In the latest issue of Superman, Brian Michael Bendis revealed that, even if he wanted to, Superman couldn't "One More Day" his way out of his recent decision to reveal his identity to the world. During an issue that featured guest appearances by Madame Xanadu, Adam Strange, and the Justice League Dark, DC and Bendis shut down a major line of speculation as to how things might get "back to normal" for the Man of Steel. As you can imagine, there are spoilers ahead for Superman #23, new in stores this week, so if you haven't read it, proceed with caution -- or, y'know, buy a digital copy and read along with us.
That path? Magic. It may be one of the Man of Steel's weaknesses, but it can't be used to help him out if things get hairy in the coming months.
As a result of a recent storyline, Superman revealed to the world that he and Clark Kent are the same person. It has created a ripple effect of problems for the hero, but his biggest concern isn't fighting those fires; it's making sure (maybe a little belatedly) that he wasn't somehow manipulated into the frame of mind that made the confession seem like a good idea.
To that end, Superman asks Doctor Fate to give him a bit of a magic "checkup," leading to a brief face to face meeting with Zatanna, John Constantine, and Detective Chimp. Upon seeing Superman, Zatanna greets him warmly, but abruptly adds, "You know, I can't magically reverse what you did."
It's a joke with a double meaning. First of all, Zatanna casts her spells by talking in reverse, which is likely the text of the joke. The subtext is that when Spider-Man revealed his identity to the world during the Civil War event, which happened during Bendis's time at Marvel, the hero regretted it pretty quickly. His life went to hell, and a killer took aim at his beloved Aunt May. In order to save her life, Spidey turned to some of the Marvel Universe's most powerful magic users, ultimately making a deal with Mephisto whereby he traded his marriage to Mary Jane -- and the love and joy that came with it -- for another chance for May. The story proved controversial -- that tends to happen when your all-American superhero makes a literal deal with the devil -- but in the decade--plus since it happened the anger around it has largely faded, although the ridiculousness of the premise and the fact that the story itself was not that well received have ensured that it will continue to be frequently referenced.
Not long before Bendis took over the Superman titles, the hero's identity had been outed to the public already -- this time by Lois, in an act of desperation. The result was a strange story that saw the New 52 Superman wearing his t-shirt-and-jeans costume and walking the country with a buzz cut. The identity reveal was handwaved away when Rebirth started, after a second Clark Kent appeared, and Superman told the public that he and Lois had lied to protect Clark, whose life they claimed was in danger. Later, that second Clark would turn out to be Mr. Mxyzptlk, who seemingly wiped the whole incident from people's memories.