My whole life, I always had more questions than answers about my favorite superhero—Superman. No matter how many comic books, television shows or movies told his story, I still wanted to know more. As an alien living as a human with a double life as a superhero, I just couldn't get enough details about how Clark Kent spent his days, both in the super suit as well as a suit and tie. But as the years have gone by and answers came and went, there was one question that kept rising up from the recesses of my brain every time I read or watched a Superman story. Well, SUPERMAN #6 has finally answered it: what is the deal with Superman's speed?!
Yes, I know Clark gets his powers from Earth’s yellow sun, but what I wanted to know was how did that affect him on a daily basis? Did he have to exert himself to move faster, or did he have to concentrate to move at a pace that humans see as normal? What is "normal" for Superman? All I had to do was open up the cover of Superman #6 this month and it's like Brian Michael Bendis heard my inner musings.
The entire first half is dedicated to Superman's own inner musings, with the very first page showing him thinking back to a conversation he once had with Lois Lane about his speed. It’s prompted by a movie she half-watched on an airplane while half-asleep (reader, I feel *so seen*). She was worried that Clark would have to slow down to be with her and exert effort just to communicate at a normal speed for their relationship. She was worried that it would take a lifetime of effort for him to learn to live with her, which is a pretty valid concern. Of course, Superman being Superman, he already had the perfect, intelligent, empathetic response at the ready.
According to Superman himself—the leading expert on yellow sun-fueled Kryptonian powers—"the effort is in the speed. It's difficult to live in a speed of motion all by yourself." He works to move faster, but he still lives and loves at the "normal" human speed because it means he's not alone. That may be one of the most romantic and heartbreaking things he's ever said, and it's hardly the most epic part of this issue.
The next 13 pages are filled with some of the most intense, beautiful and downright terrifying images I've ever seen in a comic book, as Superman and Zod of all people team up to fight Rogol Zaar. This was some universe-shaking stuff, literally and figuratively. Seeing Superman and Zod put aside their many, many, many differences to work together towards a common goal was something I never thought I'd see with my own two eyes. But they both needed the other to have any hope of finally defeating Zaar, because it all comes back to speed.
Superman isn't the only one with super speed and super strength and super invulnerability—Zod and Zaar have it as well, meaning every part of their fight is happening "at a pace most can't even see with the naked eye" and "will be over in seconds." It only makes sense, then, that 14 pages would be dedicated to showing just how breathtakingly gorgeous and violent that would be, even if us normal humans wouldn't have been able to see it in real life.
But the physical nature of the battle for Krypton's legacy, featuring the best hero and worst criminal of Krypton along with its destroyer, isn't what makes the 14-page sequence as fascinating as it is. It's how Superman is able to analyze every move, respond accordingly while also thinking deeply about what this all means for the history of Krypton. He unleashes his super speed in ways we can barely even realize, by thinking faster than he can punch. He thinks about how he could kill Zaar himself, but that would defeat his entire life's purpose of not killing. He could let Zod do the dirty work, but wouldn't he also still shoulder the responsibility for Zaar's death?
Just as he's about to make the ultimate decision that could alter his entire life—it's ripped away from him with such force that I felt it in my bones. It's equal parts hilarious and gut-wrenching to watch the team at S.T.A.R. Labs celebrate finally righting the wrongs they put in motion by transporting Earth into the Phantom Zone, and finally getting Superman back as well, only to see him disappointed at having the chance to learn the truth about Krypton's destruction and defeating Zaar ripped away from him in one fell swoop.
Superman made the responsible decision to stay on Earth and help with the aftershocks of the Phantom Zone instead of going back to the battle, but the disappointment was clear on his face: Superman would, for once, rather be making the selfish call than being selfless. Now that's what I call human.
Although Adam Strange seeming to recognize the name Rogol Zaar, as well as the outcome of the Phantom Zone battle between Zaar and Zod means that this story is far from over. And *that* final panel certainly sets up quite the exciting cliffhanger for the next issue. 2018 has been a year full of exciting developments in all the super books, and 2019 can't get here soon enough!