Spoilers ahead for this week's Action Comics #50.
After months of Superman being without his powers, this week's Action Comics has reinstated the Man of Steel's superpowers thanks to the Fortress of Solitude.
Action Comics #50, which gives Clark back his abilities, is the final issue for co-writers Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder, who also draws the series. Along with the creative teams on Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman, Pak and Kuder have been telling the "Truth" storyline in Action Comics since June, following what happens when Superman loses his powers and has his secret identity as Clark Kent outed to the world.
With Action Comics #50 now available, Newsarama talked with Pak to find out more about Superman's restored powers, the end of the writer's time working with Superman, and what's coming up next week when Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman finish the "Truth" storyline.
Newsarama: Greg, can you explain the process of Superman getting back his powers? Did this bullet with the explosion of toxins kind of kill off the mutated cells? And then the Fortress of Solitude could do its work healing him?
Greg Pak: Yeah. Way back in the promo story we did, at the beginning of the "Truth" storyline, for Action Comics, Superman goes to the Fortress of Solitude trying to get himself charged back up. But the Fortress of Solitude doesn't recognize him. It refuses to let him in. And since he's not strong, he can't pound his way in. And it actually reabsorbs his cape and his uniform. And he's left abandoned outside the Fortress. It's a crushing moment.
What we eventually learn during the course of the storyline is that these machinations that Vandal has been undertaking to drain Superman's power have — it's based on Superman's cells mutating, and they're not processing the power of the Sun like they used to. And they also make him unrecognizable to the fortress.
But what happens during the course of the story is Superman undertakes this Kryptonite treatment in order to power himself up, and the Kryptonite kills off those mutated cells.
And then when Vandal shoots him, it sort of finishes the process.
Nrama: It's interesting that Superman has to hurt himself with Kryptonite before he can heal.
Pak: Yeah, it's this sacrifice that Superman made. He basically let himself be killed off in order to try to save the day. And it ends up stripping away those cells that made the Fortress not recognize him.
So in the end, that sacrifice actually lets the Fortress recognize him again, open up and bring him in and restore him. It's a sacrifice leading to restoration.
And ha-boom, he's back!
Nrama: There was also an emphasis put onto Superman's friends. He really has to rely on his friends and work in a team. Was that an important evolutionary moment for him in the "New 52" version of Superman?
Pak: Well, it's definitely one of the things we tried to emphasize. The story points to one of the central differences between Superman and Vandal. I mean, Batman literally says that in the storyline.
Vandal is lusting for power. He wants power for himself. He trusts only himself and he thinks he's going to be the one who is going to transform everything. He's the ultimate individualist. His only god is himself. The only thing he believes in is himself.
I mean, there's the hint that maybe, what Superman thinks over the course of the story is that Vandal may be reachable because Vandal seems to be doing this all for his kids, which is a new twist for Vandal. So that's something that's explored in this issue.
Nrama: But ultimately, one of the big differences between Superman and Vandal is that Superman works with people? Is that part of the idea behind taking away his powers?
Pak: Yeah, it's this notion that you can take everything away from Superman, and he's always going to be Clark. And he's always going to find a way, because he's going to reach out to others. All of these cast members we've worked with over the years, so many of them have their moments in this issue, because it's their support and their friendship and their presence and their faith that allow Superman to triumph.
Superman is Superman, but at the same time, even Superman can't do it all by himself. And the reason he's Superman is also because of that faith and trust that he has in others and they have in him.
I think from the beginning, that's been a big part of what we've done in the book, and I hope it comes through in this final issue.
Nrama: I have a tagline for that theme: No man is an island, not even a Superman.
Pak: [Laughs.] Yeah, yeah, I like that.
Nrama: This week's Action Comics #50 finishes your run, but the story continues a little longer into Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman. Can you talk about what this run has meant to you and Aaron, but also talk about what's left to come in the battle between Superman and Vandal in upcoming Super-books?
Pak: It's been an insane pleasure working on this character and these stories, particularly with the folks I've been able to work with. Eddie Berganza has been my editor from the beginning, and he's been great. I'm grateful to him and [DC Co-Publisher] Dan [DiDio] and [Vice President] Bobbie [Chase] and [Editor-in-Chief] Bob [Harras] for bringing me on in the first place.
And Aaron has been… one of the highlights of my comics career is working with Aaron Kuder on these books. He and I had a real compatible vision of who Clark is, and we just got the guy and love the guy. And we had a blast working together. We co-wrote the last 10 issues of the book, but even before that, we were working so closely. I wrote the plot first, and then we'd get on the phone and talk through it, panel-by-panel and page-by-page. It was just a really intense and collaborative and fun way to work. I'd do anything with Aaron. I'd work on any book with Aaron. He's the best.
I don't want to spoil the rest of these stories, but all the different things we've been playing with in this "Truth" storyline come together in a huge way, so you do not want to miss these last couple issues of Pete Tomasi's Superman/Wonder Woman and Gene Yang's Superman book. Action #50 is kind of the massive climax of what we've done in Action, but it just sets off the ending of the story that gets finished in these last two books from the other writers and other creative teams.