It’s time to look at another Elseworlds Superman story. I believe Elseworlds refers to any alternate Superman story, but if that’s not true then you know what I mean. This one’s more of a character story so it deals with the Clark Kent aspect of Superman more than the classic hero form. It’s a fun enough story although this is definitely one of the less likable versions of Superman. Time to see how the hero would operate in a more realistic Earth where he is one of the only heroes…or as far as he knows. There is lightly hinted to be a bunch of other superheroes operating, but we don’t get to see them.
Clark Kent has been teased a lot because his parents named him that after the classic comic book character. Clark’s never liked the fact that people keep calling him Superman and then he also gets bullied at school. Luckily, this all changes when he discovers that he actually does have Superman’s powers. It is to a lesser degree as he can still be injured and being near the Sun doesn’t recharge his abilities. Still, it’s more than enough for him to be a hero, but what he really wants is to just lead a normal life with Lois while stopping some crimes as well. Can he achieve this perfect balance when the government is constantly at his heels?
The concept of having Superman in a normal world is always interesting. He would certainly be even more of a threat in the eyes of the government since there really wouldn’t be much that they could do to him at that point. Malloy is the main figure head for the government and he is actually pretty likable. He does his job quite well and really hounds Superman. Even after the two of them reach a mutual understanding where Superman will help him out in any tricky situations in exchange for the government stopping all efforts to find out Superman’s true identity, Malloy continues to mildly try from time to time. Eventually, both of them grow quite old and we even see Malloy retire. The mutual respect between the two was handled well and government agents don’t always have to be completely unreasonable stereotypes. Malloy was certainly much more realistic. Of course, it did help that Superman proved how easily it would be for him to take them all down if he was evil.
I did mention that I didn’t care all that much for Superman here. Well, that’s because the comic went a little too far to make him realistic. After all, this version is aware of his comic counterparts and as such, his personality is quite different. He tends to get angry with everyone a lot easier when they compare him to Superman and loses his cool at his colleagues as well when they make a few small jokes about it. Obviously, they shouldn’t overdo it since Superman doesn’t like that, but he didn’t really handle the situation well. He also started properly using his X-Ray vision after realizing that it would probably be harmful to other people, but I would have hoped that his morals would stop him from even attempting that in the first place. Likewise, the story of his Mom walking in on him in a dicey situation was also rather unnecessary. Beyond that, Superman was all right for the most part in his portrayal as just an average guy, but Superman should never be an ordinary person. He should always be a beacon of hope, a guy with absolute morals. This is not meant to be the real Superman of course, but that’s why he isn’t as likable as he could be.
Lois is also not as good as her comic counterpart of course, but she’s all right. She helps Superman through a lot of his decisions and overlooks the fact that he cracks a lot. She’s dependable and helps him solve all of his problems. Without Lois at his side, things probably would have been pretty dicey for him. Their two kids also get a small role towards the very end of the comic. There wasn’t much of a point to adding them, but since the comic showed Superman’s development from kid to old man, I suppose it was a good way of showing how much time has passed. Since they have powers of their own, he won’t have to worry about them too much.
The comic’s biggest flaw was probably the art. I definitely didn’t like it as it went for a gritty, indie-esque style. There were no flashy colors or awesome double spreads and instead it was just all darkly colored. The style didn’t work so well for the comic. There weren’t any real fight scenes so the art didn’t have to worry about that, but better art could definitely go a long way. The New 52 look may have shifted the tone a little, but it’d be worth it for the incredible character designs.
Still, the plot is more important in this case and the story was interesting. I ended up reading the full trade paperback in one batch since it was a lot of fun to read through. I won’t call it a great comic, but it was a pretty good one and makes for a good read. It’s always nice to read about the various portrayals of Superman and aside from the evil versions which I’m tired of, most of them tend to be quite good. Even if the character himself was lacking, the world around him was interesting. The government stole the show here although it was a shame that aside from Malloy, they were all a little shady and without morals.
Even the TV reporter who pretended to be a nice person turned out to be just another villain by the end. It’s easy to see why Superman doesn’t trust anyone with his secret identity aside from Lois. Meanwhile, he got to end his school days on a high note as he saved one of his classmates which earned him respect from the rest of the class. Even the bully complimented Clark and stopped messing with him after that. It’s always nice to see the bully finally stop once his victim has actually helped him out. Of course, it’s just as satisfying to see the bully get knocked out since it will encourage him not to be a bully at all, but we can always say that this bully stopped permanently after the experience.
While there were no fights, we did get a few action scenes. The big fire next to the school is one example of this and Superman also fell into a government trap a few times which resulted in some energy blasts and buildings breaking. Superman never goes down without a fight after all and you have to give the government some credit for having such large armaments at the ready. If nothing else, America is certainly prepared for any situation.
Overall, Superman Secret Identity is definitely a good comic to check out if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to wake up with Superman’s powers someday. It would mean that you would have a super life with two kids, a wife, and constant thrills by flying around all day. You could eat whatever you wanted whenever you wanted too since you could zoom over to Italy and buy a Deep Dish pizza before zooming to France and grabbing a Pepsi…because why not? The government would be after you, but as long as you weren’t too obvious you would probably be okay. I’m sure we’ve all thought about having Superman’s powers and I don’t even know what I’d do with them first. The possibilities are endless, but one thing’s for sure, I’d be going around the world trying out every limited edition snack that I could find. My super metabolism would prevent me from ever gaining any weight while still enjoying all of the flavors. That’s why the concept behind the story is so good and why it doesn’t work as well for Batman comics like Year One. I’ve never been tempted to wake up as a normal guy in a Bat costume. The gadgets are handy I guess, but not really for everyday life. I wouldn’t mind suddenly being a hand to hand master though.