too simple.
Perhaps a person and their superhero identity are not distinct from each other at all. Rather, they are exemplifications of the individual's nature with neither of them being misleading representations of the person.
So, one may initially assume that with Superman's reveal, the persona of Clark Kent will cease as it is no longer needed to protect the identity of Superman. However, this may actually be impossible as the persona of Clark Kent is an element of Superman's identity just as Superman's identity is an element of Clark Kent's.
I know, that was a lot to chew on.
With this, the debate of Superman's identity inevitably leads to a rabbit hole of questions, including ones that scrutinize Superman's identification as a human and/or alien.
There is that age old question, what defines a human?
This is a question that has been a focus of a variety of works including some of my favorites such as the film Blade Runner and the acclaimed Vision series from writer Tom King.
Both of these works challenge the commonly perceived definition of humanity, and, in a way, Superman #18 does the same.
In the context of the issue, Superman no longer wishes to keep secrets from those closest to him. He no longer wants to live two different lives. Rather, he wants to live as a free man, a human man who has a family, a job, and responsibility.
Of course, he also has his side job that involves him saving the world all the time. Ultimately though, Superman is seeking a little more normalcy in his day to day, and I think it is safe to say that he deserves that after all he has done for the universe.
Despite my qualms with the Superman (2019) run, the work of Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and the rest of the art team has never failed to amaze me. Their art has consistently maintained a grand scope, one that pulls you into the setting of the story in a dynamic way.
Interestingly enough though, Superman #18 shrinks this scope to present various intimate moments.
Undoubtedly, my favorite page is the moment in which Clark reveals himself as Superman to Perry White. There is literally no dialogue on the page, yet the artwork exemplifies a pivotal moment in Superman's history and in Clark Kent's relationship with Perry White.
As aforementioned, the artistic team behind Superman (2019) has consistently provided images on a large scale, evoking cinematic qualities across a comic book panel.
This particular issue proves the versatility of the artistic team as they manage to tell a story, generations in the making, in only a few images.
Transparently, Superman used to not be a particular favorite of mine. Over the past couple of years though, I realized that the more I engaged with the character and his stories, the greater my appreciation grew for him.
Now, Superman is one of my favorite superheroes of all time.
An issue such as Superman #18 can certainly be appreciated by anyone who maintains an interest in the Superman mythos. I for one believe it will become a historical issue, one that challenges the evolution of Superman's character and brings about impactful change.
Once again, I have had my qualms with this particular series, but this issue has reignited my interest, and I look forward to what lies beyond for the man behind Clark Kent's spectacles.