In the various Superman-starring comics at DC, Clark Kent is outed as Superman by Lois Lane — and it’s a sound idea, in part because it strips away the secrecy of a disguise from one of the most honorable and truthful characters in comics. It’s an added wrinkle to a plot point that is normally applied with characters who have a lot more to hide in their personal lives. So why is it that “Superman” #43, with its reveal on how and why Lois tells the world, feels so flat? In the end, Gene Luen Yang, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson and Scott Hanna’s comic just doesn’t live up to the concept’s potential.
Ultimately, the big problem is that everything in “Superman” #43 is telegraphed a mile away. While it’s good that Yang’s script sets everything up, it does so in a slightly clumsy and blatant manner. From Jimmy’s asking Clark if being told the secret of Superman was a bad idea to the repeated flashbacks of Lois remembering Superman on an electric chair (and then confronted with it all over again), everything here is hammered home. When Lois — with the best of intentions — outs Clark, it’s at the point where I can’t imagine a single reader surprised, even if they’d somehow come to “Before Truth” without knowing the outcome in store.
The frustrating thing is that some of the ideas buried in “Superman” #43 (and this storyline in general) are good, even beyond the idea of a secret identity. The idea of Hordr_Root being able to blackmail everyone from heroes to politicians because everything is being captured with today’s technology is good and feels current; the constant surrounding of cameras in all shapes and sizes is hard to avoid, and Yang makes a good point about how secrets are so much harder to keep now. The Hordr network feels fairly unkillable and I’d love to see Yang keep it around in some form, if only because ways to stop Hordr would need to get more inventive with each new appearance.
Romita Jr., Janson and Hanna’s art is typically solid. I like how Romita Jr. draws Clark Kent and Superman as recognizably the same person, thanks to the strong build and jaw. There’s a sturdy nature to both him and the art in general, even down to the little moments like how Lois holds onto Clark as he’s leaping through the air. It’s anything but the typical superhero-holds-other-person pose, but it feels much more straightforward and realistic. Best of all, when Superman snaps (both the chair and mentally), you can see the rage building up in his posture; Yang’s ideas are translated to the page perfectly. Add in some vivid colors from Dean White, Leonardo Olea and Blond, and it’s a nice looking comic.
The ideas in “Superman” #43 aren’t bad, but there are some seriously rough edges that need to get fine-tuned. A little more subtlety would go a long way; while I appreciate that ideas aren’t just plucked out of a hat, they don’t need to be set up quite so obviously either. In the end, the execution is dragging down the stronger big picture.