This collection of Superman comics, like the ones that preceded it, tells various stories about everyone’s favorite man of steel. Oftentimes these stories tie into other publications, in this case the Millennium crossover. While I disliked the Millennium storyline as a comic collection, I actually enjoyed the Superman tie-ins collected within this trade. While the individual issues weren’t extremely groundbreaking in any way, ultimately restoring the status quo by the end of the story, I still found them to be more engaging that the overall Millennium storylines.
Throughout most of this collection, I thought that would be essentially all I’d have to say in this post. Most of what is collected here is more of the same typical Superman trope, entertaining stories but nothing earth-shattering.
Towards the end of the collection, however, I began to notice very pointed commentaries on various social issues creeping into the comics. Although never the main focus of the issue, there would be one or two panels referencing a much-debated topic, with Superman expressing his (and one can deduce, the writers’) opinions on the matter.
At one point early on in a story, we see Superman disgusted by the mistreatment of a circus elephant:
Based on his short but impassioned speech, I thought animal cruelty within the circus was going to be a main plot point in this issue. Not the case. Instead, Brainiac is introduced as the main villain in this story, with the elephant issue never being brought up again.
This small aside actually feels more powerful than if the entire issue had been about animal cruelty. By including such a detail, the reader is given insight into Superman’s views of justice and morality, without detracting from the larger than life battles he’s come to be known for.
Superman fights on a much larger scale, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have opinions about grassroots level crime and mistreatment.
This is only further shown when Superman is pondering the situation of one Ms. Maggie Sawyer, Metropolis’s police captain. Sawyer opened up to Superman about a personal issue in the hope that he would help locate her daughter. Off on the search, Superman is confused as to Sawyer’s particular situation:
The word “lesbian” is never outright said in this issue, but it is spelled out pretty clearly. I was honestly surprised not only to see a reference to a lesbian character in a comic from the 1980’s, but to see a superhero, Superman no less, speak out in defense of such a character. For all that comics have been criticized in the past for being anti-feminist or whatever nonsense random groups have claimed, here’s proof that these comics were far from that. In fact, in many ways comics were ahead of the curve on introducing new types of characters into their medium, and seemed to welcome those characters with open arms.
As though that inclusion alone wasn’t enough to make me happy to be reading this comic, we’re later graced with what can only be described as a truly badass act, care of that very same Maggie Sawyer:
Sawyer is falling from an immense height, clutching her daughter in her arms, while simultaneously shooting at the crazed creature who had carted the two of them off in the first place. All of this happens while Superman is just quietly coasting over in the background to catch them. He’s clearly not the hero in this panel; Sawyer is.
This image alone moves Sawyer onto my list of badass female comic book characters. I have a soft spot for average, “non-super” heroes proving just how tough and resilient they can be. Sawyer fits that bill in more ways than one, and for that I salute her.
In a comic where much is the same issue after issue, it was fun to see things get shaken up a bit. True, Sawyer’s story didn’t impact Clark Kent or Superman’s overall story in the slightest, but it helped break up the monotony of the issues and propelled the comic forward, however slightly.
Here’s hoping Superman maintains that forward motion (and way of thinking).