One of the biggest changes to come out DC Entertainment’s big comics revamp this summer turned Superman’s world upside-down: Lois Lane revealed his identity to the world, and then he lost almost all of his powers.
We still don’t know how or why these things have happened yet, but the story taking place as the mystery unfolds has led to some of the most compelling Superman comics in a long time — particularly in Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder’s “Action Comics” #41-42.
In this new status quo, Superman hasn’t just lost his secret identity, but his costume and his heritage — locked out of the Fortress of Solitude, the one place on Earth with any connection to his homeworld, he has to contend with a world that knows who he is at a moment when he’s most vulnerable. Most of his powers are gone — he’s still superhuman, but at this point he’s mostly just a really strong guy.
Now that he’s been outed, Superman’s relationship with everyone around him has completely changed. Some are supportive, and grateful, surprised to learn that he’s been living among them all along. Others, however, have a chip on their shoulder, resenting all the supervillains that he has attracted.
Unfortunately for him, most of the angriest folks are cops.
This quickly escalates into open conflict by the end of “Action Comics” #41, when a welcome home block party for Superman is about to be stormed by police in full riot gear while the de-powered hero tries to take on a massive monster several blocks away.
It’s a moment that echoes similar events that have unfolded across the country recently in cities like Ferguson and Baltimore, where law enforcement — primed to use excessive force — attempt to strong-arm peaceful citizens into submission. Like in those cities, the smallest miscalculation can lead to utter chaos.
When a Metropolis citizen then gets unruly, the commanding officer sees it as an opportunity to march on those gathered, with batons and shields at the ready — and then Superman, absolutely exhausted from his fight, places himself in between the crowd and the cops.
It’s a beautiful, arresting image by artist Aaron Kuder and colorist Tomeu Morey, a cathartic moment for anyone who saw the shocking imagery coming out of Ferguson and felt utterly powerless. But that’s not even the real gut punch.
The cops march anyway, raining tear gas on the citizens and even attacking an officer who objects to the proceedings— while Jimmy Olsen photographs the entire ugly affair.
And then Superman can’t take it anymore. He breaks.
I still haven’t caught my breath.