After a sold-out issue 38 that introduced readers to a new costume and power, issue 39 of “Superman” was a long wait. Each issue by Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr., and Klaus Janson have elevated the quality and mythic proportions of the Man of Steel, while demanding nearly over a month-long wait for the extra super sized issues. Issue 39 is an exciting release for this week’s comic books and provides fans with an excellent story that captures the heart of Superman. Johns has also written a great story, in its own right, that fans of the medium surely will not want to miss.
Superman #39 is the exact kind of follow-up to the conclusion of “The Men of Tomorrow” arc that any good, character defining story arc should have. It reaches for the sun on more than one occasion and stumbles in just a few panels, but overall is material ripe for another great conversation such as the one me and staff writer Robert Lazauskas had for issue #38. (see: “2 Fans, 1 Comic.”) Superman #39 is a good-looking book that features an amazing cover by John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson. We see a shadowy figure holding a gun towards Superman while Jimmy stands defiantly in front of his alien friend. Is Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen going to take a bullet for Big Blue? Is this the end of a character that’s been with the serious from the start? It had me intrigued, so much so, that I read it immediately after a long night of DC Comics inspired shows (The Flash and I Zombie). Johns’ story “24 Hours” throws us right into the moments after Clark Kent revealed himself to Jimmy. “Clark Kent… my best friend… is Superman?” he asks, more so, himself than Clark. It’s a crazy, great, insane moment that would demand any of us to ask exactly what Jimmy asks “You gotta show me everything!” Johns writes dialogue with a sincerity that makes you feel each emotional beat of the story. It’s going to be sad to watch him leave the series after this issue, but I am optimistic for what DC Comics has in store for us fans post-Convergence.
While Clark waits out the day with his friend (he’s lost his powers since the super-flare in issue 38) he leads a humble, daily life that’s reminiscent of any of ours. Clark is just like any one else except that he isn’t. He uses his “microscopic vision to see the air density to dress appropriately” and can’t help but not react to when he sees a young child about to fall out of a tree. Clark is good for the sake of good and he never stops being Superman, even when he has to wait until sundown for his body to fully recharge after his building-breaking and universe shattering fight with Ulysses. Despite the super heroics and high friends in high places (“Because if you’re Superman you hang out with Batman and the rest of the Justice League.”), Clark is still that mild-mannered reporter that we’ve always known and loved. “Nice job on that piece, Clark. But it’ll be the last front page you ever get.” Now that’s the Lois Lane we’ve been missing since before Flashpoint! Johns’, once again, does not miss out on giving fans exactly what they want and here he gives us a Daily Planet scene that fits easily into the hall of many great Daily Planet scenes over the 77 year history of Superman.
The finale of Geoff Johns’ Superman #39 story happens when Superman (without his powers) confronts a gunman with a hostage. As the police and press are on scene, Superman walks calmly over to the man and attempts to reason with him on the merits of surrendering and not throwing away his life. It’s an uneasy moment and Johns’ plays up the tension with expert precision. Will the shaky hand pull the trigger? What if Superman gets shot? Alright, we all know what happens, but I’d rather leave you with a little more to discover for yourself. If asked why I love Superman so much, I’d pull out a copy of Superman #39 and say “This is why.” Superman is a hero in much of the same way that makes Captain America a hero. Some may argue that they’re too vanilla or old-fashioned, but when did being good and wanting to do good not become cool? I love Superman because he is the epitome of all super-heroes and comic books. He’s the kind of character anyone could look to, no matter what walk of life you’re on, and turn to. He is the grandfather of all superheroes. I’m pretty sure Zack Snyder (Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) said that too. In a day that finds him without his powers, he still heads right into a situation without thought or consequence, only to ensure the safety and well-being of two complete strangers. He could die, but he does it any way. Kudos to the “How does Batman do this?” line.
Superman needs to be drawn by a classic artist/big name. He deserves it. Regardless of what you may think of John Romita Jr. he is well-suited for this character and I’m so glad to see him continue with it. His renderings of the smaller moments between Clark and Jimmy, the Daily Planet bullpen, and even the hostage stand-off are all well-staged sequences. Superman reads and looks like a series of film story boards and Klaus Janson really enhances the overall quality. Their work is another reason for this to be the book I pull out when I wish to explain why I love Superman. Sure, there are a few proportional issues with Superman that don’t seem right, but it feels more like JRJR was rushed in his deadline, to get this issue out within two months and not three.
Superman #39 is a triumphant return for the Man of Steel and an excellent way to close out his “New 52” stories before Convergence. This is the book that makes me look back even more fondly on the past four years of reading Superman and an issue to cherish within my long box. Superman #39, I look forward to spending time with you again one day soon. But for now, thanks for helping inspire me to be a better human being.
Superman #39 gets five out of five stars. Be sure to also check out the Harley Quinn month variant cover.