Superman Retrospective ’86 – ’99 pt. 2
You can check out the first part of this rather lengthy series here.
The Man of Steel #5
This issue has Lex Luthor trying to create a “perfect” duplicate of Superman, which is weird because a perfect copy of Superman would do everything that the original does, including 1. ) Punch Luthor and 2.) Throw Luthor in Jail. Fortunately for Luthor, the clone turned out wrong because of Superman’s alien DNA and because Science is Hard.
However, it turns out perfecting the cloning process is not the only thing that Luthor’s team sucks at, because they managed to botch the disposal process as well, resulting in the defective clone – Bizzaro – going to Metropolis and messing things up, because that is how he rolls.
Meanwhile, Lois’ sister Lucy, who is blind (what?!) suddenly starts to regain her eyesight due to the dust that comes off Bizzaro’s face (you’d think this is weird and entirely without precedent, but I distinctly remember an old Superfriends episode where Superman’s boogers managed to cure cancer and bring the recently dead back to life.) The climax of the issue has Bizarro sacrificing himself during a fight with Superman so that Lucy can see again.
This issue establishes that you can’t really clone a Kryptonian perfectly, which is going to come up again during Reign of the Supermen when an attempt to clone Kal-El resulted in the birth of Superboy.
The Man of Steel #6
This issue has Superman going back to Smallville in order to visit his adoptive parents, only to run into the real one. Well, it’s just a hologram but it’s a hologram of his real father Jor-El, who proceeded to dump the entire history of Krypton into Superman’s brain. I found it weird that this is the first time Superman realized that he is an alien, after 28 years of flying and shooting lasers from his eyes (up to this point he thought he was an X-Men or something).
In the middle of all that, Superman also has an awkward encounter with his childhood pal Lana, whose life he accidentally ruined when they were teenagers and he told her he could fly. Lana spent the next ten years obsessed with him and following Superman’s exploits around the world instead of, you know, living a normal life. She tells him all this and then she’s like “but don’t feel bad or anything.” We don’t see the end of the conversation but Superman probably said “I, uh… think I left the oven on” and ran away from the creepy stalker lady.
This is the last of the Man of Steel miniseries, and you get the feeling that it was meant to establish that Clark Kent is the real person and Superman is the costume, mainly because there is an actual part where Kent pretty much says “Clark Kent is the real person, Superman is the costume.”
In this first issue of a new series, Superman tries to find the dude who stole the rocket that he came in when he first landed on Earth as a baby. It turns out that said dude is a.) inside a laboratory full of pictures and data about Superman and b.) already dead because he thought Superman was an evil alien invader (there’s no explanation why all the years of seeing Superman fighting crime and saving people didn’t turn him around) and used the kryptonite inside the rocket to build an alien-killing Terminator, Metallo, only for the creation to turn on its creator first before deciding to go after Superman.
I was underwhelmed by the Man of Steel miniseries, so Superman is a breath of fresh air. It has everything I want in a Superman comic: visceral action (there’s an almost Doomsday-level fight — Metallo and Superman tear down a whole bank in their fight, and then Metallo emerges from the rubble holding Superman’s cape); some interesting narrative choices; and just kick-ass storytelling. Also, it’s cool that they establish right on the first issue that this Superman is very much capable of getting his ass handed to him.
What’s worth noting on this issue is that instead of just wiping the data about him in the lab, Superman literally rips the chunk of land under the dead scientist’s lab, and throws it into space so that no one will find it. Because that is how he rolls.
If you think Superman is a jerk for doing it, you’ll be glad to know that it eventually bites him back in the super arse, because someone did find the floating chunk of land, which lead to the creation of Cyborg Superman. If you think Green Lantern Hal Jordan is also a jerk, you’ll also be glad to know that the creation of Cyborg Superman eventually lead to a.) the destruction of his beloved Coast City and b. ) a rather painful fight against a super-strong alien who isn’t affected by the GL ring because of its yellow-colored skin.
Adventures of Superman #424
There’s a lot of action in this issue, and a lot of heavy plot as well but nothing that you wouldn’t expect from a comic book about a guy who can punch stars into dust. There’s a bunch of terrorist robots hailing from the Middle-Eastern nation of Qurac who decided that they want to invade Metropolis. Meanwhile, Lois Lane’s mom is dying after getting into an accident in a chemical factory. It looks like a job for: Lex Luthor.
That’s right. Lex calls up Lois and says that he has discovered a cure for her mom, and he’s telling the truth because he actually orchestrated the whole thing as a ploy to get into Lois Lane’s pants. Because that is how he rolls.
As for Superman, this is one of those comics where the writers kind of portray him out of character, probably as an attempt to adapt him to the times. It seems like a good idea at first, but making him edgy and serious is silly, especially since they went so far that Superman basically turned into Batman, but with the powers of a god (which is redundant because Batman is already a god, amirite, batfans?)
One good thing about this is that Marv Wolfman took the time to introduce new side characters (such as Cat Grant, Prof. Emil Hamilton, General Sam Lane, Inspector Bill Henderson, etc.) making Metropolis feel more like an actual city with people in it instead of a cardboard setting for Superman, his coworkers, and his enemies.
That would be it for now. Stay tuned for the 3rd part next week. I literally have a truckload of these comics so we can keep this going for a LONG time. In the meantime, you can add me on Twitter: @mrmxy or read the stuff I wrote for Cracked at http://www.cracked.com/members/Mxy