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The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics #677

90s_revisited

action_comics_0677“…In Love and War!”

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Cover: Art Thibert, Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Dan Thorsland
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1992
Cover Price: $1.00

This issue details the background and a then-new status quo with Supergirl, and Lex Luthor II, the son of the late Lex Luthor, arch-enemy of Superman. We see this young couple as they’re new to each other, Luthor curious about this Supergirl’s background, and she’s totally fallen for him, as he’s a visual doppelganger at least to the man who created her and gave her life in a pocket/alternate universe. That background–that readers saw over the course of The Supergirl Saga and subplot elements following, and things that came out in the Panic in the Sky story–is recounted here, as Supergirl tells Luthor. This also serves as further introduction for newer readers as to this Supergirl, her background, and her abilities. Meanwhile, we get touchpoints in other subplots–Jimmy Olsen had been fired but now recently re-hired to the Daily Planet. Perry had been gone, but now is back, and we see him meeting a Ron Troupe. We also see development in stuff with Cat Grant and her career, as well as Sam Foswell, who had temporarily held Perry’s job. We also see Clark and Lois spending time together as a newly-engaged couple and whatnot, as well as reporters. And then the “core” of the issue, as Luthor announces Supergirl has joined Lexcorp, and Clark is quite concerned about what she may have let slip to Luthor–about him, his parents, and so on. The Superman/Supergirl discussion gets heated, she instinctively lashes out, and this physical altercation is caught on camera by one of Luthor’s cameramen–accompanying him as he pursued the Super-duo, trying to keep tabs on his girl. Though Luthor demands the tape from his man and promises it will never see air while he’s around, he neglects to destroy it, which keeps Superman at a certain point of unease, as we see that this bright, charming son of Luthor has a certain questionable, dark streak to him…that as the issue fades out, indicates could be quite threatening indeed.

In retrospect, this is quite a “key” issue, primarily on the Supergirl and Team Luthor front. In fact, much of this issue was pretty directly adapted in the Dirk Maggs audio drama Superman Lives!, which adapted the novelization Superman: Doomsday and Beyond based on this and other comics in the Death and Return of Superman saga.

I quite enjoy Stern‘s writing, and the Guice/Rodier visuals. Everyone looks as I remember them from this time frame…which would be expected, given the pretty consistent nature of the creative teams on the books in 1992, into the Death of Superman stuff and beyond. I even recognized Foswell, as much by name as appearance, given a story this issue is a few months from at this point.

Story-wise, this packs a LOT into a single, regular-sized issue’s page-allotment. Of course, this was in the midst of the best of the “Triangle Numbering” period, where the Superman titles all had their own focused subplots, but collectively served as a nearly-weekly ongoing singular title (with ongoing elements, but Action Comics really taking the reins on dealing with Luthor II’s background, for example, or Superman: The Man of Steel taking the reins on the underworlders, etc).

I remember being aware of this issue for awhile before acquiring a copy for myself back in 1993 or ’94–whenever it was that I actually did. I was even more aware of what the content of the issue was, thanks to the Stern novelization The Death and Life of Superman, which included loads of continuity detail from the Man of Steel mini-series by Byrne through key issues up to and including the actual Doomsday!, Funeral for a Friend, and Reign of the Supermen run. Finding that this one issue alone had so much key stuff that factored into the larger story–the comics AND Stern‘s novel–is quite cool on this read-through. It seems so odd in 2018, snagging this for 25 cents to recall that it was not an issue simply or readily available to me as a kid–and I think I may have paid $3-5 for it as a “priced back issue,” at the time.

While many of the “random” single issues from this time period might be relatively inconsequential, this one, and I believe the next, are a couple of rather “crucial” issues, and are much more worthwhile to pick up as single issues than most. That said, a lot of my enjoyment here is from being quite familiar with the history and context of these characters, including knowledge of information that had not quite yet been revealed when this saw publication and would have been originally read…and knowing where things go, and hence how important this is. It’ll be much more enjoyable to one familiar with this period of the Superman comics, or going through everything from the time, than as a one-off if you’ve no familiarity with the time or the Death/Return/etc.

I paid a whopping 25 cents for this particular copy…and that was well worth it to me to revisit this without digging through longboxes looking for a copy, or even having to deal with lugging a box off a storage rack just to get at it.

action_comics_0677_blogtrailer

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The ’90s Revisited: The Final Night #4

final_night0004The Final Knight / Week Four: Emerald Dawn

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Stuart Immonen
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Trish Mulvihill
Letterer: Gaspar
Asst. Editor: Ali Morales
Editor: Dan Thorsland
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

After reading the previous issue, I lamented having forgotten the Parallax issue that went along with this series. I did cover that issue a couple years ago, though.

This issue sees a final gambit play out, as Kyle Rayner returns to Earth, believing he’s failed to convince Parallax to help. Luthor and the Genius Crew have had the Flash construct half a million force-field devices, that will be piloted into orbit around the sun, where they will be activated as it goes nova, containing the bulk of the blast and destroying the suneater. Having already survived one trip to the sun, it falls to Kyle to be the pilot…but he mysteriously disappears. Superman steps in, admitting he’d already intended to sneak onboard and replace anyone else sent…though he requests a few moments and we see him begin to pen a note to Lois. The ship takes off unexpectedly to everyone’s surprise…including Superman’s, as Ferro opts to sacrifice himself, figuring he has the best chance of survival outside of Superman, and that the world needs Superman more than it needs Ferro. Parallax shows up with an offer to help, that’s grudgingly accepted–Batman not trusting him after Zero Hour. Moving into space, the plan fails…and as all seems lost, Parallax has paused time to contemplate the ways he could resolve this. He’d given his word that he would “only” fix things as they were without trying to remake reality, the world, or so on…and as he expends his energy to defeat the suneater, reciting the Green Lantern Oath one final time. Earth is saved, the final price is the life of Hal Jordan.

The emphasis on the Green Lantern oath in this issue makes it stand out to me…and unless I’m completely missing something, it strikes me as rather odd here, worded as “In brightest day, in darkest night” but I’ve thought it was “In brightest day, in blackest night.” Given historical context, at the point this issue was published, it’d been over 2–almost 3–years since the demise of the Green Lantern Corps, the passing of the Ring to Kyle, and so on…and I don’t believe Kyle particularly used the “classic” oath at charging his ring, so it strikes me as a bit of potential oversight that the wording so familiar now may have been mis-phrased back then. (Given the “events” Blackest Night and Brightest Day a few years back prior to the New 52).

And unfortunately, as with many things, this ending doesn’t live up to expectation, and seems to me rather anti-climatic. Of course, I’m certain part of that is that this conclusion is some 19 years old at this point and barely warrants a footnote in the current world of comics (let alone DC itself). This event came roughly 2 1/2 years after Zero Hour, and maybe 3 years before Day of Judgment (the latter now going on 17 years old itself) so a lot of the impact is lost on me, knowing what’s happened since, in broad strokes, and that there’s really nothing I’m aware of currently from DC Comics that can be traced back to this story.

Parallax showing up is basically out of nowhere as far as the core story goes–the earliest hint I noticed was the very end of the previous issue, and then I read this (not having the Parallax issue on-hand) so we go from the heroes’ various plans to suddenly having Parallax present to fix things…a bit of a deus ex machina and apparent attempt to “redeem” Hal Jordan in the process.

I’m certainly affected by the difference in twenty years, and being inundated with constant event-streams from Marvel and/or DC these days. I’m “used to” an event series being at least 6 (of not 7-9) issues, spanning half a year. This event mini was but FOUR issues: only 2/3 the length of a contemporary “standard” series. Additionally, while I’ve enjoyed this mini as its own contained thing…it’s not exactly the be-all/end-all to truly convey an event. This was a weekly series of 4 issues; with the issues presumably serving to “launch” plot points to be expanded on by various tie-in titles’ issues, and then for everything to come back to wrap up in this concluding issue.

But to have something so globally-catastrophic just “end” in this issue with no “to be continued in…” nor any noticeable “checklist” or other “house ad” to say where to follow up certain plot points, this is tangibly “the end.” Except that I do recall that while not a focus of this mini (it was explored in his own books) Superman’s lost powers didn’t come back, and when powers did reappear they were electric in nature; and this was the official “death” of Hal Jordan, lasting not quite 8 years, though the character was still used in various ways thanks to time-travel and supernatural elements.

For my $1, The Final Night proved a good read, and whether I’d read it before and forgotten or this was truly my first time all the way through…that’s one more DC Event Mini-series off my “bucket list” of yet-to-be-read stories.

The ’90s Revisited: The Final Night #1

final_night0001Dusk / Week One: Armageddon

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Stuart Immonen
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Gaspar
Asst. Editor: Ali Morales
Editor: Dan Thorsland
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

I’m quite sure I’ve read this before…but I’ll be darned if I can remember it. This actually felt like I was reading it for the first time. Knowing I’ve bought the entire series at least once before in bargain bins or as a cheap set, I can’t imagine I didn’t read it…though that’s entirely possible. I know I’d read the Superman tie-ins, as events from this led to the electric-Superman saga.

This issue sees an alien arrive on early, bearing grave news: an entity that consumes all heat/energy is approaching Earth’s solar system and will destroy the sun, and in turn rendering Earth a lifeless iceball. The heroes–around Superman–gather, and launch a two-pronged plan to repel or distract the sun-eater…but this wouldn’t be the start of an event if things worked out right away, would it? The heroes’ plan fails, and Earth is left in darkness…a final night from which nothing will survive more than a few days.

I can’t say I’m overly enthused at the art. I should like it–I usually enjoy Immonen‘s work–but there’s something a bit "off" about it here. Perhaps it’s reading this out of context, or expecting something different, or just seeing a number of no-longer-currently-familiar characters that doesn’t quite do it for me. The art is hardly bad…it’s just not what I "expected" or thought I remembered. Still, we have numerous characters and multiple super-teams represented in this issue, and things move pretty quickly from introduction to action to result in what I would (by contemporary standards) consider an "ultra-compressed" story.

The writing is good, solid stuff, and certainly makes sense for what’s going on. We have the introduction of a massive threat, a gathering of heroes and plan to confront it, the execution of the plan, and the result. Given this event is one month long, and its core is this 4-issue mini-series while more generalized action plays out in other titles, I am ok with the lack of detail to stuff here in favor of moving "core events" along. It also has me very interested in reading the various tie-in titles to see far more detail to the unfolding crisis.

While it certainly benefits by way of 1990s comics being so cheap these days, this is also the sort of "event" I would love to have today in 2016: instead of having to invest in 3, 4, maybe 6 issues of every single tie-in title as well as an event mini-series or few, the event plays out in a single mini-series as well as just one issue of any given title tying in. I almost wish I’d held off on reading this issue, solely for the fact that I’m ready to dive into the rest of the mini, yet have no idea when I’d actually get around to hunting down all the tie-ins to the event.

I snagged 3 of the 4 issues from one set of quarter bins, and the missing issue from another at a different shop a day later–so I have the benefit of scoring the entire mini for $1 total without putting any particular effort into getting it. As such, this issue is very much worthwhile to me FOR my twenty-five cents, as I can move straight into the rest of the series without waiting. However, I do suspect that taken as a singular issue completely apart from issues 2-4, this wouldn’t be all that great an issue in and of itself.

I enjoyed the reading, and look forward to the unfolding story, and continue to dig in on this run through fun back issues and nostalgia.

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