It All Re-continued Here

Man of Steel TPB Collection 2
Writers: Marv Wolfman, John Byrne
Artists: Jerry Ordway, John Byrne, Dick Giordano, Terry Austin

July 18, 2005

By Avi Green

With the first Man of Steel miniseries having been published the year before, officially beginning the post-Crisis take on Superman, there was also to come a new sans-adjective ongoing for Superman as well. Byrne would write/draw that and also Action Comics, and Wolfman, who writes the introduction for this collection, would work on the second series, which used to be sans-adjective, and was then changed to Adventures of Superman, in 1987. It was Wolfman’s very own idea to do that, to give it a more nostalgic ring to the title, and it certainly worked out very well.

The issues collected here include the first three of the new sans-adjective Superman series, which reintroduced Metallo, originally a minor character when first appearing in the Silver Age, and now a more regular member of Superman’s rogues’ gallery. Metallo’s intention was to use the Kryptonite installed in his chest cavity by the scientist who’d stolen the spacecraft Clark Kent came to earth in to try and wipe out the Man of Steel, in hopes that this would get Supes out of the way to his ascendancy to a criminal career, but Lex Luthor, who wants the death of Supes to be his own personal pleasure, makes sure to abduct and paralyze the robotic menace, and then takes the Kryptonite for his own use, intending to slowly plot Superman’s downfall with it, making a ring with it for starters.

In between, there’s a story guest-starring the Teen Titans, when a man on crutches comes up with a machine that can switch minds, even with Superman, and uses it to hijack the Man of Steel’s body, and then cause chaos all over New York City. It’s Jericho who saves the day when he takes control of Supes’ body, effectively rendering the crippled man’s rampage at an end, and then Superman, in the man’s real body, comes along to explain everything, and make sure things are set right again.

Then, as if possession of the chunk of Kryptonite weren’t bad enough, Luthor sends two goons of his to search the Kent farmhouse for more clues, in his quest to try and find out who the Man of Steel really is, and they end up kidnapping Lana Lang, who’s just traveled there for a visit, as well. Since they discovered that she was in a lot of public broadcasting footage covering Superman in the news, they thought she might be a lead to finding out. And when Clark comes back to his apartment, he finds, much to his horror, that Lana was tortured by Luthor’s gang while they were holding her to try and force her to reveal his secret identity. Fortunately, she managed to hold back and resist their demands in spite of what they inflicted upon her, but alas, Superman was able to do little else to confront Luthor about it, mainly because of the Kryptonite ring he put together!

What’s interesting about this part is that Lex Luthor comes very close, without even realizing it, to figuring out the Man of Steel’s true identity. But he’s so convinced that Supes doesn’t really have a daytime ID, that he refuses to accept what’s shown before him on the computer screen, and fires the employee who’s been doing the research for him.

The next parts, by Wolfman, are even more interesting. A Metropolis based scientist named Hamilton is trying to protect his patent – a magnetic field producing device that can project powerful force shields, but Lex Luthor, whose company he’d unwittingly worked for years before, tries to swindle it from him through legal loopholes. This is during the time that Superman’s got his hands full dealing with terrorists from the fictionalized country of Qurac, written during a time when human interest stories like these were more frequent. And while Hamilton does try to use his device to help Supes contain the menace that invades the city, he goes ignored, to the point of where he ends up fighting Superman in madness. Which, alas, gets him jailed.

Then, there’s a story in which that occult host, the Phantom Stranger, beckons Superman to help stop an occult threat that’s brought a graveyard full of evil to revived state on the outskirts of Metropolis. Byrne, who writes this story, certainly gets the Stranger’s dialect right. And then, finally, there’s the Legends crossover of the time, which sets up Darkseid as a very formidable foe, for Superman and just about all the rest of the DCU. Superman is pursued and transported to Apokolips, lair of the sinister warlord who first appeared in Jack Kirby’s New Gods in 1971, and, through the manipulations of Amazing Grace, one of Darkseid’s acolytes, ends up becoming a subject of the warlord’s. Fortunately, Lightray and Orion, the latter being the son of Darkseid who was raised under the auspices of the good Highfather, travel to Apokolips to rescue Supes from his state of hypnosis. From there, he de-facto defeats Darkseid, but the villain manages to teleport him back to earth before he can actually take him down. As Darkseid makes clear, bad as he is, he does not cheat. And that’s what makes him a very inventive character and foe.

It’s all very well done, but if you ask me, the parts by Wolfman are done better than those Byrne does, mainly because Wolfman shows more respect for the characters and doesn’t overindulge in the kind of dark undertones that Byrne did back in the day. By that, I mean Byrne’s tendency to go too far, however subtle, with the Byrne-hold, which he does at least four times in this book.

I also liked Wolfman’s introduction of Cat Stevens, a beautiful reporter who’d first worked in Hollywood covering celebrities, whom Clark dated for a time back then. She too was quite an appealing character, and one of Wolfman’s best examples of characterization, which was one of his strongest suits in writing from the time. In fact, his approach to character-driven stories is what really made his writing of the time shine.

This too, while it does have its shortcomings, is also a very recommended read.

Copyright 2005 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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