SUPERMAN #18 (REVIEW)
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils by: Ivan Reis
Inks by: Joe Prado
Colors by: Alex Sinclair
This issue delivers. After all the hype, Brian Michael Bendis delivers an emotional issue that carries appropriate weight for a landmark issue. Superman #18 is the crescendo of a decision making the process for Superman. A process that Bendis has built over multiple story arcs and quiet reflective moments, but it is clear from the foreboding final page, that this story is just beginning.
With all the media coverage around Superman revealing his secret identity to the world, the focus of this issue is subtle and deliberate. While the issue opens with Superman descending into an enormous press conference, the emotional reveal takes place quietly. In a masterful layout of a few silent pages, Bendis and penciler Ivan Reis capture the emotional weight of Clark revealing Superman to Perry White. These wordless panels are beautifully inked and colored by Joe Prado and Alex Sinclair, providing the emotional high point of the issue. The vivid life-filled colors of Clark’s Daily Planet are the quiet realization that life for Clark and everyone at the Planet will never be the same. In the darker, silent shadows of Perry White’s office, Prado and Sinclair know that no words can express what will come next. Clark shows Perry who he is and words are not necessary to feel the emotional embrace between the two. Throughout the issue, the artistic team makes excellent layout choices that effectively capture the different settings and emotions Superman wrestles with carrying out this decision.
The perfect artistic layout compliments Bendis’ strong dialogue throughout the issue. The silence of Parry White is followed by the friendly jokes of Jimmy Olson. Superman’s conversation with Adam Strange serves as exposition for how Superman comes to the conclusion. This conversation also provides the context within the larger superhero community. That same context is on display in another layout of various characters reacting to the announcement. Comic fans may feel short-changed that more time is not spent on these reactions, but Bendis and company remain focused on what is important. This is Superman and Clark Kent’s story, not a story about the world around him.
While the ramifications of this announcement are barely given time, the DC release calendar makes it clear that there are multiple storylines and one-shot titles that will provide time for characters to explore and understand the lasting impact of this reveal. After Superman’s death in the 1990s, the most compelling storytelling came when writers explored how characters reacted and responded to the loss of Superman. There are fertile storytelling opportunities for compelling stories as friends and enemies respond to the news.
This issue could easily carry the page number and price of an oversized special issue, but the standard size and price allude to the subtle nature and natural eventuality of this reveal. Regardless of how any reader feels about removing the secret identity, this issue is a master course in comic book execution. Superman #18 is focused tightly on what it wants to accomplish while remaining emotionally grounded and heartfelt.