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Friday, September 19, 2014

Tales from the 50 Cent Bin! - Superman #423 and Action Comics #583

So, Alan Moore… he’s alright in my book. I haven’t read much of his stuff. He’s just a writer that really doesn’t draw me in with his stories. The stories of his I’ve read are okay in my opinion and that does include Watchmen.  Hopefully, I don’t gather some online trolls by saying that about Watchmen. I’ve read all of his Superman stories in the Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? trade. Other than Watchmen, Moore is also known for crafting a two-part imaginary story that ended the Pre-Crisis Superman.

“Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” is a story that is loved by a lot of folk. Moore was asked to end this Superman’s story and he did it with a bit of a bang. It’s usually at the top of every “Favorite Superman Stories” list. Is it at the top of my list? I don’t know since I haven’t even made one yet. Moore is the writer of both issues. Curt Swan, one of the most well-known Superman artists, pens the issues. George Perez inks the first issue while Kurt Schaffenberger inks the last issue. After this story, Superman as renamed “The Adventures of Superman” while a new Superman book was created.

Superman #423
Writer:  Alan Moore
Artists: Curt Swan and George Perez
Letters: Todd Klein
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Editor: Julius Schwartz

The story starts in the not-to-distant future of 1997. Eric Crane, a Daily Planet reporter, stops by Lois Elliot's house to get an interview on the last days of Superman. We flashback to 1986 and find Superman returning from a space mission. He then goes through a bunch of turmoil. He finds out that Bizarro has gone mad and has started a rampage in Metropolis. Bizarro has now decided to literally be the opposite of Superman by killing people and causing destruction. He pulls the ultimate mimic by taking out blue kryptonite (Bizzaro's weakness) and committing suicide… yes, it gets worse from there, kids.

In the Arctic, Lex Luthor finds Brainiac’s mechanical head. The head comes alive and takes over Luthor’s body functions. A couple of days later, the villains known as the Prankster and Toyman expose Clark Kent as Superman to the world. They kidnapped Pete Ross (who knew Superman’s secret) and killed him in order to get the secret. After Superman captures those villains and a funeral is held for Pete, a legion of Metallos attack the Daily Planet in order to kill the rest of Superman’s friends. Superman is able to stop the cyborgs and takes them to prison. Superman decides to take the rest of his friends (Lois, Jimmy, Lana, Perry and Alice White) to the Fortress of Solitude in order to keep them safe from the rest of his villains.

At the Fortress, everyone gets used to their new situation. Krypto even returns from wherever he was hiding to help out if possible. As Superman does some pondering, some of the Legion of Superheroes show up to basically say goodbye. They even brought a younger version of Supergirl and that riles up Superman since Supergirl had died in the Crisis. Brainiac 5 tells Superman that something is coming soon. He also gives Superman a small statue of him holding the Phantom Zone projector. After the LoS say their goodbyes, Part One ends with Superman sitting down to take all of this in.
I think this is how most people feel reading this.

Action Comics #583
Writer:  Alan Moore
Artists: Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger
Letters: Todd Klein
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Editor: Julius Schwartz

Part Two starts with Superman destroying the Key to the Fortress of Solitude. Elsewhere, Brainiac summons Kryptonite Man and the Legion of Supervillains to attack the Fortress. Brainiac uses his ship to erect a shield around the Fortress so no other heroes can help. Jimmy and Lana find their old hero costumes. Juiced up on some powers, Jimmy (Elastic Lad) and Lana head out to fight the villains. While they take on the villains, Lex gains control of his body and tells Lana toe kill him. She does this but that doesn’t stop Brainiac.

Lana ends up getting killed by the Legion of Supervillains and Jimmy is slain by Brainiac who’s still in control of Luthor’s dead body. Kryptonite Man then breaks into the Fortress to look for Superman. Krypto finds him and a fight ensues. While Krypto is able to kill Kryptonite Man, the dog dies from Kryptonite poisoning. When Superman (where was he anyway) finds out about all the death, he goes ballistic. The Legion of Supervillains decide that this is the best time to leave. Brainaic tries to do what he can, but Luthor’s corpse has become unsuitable for him. He leaves Luthor’s body and then shuts down.
Superman knows that there is one foe left that he hasn’t faced yet. Suddenly, Mr. Myxptlk appears and tells Superman and Lois that he is the one who’s been pulling the strings of the other villains. He tells Superman that he’s tired of being a mischievous being and has decided to be a straight-up evil being. He tries to attack Superman and Lois. Superman gets reminded of the Phantom Zone projector and starts to use it on Mxy. Knowing he’ll be trapped, Mxy tries to teleport out of there and as he does that, Superman uses the projector to kill Mxy while he was teleporting away. Realizing he knowingly killed a villain, Superman decides to use Gold Kryptonite to permanently remove his powers. Lois tries to stop him but it’s no use as Superman enters the room with the Gold K-Rock.
Not to be pithy, but I hope Superman remembers this when another being like the Anti-Monitor shows up. Still, I get why he does it.

The other heroes break the barrier and find Perry, Alice, and Lois alive. They don’t find Superman who they assume went out into the Arctic to die as a powerless man. In 1997, Lois ends her interview with Crane. After Crane leaves, it’s revealed that Jordan Elliot (Lois’s husband) is the depowered Superman. How he got out of the Arctic is never revealed. All we know is that he’s married to Lois and he works as a mechanic. The two also have a son who apparently has some of his father’s old powers. The story (and continuity) ends with them getting ready for dinner.

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So, what do I think about this last Superman story? I liked it. It literally feels like a twisted love letter to Superman’s long history. Just about everything about Superman gets referenced somehow whether it’s in the story or art. We see his biggest villains and his supporting cast. I like the story and how it continues to pile on so much turmoil on Superman. It’s like he can’t catch a break. The quiet moments are also really good.

The first thing that popped into my mind while reading this again was this: man, this thing was dark! The first scene with Bizarro sets the dark tone and it continues throughout the two issues. I feel like yelling out “Darkness” like I’m Dave Chappelle or something. It’s not a happy story until the ending where we find out what happened to Superman. The issues also read a lot like a modern comic in style and in tone. Luckily, they’re not like most modern comics that have little plot and pretty pictures. No thought bubbles are used and the dialogue feels pretty natural for the most part.

As I said before, there are a lot of good moments. The scene with Bizarro, the conversation between Perry and Clark, and the scene with the Legion of Superheroes are my favorite moments in the story. Superman’s decision after Mxy's death did fit with the character. Even though there is a part of me that wonders if he really needed to go through with it, it made sense and even made the story feel more downbeat.
Meanwhile, in Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Superman of Earth-2 tries to kill the Anti-Monitor because of that whole universe-destroying thing the AM does. 

The artwork is pretty good. While Swan isn’t my favorite Superman artist, I do like his stuff. The inks from Perez and Scaffenburger were really good. When looking at the art in the first issue, it kind of looked liked that Perez was penciling some of it. The coloring was also really good. I also liked all of the little references that were thrown in throughout the story. I think I enjoyed the art to the first issue a little more that the second issue but it’s all good. I have no problems with it.

There isn’t a lot I don’t like about the story. I only thing I question is the death count. It’s like Moore decided he wanted to paint it red for this final story. It’s funny because there’s little blood in the story. All of Superman’s villains and a majority of his friends are killed. While I don’t have a problem with downbeat stories, I felt like this was way too much. It’s like I need tissues to dry the manly tears!

Overall, this was a good story even if it’s pretty depressing. I don’t know where this story places on my “Favorite Superman Stories” list. To be honest, I don’t even know if it would be on there. Hopefully, I haven’t gained the scorn of a thousand Moore fanatics because of that statement. Well, I’m outta here. Next time, I’m heading back to the 90’s for… something. I really don’t know yet. Peace and God Bless.

NEXT TIME: SOMETHING FROM THE 90’S!!!

1 comment:

  1. Yeah not a favorite of mine. I respect it for what it is (and who wrote it) but it feels a little to dark. Little wonder they called it an "imaginary" story to remove it from any an all canon.

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