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The ’90s Revisited: Superman the Man of Tomorrow #3 – Underworld Unleashed!

90s_revisited

superman_man_of_tomorrow_0003Fighting Back

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Tom Grummett and Brett Breeding
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Assistants: McAvennie & Duffy
Editors: Carlson & Carlin
Cover Date: Winter 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This month, a number of blogs and podcasts have joined together to present #BestEventEver 2018, covering the 1995 event Underworld Unleashed! Beyond my own posts, please check out these other blogs and podcasts for in-depth coverage of the various issues that were part of the event…and join in on further peeks at and discussions of the event on Twitter by joining at hashtags #BestEventEver and #UnderworldReUnleashed!

ITG  |  Resurrections: An Adam Warlock/Thanos Podcast  |  Relatively Geeky Podcast Network  |  The Retroist  |  Chris is on Infinite Earths  |  Cosmic Treadmill  |  The Pop Culture Palace  |  Rolled Spine’s Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Podcast  |  The Idol-Head of Diabolu  |  Justice’s First Dawn  |  Justice Trek: The Podcast


Now this is more like it! This is the sort of thing I expected of Underworld Unleashed tie-ins! Then again, looking back across the 20+ years…the Superman tie-ins very likely were the only ones that I actually would have read, as I was in a downswing toward a 13-14 month period of getting very few comics!

This issue is "triangle-numbered" 1995/50…that is, it’s the 50th issue of any of the main Superman titles with a 1995 cover date. This is from that time where the titles functioned as a weekly thing, with each leading into the next with very tight continuity! In fact, this title itself was created (as I’m recalling it) to cover "fifth weeks," so that there WOULD be a new SUPERMAN comic every single week of the year!

We begin the issue on Earth, with Lois Lane meeting with Contessa (at this time the current head of Lexcorp) and discussing recent events; basically exposition for those of us just joining in. Superman’s been kidnapped into space, the Alpha Centurion gathered the rest of "Team Superman" (Supergirl, Superboy, Steel) to go after him, something about the Eradicator, and hints at other subplotty stuff with people romantically linking the Centurion to Lois herself. The scene then moves to Sorcerer’s World, where we find Superman fighting an invisible and mostly-intangible entity. It seems he’s been "shot down" onto the world, along with a new friend–"Mope" or "The Mope"–they were arriving peacefully, seeking to clear Mope’s name so he would be free of "The Tribunal."

[The Tribunal being a cosmic group that tries and punishes folks; I don’t remember all the context as it’s been quite awhile since I read the story, whether I’ve even read it since publication or if it’s BEEN 23 years! They had Superman brought in to be tried for the destruction of Krypton, for example. I’ll probably re-cover this issue if/when I’d cover The Trial of Superman and be able to do so with more context!]

While Superman defeats the entity and claims its cape, we find Mope prisoner of a sorcerer who is determined to find out why Mope is here!

Meanwhile…in the Underworld, Neron sits on his throne and enjoys gloating over a snowglobe with two figures held prisoner within–The Joker! And Lex Luthor! Luthor reflects on the events that have brought him here, the "flashback" showing us his deal with Neron and how he’s gone from being a mind trapped in a frail, shriveled clone to being a fit man at his prime–and some details contextually from Underworld Unleashed itself–the main mini-series. That he is stuck with The Joker offers him his own personal hell. Then the whole place bursts apart! Meanwhile (again), Superman rescues Mope and they convince the sorcerer of their non-invasive intentions, and get sent to where they can find the person they’re after.

As this is going on, Luthor and Joker find themselves in some surreal void and ultimately separated, and Luthor "lands" on Earth. He reflects further on the situation–is he truly free of Neron, and how he lucked out keeping this healthy body…and he seems to settle his questions of having or not having a soul with the idea that if he DID have a soul, he’d surely lost it prior to Neron anyway. Hitchiking a ride, he heads into the nearest city to get back to humanity. Closing out the issue, the Tribunal has a new agent who is glad to hunt down Superman for them–The Cyborg! And Superman and Mope find themselves trapped on the other end of the portal they were sent through, facing a new situation that’ll pick up in another issue of another title.

As much as I complain about modern 2018 comics and the constant cycle of events…I’d nearly forgotten the overlap of events in the ’90s. Or if not events as I think of them in 2018, then titled storylines/crossovers where an issue is part of two different larger stories. This very issue is the immediate example, as it is both a chapter of the larger The Trial of Superman! and also part of Underworld Unleashed! at the same time. I’m also thinking of the 1994 story The Fall of Metropolis where at least one issue was part of that and simultaneously part of the Worlds Collide event/crossover between the DC Universe and the Milestone universe. I don’t remember particularly minding this back then, and now in 2018 I’m good with this issue being part of two stories because The Trial of Superman! is basically a crossover, or given the "weekly" nature of the combined Superman titles, "just" a titled story wholly contained with no special issues, one-shots or external tie-in issues. And with the issue’s participation in Underworld Unleashed, it represents there not being a separate special, one-shot, or tie-in mini-series on top of the already weekly Superman saga. Underworld Unleashed was an event affecting the DC Universe, and here we see it affecting the DC Universe!

I really enjoyed this issue, overall…a large part of that is the art from Grummett and Breeding; I’m re-realizing lately just how much I truly enjoy Grummett‘s work! Superman himself looks a bit "off" without his cape, but I’m pretty sure I he lost it in a different chapter of this story, so that speaks to the quality editing and continuity; and this was from a period where the cape was not a singular, permanent piece of a singular costume, but something that could and would be damaged and occasionally lost. I far prefer the character with the cape, but as part of an ongoing story where he doesn’t have time or inclination TO replace it, the visual speaks volumes that don’t even have to be referenced in text or dialogue. The alien characters look suitably odd to me, and I really like the way Luthor looks here, and even the Joker has a certain ’90s look and feel where he’s dangerous but one can easily drop their guard on that with the act he puts on. Seeing him frolic around the snowglobe actually made me chuckle, and I could just feel Luthor’s boiling anger at him when hit with a snowball of all things!

Story-wise, this issue progresses two things: 1. the ongoing Trial of Superman story following Superman himself and his ordeal involving escape from the Tribunal and helping his new friend clear his own name and 2. Underworld Unleashed by way of seeing Luthor’s deal and the result, even getting some context of the event series itself along with notes-from-the-editor on issues to check out for full details that refer us both to the event series and another Superman issue. But we get plenty right here in this issue such that we don’t NEED to read Underworld Unleashed itself…we’d just get a lot more context and fuller appreciation for doing so! While I’ve already covered Green Lantern #68 and Batman #525 that both tied in to the event…this is the first issue I’ve gotten to that actually has an actual, obvious direct connection to the event itself and truly reference it.

While it’s obvious that this issue is impacted by the main mini-series of the event, even if a reader doesn’t get to that at all, one is able to share all the more in Luthor’s perspective of knowing something happened but not being "in the know" as to what, exactly. That allows this to stand alone as well as it does. That it references the mini and draws from it very much justifies the "logoed branding" of this issue as part of the event, in a way that other issues have not.

I think my main complaint for the issue is rather surfacey–the cover is highly misleading, showing Luthor gloating over Superman being electrocuted; something that doesn’t at all happen here. Yet, as a figurative thing, it does allow for the caption "Luthor–Back in CHARGE!" Further with that, given Luthor’s history in the post-Crisis DC Universe, this issue is quite significant for the character!

Taken by itself as a single, isolated issue, this is not bad, and does definitively show us how Luthor so quickly got back on his feet, healthy and whole and all that, after the events of The Fall of Metropolis. While this is an issue #3, is a "middle" chapter of The Trial of Superman!, is a part of Underworld Unleashed, I feel that one can appreciate it well enough for the Luthor stuff on its own…making the issue something quite justifiable for an isolated, single-issue bargain-bin purchase!


Again, please check out these other sites for additional, more in-depth coverage of the various other issues–including the main event mini itself–for Underworld Unleashed!

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #75

90s_revisited

superman_0075Doomsday!

Words & Pictures: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jurgens & Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25 ($2.50 Collector’s [black bagged] Edition)
Triangle #: 1993/2

This is it–probably the most important single issue of any comic book in my life…at least to me, personally. This issue has–in one form or another–influenced so much of my experience in/with/of comics, far beyond anything I could truly sum up briefly.

The cover is that iconic image–the tattered cape caught on a wood pole sticking out of the wreckage in Metropolis–that has become so symbolic of the fall of a character, and so defining of this story and the Superman character. At least to those of us who read this as a new comic, were there as the story unfolded.

The issue is itself nothing but splash pages, each page a single large image, ending with a fold-out back cover stretching to a triple-wide image.

Nearly every single page is "iconic," each page being a key image, something easily recognizable as being from this very issue. So much so that these images were used time and again for flashbacks, and capture the key "moments" of the end of the battle…and are reinterpreted to this day to place a flashback within this story.

This issue’s art–for the full pages, the sheer importance of the issue in the time, and what it was to me–is certainly the "gold standard" for Superman art, and for Jurgens‘ work on the character.

Story-wise, this is but a handful of moments, of scenes, each page having to carry stuff forward…but it certainly works. For several chapters now, the panel-count has gotten smaller, the action more intense, the story speeding up, rushing to this conclusion. And what a conclusion it is–Superman dies. I felt on this read-through like the "final punch" is earlier in the issue than I remembered and expected…but perhaps it was the way I was reading. While we get some moments of Doomsday menacing Lois and Jimmy and Cat, for me, the heart of this issue–morbid as it may be–comes in the narration after the final punch. This is some of the most "iconic" narration for me in all my years of reading comics, and resonates with me still.

Like weary boxes who have gone the distance, the combatants collide in one last, explosive effort. In the years to come, a few witnesses will tell of the power of these final punches, that they could literally feel the shockwaves. Others will remember the enormous crater that resulted from the sheer force of the blows. But most will remember this sad day as the day the proudest, most noble man they ever knew–finally fell. For those who loved him–one who would call him husband–one who would be his pal–or those who would call him son–this is the darkest day they could ever imagine . . . And for those who served with Superman in the protection of all life–comes the shock of failure. The weight of being too late to help . . . For a city to live, a man had given his all and more . . . For this is the day that a Superman died.

The views moving around, showing us Lois and Jimmy, Martha and Jonathan Kent, Ice and Bloodwynd…we get the "in the moment" reactions as the characters all witness the final punches–in person or on tv. And then the final scene, as Lois cradles the broken Superman, and even still, his concern is the safety of others, never mind his own condition.

"Doomsday…is he…is he…"
And he hangs on just long enough to hear her assurance: "You stopped him! you saved us all! Now relax until–"

And as the final page is folded out, the image goes from her holding him, to her obvious anguish as he’s slumped over, dead.

I’m absolutely anything but impartial on this issue. Even reading it this time through, it never fails to stir me. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER, it still gets to me. It seems unbelievable that it’s been that long since this issue was released. I was all of 11, a couple weeks shy of my 12th birthday. I’ve lived over 2/3 of my life SINCE this issue. This was the first truly "big event" in my experience in comics…both story-wise, and real-world. This was the first issue I encountered with any sort of "variant cover." This was the first time I saw an issue done in all full-page images, the first time I’d heard of pre-ordering comics, the first experience I had with "speculation" and such.

This issue began "the weekly habit" of comics for me, that "have to get it ASAP" mentality of each new, subsequent issue. That ongoing interest in the next chapter, what comes next, how are these characters handling stuff, etc. And this being in the heart of what I’d call the best of times, the highest quality and tightest story of the "Triangle Era," this became my gold standard for comics, what comics could be, and all that.

To this day, when I come across this in bargain bins–in any of the four printings, UPC barcode or "direct edition"–I tend to snag it. While this–like most of the other issues of the Doomsday! story–draws deeply from preceding issues and ongoing stuff…this one works pretty well alone. As you’d be interested in the issue AS "the death issue," of reading the actual death of Superman, it happens here. You witness the death, the final moments of the battle, get exposed to several key supporting characters, and can glean from context that others have fallen and it’s down to just Superman himself to take the creature down, the doing of which costs him his life.

While this is basically at best a "footnote" in the history of Superman…this is one of those issues that I think any "long term" comics person ought to (have) read. It’s still a piece of history, a part of comics history, and very few other comics’ stories or moments have or retain the impact this did.superman_0075_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Superman #74

90s_revisited

superman_0074Countdown 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
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/46

While it’s certainly credit to Dan Jurgens being the writer on both this issue and Justice League America #69, I quite enjoy the way this issue picks up directly where that one left off. This one even has a much better, more prominent notice that it picks up from that issue, urging readers to stop reading now and go read that first (a handy sort of thing since these two issues were apparently on sale the same week…and with no actual chapter numbers on the covers, it’d be easy to go straight to Superman first, and plan to then read Justice League America).

We get a lot more of Mitch in this issue…in fact, to a certain degree, this issue is about Mitch and his "encounter" with the Justice League and Superman!

We open on Ice and Maxima with the nearly-lifeless body of Ted Kord–Blue Beetle. Ice has no means by which to get Ted to a hospital, while Maxima does…though she wants to just stay and fight, though the Beetle will perish. Ice eventually convinces her to get Ted to a hospital, while she (Ice) confronts the creature. Nearby, Mitch arrives home from school and argues with his mom. As he’s about to leave again, a battered Ice is thrown through the window into their kitchen, moments before Superman and Booster Gold show up, confronting the creature…as it gets its name, thanks to Booster’s comment to Superman in Justice League America #69. "What was it you called, this, Booster? Oh yeah–Doomsday." Superman and what remains of the League fight the creature, eventually combining energy projections to try to take it out…though all they really do is make the creature more dangerous and themselves largely defenseless…they’ve burned away most of the restraining suit and cables (releasing Doomsday’s ’til-now-restrained-behind-his-back other arm). As the creature leaps off, Superman follows…forcing himself to ignore the pleas from Mitch as the house burns and lives there remain in dire danger.

I think I’m always "amazed" by the end of this issue, of seeing Superman consciously ignoring a cry for help. It’s a horrible position he’s in, though–stop chasing Doomsday and risk lots of lives lost by turning back to help three people, or ignore them (with hope that someone else back there can do something) to try to bring the creature down at once. And while it’s heart-wrenching to contemplate, I tend to find that I fall in the camp of agreeing with Superman’s decision here. Of course, I know what comes next, and the final decision he makes (Showing among many, many things why he’s Superman and I’m not).

Visually, I definitely like this issue. A lot of that–certainly in retrospect–is Dan Jurgens‘ art. He’s a definitive artist on Superman for me, starting here for sure (to say nothing of #75!) I’m not as much a fan of the cover, though…it seems a bit busy and generic, with Superman himself hardly a part of it. Of course, at the same time, it’s a far cry more to my liking than many modern covers, as it shows something from the issue without just being a lifted panel or such: Ice, Booster, and Maxima don’t fare well against the creature, and Fire and Guy do add their energy output to Superman’s heat vision against the creature, who basically stands there and takes it.

Perhaps my biggest thing is that–to this day, all these years later–I have never been able to figure out how the knee spikes and elbow spikes were concealed in the green suit!

As we get deeper into the Doomsday! arc, it feels less and less likely that anyone would really have any reason to be reading an issue "in a vacuum" without context of the other issues. All the more now, 25 years later, where the story has been available as a collected edition or "graphic novel" for nearly the 25 years…so really, who’s likely TO read this as some lone one-off issue?

If Man of Steel #18 felt like it would’ve been a better prologue than actual part of the story, this issue feels like a direct extension of Justice League America #69. The art on the two issues are different, but in some ways not overly noticeable, and these play like both Justice League guest-starring Superman or Superman guest-starring the Justice League…as they should.

I certainly would not recommend seeking this out as a single issue in a void…but it’s an interesting "middle chapter" as the action ramps up and we definitely see the creature as something more than what can simply be handled in an issue or two, or even BY a combined group of super-beings. And of course, it’s essential to the overall arc, and not something to skip over reading a collected edition!

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #50

90s_revisited

superman(1987)0050Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part Four: The Human Factor

Story by: Jerry Ordway
Art by: Dan Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Kerry Gammill, Dennis Janke, Curt Swan, John Byrne, and Jerry Ordway
Colors by: Glenn Whitmore
Letters by: John Costanza
Editing by: Mike Carlin
Cover by: Jerry Ordway
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1990
Cover Price: $1.50

This is an extra-sized issue, for a whopping DOUBLE-usual-cover-price…at a whole $1.50. That’s still HALF what contemporary DC Rebirth comics cost, and less than half of what a current Marvel comic costs. Granted, we’re talking a little over 26 years’ difference, but still…

Speaking of covers and cover prices…this may not be THE best or THE most iconic cover ever for a Superman comic (at least, not to me, and not one of my personal top ten) but its "spirit" is pretty iconic–Superman bursting through a wall. In this case, fairly appropriate, after several issues of his being powerless…basically a normal human. Having the strength to simply, cheerfully burst through a solid brick wall is a small indicator of his power level being much increased. Superman #50 is one of the first comics I ever got as a "back issue," and before I really knew the concept of "multiple printings" or "variant covers" or the like. The copy of the issue that I first owned, the first time that I read this, gave away a fairly major spoiler for the issue (at the time).

superman50spoilercover

Historic Engagement Issue. Ok, so the engagement was looming, and it happened here. I had no idea at the time that it was a second print, hence spoiling the ending by calling out what happens in the issue and how it’d go down in history (beyond concluding a several-part story and seeing Superman get his powers back).

This issue gives us a glimpse of Clark in action, going about life powerless–but getting beyond the simplistic "mild-mannered reporter" and letting us see that it really is he himself–Clark–that makes the man, not the Super. Even without powers, he’s not gonna stand by or put his own safety first…he helps people, and tries to step in as able. He checks in on things with Lois, who has just gotten her father’s approval in dating Clark. Jimmy’s mother is doing better…even as we see that Perry and Alice are having their own issues, still reeling from the death of Jerry. And of course, Luthor being Luthor. When Lex contacts Lois, Clark steps in, demanding an interview…which he’s granted. Luthor’s convinced to tell how he’s deprived Superman of his powers…and since he’s telling some reporter, he’s not breaking Mxyzptlk’s One Rule to Not Tell Superman. Of course, Luthor has long since discarded the notion of Clark and Superman being one and the same…but that doesn’t change that Clark is Superman, and Mxy’s powers are magic based and thus bind the rule even without Mxy’s conscious direction, so Luthor telling Clark means he’s broken the rule…and Superman is re-powered. The imp shows up, gives Superman a freebie of sorts (providing a Rule to the game and how Superman can send him away, and then getting Superman to fulfill it) and actually leaving. Luthor’s great victory is wiped away, and the man is dying. Meanwhile, Lois has thought about Clark’s earlier proposal…and says yes. She WILL marry him.

While I did not read this in my initial time into comics, it was still one I read relatively early-on, prior to The Death of Superman. It was cool to see the actual engagement, as well as to have another chapter of the story with the red-border covers, which helped "place" this time-wise/continuity-wise for me at the time. Now, re-reading this, it’s actually sort of hard to believe, and seems such a long time ago, in Clark and Lois ONLY here just getting ENGAGED. Though the engagement aspect went on for a number of years–over 60 issues–they’ve been married so long that I find it natural and preferable, and this was the kick-off, if you will, of that long-lasting aspect of the characters.

Story-wise, this is definitely "classic" Superman for me, for my favorite version of the character, during my favorite period of the continuity. This came at the beginning, served as part of my "foundation" in Superman stuff, as a Superman fan, witnessing the actual development and forward-movement of the character and supporting cast. I think part of that also came from (and I’m using modern thoughts to "project" on my past self) feeling like there was room for surprise and growth beyond done-in-one issues and self-contained every-story-must-stand-alone-and-be-a-graphic-novel-in-serialized-form comics. Clark is the character, Superman is what he does, how he presents to the world when he’s in action. We see his relationship here with Lois–not one of hero worship on her part, or some single-minded buffoon or mere story-trope–but as real humans. She is interested in Clark–the person–and not chasing after some guy in a cape. She wants to marry Clark, and has no idea that he IS Superman. He’s just a man she’s friends with, has come to know and love, and it’s genuine.

This being an expanded, extra-sized issue is definitely a good thing, allowing nearly double the usual length, and thus a lot more story in a single issue…and though the engagement happens here, it’s organic, a rather small part of the overall issue, and is far from actually being the FOCUS of the issue, story-wise. It’s just a darned good Superman comic, at least to me and in recognizing the nostalgia for me.

Visually, it’s an interesting issue, with numerous artist contributing. On one hand, I’d figure that’s partly to allow an extra-sized issue to be produced in the same amount of time as a regular-sized issue while holding to schedules and avoiding fill-ins. It also allows more artists to be part of a key issue in Superman’s history. That said, while I vaguely noticed some unevenness in the art, I was much more engaged (no pun intended) with the story itself, and it wasn’t until sitting down to type up this post that I consciously noted (re-realized) that there were so many artists involved. The art all worked together and was not jarring to me in style or otherwise (perhaps thanks to the single colorist). For an anniversary issue without drastically different variant covers or such, I absolutely welcome the "jam" nature, with a lot of artists "being part of it," and will gladly overlook the uneven nature of that. All the better when the art works with the story and doesn’t distract me.

All in all, this is definitely one of the more "iconic" ISSUES for me, and a key issue in the history of the character. Despite that, I’ve found it in a number of bargain bins over the years; the copy I actually read for this revisiting is from a 25-cent bin…in which there were multiple copies, both of this first print and the later print, and I even convinced a friend to get one to read. Definitely an issue worth reading and having, even out of context and without the entire Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite story. As a conclusion, it’s fitting, and makes for a good end to that while moving the overall Superman mythos forward and opening stuff to coming stories.

Highly recommended!

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The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics #659

90s_revisited
action_comics_0659Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part Three: Breakout!

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Bob McLeod & Brett Breeding
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Associate Editor: Jon Peterson
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover by: Bob McLeod & Brett Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1990
Cover Price: $0.75

I was a little bit correct and a little bit off in my assessment of Starman #28‘s place in this story…as reading this would definitely feel like something HAD been missed if that wasn’t read first. Yet, there’s context and footnote to explain the high-level "essential" stuff so you get what you "need" from this. Roger Stern was the writer on that, and is on this, so there’s some definite organic tie-in stuff, with the necessary retread for this era in which comics were not designed and destined for a "graphic novel" or collected edition.

We get a bit of that essential retread to start this issue, "Superman" confronting Luthor and getting the Red Kryptonite from him. We then move to Superman himself and Hamilton as they test out a suit of armor and things don’t go as well as either of them would like. Starman tries to be helpful, but is unable to cheer Superman at all. Meanwhile, Killgrave (a mad scientist/mad genius) launches his plan to bait Superman, take out the hero, and escape. Starman does super feats while Clark goes about life. When Killgrave springs his trap, Starman takes him on as Superman, to shocking effect before the real Superman shows up in his armor. Facing Killgrave, our hero gets lucky with a failsafe in the armor allowing him to bluff the villain. Killgrave attempts to escape, and the powerless Superman leaps back into action to attempt to stop him…but fails, and Starman has to save Superman rather than pursue the fleeing villain…which bums Superman out all the more. Mixed in there, Mxyzptlk uses Red-K dust in Luthor’s office to reveal that the Superman flying around is an imposter, which cheers Luthor a fair bit.

I enjoyed reading this issue…it originally came out toward the end of my first "run" with comics, when I was still getting to know this version of Superman and was really too young to "get" a lot of it, where I appreciate stuff a lot more now as an adult.

This definitely reads as a middle chapter, but does so in a good way…fleshing out the notion of a Superman without powers trying to find a way to "stay in the game" while conveying the danger and frustration he faces. It also touches on subplot stuff to remind us of the larger tapestry of the Superman saga and keeps things grounded and interesting. As a middle chapter, though, there’s only so much this can do, though it’s interesting to have Superman try the armor and lose it in the same issue. With contemporary standards getting, having, and using the armor would be a several issue thing in itself, with loads of variant covers and hype over the "new costume" for him and numerous artists’ interpretations of it and so on.

The art is quite good and very much to my liking. Though the story is good, I do think the quality art lent itself significantly to my simple enjoyment of this issue.

All in all, another good chapter of this arc, and another issue I’d recommend if you find it in a bargain bin.

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman/Doomsday Hunter/Prey

supermandoomsdayhunterpreytpbStory & Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Lettering: Bill Oakley
Color Guides: Greg Wright
Color Separations by: Android Images
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $14.95

It’s been a bit over 20 years since this story first debuted, back in the spring of 1994. I remember the excitement I had for its premiere, and the orangey front cover of the first issue is rather “iconic” to me–extremely distinctive and always grabs my attention.

While this took Superman–and Doomsday–from actual continuity at the time, it’s a primarily stand-alone series that gave fans a rematch between Superman and Doomsday, as well as an origin to the monster. Its events drew directly from continuity and impacted ongoing continuity in such a way that it could just as easily have been part of the ongoing “regular” comics story-wise, though its epic nature was well-suited to a separate series.

While I read an old collected edition this time through, the series was originally published as three prestige-format volumes priced at $4.95 apiece (and this was in 1994!). The format, of course, put each at the size of a small graphic novel, and the collected work is as thick as any contemporary 6-issue volume.

While the rest of the Superman creative teams were also involved in the whole Death/Return of Superman saga, this volume being a Jurgens/Breeding work and feeling so very familiar in this read-through suggests to me that this is where I primarily came to associate Jurgens with Doomsday, and this has pretty much the best-looking renditions of the character (in my mind) to this day. (I certainly prefer this version by far to anything in the contemporary New 52 with the character).

Though the story works as a whole–Superman hunts Doomsday and the two fight once more–the story is fairly nuanced, and nicely balanced across the three parts. 

The first volume is a hunt–as Superman recognizes the impact of lingering fear from having died at the beast’s previous attack and the need to face his fear. While he seeks a way to find Doomsday, we see the creature’s arrival and impact on Apokalips…taking down Darkseid, the Cyborg’s return, and Superman catching up. As a first chapter it’d be rather short to have the two actually meet, and we see Doomsday sent off before Superman can confront him.

The second volume sees Superman (and Waverider) dealing with things on Apocalypse–taking down the Cyborg, as well as Superman learning the origin of the creature. The origin takes up a goodly part of the chapter, and provides a (fictionally) plausible background for the creature from inception to its emergence in the Death of Superman story.

The third and final volume sees Superman actually face the creature in battle, with an entire planet at stake, with a new costume for the occasion. (Said costume is rather cool in itself to me for the nostalgia factor, but reeks of ’90s belts and pouches. I look at it as a chance for the costume to be done but not have to be kept in-continuity.) The creature is defeated, and status quo restored, making this not exactly timeless, but free of absolutely fitting between specific issues of the ongoing Superman titles of the time.

Another nostalgic factor to me for this volume is the fact that it contains an “introduction” (something long lost in the contemporary age of collected volumes) by Jurgens, discussing the story’s genesis and including some early design sketches of Doomsday.

I believe this series was reprinted in the Superman/Doomsday Omnibus that came out awhile back (and which is presently out of print last I’d checked) but have seen the singles for this in bargain bins. I would certainly enjoy a nice “deluxe hardcover” treatment for this, or even combine it with the later The Doomsday Wars which was done in the same length and format detailing a later confrontation with Doomsday, Superman, and (I believe) the Morrison-era JLA.

All in all, definitely one of the “greats” from my childhood, a favorite volume, and it certainly holds up to this day. Re-reading this was far more enjoyable than any of the Superman: Doomed chapters the last several months, and felt like a far better spending of time.

Though best read in context/knowledge of the general Death/Return of Superman stuff, this can be read by itself pretty well. In and of itself it’s a complete story, that does not REQUIRE previous reading, nor does it drive one into future reading.

Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (TPB) [Review]

supermandarkknightovermetropolistpbWriters: John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern, Jerry Ordway
Artists: Art Adams, Dick Giordano, Dan Jurgens, “Sludd” Giordano, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod, Jerry Ordway, Dennis Janke, Kerry Gammill, John Kalisz
Reprints: Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures of Superman #466-467, Action Comics #653-654, Superman #44
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $14.99

The Action Comics annual, while not bad, isn’t at all my favorite Superman/Batman story. It’s certainly an apt inclusion, being one of the earliest team-ups of the characters…I just don’t care for the vampires thing, and given the volume’s title and the “main” story of the volume, I was eager to get to that rather so quickly waded through the Annual.

Adventures of Superman #466 was the first appearance of Hank Henshaw, and a definite “nod” to Marvel‘s Fantastic Four, albeit with a much more tragic outcome. Three men and a woman are exposed to “cosmic radiation” and crash back to Earth, finding themselves changed–one into energy, one into a monstrous construct of shrapnel, rocks, and branches; one fading out of our plane of existence, one being eaten away by radiation that baffles even his intellect. This is a nice “one-shot” sort of issue, introducing the characters and seeing their apparent end all in one go…though Hank Henshaw would eventually return in Reign of the Supermen/The Return of Superman and go on to be a fairly recurring character throughout the 1990s’ Superman books. Though I can’t be certain of its accuracy, I seem to have a fond memory of having read this issue while it was still new, long before ever being referred back to it during Reign of the Supermen.

I can’t really put my finger on why this issue was included here except that it came out about the same time as the others and so perhaps “adds context,” but as a Superman/Batman-themed volume focusing on the characters’ early interactions, I really would have preferred to see Man of Steel #3 (One Night in Gotham City) included here (the issue/story is even referenced by the Action Comics annual!).

Action Comics #653 serves as a nice prologue to the “main event” of the volume, giving us the key point of the Kryptonite ring having been removed from Luthor’s possession, and how it winds up able to make its way to Gotham City.

Finally, we get to the three issues that are the actual Dark Knight over Metropolis story. Here, Batman comes across a radioactive ring that he traces back to Metropolis. Of course, Metropolis “belonging” to Superman, the two cross paths, and have to work together to uncover the source of the ring and deal with a threat from Intergang. At the story’s end, we see that although their methods differ, Superman realizes that he and Batman are truly on the same side with the same ultimate goals, and we get the key scene that would have ramifications for a decade or more in the DC Universe as Superman gives Batman the means to stop him should the need ever arise.

Overall–on all the issues–the story and art work well together. I can definitely tell these are from the late 1980s/early-1990s, though, visually…both stylistically (square, neat panels, virtually no full-splash-pages, no double-page spreads, etc) as well as the coloring…while the paper itself for this volume are not newsprint, some pages I could practically feel the newsprint, and some of the coloration “dots” are visible in panels from the original printing process.

The look and feel of this volume brings back fond memories for me, as–while different artists had different ways of depicting the characters–the whole seems consistent with nothing outlandish or particularly “off,” and I really had no complaints.

The stories as well are a nice blast from the past…and as I read this, I realized I may not actually have read all of these before this iteration, so it’s nice to know absolutely for certain that I’ve now read this story for myself as opposed to simply knowing it by references TO the story.

This is probably one of the most “bare-bones” volumes I’ve noticed as such in awhile…I was surprised to get to the end, and there aren’t even any ad pages or lists of OTHER Superman or Batman volumes that I usually ‘expect’ to see. Additionally, there’s no table of contents, introduction or anything…not terribly surprising since the “specialness” of collected volumes has gone away, though for such a specific story I’d almost expect some “extra” stuff to be included (since this isn’t “just” “the next” volume to contain several issues in a series).

All told, though…it’s quite gratifying that this volume now exists, and it’s well worthwhile for anyone interested in a quality glimpse into “early” Superman/Batman interaction from the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe. This is a standard-size TPB, with the “standard” $14.99 cover price that one would expect for a 6-7 issue volume. In an age of collected volumes increasingly reflecting a greater-than-$3.99-per-issue price, this is a more than fair price point. I already own all of the single issues, and would really consider them to be quarter-bin/50-cent-bin issues, yet I still bought this, and consider it a very worthwhile purchase!

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