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It’s an interesting time for Superman fans, as Superman #18 proves. First off, the post-Rebirth era has seen the New 52 version of Superman killed off and replaced by the prior version of Superman from before the new 52’s line-wide shake up. But since this switcheroo took place, Superman has been observed by a mysterious figure names Mr. Oz, who has kidnapped several DC characters and has an obsessive interest in Superman, claiming that neither version of the Man of Steel is what we think he is. Superman #18 sees all of this build to a head in an issue that effectively and touchingly sets up the stakes and the central mysteries of this “Superman: Reborn” arc. Writer Peter J Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason deliver an opening issue that intrigues and engages even as it is filled with a palpable sense of dread.
This issue forms the first chapter of the arc, which will spin out in both the “Superman” and “Action Comics” titles. While the arc may not answer all of the mysteries swirling around the Superman family of titles at present, it may come close to resolving the questions about who Mr. Oz is, and how exactly the two versions of Superman are tied together, as well as finally dealing with the mysterious Clark Kent currently living in Metropolis and working for the Daily Planet. I don’t know if we’ll get answers to all those questions, but the arc certainly seems to be leading towards some kind of new status quo in the titles, and that is promising.
One of the things I really liked about this issue is how, well, weird it is. Having read comics my entire life, I can often see in what direction a lot of these mainstream books are heading, but Tomasi and Gleason have really piqued my interest with how strange and existential is the threat Superman and his family are facing. Mr. Oz is only now starting to become frustrating in his enigmatic qualities, so it’s good to see them dealing with him a little bit. Too often creators string along these enigmatic figures for far too long, and feature them in too many scenes of vague and oblique dialogue. Mr. Oz is just now reaching that tipping point, so it’s good to see them change things up by having new developments occur that show him vulnerable and may possibly lead to him being involved in things directly.
Additionally, the issue features to my mind one of the better ways to present Superman with a threat. He’s such a straight-forward, earnest and powerful character that I find it really works to present him with threats that are more strange, personal and unsettling in nature. The heartbreaking events he faces here allow for no opportunity to punch, fly or heat vision his way out, and it puts him in an interesting place to move onto the next chapter, with a huge motivation.
Oddly, I found Gleason’s art to be a bit off this issue. There are just a couple moments here and there where I thought some faces looked a bit odd, their expression (particularly eyes) looked almost unnaturally odd in comparison to their faces. But these were just a few odd moments. Overall, he does a great job with some showy double-page spreads and scenes of action, and he nails the spooky, sad and weirdly metatextual climax.
Overall, Superman #18 is a solid opening to what promises to be an important arc for the Man of steel in the post-Rebirth era. What we’ve gotten to this point after Rebirth has been so good, so I’m really hoping that whatever this storyline has in store for us doesn’t upset the apple cart too much. For the first time since before the New 52, it feels like DC has a handle on Superman, and I know I’m not alone in hoping this turns into a classic arc that cements this version of the Kents in the DC Universe, rather than throwing it aside. 7.5/10