"Mysteries of Love in Space": seeing the world through the eyes of Superman in "Glasses"
If nothing else, DC Comics’ Mysteries of Love in Space #1 has a great title. It’s so delightfully Silver Age, to the point that you could imagine it on the newsstand nestled between comics with names like War Stories and Romance Comics. It’s a great title for a one-shot anthology, and if it was just that great title it would still be worth acknowledging.
Thankfully, it’s more than just a great title, as it’s full of some pretty good stories. There’s a dud or two, I won’t lie, and none of the stories really evoke the sense of cornball fun promised by the title. It’s still good stuff, though, with tales ranging from melancholy ( “Old Scars, Fresh Wounds”) to bizarre (“GPS I Love You,” wherein Space Cabbie falls in love... with his cab) to outright heartbreaking (“The Planet Pendulum,” but more because it reminds me that an Adam Strange collection was recently canceled).
The best story of the bunch, though, is simply titled “Glasses.” Written by Jeff Loveness, illustrated by the inimitable Tom Grummett along with Cam Smith and Adriano Lucas, and lettered by Tom Napolitano, “Glasses” is sweet, simple, and free from cynicism.
It’s also a pretty good love letter to Superman , and everything that makes him great.
Part of what makes the story so great and effective is that it’s so simple. The visuals a clean and crisp, as you’d expect from Tom Grummett, giving the story a timeless quality. There are some genuinely amazing images here, particularly the final page and its gorgeous use of color. The simple visual style complements Loveness’ script well, because really, the creative team isn’t out to reinvent the wheel with Superman, or even tell us things that we didn’t already know. What Loveness does is take the idea that Superman is a guy who does good things because it’s the right thing to do and presents it as an affirmation to the Man of Steel himself.
The story is framed as a letter Lois has written to Clark. In it, she describes how she initially saw Clark as a bit of a bumbling klutz, always running away at the first sign of danger. “What kind of sad world makes a man like Clark Kent?”, she wonders.
But then she saw things differently. Looking at Clark with a new perspective, she took notice of his true nature, always trying to help when people needed it most. Comforting a crying child and protecting his friends at any cost made Clark’s clumsiness go from maddening to endearing for Lois, to the point that when he revealed his identity as Superman to her she felt betrayed. After all, if he lied about this, what else has he been hiding behind those glasses?
Even still, she saw a man who was so powerful that he could do most anything he wanted, yet he chose to do right because of his deeply ingrained sense of goodness. I won’t lie, Lois’ line that Clark “could be anyone… and he chooses to be kind” made me well up. It’s not just that Superman chooses goodness and kindness, either; it’s that we can all choose to be kind, no matter what life throws our way. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded about that fact.
It’s easy to write off a story like this as cornball and cheesy, and maybe it is. But really, reading a story that’s so earnest in its optimism is remarkably refreshing. There is a sense of sadness here (Lois acknowledges that it must be tough wanting to save everyone, but knowing that you can’t), but it doesn’t wallow in that. It takes the good and bad in stride, recognizing that they contribute to the human experience as a whole.
“Glasses” is the best story in an already solid anthology, elevating the whole book due to its quality. It’s effective in its message, because if even Superman needs reminding about the good that he does, then surely we need to be reminded of the good we’re capable of. Maybe we just need a change of perspective.