George Perez plants Superman in a world that closely resembles ours. The media is everywhere. However, Superman’s lucky in having the fully liberated Lois Lane at its head. His constant ally, she ultimately gives Superman the edge.
Keeping in tune with the new action-packed 52, Superman is a knock-down, drag-out fight pitting The Big Red S against an unknown, “invisible” super-powered subject. Usually invisible in movie parlay translates to cheap. Superman runs on a bigger budget.
It appears as though Superman is actually fighting something rather than engaging in a pantomime. You can envision what you cannot see by the way Superman receives each hit or suffers from each strangle-hold. Perez and Merino throw Superman into action, giving him a toughness recalling the character that Siegel and Schuster imagined, not the Boy Scout he became. Superman will need that fortitude, for he fights a beast that may be Kryptonian as well as racism.
The scientists at a military facility make a tasteless joke at Superman’s expense, and General Lane, the sphincter in all the Superman titles, refers to the Man of Steel thusly:
Not long ago, I would have thought this kind of overt bigotry implausible, but that was before I witnessed the so-called Birther Movement begun by certain hate-mongering Republicans. In this way, Superman differs from his previous incarnations, and the book becomes reflective of our splintered world.
Kal-El is a man with a broadly different heritage elected into a position of leadership. The people love him. Those interested only in acquiring more wealth and/or power hate him and wish him destroyed. They’ll use any method available, including the basest of all. Racism. General Lane even suggests Superman leave the planet, a sly allusion to the Klan suggesting black people “return” to Africa.
The racist underpinnings in Superman imbue greater resonance to the adventure, and the tone also may feed into the plot. Given that this creature can be seen by every human and that only Superman is blind, perhaps the beast’s master tests not just Superman’s strength but also humanity’s resolve to accept an alien as their champion. Perhaps, the devisor of these bouts seeks to determine how many humans feel the same way as General Lane. Superman however cares only about stopping the creature and savings lives, and that’s why Metropolis and the reader cheers him on.
Ray Tate’s first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, “Spider Without a Web,” published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he’s young at heart. Of course, we all know better.