Following the opening four-part story that kicked off the “Truth” saga, Howard Porter joins Gene Luen Yang on “Superman” #45 in a story that continues Superman’s fight against HORDR_ROOT but adds in something new that has great potential. In the end, it’s the best issue of Yang’s run on “Superman” to date.
The first part of “Superman” #45 continues to deal with HORDR_ROOT, establishing the program’s abilities and how difficult it will ultimately be to defeat it. It’s perfectly fine material, if nothing too out of the ordinary; it’s nice that Yang is using Clark’s journalistic abilities to piece together the information here. Like in “Action Comics,” it feels like Yang is trying to remind us Clark is ultimately a capable hero regardless of his power levels.
It’s the second half of “Superman” #45 where things pick up, though. A super-powered dueling arena doesn’t sound that exciting on the surface, but — once you learn more of what Yang is getting at here — it turns from average to very exciting. The real nature of the participants stands out as something different and fun, and — even better — there’s a thousand and one different possibilities on where Yang can take both this setting and these characters. A story that has some mythology at its core could have gone for something very familiar, but Yang’s choice of cultural mythos stands out because it’s simultaneously a step into something new for most readers and a chance to also surprise us because of that unfamiliarity. Adding Superman into the mix here also works because of Superman and the entire myth that exists around him in our culture. Ironically, a little bit of that is playing out in “Justice League” right now, but I like the more down-to-earth version Yang gives us here.
Porter is a welcome addition to “Superman” #45, fresh off of a stint on “Justice League 3001”. The designs of characters like Apolaki are eye catching and fun, and the fight scenes feel brisk and strong. He’s at his best when drawing the off-beat, like Superman riding on the back of a plane, or the mundane, like Superman eating tacos and looking bemused. His characters are solid and attractive, but they never seem out of proportion or crazy looking. It’s a good look for the title and I’m happy with Porter sticking around for a while, if all goes well.
“Superman” #45 is finally fulfilling the potential that Yang’s arrival always held. We’re getting a take on different cultures and how superheroes work, all while being grounded within the DC Universe. Hopefully, Yang and Porter will get to continue this new trend for a while; “Superman” as a comic should engage the reader’s imagination and harness the power of stories, and that’s exactly what we’re getting here.