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Superman: Secret Identity #4

Superman: Secret Identity #4 [of 4]

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 21, 2004

Cover date: June 2004

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Stuart Immonen

Reviewed by: Jason Larouche

Christmas - Clark Kent is 56 years old and his daughters, Carol and Jane are fully grown. And yes, they have joined the tradition of making fun of their father's name, having given him a Superman christmas ornament with a white beard hanging down. Carol's boyfriend, Howard, something of a suck-up to her best-selling author father, and Jane's latest, Mike, have come over to spend the holidays. Clark makes an excuse to get some fresh air and takes one of his flights to clear his head.

Although he still performs rescues and special assignments with the government, in accordance with his agreement with Agent Mallory, Clark has begun to feel his age catching up with him. Where before he could juggle boulders, he has enough problems lifting one. And although his senses are still acute, he has made slips in his stealthy rescues and exits, sparking appearances of Superman here and there. He tries to recharge his powers comic book Superman style after New Year's by flying up close to a yellow sun. He only resulted in getting a winter tan.

Following one of Mallory's assignments to disarm an illegal chemical weapons shipment, Clark continues his search for answers regarding his powers. With his x-ray vision, he uncovers files in the Pentagon regarding two significant events that stand out in his mind: a meteor strike across the globe, as well as kansas, in 1988, and an unknown chemical isotope emptied into the water supply. Both events, covered up by the government, occurred when he was thirteen. This leads Clark to believe that he may have been exposed to the chemicals and subconsciously manifested his abilities during his low points in dealing with the constant Superman references and jokes. Either way it makes little difference to him; it was just mild curiosity in his old age, and also stemming from his and Lois's concerns about whether or not Carol and Jane inherited his abilities.

FLASHBACK: Carol and Jane are young, and their parents test out their strength with simple activities like throwing a ball or lifting a heavy object. All tests prove negative, and the couple breathes in a sigh of relief that their daughters are completely normal... and there's no need to tell the girls about their dad's big secret.

Back in the present, Superman flies to Whylaia, South Australia, to save the locals from a devastating tornado. But while he attends to the residents, he hears girl-like laughter nearby, and then spots two specks within the funnel cloud moving counter to its rotation. The cloud disappears, as do they, and the danger is over. Clark is befuddled until he sees two fast-moving objects streaking off into the clouds. He suspects them to be the girls, but chooses to let them be because of how he remembers his own need for privacy. If they wanted to, they would have told him. He even stops Lois from calling them.

However, he can't let things sit and makes the choice to let them in on the secret without them knowing about it. The couple invites their daughters home for some quality time where Clark leaves his decades-old typed journal on the table in the form of a manuscript.

Later, Clark is snapped out of his concerns when his hearing picks up something happening in Saskatchewan, Canada. The latest Trans-Canada magna-grav bullet train, which Clark has been keeping tabs on as of late, has derailed with 82% occupancy. As Superman he speeds to avert the disaster, but is overwhelmed by the weight of the cars. When all seems lost, those two streaks come out of nowhere and aid Clark in setting the train down on the ground. As suspected, the two superhumans ARE Carol and Jane, decked out in Superman-style outfits and yellow capes. Apparently, like their father, the twins developed their abilities in their teens but didn't tell their folks out of fear of rejection. The full year is spent with them either beating Clark to the punch on rescues or them helping him as well. In any case, Clark is filled with pride.

One day, a now-62-year-old Malloy sends an ultrasonic signal to Superman to let him know two things. The first is he's reached retirement age, and second... he's long deduced who he was. However, he promises him that both he and his privacy has been preserved out of debt to the work he's done for his country and out of respect. Plus he's also a fan of Clark's books. Clark flies off wondering if he should give Mallory a bottle of scotch for Christmas.

Many years later, Clark now types his journal on a computer after his typewriter finally became too outdated to maintain. He has published the work that he did on himself in his younger days into a book and tied it in to the emergence of superhumans all over the globe as of late. Carol arrives in a flying car with her two youngest sons, Clark and Jimmy, fathered by Howard. Jane, however, is still single and between boyfriends, dating a metahuman named Mr. Swift. As for Lois and Clark, they hint to their daughters at the notion of spending some time travelling.

The scene shifts to a true family outing: Clark, in an insulated Superman suit, Carol, and her oldest boy, Perry, fly across the sky. Clark feels truly at peace with himself as he recalls the moment he realized he was different, the day he revealed his secret to Lois, and the compromises he made to keep his family safe. He lets them fly off on their own as he hovers above the Earth, pulling out that same Superman ornament from years earlier and lets it hover in midair with him. He leaves it and streaks back home, plotting a new book...

4Story - 4: I agree that the meteor shower idea would justify the emergence of the metahuman community, but I feel it ties in too much so to "Smallville", in which Clark fell to earth in a meteor shower in the year of 1989. And I also find the ending between the Clark-Mallory partnership a little anticlimactic, as is his handling of his origins. Still, Clark's stoic attitude about life and the sunset motif serves to hold the plot together. The theme seems to shift from his feeling old to a passing of the torch, as it were. The close is great because it ties together the ending of issue #1, where young Clark flies toward his destiny, where a now elderly Clark flies home. All in all, in spite of misses, Busiek's story is a good, solid conclusion to a truly great work.

5Art - 5: Stuart Immonen's work is sensational as always. The painted art style, as noted in the three previous reviews, brings these characters to life. And I like the Siegel style, Swan Style, and Bruce Timm style art in the flashbacks.

5Cover Art - 5: The shot of Superman walking off with his head bowed with Lois at his side is a powerful image, accentuated by the younger generation flying in the distance. Great job, Immonen.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2004

February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004

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