SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Superman Special #1 by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Scott Godlewski, Gabe Eltaeb, Rob Leigh, Mark Russell, Bryan Hitch, Alex Sinclair, Tom Napolitano, Ian Flynn and Kaare Andrews, on sale now.
It’s no secret that Superman is one of the most unequivocally powerful beings in the entire DC Universe. And yet, despite the fact that he could literally bring the world to its knees without even breaking a sweat, he instead uses his immense power to fight for justice and to protect the innocent thanks to the strong moral fiber passed onto him by his adoptive parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent.
Of course, in The New 52, it was established that both Ma and Pa Kent died in a car accident on the night of Clark’s senior prom, which has since been folded into the current Rebirth continuity following the events of “Superman Reborn.” However, until now, we’ve yet to see the elder Kents receive a proper, in-canon farewell. That finally changes, though, in Superman Special #1.
In the story titled “Strays and Strangers,” we witness a flashback to when Clark was just a boy, as he catches a stray dog that’s been killing chickens on the Kent Farm. Much to Clark’s surprise, though, Pa tells his son to bring the dog inside so they can give him a proper meal.
“He’s just some worthless stray,” Clark says, to which Pa replies, “Every pair of eyes is a window into creation… and there’s more hunger than evil in the world, Clark.”
Back in the present-day, Superman has his hands full saving citizens from a crumbling building, one of whom asks the Man of Steel to fly back up and retrieve his family photos, as his memory is slipping and they’re all he has left to remember his late wife. Although Clark obliges, he makes a detour when he notices a dog trapped in one of the burning apartments, and while he’s able to rescue the canine, the building comes crashing down before he can retrieve the photos for the elderly gentleman on the ground below.
As Superman clutches the dog to his chest while dodging falling debris, we once again flashback to the past – this time to the funeral of Ma and Pa Kent.
“We should measure the Kents’ lives, not in the years they lived, but by the mercy they’ve shown,” the priest says as he stands over the two caskets. “In their kindness, to strays and strangers alike.”
Clark, with the same white dog from the farm standing by his side, looks on at his parents’ caskets and asks, “Dad… am I… am I a good person?”
We then return to the present-day once more and discover that both Clark and the dog managed to escape from the collapsing building unscathed. To the elderly gentleman’s dismay, Superman doesn’t have the photos, but as the man lies on the ambulance stretcher, the Man of Steel places the small dog on his chest and he embraces his newfound canine companion.
“…the important memories never truly desert you,” Superman tells him. “In fact – they become who you are.”
While Superman was clearly attempting to console a man who’d just lost his home and the only remaining photos of his wife, this moment also helps highlight just how much of an impact Ma and Pa Kent had on Clark’s upbringing. Even all these years later, he continues to be shaped by the values his parents instilled in him, which is why Ma and Pa Kent will never truly be gone, even though they’re no longer with him in the physical sense.