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Thursday, 28 February 2019

Superman 57 - the Krypton Man revealed

Dan Jurgens is joined by Art Thibert, Jon Bogdanove, Bob McLeod, Tom Grummett, Brett Breeding, Denis Janke, Denis Rodier and Jerry Ordway for the double sized Superman 57 (July 1991), the second chapter in the four part Return of the Krypton Man story arc, running through this month's Superman titles. 

The story picks up from the ending of the first issue of Superman - the Man of Steel, his newest book, which saw Superman confront Krypton Man, now a separate person, rather than a split identity.

Once they have come face to face, Superman realizes the Krypton Man is the Eradicator, having formed itself a body, and the Eradicator doesn't bother to pretend otherwise. It explains how, after Superman threw it into the Sun, it created its new form, using its control of all energy. That, obviously, includes solar energy, which it uses to take Superman down.

With no effective way to battle the Eradicator, it's probably a good thing that a lot of the double sized issue is devoted to the subplots of the supporting cast. Otherwise it would have been page after page of Superman getting trashed. Perry and Alice White begin their cruise, and wind up in staterooms across from Ma and Pa Kent, who Clark and Lois drop off at the ship.

Jimmy Olsen has moved into his own apartment, but finds out on the same day that he has been laid off at the Daily Planet. Sam Foswell has been cutting staff to save on costs, but is creating a lot of ill will towards himself.

Lana Lang has accompanied Pete Ross to Washington DC. He is now on the staff of a Kansas congressman, and has political aspirations of his own. But at the moment, he and Lana wind up more concerned about surviving, as an earthquake hits the city, shattering Lincoln's statue.

There are more unexplained earthquakes, heat waves, and other bizarre climate effects going on, though at the moment no one is connecting them to the Eradicator. Superman brings Emil Hamilton to his Fortress, so that he can examine Mr Z's crystal safely.

And Lois Lane's mother leaves the hospital. Lois and her father, Sam, are there, but Lucy has gone over to Jimmy's new apartment, where she hears about him losing his job.

The Eradicator is trying to convince the people that the Kryptonian way is better, before he just imposes it on them. He finds some people complaining about their slum apartment, and the Eradicator transforms it into a Krypton style dwelling. Superman shows up again at this point, accusing the Eradicator of manipulating people.

Superman fares no better in his second outing against the Eradicator. He gets the facial burns seen on the cover, and the issue ends with the Eradicator hurling Superman into the Sun.

The story continues in the next issue of Adventures of Superman.

Superman 56 - Red Glass begins, and the Newsboy Legion ends

The Newsboy Legion back-ups end in Superman 56 (June 1991), which also contains the first chapter in Red Glass, a storyline running through this month's Superman titles.

James Hudnall, Ed Hannigan and Will Blyberg are the creative team on all three chapters of Red Glass. The story, in this issue at least, is a truly bizarre mystery. It opens with Superman coming to the aid of a woman being mugged, who is terrified of him. As he tries to reassure her that she has no reason to fear him, she dies from a sonic blast.

Everyone is scared of Superman, it seems, and he finds a museum to his dead villains. Inside are the corpses of Mr Mxyzptlk, Metallo, the Prankster, Brainiac, the Joker, and even Darkseid, all apparently killed by Superman on one day. But just to make things stranger, the museum is funded by Lex Luthor, who is not dead.

As he heads for Luthor's, Superman runs into a handicapped Lois Lane. The Joker was responsible for her situation, but she argues with Superman anyway. He winds up frying her with heat vision, although he didn't intend to.

The crowd turns against him at this point, with people throwing things and yelling at him. Except for one person, walking by and listening to their radio, which is announcing "This is Houston." Hmm. That seems weird, no?

Superman then confronts the not-dead Luthor, who turns out to be Jimmy Olsen in disguise, complete with kryptonite that he intends to kill the hero with.

Gotta give Red Glass kudos for launching such a puzzling tale. The story continues in the next issue of Adventures of Superman.

Karl Kesel concludes the Newsboy Legion's back-up feature with a story that gives the spotlight to Angry Charlie.

While the Guardian recovers from his wounds, and the Newsboys tend to him, Angry Charlie goes exploring in their labs, and finds a photo from the old days, back when Dabney Donovan was working with Cadmus. Charlie does not speak, but the flashbacks make it clear that Charlie was one of Dabney's "monsters," which he took with him when he left Cadmus.

It's a sad little story. All three of the Newsboy Legion back-ups have merit, and play with concepts from Kirby's run on Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, yet I have to admit I found them disappointing. A more gripping story arc running through them would definitely have helped.

Superman Annual 3 - Waverider looks into Superman's future

Dan Jurgens begins his run on the book with Superman Annual 3, an Armageddon 2001 crossover, with art by Dusty Abell, Terry Austin, John Beatty, Dick Giordano, as well as Janke.

In Armageddon 2001 Waverider travels back to the present day from his dystopic future world, which is under the thumb of Monarch, a villain who was once one of Earth's greatest heroes. Waverider is trying to find out who became Monarch, and has the ability to look into the futures of different people.

This is the first of the crossover annuals, as Waverider considers Superman the most likely to become Monarch. He intercepts Superman on the roof of the Daily Planet as he talks to Lois Lane, and makes contact with him. In the near future, he sees Superman battling Brainiac, a tease for the upcoming Panic in the Sky storyline.

Moving ahead, Waverider sees Clark Kent and Lois Lane marry, and later Mannheim order Intergang to nuke the Daily Planet, wiping out much of Metropolis at the same time. Most of Superman's friends are killed in this, including Lois.

After that, Superman became a much more remote hero, but also a more controlling one. He is determined to see a nuclear free world, even if this pits him against the US army. He takes out a nuclear submarine. Superman scanned the craft with his x-ray vision, and believed no one was still onboard, but there was lead in the sub, and seven sailors wound up dying.

This gives the president the impetus he needs to call on other heroes to take down Superman. Incidentally, the president in this story is Forrest, the same politician who had been one of Luthor's pawns a couple of years back. He gets a message to Batman through Commissioner Gordon, and they meet. Batman does not believe Forrest's accusations about Superman killing the sailors, and sets out to research it on his own.

Superman has now married Lana Lang. His father has died, and Ma Kent is suffering from Alzheimer's, barely aware of what is really going on.

The Justice League get dispatched to take down Superman. Booster Gold, Fire, and the Martian Manhunter do their best. In the fight, Superman throws the Martian Manhunter into a burning building. J'onn's physical weakness to fire no longer existed, but it still put him into shock, and the Manhunter dies from a heart attack.

Knowing now that everyone will be coming for him, Superman moves Lana and his mother to the Fortress. Lana sticks by her man, even though she knows he is on the wrong course.

Batman and Robin, the Tim Drake version, find evidence proving that Superman did cause the deaths on the submarine, and Batman confronts the hero, in a scene that plays off their confrontation in Batman - The Dark Knight.

This time around Batman succeeds, using the kryptonite ring to kill Superman, who dies with Lois' name on his lips. Batman takes no pleasure in any of this, and it does feel like a really sad ending. But it clears Superman in Waverider's eyes. At least for now.

Superman 55 - Superman in Camelot, and the Newsboys save the Guardian

Both Time and Time Again and the Newsboy Legion back-up continue in Superman 55 (May 1991).

Ordway and Janke conclude their run on this book, moving over to resume on Adventures of Superman, with the penultimate chapter of Time and Time Again, set during the final battle for Camelot. Merlin is pulling the strings behind the scene, while Etrigan is out on the battlefield, leading the charge against the mysterious black knight in command of Morgan Le Fay's forces.

I really appreciate that this story makes reference to the Swamp Thing Camelot story, explaining that this one takes place after that one, with the battle continuing after the destruction of the castle. We also see Jason Blood in this, as a pagan spiritual leader, before being bonded to the Demon.

There are more scenes in the present with Bibbo, Lois Lane, the Lexcorp staff, Perry White and his wife, and Jimmy Olsen, trapped with his mother showing Lucy Lane his baby pictures.

Etrigan captures the black knight and brings him to Merlin, who released him from Morgan Le Fay's spell. It turns out to be Superman, who had fallen into Le Fay's hands upon arriving in this era.

Merlin has his own games, though. He cares more about preserving Etrigan than about preserving Camelot, and sets Superman up. Camelot falls, and Superman is shunted to another time period, while Merlin merges Etrigan with Jason Blood.

The story concludes in the next issue of Adventures of Superman.

Kesel continues with the Newsboy Legion back-up. Dubbilex informs the older version of the Newsboys about the attack by the Jimmy Olsen clone.

The younger versions have already taken off, following the Guardian in pursuit of the clone. They wind up saving the Guardian's life. The Olsen clone had turned fiery again, and was burning the Guardian to death. The kids spray the clone with water, which winds up reducing the creature to ashes and bone. Angry Charlie, the monster no one but Gabby ever sees, is shown following the boys, though no one sees him, of course.

The chapter ends with the revelation that Dabney Donovan created the Olsen clone, and the mad scientist makes reference to other Olsen clones he would like to create, mentioning various odd bodies that Olsen had back in his old book.

Superman 54 - Superman in the Warsaw ghetto, and the Newsboy Legion begin

There are two stories in Superman 54 (April 1991). The lead story is chapter three in the seven part Time and Time Again storyline, while the Newsboy Legion begin their own back-up feature.

The Ordway and Janke story picks up from the end of the previous issue of Action Comics, with Superman being sent back in time to World War 2. Time and Time Again sees Superman thrust backwards and forwards in time, though for those in Metropolis in the present, only one evening passes during the course of the story. Superman shows up in Warsaw, right in front of a train that is taking Jews off to a concentration camp. He flies off, uncertain about what action to take, for fear of disrupting history.

The officer in charge of clearing out the ghetto turns out to be Mr Z, who already has his crystal topped cane. When he hears about the flying man, he fears this may be one of the Justice Society of America, and sends troops out to find him. Superman has tried to take shelter in the ghetto, but most people fear being around him, as they expect the Nazis to come after him, though one young girl gives him some rags to conceal his costume.

Each chapter of Time and Time Again has a page or two in which the present day subplots advance. Although, given that it takes place during one evening, they don't advance too much. We see Lois Lane taking a walk as she tries to decide if she could be married to Superman. Perry White is trying to find a way to get past his hurt feelings and make things up with his wife. Bibbo is getting drunk, Lexcorp employees are trying to salvage the company, and Jimmy Olsen's mother walks in on him and Lucy Lane making out.

Superman learns that the Jews that Mr Z is having taken away are going to be test subjects in an atomic experiment, and decides that he cannot just stand by and let things go on. There is a nice parallelism as he bursts in, commenting to Mr Z that they have met before, although for Mr Z this is their first meeting, the opposite of their last encounter. And, just as in the photograph Mr Z showed him, Superman winds up wrecking the train.

Mr Z calls in an aerial attack, and Superman winds up getting nuked. But all that does is shoot him to another time period, as will be seen in the next issue of Adventures of Superman.

Karl Kesel writes and draws the Newsboy Legion back-up feature, which includes the Guardian, of course. The story begins with a giant green clone of Jimmy Olsen attacking Cadmus, evoking the green Jimmy Olsen clone from Kirby's days.

The older version of the Newsboys are working on a device that will enable one to tell clones apart from originals, and they stay largely off to the side of the story.

The Guardian and the Newsboys fight the Jimmy Olsen clone, getting some aid from Dubbilex. The clone goes from green to elastic-y to flaming hot, and escapes from his pursuers, at least for now.

The story continues in the next issue of Superman.

Superman 53 - the Sons of Liberty

The Sons of Liberty, a right wing secret organization, are introduced in the Ordway and Janke story from Superman 53 (March 1991).

The story picks up immediately after the ending of the previous issue of Action Comics, which saw Clark Kent reveal to Lois Lane that he is really Superman. That occurred in the final panel of that comic, so Lois' reaction is saved for the opening of this one. On the one side, Lois admits that this makes sense out of a lot of Clark's behaviour, and that, deep inside, she had expected as much. But it also means sharing her life with Superman, despite all his responsibilities, and with all the dangers. That is not something she was prepared for, and she asks for some time to think about things.

In other words, she is given a genuine reaction, not a silly, overly dramatic one. So it both plays a lot better, and also makes one more concerned about the ultimate decision Lois will come to.

Jose Delgado and Cat Grant's relationship is progressing much better. Even obnoxious Adam is somewhat under control, with Jose in his life.

Superman gets called on by the US government to bring is Marlo, the ruler of Qurac, to stand trial for his country's attacks on the US. Superman is reluctant about this, he had intervened in Qurac a couple of years before, in the pages of Adventures of Superman, and caused even more problems by doing so. But since the extradition is going to take place, and there is a strong liklihood that someone will try to kill Marlo along the way, Superman agrees. Marlo does not prove to be a willing passenger, making things difficult for the soldier inside the airplane.

While Superman winds up fighting against a major assault. It appears that Superman fails, and the plane gets shot down.

But Ordway has been playing a game with the reader. The plane carrying Marlo was not the plane Superman was accompanying. Superman was part of a decoy, to draw attention and, as it turned out, the assassination attempt. Marlo was flown safely to the US on a different aircraft, without any fanfare. The attacks on the plane required knowledge of the plans of the military, and some of the ranking officers are exposed as being part of the Sons of Liberty, a group that had had dealings with Marlo, and was desperate to cover them up.

The Sons of Liberty would return down the road.