Spoilers ahead for this week's Action Comics #49.
Clark Kent finally has his powers back, but it might not be the way readers expected.
In this week's Action Comics #49, Superman was able to complete the process he started in last week's Superman #49, effectively stripping away his outer malfunctioning cells by using Kryptonite.
His hope was that the underlying cells would be healthy, and that he would be able to absorb the energy of the sun again.
That's not exactly what happened. Instead, Superman has his powers again, but the energy he absorbed came from Kryptonite — and is potentially killing him.
It's the latest twist in the "Truth" story that's been running through all the Superman books since June, culminating in this week's Action issue by co-writers Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder (who also draws the series).
This week's Aciton Comics #49 is the penultimate issue of Pak and Kuder's run, with Pak switching to Teen Titans for a storyline titled "Who is Wonder Girl?"
With only a month left in his run with Kuder, with a conclusion coming in March's oversized Action Comics #50, Newsarama talked with Pak to find out more about Superman's new powers, why the hero chose to take such a risk, and what Pak thinks he accomplished in his Action Comics run.
Newsarama: Greg, at the end of the last issue of Superman, we knew he was trying to kind of burn away cells with Kryptonite. In this week's Action Comics #49, something very unexpected happened. Can you explain how Superman basically got his powers back? It's very different from what we're used to, isn't it?
Greg Pak: Yes! The basic idea is that, over the course of this whole "Truth" storyline, he's been unable to absorb energy from the Sun. What he's realized is that his cells have been affected or damaged, and that the one crazy hail Mary attempt here is to attack those cells with Kryptonite and see if that will allow his remaining healthy cells to come back and allow him to power back up.
In this issue, he gets powered up by that Kryptonite, but at the same time he's being powered up by it, it's destroying his cells.
So he's in crisis mode, where he has to take on Vandal Savage. He's finally got the power to do that, but it might just kill him.
Nrama: It's this strange combination of feeling great because he finally has his powers back and feeling horrible, because he's being poisoned by Krytponite. Right?
Pak: Exactly. Yeah. It's this weird combination of exhilaration and total pain. I mean, he had come to the point, in the "Truth" storyline — in that Superman Annual that came out a couple months ago — he got to this point where he realized, it doesn't matter if he's got powers or not, he's always going to find that way to help people. Even if he doesn't have these superpowers, he's still going to do his job. And that's fine.
But then when Vandal struck and began his endgame, Clark realized that he can't stop him unless he gets these powers back.
And now that he's gotten amped up again, he's remembering what it is to have that kind of strength and that kind of power. And this is a different version of it all, but it's still ridiculously exhilarating. You get back something you thought you'd lost forever.
So it's a big, emotional roller coaster for him as he plunges into this final endgame.
Nrama: So he's suffering through this in order to stop Vandal Savage?
Pak: Yeah, but that's the matter of a hero, right? He's going to do what has to be done in order to help the people who need to be helped.
Nrama: But surely this isn't the nature of his powers going forward? The covers coming up make it seem like he'll have his sun-absorbing powers again.
Pak: We'll see where it leads us. We've got a massive climax coming in Action Comics #50, which caps off everything that Aaron Kuder and I have been doing in that book since the "Truth" storyline began. So you definitely don't want to miss that.
Nrama: Yeah, this issue begins the end, not only for the storyline but for your creative team, right?
Pak: Right. Aaron and I, our last issue is issue #50. That's where we cap everything.
Then I'm doing a storyline for Teen Titans, and then we have secret things afoot. But yes, this is the end of my run on Action Comics. It's been amazing, and I'm really grateful to everybody at DC who's let us run this far and this long. And Aaron Kuder has been an amazing dream to work with. We started off on the book together with me writing and him as the artist, and by the end of it, we were co-writing the book. And it's just been an absolute pleasure working with him. That kind of deep collaboration, where you're in sync every step of the way is just solid gold and has been a tremendous experience.
Nrama: Looking back at what you've been able to do with the "Truth" storyline, what do you feel like you were able to accomplish for Superman in Action Comics while working with the other writers in the Superman books?
Pak: Well, I think it gave us a chance to put our hero in the worst situation imaginable, and the most dangerous situation imaginable for him. For a person who is generally considered to be the most power person in the DC Universe, to make him one of the least powerful heroes, to see him have to adjust to that and grapple with all of the ramifications of that, both in terms of the danger to himself, the danger to his friends, the danger to the world. And also just struggling with what that means for him personally. You know, like what's his role without those kinds of powers?
That was all just great drama to play with. And it also was a way to strip what makes a character comfortable and see what your character's really made of.
And from the beginning, it's not necessarily something that was going to be said in so many words, but Clark Kent is Superman, and Clark's always going to find that core of what it is he has to do. He'll always fight as hard as he possibly can to do the right thing, no matter what his circumstances are.
It's not the powers that make Superman Superman; it's his heart. So this has been a big story that's allowed us to explore that in one of the biggest possible ways we could imagine.