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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.

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The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics #684

90s_revisited

action_comics_0684…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
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/48

I like when an issue’s title is worked into its title page…all the more after recently re-noticing the way Marvel "cheats" by having a non-story page for credits/story titles that can simply be omitted from a collected volume to ignore the fact the story was serialized first.

Here, we open on a couple screens of news reports recapping recent goings-on and leaving off that authorities are trying to determine if "…Doomsday is Near!" We then pick back up with Superman, Guardian, and Maxima, and Guardian is no longer worried about lecturing Superman, and Superman has him get Maxima to a hospital while he–Superman–resumes taking on the Doomsday creature. Superman catches up to Doomsday after it takes out an overpass and hurls a car–Superman saves the car and driver. Then Doomsday wrecks a Lex-Mart (think Walmart)…but is able to take in a loud commercial from a tv about a wrestling match in METROPOLIS…and the creature is taught a word, a destination. Lois and Jimmy are on-site in a helicopter reporting on things, Lex Luthor II and Supergirl watch tv reports, and Luthor convinces Supergirl to stay put, to not leave Metropolis unprotected. Trying to get Doomsday away from populated areas, Superman hurls him into the distance, forgetting about Cadmus’ "Habitat" facility (fortunately deserted). Guardian catches up while the combatants are both stunned, and then Doomsday breaks free of the wreckage (knocking out the two heroes) and bounds onward, now intentionally bound for Metropolis.

This issue’s art is not bad at all…but the visual style is something different from both Jurgens and Grummett in a way I just don’t like the same way. Nothing’s particularly "off" in anyone’s anatomy; everyone is recognizable as who they are; I have no trouble following the flow of physical events and the story itself. I just prefer the former to Guice and Rodier here. That said, there are some stand-out moments to me–I do like how Supergirl looks (though she doesn’t get to "do" much here), and same for Lois. The wrestler in the commercial Doomsday sees reminds me very much of Hulk Hogan, which may have been the intention at the time (remember, this was 25 years ago that this saw print!).

Story-wise, this flows pretty well from the previous chapter, picking up much like an opening of a tv show where it’s not exactly frame-for-frame picking up, but picking up within the same scene within moments of where we left off. Though most of the issue is more battle, we get the "moments" between characters–Superman and Guardian; Lois and Jimmy; Supergirl and Luthor, etc. There’s no context given on Supergirl and Luthor…their status quo and presence were very much a part of "continuity" of the time…so they were just there, to be understood by longer-time readers or simply glossed over if one wasn’t familiar with stuff.

I hadn’t given it much thought, but as this issue continues the "countdown" (three panels per page, down from four), there’s more visual/unspoken action, and in a way, that leaves less room for story, and a quicker pace. We jump scene to scene essentially, but it works, as the whole battle is drawing out…we’re down to basically just Superman, as Maxima’s out and by the looks of things (and memory), Guardian’s basically out, and we already saw the rest of the Justice League taken out.

This is definitely another issue that doesn’t have much going for it in terms of being stand-alone; it is definitely very much a middle chapter of a tight, full story spread across multiple titles by multiple creative teams. Of course, it’s not a bad one if you come across it in a bargain bin to snag, but much more enjoyable in context of the full story. I do feel like–next to Justice League America #69–this is the issue of the story I’ve seen least in bargain bins, though come to think of it, Superman #74 may be similar.

This is the fourth of the Superman titles carrying the Doomsday! story–with the next two chapters being second issues of their titles with the story, before the Funeral for a Friend picks up.

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The ’90s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #497

90s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0497Under 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
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/47

Like many issues from this time period, this one’s cover stands out quite a bit to me. I don’t know that I’d call it a favorite–there are definitely plenty of covers I like more–but I do really like this and it’s instantly recognizable to me.

This issue picks up where Superman #74 left off, with Superman chasing after Doomsday, blocking out Mitch’s cries for help. The transition, though, isn’t quite as smooth as the one from Justice League America #69 into Superman #74, though it isn’t jarring. Mitch narrates–describing the situation and letting us know that the rest of the League has fallen, Superman’s a distance off but still visible (and his punches against Doomsday audible), and his mother and baby sister (as well as the rest of the League) are still in danger from the collapsing house that’s burning. Superman finally returns after shoving Doomsday into the soft earth at the bottom of a lake, and Bloodwynd makes a timely return to assist as well before teleporting away to avoid medical attention from EMTs. As a military helicopter targets (and is targeted by Doomsday), Superman’s back in the fray, continuing to save those he can while beating on the creature. Taking a moment away from all this, we get a scene of Lois in the GBS building, meeting up with Cat while she tries to find Jimmy. Olsen’s moonlighting as Turtle Boy for a kids’ show, but taping’s run hours late…and Jimmy is needed on assignment (covering the Doomsday situation). The battle rages into a small town where Maxima catches up to Superman and Doomsday, and her contribution leads to a huge explosion. The Guardian arrives to find her and Superman knocked out from the blast, and Doomsday nowhere in sight. Brushing off Guardian’s lecture on violence, Superman realizes this is his fight, and his alone.

I’d forgotten about Grummett‘s time on this title, given the changeover around #500…I really like his art, and it looks especially good–and familiar–here! The art team is fantastic, and though it’s been quite awhile since I’d’ve thought about it, I think I’d have to say that offhand, this is my favorite Superman art next to Dan Jurgens‘ work! This issue begins the subtle "countdown" I had never noticed until about 10 years ago: the issue is done as 4-panel pages (with the next chapters having three-panel pages, then two-panels, before the conclusion in all full-page splashes).

Story-wise, nothing really jumps out at me as any sort of "Ordway signature" or such, except that as with the other creative teams’ work, this plays very tightly with its sister titles. While not quite as "involved" at this point due to their encounters with Doomsday, it’s cool to see stuff play out with the League still being present in the title, if not much else. Guy Gardner grabbing Superman and essentially giving his ‘blessing’ (or command) to put the creature "in a pine box" strikes me as rather poignant…Guy admitting that Superman’s "tougher" and capable and such to do what he–Guy–was not able to. And a sort of quasi-reconciliation between the characters before what’s about to go down goes down.

Maxima’s bit in this issue has also stuck with me over the years–her focus on being a warrior and casual acceptance of casualties, as well as Superman giving her pause, as well as her tolerating his calling her ‘Princess.’

This is yet another issue that’s very much a piece of the larger story…even if ultimately, the story’s a huge "fight scene" of sorts, when looked at most broadly. This chapter isn’t really "essential" to the whole, offhand (maybe the first chapter to feel that way)…but there’d sure be a clear gap in stuff if we didn’t have this chapter. Outside of the pretty cover, I wouldn’t really recommend this as a "single" issue, but it’s well worthwhile as part of the whole, and definitely not a chapter to arbitrarily skip in a collected volume.

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Zero Hour Revisited – Action Comics #703

90srevisited_zerohour

action_comics_0703Chronocide!

Writer: David Michelinie
Artists: Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Chris Duffy
Associate Editor: Frank Pittarese
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This is an interesting sort of issue, though the cover puts me off a bit. It’s been a generic sort of image to me, one I haven’t really–truly–looked at in years, just sort of glossing over it, recognizing it, and that’s it, because of it being what it is. It sort of deals with the interior story, though it’s a bit misleading, suggesting Superman abandoning Lois to the Entropy thing of this story, saving himself…when the story is more his facing that sort of loss of his parents, and Lois is the last one standing.

Clark returns to the Daily Planet, having done HIS part, and leaving/trusting the other heroes to do their part. But then, Perry White fades out and Superman realizes they’ve failed. And if Time has been destroyed as recently as Perry’s birth, then his own parents–Ma and Pa Kent–won’t be far behind. So he races to them, but just as he arrives at the farm, finds himself in an alternate timeline/dimension with a younger version of his parents, and where the rocket that brought him to Earth was retrieved, while he had died as an infant. Superman and the younger Kents eventually find themselves faced with reality of Time’s destruction, and just as Superman’s about to save his own parents, he’s pulled into the Timestream for the final moments of Zero Hour, while the world–our perspective ending with Lois’ account of the approaching whiteness–is wiped out, going to the white pages ending all of the ZH books that shared this final week of July 1994.

With the Superman titles all tying in, we’ve seen Superman meet numerous alternate-timeline/universe versions of Batman; we’ve seen him meet a version of his biological parents from Krypton; an alternate super-hero filling his role on another Earth; and now an alternate version of his Earth-parents. All while essentially being part of the ongoing running battle with Extant and the power behind even him. It’s both cool in the sense that we get to see Superman stories taking advantage of the time-anomalies stuff; but stretches stuff a bit to figure all this PLUS his involvement in the "main story." Still, as flimsy as explanations are between his "side stories" and the main, both seem to stand alone pretty well.

I’m not overly fond of the art here, and yet it still triggers the nostalgia factor for me, and I both recognize and remember it. It fits the story and is definitely a product of its time, and I don’t know what I’d do for replacing it. It’s not bad art, just not my favorite art.

Given Dan Jurgens‘ role in Zero Hour itself and obvious ties on the Super-team, the Superman titles in general fit better with Zero Hour than most; and I certainly have better, clearer memory of them as part of the event, and their being a huge part of my exposure to the DC Universe beyond the event itself, so I’m certainly a bit biased. That said, I do feel like this does more to reference the actual, developing story of Zero Hour (if not itself further developing that story) than most other tie-ins. Even so, this hardly seems essential, and will be more of interest to someone reading through the Superman books of the time than someone just reading the "core" Zero Hour series.

Certainly not an issue worth paying more than $1 or so for; but not something to singularly avoid in a bargain bin, either.

We’re finally nearing the end of this event as a whole, and for that, I’m definitely glad.

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

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