Superman: Space Age (2022 - 2023)

Dated Sep 30, 2023; last modified on Sat, 30 Sep 2023

Superman: Space Age. Mark Russell; Michael Allred; Laura Allred. 2022.

What makes a Superman story in 2023? What can’t Superman beat? Nature? Disease?

Societal Critique

CLARK. Bored with how little they actually know, people tend to fill in the blanks with beliefs that make the world a more exciting place for them. What they lack in knowledge, they make up for with conviction.

LOIS. As Americans, we talk about being American as if we all agree on what that means. But the truth is that some judge truth and justice by how well they support the American way. While others judge the American way by how well it stands up for truth and justice. For some, freedom is simply the name they’ve given to their way of life. But for others, freedom is what they call their struggles to survive.

BATMAN. Justice is a lie we tell others. An unheeded prayer for mercy. The weak calling for a time-out we’ll never grant them. No matter how much we pretend we’re on their side. The truth is… There is no such thing as justice. But there are, sometimes… consequences.

JOKER. Whoever they pray to the one day a week they go to church… These squirrelly papers get the other six. Each one of these bills… A prayer to a false god. And you… their high priest.

Joker’s nemesis is more organized society than Batman. Granted, society is very money-driven, but that’s not a reason to kidnap kids as a prop for criticizing society.

Effective Change

CLARK. It’s just that… I could do so much more. I could save the world, Dad.
JONATHAN. Save it quick, or save it right? There’s been plenty of men over the years who told themselves it was their destiny to save the world. And they always made the same mistake.
CLARK. What mistake?
JONATHAN. Thinking it was theirs to save.

Kingdom Come (1996) has heroes trying to save the world quick.

LOIS. Don’t get me wrong. I think you’re great. But thousands of people died of starvation and disease during the time it took me to say that I think you’re great. I fell that, in the end, the world doesn’t need saving so much as it needs changing. That if we’re ever going to turn things around, it’s going to take more than just one guy in fireproof underwear.

Credits: https://ourworldindata.org/causes-of-death

Credits: https://ourworldindata.org/causes-of-death

Didn’t realize that half of deaths are due to heart diseases and cancer, and that less than 1% are due to interpersonal violence . The media made me interpersonal violence seem more prevalent than it really is.

BATMAN. To fight a war, I dressed in armor, not understanding that all the real wars are fought in polyester.

BATMAN. You might win a fight here. A battle there. But you’ll never win if you only play defense. And that’s how they designed the game. With you always on defense. You might win an election here… A lawsuit there… But that doesn’t bother them too much. Because they’re playing by rules they make up as they go along. Because you’re never really allowed to score on them. So they know they’ll win in the end.

SUPERMAN. Using my laboratory at the fortress of solitude, I have discovered a way to analyze the quantum DNA signature of every human being on earth. It’s like a precise snapshot of who you were at a specific moment in time, from which we can extrapolate what your body will do. Meaning that if someone gives me a sample of their DNA, I can cure every disease they have… or ever will have.

Pretty cool having Superman achieve this. Took him two years, but that’s still superhuman, considering the amount of research that’s been done so far about diseases by so many scientists.

Hope

LOIS. But when you take the enormity of what this man meant to a nation, the overwhelming grief we felt at his passing, the belief in the future he inspired in us… And then subtract from that one ordinary life, whatever remains… That is what we mean when we say hope

JOKER. When you hope that your child died of smoke inhalation instead of burning alive… Well let’s just say it changes the way you define hope.

SUPERMAN. I have made it my life’s work to save these people. To save what I could of the world that took me in. I have little hope that this plan will succeed. But then, sometimes… hope is the lie we make come true.

This seems like the author’s preferred definition. At the story’s start, we know that this earth won’t survive, but we hope that somehow it will.

Existentialism

SUPERMAN. Existence was always so fragile. Every minute a miracle. How did we not wake up every morning trembling in awe and wonder that we were here at all? Jor-El sat on the ruling council of his world. And yet, he realized that life is a negotiation with forces beyond your control. That in the end, you have to accept fate on its own terms. Though occasionally, it does let you make a counteroffer.

BATMAN. They call this the Space Age. A semi-optimistic confession that they’re looking for the exit. And yet, here we remain. Trapped in this place. While the dreamers, politicians, and poets may have the luxury of looking to the stars, someone needs to make a stand here on the ground. Among the dirt and rats. In the gutters of their indifference.

SUPERMAN. The Space Age made us aware of how many threats lie beyond our horizon. Of what a dangerous place this universe truly is. And yet, it all felt so abstract. Like a fairy tale written by scientists and mathematicians. Because, in the end, nobody ever quite believes in their own destruction. It’s so much more preferable to make up stories, to come up with heroes, to convince ourselves that it’s going to be all right. That we aren’t really doomed.

SUPERMAN. Billions of little lights of consciousness flickering just long enough to ask what it was they were supposed to illuminate before being snuffed out forever.

Violence

SOLDIER. This will mean the destruction of everything, Sergei.
SERGEI. No. The revolution will still be victorious. It just may take an extra thousand years.

LOIS. It wasn’t until afterward that my father learned that the real German offensive had taken place forty miles to the south. They’d fought that battle over nothing. By chance, he later encountered the officer who’d commanded the Germans on the other side of the bridge. He asked the commandant why he’d sacrificed so many of his own men fighting for a bridge he knew wasn’t part of the German offensive. In broken English, the man replied, " German offensive? We were told to guard bridge at all costs against an American offensive."

BATMAN. The correct answer, of course, is yes, you should flip the switch. Even if an innocent person dies. Not to save the five lives… but to deny whoever tied them to that track whatever it was that they wanted. To let them know they failed. That they will always fail. Because in the long run, that’s what saves lives. I suppose the purpose of the thought experiment is to make you consider to what extent you’re willing to play God. But if you hold the power of life and death in your hands… then you’re not playing.

SUPERMAN. I’d expected him to just start destroying the planet, extracting its natural resources like he had other worlds. Instead, he first came to us as most invaders do – as a missionary.
SUPERMAN. So are you here to destroy the earth or not?
BRAINIAC. I am. That said, I’m not the villain of this tale.
WONDER WOMAN. No one ever is.
BRAINIAC. I am merely salvaging what I can from this universe before it is destroyed by one far more powerful than I.

BATMAN. Ruling by day as Bruce Wayne and by night as Batman, cleaning up Gotham became easy. And when something becomes easy that’s when you have to worry. Because success breeds imitators. And sloppiness. You put on a mask, take over the streets, and soon everybody thinks they can do it. Not understanding that you’re a billionaire with access to cutting-edge military technology and they’re a pickup team who went shopping together at costume city.

Others' Snapshots

Lex Luthor, instead of being a megalomaniac, is a sociopathic businessman taking advantage of a system that doesn’t make any sense.

The story is confusingly structured with multiple pieces, e.g., the Justice League being introduced but never being pivotal.

Batman makes bizarre life-defining decisions that are unlike him. Instead of being mostly about Superman trying to save the world, we get Mark Russell’s patented social commentary about the evils of capitalism, the pharmaceutical industry, the court system, and police corruption.

References

  1. Superman: Space Age: Book One. Mark Russell; Michael Allred; Laura Allred. Jul 26, 2022.
  2. Superman: Space Age: Book Two. Mark Russell; Michael Allred; Laura Allred. Sep 27, 2022.
  3. Superman: Space Age: Book Three. Mark Russell; Michael Allred; Laura Allred. Feb 21, 2023.
  4. Causes of Death - Our World in Data. Saloni Dattani; Fiona Spooner; Hannah Ritchie; Max Roser. ourworldindata.org . Accessed Sep 30, 2023.
  5. Superman: Space Age by Mark Russell | Goodreads. www.goodreads.com . Accessed Sep 30, 2023.
  6. Comic Book Review – Superman: Space Age. popcult.blog . May 13, 2023. Accessed Sep 30, 2023.
  7. Weird Science DC Comics: Superman: Space Age #3 Review. Gabriel Hernandez. www.weirdsciencedccomics.com . Feb 21, 2023. Accessed Sep 30, 2023.