Written by Brian Michael Bendis, with pencils by Ivan Reis, inks by Joe Prado, colors by Alex Sinclair and letters by David Sharpe, Superman #18 may be the start of a whole new era for the Man of Steel’s mythos. There are big spoilers if you haven’t read it yet.
Bendis is writing a story here that firmly fits into his element. Throughout, Superman is touching base with all of his friends before making the step of revealing his secret identity. The quips and conversations remind us what we love about Superman so much. The Man of Steel has a gooey center, and the air of familiarity Bendis creates with his dialogue helps us enter into the friendships Clark has created with all of the people in his life.
Ivan Reis and Joe Prado’s work is simply stunning. In one particular moment Bendis gives them two pages to themselves, where Reis and Prado’s work shines in the silent interlude. As Clark goes to show Perry White that he is really Superman, Reis and Prado decide that less is more. They draw the scene as almost entirely blacked out in shadow. We don’t see Clark’s expression, just his glasses and the shield he reveals beneath his suit. We don’t see Perry’s face, just his arms wrapping around Clark in a hug. It’s a beautiful moment where Reis and Prado know the intimacy of the scene hits deeper when we take part in filling in all the gaps.
Sinclair’s use of color gives the entire issue a feeling of safety and comfort. The issue opens with a bright alien landscape, but when Superman returns to earth Sinclair dials it down and switches out for a softer, darker pallet. It has the kind of effect of drawing the blinds and cozying up with a good book. Everything feels gentler and it enhances the intimacy in Superman’s conversation. It makes it look like the characters are in close quarters, in an enclosed space. Their effect on one another is as calming as Sinclair’s color choices are on our own eyes.
Sharpe creates a rhythm to the comic that’s somehow both fast-paced and relaxed. Sharpe resists parcelling out the text into different bubbles in favor of delivering much of the dialogue in large chunks. It slows the reading process down, making it feel as though time and thought is being put into these conversations. Even when Sharpe does divide up the dialogue, he seems to often do it to slow down the moment and take a beat. As Superman says “That’s a big part of what inspired me today…” Sharpe then switches to a separate tier to simply write “You.” The end of the sentence lands with more impact as Sharpe creates a kind of pause leading up to it.
Superman #18 may change the character forever. Unless DC is planning on rewriting its history soon, the whole DC Universe now knows Clark Kent’s secret. The creative team add no fanfare or fireworks for the big reveal, and the result is beautifully restrained. Will this bring Superman back to his human roots, or will it make Clark seem more like a god? If this issue, with its slow pace and intimate art is any kind of sign, Superman just got a whole lot more down to earth. Pick it up Dec 11th at your local comic book store. It is well worth the read.