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Superman (vol. 2) #75 [Back-Issue Review]

Doomsday!

Words & Pictures: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jurgens & Breeding
Triangle #: 1993/2

This is it: this is THE comic that most affected me in my youth as a young, new comic reader. The issue that promised “The Death of Superman.”

Opening with Superman locked in a savage combative embrace with Doomsday, the issue moves us quickly through the final blows of the fight, while allowing Superman a last moment with Lois as he explains that he must match Doomsday down to seeking the death of his opponent–something Superman once swore never to do. We move into a “silent” scene as narration takes an outside-of-things tone, describing the nature of the final blows of the battle, of the feelings experienced by those near and far, related and unrelated, all watching as Superman and Doomsday both fall.

The art throughout this entire issue is superb–it is eye-catching, character-defining, and allows us a much more personal view to the desperate nature of the battle. Images from this issue have often been used either directly or as inspiration for moments seen for years in flashbacks to Superman’s battle with Doomsday; other images from the issue have been reprinted on trading cards, used in ads by various comic retailers and mail-order companies of the time; and on the whole, these images have all been extremely memorable to me, personally, having been an impressional eleven-year-old at the time these saw print.

The story is at once minimal yet phenomenal. It’s easy to lay the kind words for the issue at writer/artist Jurgens’ feet, but the praise is due the entire team, as well as those of the other Superman books that brought the story to this issue. The ending of the issue–the “voiceover narration”–is particularly touching and powerful…and memorable. The issue closes with a final moment between Superman and Lois…and then Superman is dead.

It’s hard to find words to do this issue justice, particularly on the “meta-textual” level. This single issue–and the entire story arc–can be pointed to as sparking a number of things known in comics through the 1990s through the present. It’s also the single issue I have read more than any other comic I own, in all its formats. For whatever its objective weaknesses/problems, I cannot fully separate myself from this comic.

From cover to cover, every part pertaining to the story itself proves memorable and meaningful, as this issue has gone down as one of my absolute favorite single comic books of my lifetime…and provided one has dared to actually read it, this might be one of the most widely-read single comics out there, carrying much impact regardless of continuity and context from previous chapters.

My favorite cover, my favorite moments, and my favorite issue of the story…the issue is greater than the sum of its parts in the eyes of this now-a-late-20-something adult.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 9.5/10

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Superman: The Man of Steel #19 [Back-Issue Review]

DOOMSDAY is Here!

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Assistant: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Bogdanove & Janke
Triangle #: 1993/1

After fighting to keep the moster away from his city, Superman is unable to prevent Doomsday from taking lives almost the moment he arrives in Metropolis. While trying to keep clear of news helicopters (one of which carries his friend as well as his fiance), Superman tries flying Doomsdy toward space, then when that doesn’t work pursues him into the “underworld” (not before some underworlders perish at Doomsday’s touch). After a building-leveling explosion, Superman is badly injured when Doomsday pierces his side; Supergirl enters the battle to gruesome results, and even Professor Hamilton and Bibbo join in, firing an energy cannon at the beast. The Metropolis Special Crimes Unit is unable to affect the monster, and newly-arrived Cadmus soldiers have as much impact as the SCU…Superman fights on, alone.

The art here holds up well with the rest of the story–no real issue, no problem with it–though there are places it looks slightly “off” a bit. We witness some fairly bloody fighting, and big explosions.

The story stays consistent with what’s been going on, and giving us a taste of some of the extended cast of the Superman titles of the time, with Bibbo and the Professor’s presence a definite treat (coming years before ill treatment in the late 1990s).

The cover to this issue is one of the more iconic in the series, with a closeup on the faces of the two combatants as they’re locked in combat with an explosion in the background. This image–due to the “triangle number” on the cover–was long the first image I’d associate with “1993,” and remains one of my favorite covers from the run.

We’re down to two panels per page with this issue, heading toward the single-panel splash pages to come in the final chapter of the story.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 8/10

Action Comics #684 [Back-Issue Review]

…Domsday is Near!

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Art Thibert and Denis Rodier
Triangle #: 1992/48

Picking up from the last chapter, Superman and the Guardian (and a fallen Maxima) are in the ruins of the town that’s just been the latest casualty of Doomsday’s rampage. While news reports flood the airwaves, Supergirl itches to go into battle to help Superman, but is talked down by Lex, urging her to stay in Metropolis in case she’s needed–after all, Superman can’t be in any real danger, right? With Lois and Jimmy in one ‘copter and Cat Grant of WGBS in another following the story, Superman hurls Doomsday away from his Metropolis-bound path and into “the Habitat,” an organic city created by the Cadmus project, bringing Cadmus into the fray…though even that doesn’t seem enough to help.

The art style here is a bit different than previous chapters of this story, in a way that is both noticeable and yet hard to describe. No complaints with it, though…it fits the story, conveys the action, and we can see that Superman is getting worn down.

The story isn’t all that deep–we get a few moments of character interactions to show what’s going on WHILE Superman is battling Doomsday (and to explain, for example, why Supergirl holds back). Overall, this continues the long fight scene that makes up much of the story. This does not seem out of place in tone from other chapters, and other than the variation in visuals keeps a great consistenc with earlier chapters.

Something that jumped out at me on this read-through is Lex-Mart, the store destroyed in this issue. I immediately thought of Wal-Mart, but the in-store dialogue reminded me this was probably based on K-Mart…illustrating what a difference 16 yers can make in the real world.

Somehow, this issue often feels like the low part of a totem pole, lost in comparison to the other issues, as this neither begins nor ends the story and even lacks the distinction of a penultimate chapter. Remains a strong chapter none the less, holding well its place within the story, and holding up well through the years.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 8/10

The Adventures of Superman #497 [Back-Issue Review]

Under Fire

Writer: Jerry Ordway
Penciller: Tom Grummett
Inker: Doug Hazlewood
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Tom Grummett, Doug Hazlewood, & Denis Rodier
Triangle #: 1992/47

Superman is chasing Doomsday, determined to foil the beast’s escape. To stay on his tail, though, means leaving the broken and battered Justice League–as well as an innocent family–behind. Superman makes the only choice he can, praying that Doomsday won’t cause too much destruction while the family is rescued. When the battle is rejoined, a small town pays the price. We get a moment of downtime as Lois storms GBS in search of Jimmy, who is needed for an assignment–covering this battle that Superman’s caught in. Maxima returns from rescuing Blue Beetle, and with little regard for innocents caught in the crossfire, eagerly wades into combat with Doomsday. A familiar figure–arriving too late for this battle–confronts Superman over the town’s destruction.

This middle-chapter isn’t much of a stand-out. In fact, the way it stands out is by doing what I have done–reading one issue at a time, in single-issue format, rather than the collected volume. Otherwise, this blends in with the overall story–which on the whole is good, but of little distinction as a single-issue.

The story’s consistent–I don’t ever feel like I’m reading a different writer’s take on Supermn than the previous chapter…this simply reads AS “Superman,” despite the creative team shift.

The art is high-quality, and where I don’t recall noticing it all those years ago when I first read this, for this go-’round I’m looking for it, and do notice that it is different. It’s got a certain clear linework to it that makes the characters stand out, and packs emotion into character faces.

Maybe not the best issue of the story, but just as strong as the previous chapter, doing everything a middle chapter of a serialized story is supposed to. This issue begins the final “countdown,” as we move from variable panels-per-page to a structure of 4 panels, and successive issues will have fewer panels until the finale with each page being a single-panel splash-page.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Superman (vol. 2) #74 [Back-Issue Review]

Countdown to Doomsday!

Story & Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Dan Jurgens & Brett Breeding
Triangle #: 1992/46

We open with Ice and Maxima determining the fate of the Blue Beetle–one argues medical need, the other a warrior’s death. While Ice prepares to face the beast that’s taken the Justice League apart, we cut to a boy arriving home from school–he is not a fan of Superman, nor of living with his mother. As they argue, Ice is thrown through their window as Doomsday approaches. When Superman and Booster Gold arrive, the creature officially gets his name. As the battle is joined, the combined might of Superman, Booster Gold, Bloodwynd, Guy Gardner, and Fire is unleashed upon the creature. When it’s over, not only is the creature still standing–it is no longer restricted, the League’s attack having destroyed its bindings. Seeing the destruction caused, Superman refuses to allow the creature escape–though this might come at high cost to the Man of Steel.

Aside from the debte between Ice and Maxima, and a couple pages of setup/establishing-the-scene with Mitch and his mother, this issue is all fight-scene. Not much on story, though there are some almost cheesey lines from Mitch to provide context–divorced parents, angry at passive mother, prefers dad, thinks Superman’s a wimp and Guy Gardner’s cool, etc. Not too much on the writing front–I have no complaint, really, as–three issues in–Superman and Doomsday finally come face-to-face, exchanging their first punches in this classic battle.

Jurgens’ art is top-notch; the images in these pages have–through consistent re-reading as well as nostalgia–become some of the best-known to me, and are what I often hold as a standard for other comic book art. Probably the only weakness I see visually is the cover, which has never much appealed to me.

Taken as a whole, this was a solid issue, keeping the story moving and upping the ante as Superman realizes the Justice League can’t help him finish this.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Justice League America #69 [Back-Issue Review]

Down for the Count

Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Dan Jurgens

This issue opens with the Justice League already in action, rescuing people from a huge fire. As we get some context, we discover the Justice League has responded to a distress call out of their usual stomping grounds, with reports of a monster tearing up the place. While the League searches for the creature and helps those it can on the way, Superman is appearing on the Cat Grant show for an interview being televised at high school students. About the time the League finds the monster, the creature hurls debris through their transport, stalling them. Once the League deals with that mess, they began taking on the creature and finding it to be no easy chore. As the League is torn apart, Booster Gold is punched away into the sky–surviving solely because of a force field raised just in time–and caught by Superman.

I originally picked this issue up discovering it to “tie in” to the Doomsday / Death of Superman story–though at the time I knew little else. I recognized Maxima from an appearance years earlier in a Superman comic, but everyone else was unfamiliar to me. With sixteen years’ further experience with comics, everyone’s familiar to me upon the current read-through, as is plenty of context around various characters and even the creative team of the book.

The story is basically one long fight scene with the heroes either looking for or trading punches with their quarry. Juxtaposed with the action is the interview with Superman–with some nice segues back and forth between the League’s fight. The interview provides some great context for where Superman stands in regard to his fellow Justice Leaguers, as well as some nice continuity nods to recent events in DC Comics at the time. The issue’s end is one of those “oh, YEAH!” moments–cliffhanger, sure, but has one itching to get to the next part of the story. While there are no “previously” pages (there IS a note to go read Superman: The Man of Steel #18 first, though), it’s not hard to follow along with events in this issue. Given the nature of the issue’s story–contextualizing the destructive power of the creature–it does not seem at all important exactly WHO any of the Leaguers are, just that they ARE the Justice League.

The art is very much a classic–Jurgens has been one of my absolute favorite Superman (and related) artists precisely because of being one of the main artists involved in this story. To me, the depictions of the characters found here are THE standard–I have zero real complaint with the art (save that given the nature of the story, it’s rather toned-back and wounds suffered appear far less devastating than the text makes ’em out to be).

This is a great issue–perhaps largely for being the first real battle with the doomsday creature in the overall story–but also has seeds sown that play out not only in the Doomsday story but also in this title for awhile after the death of Superman. The story is good–I especially enjoy that interview/tussle structure, and the art is top notch. One probably wouldn’t be reading this completely out of context–and it’s included in the Death of Superman collected volume–but not a bad read if you come across it in a bargain bin somewhere.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

Superman: The Man of Steel #18 [Back-Issue Review]

Doomsday! part one

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Assistant: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Bogdanove & Janke
Triangle #: 1992/45

After the previous month’s worth of issues having a single page at their end showing a gloved fist beating on a metal wall (and eventually poking THROUGH the wall), This issue opens with the bearer of that fist fully breaking free from what imprisoned it, and clawing into new life on the surface of the Earth. While the creature gets loose, we see a young boy buying glow-in-the-dark paint for purposes of his own. Meanwhile, Lois finds a message for Clark requesting Superman’s presence–she rushes off to check the likely story, but leaving a message for Clark to meet her there. The creature admires the world it’s about to destroy, beginning with a curious bird that lands on its outstretched hand. When the city’s power fails, Superman sets out to see what can be done, while Lois finds herself captured by “underworlders” and the young boy realizes that these monsters don’t have his mom, and races back to the surface to try to contact Superman. Superman attends to the underworlders’ attempted invasion of Metropolis, while somewhere in Ohio the creature causes enough destruction to gain the attention of the Justice League.

It’s been roughly sixteen years since I first read this–and I haven’t a clue how many times I’ve re-read it since that first read. The comic shop my dad preordered this story for me at allowed us to wait until the final chapter was out before picking it up–so wait we did. The first time I read this issue was with a stack of the next six chapters in a pile underneath–so this has rarely (if ever) stood entirely alone.

That said, this issue’s story is probably my least favorite of the Death of Superman / Doomsday story. I never liked the underworlders subplots. Upon this latest re-read of the issue, I still don’t. I found them to be rather boring and uninteresting, if not outright generic. The story here, though, seems to serve more to transition into the over-arching story than to really start the main event, and seems to tie up some threads from earlier plot points (specifically regarding the underworlders).

There’s not much to say about the art, except that is certainly fits the story–this was the first in-story appearance of Doomsday as more than a fist, so gets the distinction of visually defining it in this initial stage. Details seem consistent panel to panel of the various characters–I’m never left wondering what’s going on by any confusing images. Perhaps for being the point at which I more or less entered the world of Superman all those years ago for the long haul, this art is simply classic, and tends to be the standard by which I’ve judged other artists who’ve dealt with Superman–and supporting cast–on a regular basis.

On the whole, this was a good example of what a Superman book was, in 1992. The books were essentially a weekly series with rotating creative teams (one per core title), and this issue reflects that–dealing with ongoing subplots, focusing on a more specific plot-point, and keeping a number of characters in the appearance-rotation. Good in that sense; but as said, not all that wonderful as far as the first chapter of such a huge story.

Story: 6/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7/10

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