Doomsday is COMING.
Superman: The Man of Steel #16-17; Superman #72-73; Adventures of Superman #495-496; Action Comics #682-683; Triangle Numbers 1992 – 37-44
Writers: Louise Simonson, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern; Pencilers: Jon Bogdanove, Dan Jurgens, Tom Grummett, Dusty Abel, Dennis Janke, Jackson Guice; Inkers: Dennis Janke, Brad Vancata, Doug Hazlewood, Terry Austin, Brett Breeding, Denis Rodier; Colorist: Glenn Whitmore; Letterers: Bill Oakley, John Costanza, Albert De Guzman, Bill Pearson
With “The Blaze/Satanus War” in the rearview, it’s time to build towards the next big thing. But before we get to that, there’s the issue of Andrea and Gary Johnson, Clark’s neighbors. Andrea’s been in the background of a few issues, constantly sporting new bruises that Clark has been noticing. Now Louise Simonson, Dan Jurgens, and Jon Bogdanove are going to take two issues to look at the less world-shaking and more intimate problems to which super powers can’t reliably solve. The covers to both Superman: The Man of Steel #16 and Superman #72 are striking and visceral, but the cover to Man of Steel is not constructed in a way to illustrate the story inside, and instead looks like it was Superman who beat Andrea. I feel that had Superman been brought to the foreground of the image it would have better illustrated the feel that Bogdanove was going for, in that it would be Superman in a more protective stance than aggressive. Poorly laid out cover aside, the meat of the issue is incredibly intense and emotional, and digs deep to the heart of the character. When he tries to intervene as Superman, Andrew shows clear symptoms of battered person syndrome, defending Gary and demanding that Superman leaves or be arrested for intruding. When he tries to report the violence and abuse to the police as Clark Kent he’s told that only the abused individual can press charges. Meanwhile, there is a scene that illustrates the dangerous ramifications the abuse is having on the whole family, as the eldest son exhibits violent and abusive behavior towards both his younger brother and Keith from the Children’s Center. It’s a sign that the abuse is so normalized that Jerry has adopted it as his own means of protection. The helplessness that Clark feels in this situation causes him to reflect on a similar situation he experienced in the earliest days of his career as Superman. And this is where the issue truly shines, allowing Bogdanove to do a full homage to that fateful scene from Action Comics #1 in which Superman confronts a wife beater. Bogdanove is truly at the top of his game in this sequence, channeling Joe Shuster in the best possible way.
This was the first time in his career that Superman realized he can’t actually save everyone, but the feeling of helplessness is still there. There’s a really emotional scene where a younger Clark goes to the Kents for guidance, but it truly boils down to having to trust in the systems that have been built, and not expecting to be able to fix everything on his own.
Likewise, the next issue starts with Clark back in Kansas in the waning hours of the night, standing forlorn in his parent’s fields, once more searching for answers in a terrible and difficult situation. Pa again gives him a sense of clarity and direction, and that’s something that I always appreciate about this era’s Kents. They were always there to be guiding voices when Clark needed it, and the decision to have them be around to be an active part of Clark’s life was one of the best changes that John Byrne made to the origin. In this issue, Clark also tells Lois the follow-up to the previous issue’s retelling of the scene from Superman’s first appearance. Clark’s intervention actually led to more violence as the wife tried to leave and was then murdered, and it’s a guilt that he’s lived with for the seven years since. It’s also one that taught him a vital lesson in delivering justice, in that he can’t be the one to determine the fates of the people he apprehends. In the end, Lois and Clark intervene this time and get Andrea the help she needs, for a better ending than the previous time Clark intervened in a case like this.
After two very dark and heavy issues, Adventures of Superman #495 is a mostly lighter romp with the Forever People and the New Gods. While it is a story about the kidnapping of a small girl, it’s still a significantly less heavy story that allows Ordway and Grummett to highlight their love of the Fourth World before the upcoming arcs. Grummett does a fantastic job channelling Jack Kirby, especially with Granny Goodness. Over in subplots, we have Vinnie Edge signing Titano’s Pizza mascot Turtle Boy (aka Jimmy Olsen) to a children’s Saturday morning television show.
In Action Comics #682, guest penciler Dusty Abell delivers a very Byrnesque Superman in a story that goes back to some of the early stories of the Byrne Era. This issue reveals who supplied Joker with a nuke in Superman #9, a question that I was begging to have answered when I read that issue. The answer, and the villain behind this issue’s giant robot attack is Thadeus Killgrave.
After getting bullied by Jerry Johnson in Man of Steel #16, Keith followed a woman he thought was his mom into the sewers as she took Tiger. The woman turns out to be one of the underworlder Cadmus rejects who are setting up to lead an invasion to the surface. Man of Steel #17 marks the first mention of Bloodthirst, and the first appearances of several of these underworlders. Superman saves Keith, but not before the underworlders tell him that they have his mother captive, and that if Keith wants her to stay alive he won’t tell anyone about their plans to invade the surface. But more importantly, KRAANG! Doomsday is coming.
The Linear Men make their return along with Waverider in Superman #73. But before they do, there are two of the most awkward sequences in comics history. The first comes with Clark and Lois running into their abusive neighbor Gary at the elevator. He’s none too pleased to see them and refuses to discuss anything about his personal life with them. Later at dinner with Pete and Lana, Clark is absolutely miserable which transitions to straight dumbfounded as Pete asks if they have any plans on having children. The awkward silence is broken by an old man dying, with Waverider appearing moments later to fall to his knees in mourning, having watched his grandfather die all over again. It is from here that he drags Superman with him to confront the Linear Men. Upon finding out that the mysterious hooded member of the Linear Men is an alternate version of himself, Waverider lashes out, killing the man and breaking time as a whole briefly. Upon restoring the timeline by saving the other Ryder, he’s inducted into the group’s ranks. The whole experience leaves Clark unsettled, but more unsettling is that somewhere else… KRIINK! Doomsday is coming.
Three months have passed since that fateful day that Clark proposed to Lois (almost two years in the real world, but comic book time is weird). However, that means that Superman is due for a visit from his ol’ pal Mr. Mxyzptlk. The last time he visited he introduced red kryptonite to the world and caused Superman to briefly lose his powers before once again getting banished to the 5th Dimension. And while Superman was in space, Lex Luthor taught him to lie, so he’s employing that tactic here, rewriting history as he sees fit. He also unknowingly provides Superman a clue to Lex Luthor II’s identity, by cutting through the man’s lie and placing him back in the old body he’d abandoned, missing hand and all. Dennis Janke does pencils for this issue in addition to his normal inks (as part of the regular Man of Steel team). His pencils are a little looser than Grummett’s standard for the book, but really work in selling the absurdity of the world that Mxyzptlk has built. A particularly enjoyable reference in the issue is a brilliant parody of Watchmen where Lex gets thrown out of the window only to be saved by Superman. In the end Superman sets everything right again by solving a logic puzzle to determine which of three Mxyzptlk’s were lying. Sets everything right for now, at least, because somewhere else… KRAAK! Doomsday is coming.
One thing all of the books consistently did over the last several months, was to start to sell the impending doom that was lurking right around the corner. Whether it was showing him beaten and bloody in “The Blaze/Satanus War,” having him relive key moments of his life with Kismet, or just escalating threats to the city and planet, things seemed to just be pointing to something big and disastrous on its way. But the thing that was used most to convey this was a Lois Lane coming to grips with the danger that her fiance faced on a daily basis. You would often have quiet moments where she hoped for his safety, and that’s something that really sells both the threat and the love between the two. This time, however, her fears were unfounded, as the foe was a 1990s stereotype vigilante werewolf, the Jackal. He was going around and meting out final justice to criminals of all sorts before Superman stopped him, and gave him a lesson that was hard learned when he executed the Phantom Zone criminals. While Lois did not have to worry about his safety this time, soon… KROOM! DOOMSDAY IS HERE!