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The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #18

90s_revisited

superman_the_man_of_steel_0018Doomsday! 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
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/45

It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty five years since this issue was new! This cover remains one of the most iconic I can think of, certainly extremely recognizable at a glance for me. It’s the cover that started things off for The Death of Superman saga, and has remained locked in memory for me ever since.

Unfortunately, though we get some scenes of Doomsday tearing up the landscape–first as he digs/punches his way up/out of the prison he was contained in and then starting to make his way wherever it is he’s going (including squishing a random bird that landed upon his outstretched hand)–we have zero interaction between the creature and Superman himself…until the very end of the issue, no one even seems to know there’s anything important starting at all. As such, it hardly seems like this ought to be the opening chapter…this could have been a prologue issue instead of the first chapter, even part of a multi-issue prologue/prelude thing (along with the Justice League America issue), leaving Superman #74 as the actual opening chapter. But then, that’s the way I’ve been "conditioned" on modern comics to think, where "everything" is an event or an event prologue or there’s an event leading into another event that’s the prologue to the Really Big Event.

Instead, this issue is basically "just" another issue of Superman: The Man of Steel. The issue opens with Doomsday emerging from his confinement, then switches to the current moment in the ongoing continuity of the Superman titles. Interspersed with the creature’s emergence, we have an orphan boy–Keith–trying to find his mom, as Lois Lane investigates a tip about a danger threatening Metropolis. Underworlders (rogue clones/creatures/monsters) allied with Warworld refugees (from the then-recent Panic in the Sky story) are preparing to invade Metropolis and take over. First they "steal" the city’s electricity, then use a giant borer to tunnel to the surface with plans to have their war machines emerge from there. Keith sees Lois get captured and overhears her captors’ reference to holding no prisoners, and realizes he won’t find his mom this way. He manages to get Superman’s attention by spraypainting a huge "S" in a parking lot and leads Superman to the captured lady reporter. A scuffle ensues between Superman and the Underworlders with predictable results (Superman wins). Doomsday having moved from squishing birds and breaking trees moves to traffic interference, which finally gets him noticed by someone (Oberon, a Justice League ally), which leaves us to continue into Justice League America #69.

While I just lamented the lack of Superman/Doomsday interaction, part of that is that I never liked the Underworlders stuff, so that makes for a rather boring and "out there" story for me. On a technical level, though, this works quite well in that everything about Doomsday comes outta nowhere, as he should be just some other creature (perhaps akin to an Underworlder) and this is supposed to be just another day for Superman/Clark, Lois, and everyone else. Nothing as significant as Superman’s death is remotely a part of anyone’s plans.

Though the Superman books all continued a story essentially as a single weekly comic (with four creative teams each handling a week a month), I’ve come to see a bit more distinction in stuff with the different titles…and one of those is the Underworlders being a "thing" for this title, Superman: The Man of Steel.

I don’t care nearly as much for them, as said, which makes this (offhand) my least-favorite of the issues involved in this story. That’s not to say it’s a bad issue, but it doesn’t interest me beyond the snippets of Doomsday.

The art also isn’t my favorite, but it definitely hits some positive nostalgia for me as far as the appearance of all the characters. There’s a visual style that’s quite distinct to this title and this period, making it highly recognizable to me, and I wouldn’t trade it out, given said nostalgia.

As an issue from this time and part of this story, of course the issue is a keeper…and it’s totally etched into my personal history with comics and Superman, creating a bias that keeps me from being entirely impartial in terms of any review.

That said, in looking back across 25 years…I definitely would not recommend this issue as a stand-alone read. Taken only by itself in a vacuum, this is a boring issue, with the most interesting thing being the emergence of Doomsday itself. Of course, this is well worth getting if you want the entire "branded" story/set of Doomsday/The Death of Superman, and of course ought to be read if you’re reading the story in collected edition format.

superman_the_man_of_steel_0018_blogtrailer

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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