I’ve finally reached the “One Year Later” story arc, with Up, Up, and Away! being the first book on “the shelf” to take place after the events of 52. It’s pretty much the perfect follow-up story too, focusing on a single character rather than overwhelming the reader with events of the entire universe and all of its main players.
As the story opens, Clark Kent is still without his powers. Luthor has avoided conviction on a truly staggering number of accused crimes, but the public has lost all trust in him. He retreats to lick his wounds, as well as continue work on a pretty impressive weapon he’s been perfecting. While Clark adapts to life as a normal person, Intergang continues to strike out. With no Superman there to stop them, they run rampant. Luthor even corners Clark in an alleyway and gives him a beating, which surprises both Clark and Lois.
It hasn’t been all bad though, with the couple happily settling in to a normal life. Of course, Superman can’t be gone forever, and as he’s attacked for his reporting he slowly begins to regain his powers.
And the man is back.
His powers are still a little stable as they slowly return, but Superman manages to easily defeat the Intergang squad of goons. His next opponent, though, isn’t so easily stopped. Luthor has gotten ahold of a Kryptonian crystal that controls a long-buried creation that landed on Earth decades ago. Twisting it for his own nefarious means, Luthor crafts a nearly indestructible suit with which to destroy Superman.
Of course, Clark is not so easily stopped, and after a few rounds he lets loose a truly impressive hit that completely removes Luthor from his protective shell.
At this point, the comic reaches its true climax. Superman and Lex are standing alone, having fallen into the river and swum to the nearest shore. Luthor vocalizes his hatred for Superman, accusing him of always being around, even when he was gone for a year.
Superman makes one of his grand declarations, pointing out that the public doesn’t owe them anything, and that their respect and trust must be continuously earned. It’s a moment that reminds the reader why Superman is the best, while also further driving home the point that he’s a truly humble person who has no desire to lord his power over others. He and Lex are exact opposites in that way, and their exchange in this scene helped cement the fact that they’re doomed to be locked in this struggle forever, as each represents something that the other will never understand.
As a Superman comic, it falls in line with the best of them. It was fun watching Clark happily adjust to civilian life, only to have his powers unexpectedly come back to him. The fight scenes were entertaining, and the animosity between Clark and Lex came to a head, with Luthor continuing to fall from grace. Clark still seems to be adjusting to his abilities, but I never really doubted that he’d get them back sooner rather than later. This is Superman, after all. He can never be gone for long.