Superman: Secret Identity is the kind of book that you want to review as soon as you get to the last page, because you just have to tell people how great it is. Busiek’s commitment to storytelling combined with Immonen’s marvelous art gives us a heartfelt book about having superpowers in “our world” – where superheroes already exist as fictional characters.
The Clark Kent of our story is a born-and-bred human, who hails from a small town in Kansas and was named after his “fictional” counterpart because his parents thought it
would be funny. We first see him as a normal teenager who is endlessly teased about his name and given superman themed knick-knacks from well-meaning relatives. It has a sort of Spiderman-ish feel to it, if I daresay. He is, of course, not Superman.
Until one day when he wakes up literally floating in the air. Here we see a much more human portrayal of “Superman”. Clark’s initial reaction is disbelief, excitement, and we see him dealing with the dilemma of whether to tell people about this or not. He ends up deciding his privacy is worth more than shutting up the bullies at school, and keeps the discovery to himself. But this is not a Clark Kent who has inherited angelic morals and heroic-ness from some otherworldly parentage; this is a teenage boy who just found out that he can fly.
His first instinct is to fly off to distant corners of the world and explore, not to immediately don a costume and jump into burning buildings. He does save people, yes, but that’s not what this book is about. This is a book about Clark Kent the boy becoming Clark Kent the man, the writer, the father. This is a book that makes you emotionally invested in Clark Kent, the human.
There are no super-villains, or even villains, in this story. The government is portrayed as a negative factor when it captures and experiments on Clark. We see Clark destroying the lab and all the research as he makes his escape, but we also see him pulling out his captors from the wreckage. He ends up striking a deal with the feds, and in the end we see his ‘handler’ was not so bad after all.
In the begining of the book we see Clark as an outcast, ridiculed for his name and then targeted for his abilities. By the end, we see more people like him (including his own blood) being accepted into the society. This, in my opinion, is the hopeful message Busiek and Immonen have tried to give us. The art gives this book an overall realistic “our world” feel which plays a great part in making the story as impactful as it is. Though greatly underrated, this is a book everyone should pick up.