I have yet to review a comic about Superman himself for Bleeding Cool. Actually, even on my own site, I never talked about a Superman-specific comic. It seems as good a time as any to remedy that, especially with the talk around Superman #28.
I hadn't really listened to what it was about before reading it, not even reading fearless leader Rich Johnston's article beforehand, though I have since. I didn't know exactly what it was about. I took a couple guesses from the cover of course. It turns out I was more-or-less correct in my predictions. That's not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing.
The plot is pretty simple and straightforward. Clark Kent, Jon Kent, and Lois Lane are taking a family vacation to Washington for Independence Day (which is, coincidentally, the name of the story). They visit some monuments and significant sites, they witness some protests, and then they go down to Gettysburg. There, they meet a family who is celebrating the birthday of a relative who died at Gettysburg on July 4th, but his body was never recovered due to a flash flood.
And that's pretty much it. There's no threat, no global crisis, and no Metallo, Luthor, Parasite, or Silver Banshee. It's just the Kents taking a day out at the nation's capital.
And I kinda love it.
I've not hidden my bleeding heart sentiments in my time here at Bleeding Cool. I'm a liberal, but that doesn't mean I can't go for some good old-fashioned respect for the troops. I enjoy Roland Emmerich's Independence Day as much as the next guy. It takes a special kind of courage and grit to devote one's life in service to their fellow citizens. These are people who are willing to put their lives on the line for us, and that makes them a breed apart (mostly, there are some less-than-savory people who go into the service for less than noble intentions, but they are the minority).
Like I said, I did read Rich's article on this issue. I found it very clever and damn funny. That being said, I interpreted the comic a different way. There were actually a lot of well-thought-out responses to it in the comments that I agreed with, too.
I particularly like this comment from user Matthew Paskins, which we actually feature in the comments section of Rich's article:
"I didn't read it like that at all. The story was about Clark and Lois teaching their kid that he's from a military family. It was steering clear of much anti-militarist stuff but for me that made sense because Lois is an army brat and would want to instil support for American soldiers into her child. When Clark goes to rescue the body it's to give closure to the family, and also to let them mourn this specific ancestor instead of using his irretrievable loss as a reason to keep meeting up–so they can acknowledge the private pain of remembering an ancestor who died in such a horrible way as well as the general honouring the troops stuff which they want to do. The body is wrapped lovingly in the flag and laid down tenderly. It's well established in the DCU that Superman's a respected symbol of authority and it makes sense from what we know about Clark that he'd want to give the family space to deal with the body in their own way instead of telling them how to handle it. I thought it was a good and surprisingly subtle issue."
I very much agree with much of what Matthew said. I didn't think Superman's delivery of the body back to the family was a bad thing, nor did I think it would "scar the family" or ruin a tradition. I could easily see the Dowds still getting together to celebrate Thomas's birthday on the Fourth. The only difference is that, now, there is more closure to the story of Thomas Dowd.
The issue does have its weak points. It's not particularly exciting, and there are some text dumps centered on fairly well-known U.S. history. The scene showing the protesters takes a straddling-the-fence approach, having Clark make the claim that "Freedom of speech is all about having a difference of opinion and not worrying about repercussions," which makes the comic seem hilariously out of touch. Even that is mostly harmless and tries to celebrate the ability to vocalize an opinion without being locked up by a regime, even if the United States is far from the only nation in the world to present that freedom.
Scott Godlewski's art is solid and aesthetically pleasing. Gabe Eltaeb is a good colorist who can bring a lot of bright colors to the page. Other than some of the war scenes, they don't have a lot to do in this setup. There's not much visually going on in this story, and there are no action scenes to depict.
Those negatives aside, this is a solid read. It's not really for everyone, of course. It could easily be a little dull for a lot of readers, and it's pretty U.S-specific in its content. However, if you can get on board with some payment of respect to veterans, then you will probably get some enjoyment out of this comic.
It's also pretty great that Clark is wearing a Hamilton t-shirt.