It’s been a rough couple of years for Superman fans. Since the launch of the New 52 back in 2011, the Man of Steel has felt like a stranger in the very world he helped create.
Stripped of his personality and charm after the reboot, Supes has been wandering through a cloud of uncertainty for the past half a decade.
The comics haven’t been working, the movies haven’t been working and the only truly successful stories told about him have been offshoots outside of the mainstream continuity, like Injustice and American Alien. And even those have been radically different takes on the Superman we’re used to.
It hurts to say it, but I’ve even been wondering if the Man of Steel could even be relevant at this point. Maybe the high-energy humor of the Marvel movies and the gritty, realistic tone of the Batman universe are just too much for Superman to keep up with.
Maybe no one wants “Truth, Justice and the American Way” anymore - even the caretakers of the character have tried to push him toward violence and villainy in recent years. Maybe Superman would slowly fade into obscurity like other heroes from the early 20th century, like The Phantom or The Spider.
Then DC’s Rebirth came along, and with it came a reminder of just why the character has endured for the past 75 years.
We’re only a few issues into this new direction, but so far, DC’s new take on Superman feels different than all of the failed reboots from the past. And maybe that’s because this isn’t really a new Superman at all. This is literally the Superman you grew up with, reintroduced to the DC continuity after the death of the New 52 version of the character. Basically, the original has reclaimed his throne from the failed rebooted version, and all is right with the world again.
In this new take on Superman, Clark and Lois are married with a child, named Jonathan, who is developing his own super powers, just like dear ol’ dad. Superman #1 sets all of this up for us as writers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason draw drama from family conversations around the dinner table, not action scenes or epic brawls.
It’s here, on the farm where they live, that Clark can actually be himself. He’s a loving family man, with a piece of advice for every situation and a lesson to be learned from every mistake. Somehow, Tomasi and Gleason get all this done without Clark coming across like an extraterrestrial Paul Harvey. It's an old-fashioned character adapted for modern times.
Soon enough, though, reality sets in, and Clark’s isolated world on the farm is interrupted by Superman’s reality when Batman and Wonder Woman confront him about the potential danger of his son. Remember, this version of Superman is new to the rest of the world, and it’s not like Batman or Wonder Woman are the most trusting people. And that’s where Tomasi ends the debut issue of the new Superman, with the Man of Steel’s two worlds colliding and threatening his family.
DC’s New 52 tried to give fans a version of the character they thought they wanted: one who was younger, less powerful and maybe not as idealistic as his classic counterpart. But, in reality, no one wants a Superman with an artificial edge. Superman needs to inspire us, not inspire fear in us. He’s our Zeus, he’s our Odin, he’s something more than a blue suit and an “S” shield.
Most of all, though, as this issue illustrates during those conversations around the dinner table, he’s just as human as the rest of us.