Comic Review – Superman #39

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  • Writer: Geoff Johns
  • Pencils: John Romita Jr.
  • Inker: Klaus Jensen
  • Colors: Hi-Fi
  • Letters: Sal Cipriano
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Release Date: March 18th, 2015

After the events of last issue, Superman is powerless! He has also revealed his big secret to Jimmy Olsen. In the wake of all this, Superman must now spend 24 hours as a mortal. That is where this week’s new issue of Superman begins, and what follows is a tale that truly gets to the heart of the character.

Superman 39 cover

Resuming where the previous issue left off, Jimmy is having a hard time dealing with the fact that his best friend and roommate is The Man of Steel, but he eventually warms up to the idea. This leads to a great sequence of Clark dealing with being mortal, including feeling cold for the first time in ages, or getting injured breaking a kid’s fall from a tree. This continues at the Planet, where he gets a nasty paper cut. However, when a criminal takes a hostage, Clark knows he must be Superman, even without his powers. What happens shows how Super Kal-El can be even when powerless.

Johns is ending his relatively brief run with aplomb by getting to the heart of the character. He ties up a few loose ends while continuing some more as he makes the hand off to incoming writer Gene Luen Yang, including the mysterious man, now known as Mister Oz, who has been watching Superman (and knowing his secret identity) throughout the Johns run. Johns’ script shows that it’s not the powers that makes Superman a hero, but his infinite compassion and willingness to risk his life to save others; an idea often lost it seems in the Superman comics of recent years. It’s nice to see Jimmy be one of the keepers of the Big Secret, as well as seeing Superman 39 interior artthat Clark, even when powerless, can’t stop helping people. The script is a lot lighter than the story preceding this issue, but it’s a nice cap on the run. Johns’ also gets the characterizations down pat, from Jimmy’s slow acceptance of the reveal to Clark being fascinated with being “normal” and dealing with all that comes from that. In many ways, Superman’s innate humanity is what makes him Superman, not the powers from his Kryptonian heritage.

Romita’s art is really good here, even with little action to be seen in this issue. While there remains some wonky faces, there are far less than compared to the previous issue. He expertly draws Jimmy’s conflicting reactions to the reveal, to Perry White’s concern for his reporters, to Superman’s compassion in the face of great danger. This is a character study piece, not a action packed issue, and Romita expertly portrays these characters, with Jensen’s inks providing a crispness to them. Hi-Fi provides some excellent colors, making Metropolis a sunny and colorful place, giving this lighter story a matching palette compared to the somewhat darker tones seen throughout the Ulysses arc.

Who knew that to show the fans what makes Superman truly a hero was to make him a mortal for the day. Johns ends his terrific run with a great character piece back up with terrific art by Romita, Jensen, and Hi-Fi. With massive changes to be seen post Convergence, it will be interesting to see what will happen next to Superman.

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