Superman's saga with the "last son of Earth," Ulysses, comes to a close with Superman #38, an over-sized issue that's designed to mark a turning point for the Man of Steel.
Artist John Romita Jr. and writer Geoff Johns are firing on all cylinders, banging out the final issue from their first story arc together while ticking off the items on every fan's wishlist. Cataclysmic action? Check. An emotional core? Check. Guest appearance by another major superhero? Check. Incredible artwork by one of the best in the business? Check. A main character who's changed since the beginning of this story arc? You betcha.
As you've probably heard, the big selling point DC has touted for this issue is the introduction of a new superpower and a new suit. Spoilers ahead.
The new power is called "Super Flare," and it's basically Superman turning his entire body into a solar flare, expending all of the solar energy stored in his cells in a massive blast. This is hardly the first time Superman has gotten new powers, but they never seem to stick around for longer than a story arc or two. The Super Flare seems like the sort of thing that could last much longer or even become permanent, because it's well thought out and it fits with Superman's yellow sun-based physiology. (It's not like it's some out-of-left-field thing like teleportation or weather control.)
It's safe to say that Super Flare is Superman's most powerful ability; it's like dropping a megaton warhead, and it's something he'll have to learn to control and use only as a last resort. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility consequences, and Superman quickly learns that expending all of his energy this way means draining all of his powers dry — an action that leaves him vulnerable for 24 hours. This is a smart move on Johns' part, as it lends some real significance to this new ability, meaning that Superman will have to use tremendous care in choosing when to use it.
As for the new suit, it isn't going to land Supes on the worst dressed list — mainly because it's not really all that different than the suit he already had — but it's not an improvement, either. The most noticeable differences are the belt and the wrist sleeves. The belt takes a little dip in the front, while the sleeves are longer, giving them an unfortunate fingerless gloves look. This is more pronounced in the promotional image DC released prior to the issue's release (below). In the comic it's more like an extra-long sleeve.
If anything, the "new" suit feels like a step backward in time rather than forward. Superman's red boots return to the pre-52 silhouette with the V-shaped cutout in front, while the suit overall loses most of the added textures and lines that Jim Lee's redesign featured. The "S" logo no longer has raised ridges, reverting to the flat look of yesteryear.
As a story, Superman #38 is pretty standard stuff, but don't bother trying to read it without having first read the previous six issues. This is a conclusionary chapter that doesn't work on its own.