Last month's cover proclaimed Truth. This time, it's Justice, something there's precious little of as a band of Metropolis police officers target Superman's neighbourhood. The first half of the issue shows the de-powered hero fighting a massive shadow monster that's appeared on the streets, using his courage and ingenuity to take down the creature. He feels he has no choice but to use extreme force, because the thing won't - or can't - communicate, and simply will not stop.
It's a great fight scene, as writer Greg Pak and artist Aaron Kuder amp up the energy - Superman pummels through the pages, aware of his new vulnerability but willing to push past it to prevent lives being lost. The second half of the story is even better, as the SWAT team led by the apparently rogue Sgt Binghampton faces off against Clark Kent's neighbours, who have been celebrating their newfound super-friend with a block party. Firefighter Lee Lambert calls for calm, hoping her status as a fellow emergency worker will convince Binghampton to listen to her.
But he has an endgame in mind and needs a confrontation. And when Superman shows up with a terrifically inspiring speech intended to smooth the waters, when his squad members look set to respond to the man they know is a hero, he forces the issue...
Pak really knows how to give us a quick character sketch that pushes the story forward and makes me want to know more. Last issue it was Lee, who gets some great moments again here. And this time it's Dante, another neighbour, who swings in to make a big impression. As with the rest of the issue, Kuder nails the moment. There's power on display on every page, and convincing emotion too. I especially like this sequence, as Lee's walkie talkie goes splat. Or rather, SKKKRRRAKK.
As we saw last issue, Superman is finding the joy in his new situation. He'd rather have the full powers, but getting victories with what he's left with is proving satisfying. It helps, from my point of view, that he's battling an inhuman creature, rather than engaging in a close-up, bone-breaking bout. I'm looking forward to a fully powered hero again - there are plenty of street level characters, but only one Superman - but while this storyline runs, I'm good with Pak letting our hero have some fun. And it is good to see Superman stand with ordinary people in the face of corrupted authority.
My quibble with this issue is that I find it hard to accept that pretty much every one of the dozens of cops in 'Kentville' - one officer protests briefly - simply follows Binghampton's obviously unfair order. Yes, he's their superior, but they know Superman doesn't deserve a brutal attack, and that regular people are likely to get hurt. They should be better. As it is, Superman takes a bad beating, one which shows his true character under fire.
And while it's not the creators' fault, it's still irksome to get an editorial note telling us we can get more info about something in an issue of Superman that's not on sale for at least a fortnight. It would make so much sense for Pak and Kuder - having proved themselves masters of the Man of Steel - to be on the lead title, Superman, with Gene Luen Yang and John Romita Jr's earlier-set story slotted into this title.
Otherwise, it's all good. Pak and Kuder's partners - colourists Tomeu Morey, Hi-Fi and Blond, and letterer Steve Wands - do their bit with style, ensuring there's not a weak link in the book. The creatives really seem to know where they're going here, and while I dearly hope the lost secret identity business is a short-term thing, in this book, at least, it's making for an enthralling adventure.