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The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #19

90s_revisited

superman_the_man_of_steel_0019DOOMSDAY 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
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1993/1

This issue has one of the most iconic covers of my life. It may not be a favorite, exactly–it’s not one that’d really work (for me) as a poster image or such–but for a lotta years, just because of the cover date–January, 1993–and being the first Triangle # of 1993, this was an image I pictured when I’d think of "1993."

The image is "just" an extreme close-up of Doomsday and Superman literally getting in each other’s face, the creature being larger/taller and bearing down on the (black)-bloodied Superman (though no real/obvious facial wounds for the blood, but hey, it adds effect, right? And had to get by the Comics Code Authority and all that.

Despite reading this entire Doomsday! story fresh, I’ve realized that part of my confusion on the gradual tearing-away of Doomsday’s suit and the reveal of the hulking grey-and-white creature is the inconsistency from book to to book of its depiction! While there was some severe tearing and a big chunk missing, where we left off in Action Comics #684, the creature very shortly later now has far more of it gone. I expect that’s the peril of having to get multiple issues drawn by differing art teams in a short time, and the thing was probably set on the notion that "most of the green suit is now gone," but no ultra-hardline visual "bible" to lead it. Of course, this is–to me–mere "observation," something I don’t recall consciously noticing quite in this way before, and I have no problem with it!

This issue has us down to only two panels per page in the several-issue declining-panel-count countdown to the main issue of the story, and as such is increasingly fast-paced with less dialogue and less room for pauses…just faster visual beats on the march from cover to cover. Perhaps it’s the increased action, the ferocity of the battle, but I dug the visuals on this issue a lot more than I did the previous issue, with several iconic moments (to me) in this issue: from Doomsday’s first kills in Metropolis, Superman trying to take the creature into outer space, Doomsday’s elbow-stab of Superman, and the Underworld explosion, Doomsday one-punch taking out Supergirl, hitting her so hard she reverts to her protoplasmic state, the look on Bibbo’s face as he, Hamilton, and Mildred realize they’ve not only angered the creature, but it’s gonna land right on them if they don’t jump…and the shock-cannon blasts from the Cadmus troopers as Superman and Doomsday pound on each other, with Superman thinking "Even if it kills me–Metropolis is where I hold the line!"

And in a way, that sums up the issue. Going from scene to scene, as Doomsday hits Metropolis like a wrecking ball, killing immediately and continuously, punctuated only by attempts to damage him, whether by Superman or Professor Hamilton with a sci-fi cannon of his own, and so on. There’s not much story, exactly, but this issue’s not intended to be all that deep in that regard, and receives no penalty from me for it.

It’s also a credit to the Dirk Maggs dramatization of the story that I "hear" echoes/flashes of that as I read this, as it definitely gets across the frenetic ferocity of the situation, and certainly moments out of this issue.

Yet again, there’s not exactly a whole lot to be gotten from this just as some standalone single issue at this point, picking it up some twenty-five years after publication. It’s a key chapter in the overall story, and maybe sees Superman take some of the worst physical damage ever to this point…certainly more than I remember offhand seeing him take on-panel in Superman #75. While I mentioned early in this post that I don’t see this issue’s cover making a great poster, I could probably be persuaded pretty easily, as I do think on a small scale this would work as wall art at its actual-comic-cover size (perhaps amidst the other issues of the story).

This is definitely well worth snagging from a quarter bin or otherwise bargain bin if you can get all the issues of the story (or all the issues you are interested in at the time), but I’d continue to recommend a collected volume of this story over the single issue for "best results" and maximum impact.

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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.

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman the Man of Steel #44

superman_the_man_of_steel_0044To Know… Know… Know Him!

Story: Louise Simonson
Layout Art: Jon Bogdanove
Ink Art: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Asst. Editor: Chris Duffy
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jon Bogdanove, Dennis Janke
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.50

This is one of the more "iconic" Superman covers for me from the ’90s: it was the issue immediately preceding the 100th issue of Superman and the start of the whole Death of Clark Kent storyline. I distinctly remember this cover from first getting it–we were visiting my grandparents, and my aunt took me to a comic shop in the area, where I got this. It also helps the cover to be memorable given that it’s essentially (but not quite! It’s still its own thing!) a reproduction of a panel within the issue.

Clark’s on the phone with his book editor when he hears a ticking in the background from the other end; so he rushes in as Superman, managing to save the man from being blown to bits. Meanwhile, Keith (a young boy being adopted by Perry White and his wife) is hanging out with some older kids after school. When the store manager accuses them of shoplifting, the other boys race off, leaving Keith to take the fall. After being extricated from the situation by Perry (who assures Keith that he and his wife are still adopting him), Clark once again learns of a bomb by hearing it over a phone, and saves Perry and Keith (and everyone on the bridge they’re stuck on) but Perry’s car is destroyed. Later, Keith takes courage from the incident and stands up to his so-called friends, and winds up making some new ones…while Jimmy decides to stick with Clark like glue until they figure out who’s been threatening him and trying to bomb his editors. Clark distracts him briefly as they get off an elevator, only to find a Superman dummy pinned to his apartment door by a giant knife…and he realizes then who’s behind stuff.

This is an issue from back in the heart of the "Triangle Numbering" era of the Superman titles…though each creative team had their own through-threads they focused on, their own stories to tell, ultimately the titles were one ongoing weekly series, with each week’s issue moving the overall Superman story forward. As such, with weekly doses of THE Superman story, there was plenty of room for the cultivation and development of a large supporting cast and plenty of "subplots" to be dug into and unfold over the course of things, such that a single issue could often seem all over the place, when taken out of context. This one manages to avoid the worst of that, though a single paragraph summary doesn’t do the thing justice. There’s the overall story, but the details of the various characters’ interactions makes it more complex…much like an episode of a large ensemble cast tv show where certain characters really get around, while others are checked in on but don’t necessarily have much screen time.

This issue ought to–by 2017 standards–be billed as a "prologue" to the upcoming major story; or heck, in contemporary terms there’d be a whole pre-Event event (particularly if this was Marvel). Here, it’s just the next chapter of the continuing saga, that just happens to be right before the larger titled story kicks off.

I definitely dig the story, though I find reading this over 20 years after the fact, I’m less enamored with Keith’s story, being so much further away in age now than I was then (as well as feeling like there’s a bit of "preachiness" going on here that would have much different connotation were it published in 2017).

Visually, it’s not hard to follow what’s going on, to recognize Superman or Clark, Lois, Keith, Perry, or others. However, it’s hardly my favorite art, ESPECIALLY stacked up against the likes of Dan Jurgens, who IS one of my absolute favorite artists (particularly when it comes to Superman!). Bogdanove‘s style grew on me, and holds a definite place in my memory and liking of the Superman books…but might not be the most appealing to someone unfamiliar with it or this era of Superman.

As a whole, though–story and art–this is certainly a strong issue, giving the reader action, plot development, and moving everyone around the final bit to head into The Death of Clark Kent. I appreciated it as an isolated one-off that I picked up specifically for remembering the cover so clearly.

That said…you’d likely be better served tracking down the collected edition of The Death of Clark Kent if possible, or picking this up as part of a larger group of the issues than to get this one issue by itself.

superman_the_man_of_steel_0044_slice

Zero Hour Revisited – Superman: The Man of Steel #37

90srevisited_zerohour

superman_the_man_of_steel_0037Countdown to Zero

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Asst. Editor: Chris Duffy
Assoc. Editor: Frank Pittarese
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This is probably one of THE most iconic Superman covers to me, definitely one of my favorites, period. I even pointed that out some 3 years ago!

As the issue opens, Clark and Lois are talking to Jeb Friedman–who is coordinating a concert to be held as a benefit to the citizens of Metropolis (which just recently was destroyed). When reflected light grabs their attention, Superman investigates…finding Batman trying to contact him. This Batman is not the one just recovered from a broken back, and references Time anomalies. Another Batman soon arrives…as does a third. Meanwhile, the heroes learn of plans to ruin the concert, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the city at the moment, and it’s up to them to once more save the day. Superman enlists the scientific aid of Emil Hamilton as they confirm the Time anomalies…even as the Batmen shift, split, and disappear. Finally, Superman prepares to seek out "his" Batman, showing the way "great minds think alike"–Batman had just arrived to contact HIM! While the two begin to "catch up," Metron arrives, warning of a Crisis.

This is another issue that nicely (and actually!) clearly ties into the events of Zero Hour…it’s also another issue that I read that summer when it was released. Though I feel like some of the "music" stuff is a bit dated and cliché, on the whole, the issue holds up. Having read all the Superman books solidly for so many years, it doesn’t take long to shift my mind back to what was going on in the books at the time–such as Alice and Perry White taking care of Keith, and Keith constantly getting into trouble "seeing" his mom everywhere and running after her.

I’ve had mixed feelings over the years on Bogdanove‘s art–there’s something to it that’s a bit off-putting to me, especially when held up against Jurgens‘ work. Absolutely, completely isolated, it’s not a style I’d necessarily choose high on a priority list…but the art more than gets across what it needs to, and beyond that usual feeling, REALLY shines here, conveying numerous visual styles of Batman that clearly evoke prior incarnations in a way that shows me the general look of Superman is a choice in style and not a reflection of ability! It’s also a visual style firmly entrenched in my memory OF the various Super-titles from the ’90s, and is not something I’d wish to lose…too much nostalgia for this title!

I really like the story itself in this issue…we move elements of the core Superman story forward–touching on subplots like Jeb Friedman, the Whites and Keith, Jimmy & Ron, as well as getting Clark and Lois along with getting Superman in action…we even have Emil Hamilton accounted for. That we also have Batman, and as a Time anomaly at that makes this both a great singular issue that can be read AS a single one-shot issue, but also plays well within the ongoing Superman titles while being a very clear and useful participant in the larger Zero Hour story. We also get setup for the next of the four Superman books…all within just this one issue, at standard size and price.

While I’ve got to admit to a bit of bias, both on this being a Superman title at all, and having read it originally such that this is more nostalgia than reading something new from the time, this is a great issue that I’d recommend as plain, simple FUN even if you’ve never immersed yourself in the ’90s Super-books…you don’t even truly need Zero Hour to enjoy it…the Event is just a convenient "excuse" to allow for–without lengthy explanation/setup–the presence of multiple iterations of Batman. So far, I’d put this at the top of the list with Batman #511 as the best of the initial wave of Zero Hour Tie-ins, with Superboy #8 as a runner-up.

The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #50

supermanmanofsteel050The Trial of Superman! / Part 1: Split Personality

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Duffy & McAvennie
Editors: Carlin & Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: 2.95
Cover Date: November, 1995

This was another issue I pulled from the quarter-bins not too long ago: it caught my attention because of having revisited the issue’s cover when complaining about the newest DC Superman title, Superman Unchained and lack of explanation to the “unchained” part. But seeing the issue handy for only 25-cents, I re-bought it in order to easily re-read it…far easier to pay 25-cents than have to shift a number of heavy longboxes around and root through at least 2 boxes to find my original copy.

This issue begins the Trial of Superman arc…one of the larger arcs of this era of the titles, crossing through about 3 months’ worth of all the Superman titles at the time. Yet, as typical of the era, the story as a whole is an ongoing narrative, so this picks up with an ongoing plot, and sort of merges into what becomes the main plot for The Trial of Superman.

We pick up with a grossly weakened/decayed Superman, virtually powerless, barely skin-and-bones from an ongoing fight with a new incarnation of the Parasite. While some of the details played out on-panel in a previous issue, here we get context and figure out along with the characters what the present status quo is of the Parasite, which makes him all the more dangerous. Things don’t end with putting down the threat posed by the Parasite, as Superman is captured and faces an alien tribunal seeking to hold him accountable for the destruction of the planet Krypton…and things are not pretty.

While I like the cover quite a bit, I’m not all that thrilled with the interior art. I don’t remember having much of an issue with it “at the time,” but taking this alone and pretty much out of context–and being much more used to the last several years’ worth of interpretations of Superman–it’s not to my liking. And while explained in-story by the Parasite draining him, Superman just appears rather “off,” and impossibly skin-and-bones to even have survived any of what he’s put through in the issue.

Story-wise, I’ve never–that I can recall–been any fan of the Parasite character. I’ll be one of the first to want to see villains who are a physical danger to Superman (as opposed to businessman Lex Luthor, or the likes of the Toyman or Prankster) but I’ve just never been interested by Parasite, and have a particular dislike for the round-mouthed “parasitic-worm” look the character was given in the mid-’90s.

This issue boasts plenty of cliche in the villains…but works decently enough overall. I got a definite sense of how overwhelmed Superman was here–dealing with the Parasite and mid-battle being kidnapped into space, and the shock of this alien tribunal wanting to make him accountable for the destruction of a planet gone before he was technically even born.

I enjoyed re-reading this…and it certainly has me contemplating re-reading the entire arc…which I believe I have a collected volume, which would make said undertaking far simpler than trying to dig single issues out or tracking down new copies.

DC Retroactive: Superman – The 1990s [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Rating: 4/5

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

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