Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Trade Tales! - The Return of Superman

So, I’ve have looked at lot of homages to Superman this month. My next four (yes, four) aren’t homages as much as they are replacements. That’s right, I’ve finally gotten to this part of the Death/Return of Superman story arc from the 90’s. The Return of Superman pretty much contains all of “Reign of the Supermen,” the arc that had four heroes posing as Superman. I’ve already looked at the Death and the Funeral and enjoyed them both. Today, I’ll be seeing how well this stacks up with the rest of the story line.

The trade more or less has every issue from “Reign of the Supermen.” We have Superman: The Man of Steel #22-26, Superman #78-82, The Adventures of Superman #500-505, Action Comics #687-691, and Green Lantern #46. Pretty much everyone from the previous arcs are here on the book. The biggest change is that Karl Kesel replaced Jerry Ordway as writer of The Adventures of Superman. We also have Gerard Jones, M.D. Bright, and Romeo Tangal for the Green Lantern tie-in. So, sit back because this may be a long one.

The Return of Superman
Writers: Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonsen, Roger Stern, Karl Kesel, and Gerard Jones
Pencils: Dan Jurgens, John Bogdanove, Jackson Guice, Tom Grummett, and M.D. Bright
Inks: Brett Breeding, Dennis Janke, Denis Rodier, Doug Hazelewood, and Romeo Tangal
Colors: Glen Whitmore and Anthony Tomlin
Letters:  John Costanza, Albert DeGuzman, and Bill Oakley

We start out by getting introduced to the four Supermen: The Man of Steel (Steel), The Last Son of Krypton, The Man of Tomorrow (The Cyborg), and the Metropolis Kid (Superboy). All four of these heroes help out where they can in the city and world.  Their presence has a big impact on Metropolis. The city as well as the world is wondering who “the real McCoy” is.  Lois Lane does her best to find out if any of these guys are the real deal. Even Lex Luthor II tries to take some of them under his control.
Yes, I like this character. He does get better as time goes by.

Over time, it’s revealed that the Superboy and Steel aren’t the real deal. The Last Son and the Cyborg seem to be the real one until a weakened Clark wakes up in the Fortress of Solitude. It turns out that the Last Son had brought Clark’s body there to use as an energy source and that somehow revived Clark. He’s able to catch up on events by using the Fortress’s computers.  Eager to get back into action, Clark suits up in a Kryptonian War Suit and uses it to walk to Metropolis.
Man... hopefully Hal takes this well... or not.

The stuff really hits the fan when Coast City gets destroyed by Cyborg-Superman and the alien warlord, Mongul. He also almost kills the Last Son and blames him for the destruction. Superboy is tricked into coming to Coast City and gets captured. Luckily, he begins to learn more about his actual powers and heads back to Metropolis. He ends up meeting with Steel, Lois, Lex, and Supergirl.  Superman also makes it to Metropolis, but they are also not sure if even he is the real deal. A talk with Lois settles that problem easily. After that, Superman, Steel, Superboy, and Supergirl head towards the decimated Coast City.

While the Last Son (revealed to be the Eradicator) recuperates in the Fortress, the other heroes start their assault on Engine City. When Metropolis comes under fire from the same process that destroyed Coast City, Superboy leaves the group to and saves Metropolis. Superman, Steel, and Supergirl have to put up with Mongul’s forces in Engine City. Luckily, Green Lantern Hal Jordan shows up to help out against Mongul. The Eradicator and Superboy also come back and try to help save the day. During the final bout, we find out Cyborg’s real identity: Hank Henshaw.
For those who think Superman wouldn't use guns, remember that he is depowered here and is still trying to save the day. Also, he needed something to match his long hair... not a mullet.

In the end, it comes down to a fight with Superman and the Eradicator going up against the Cyborg. When Henshaw gains an upper hand and threatens both men’s lives, The Eradicator uses his energies to re-power Superman completely. Recharged and in charge, Superman easily takes care of the Cyborg and the day is saved. Supergirl even uses her powers to make Superman a new suit. He then heads home to Lois and they (with the help of Supergirl) come up with a way to explain Clark’s absence. The trade ends with Lois and Clark embracing. They would next  then get accosted by some supernatural guy in a trenchcoat, but the trade left that out.

If that synopsis feel short, then that means you should go read this for yourself. This is a good end to a nice trilogy. While I do have some issues with it, it brings the whole arc to a close pretty well. Before I get to the rest of the review, I want to talk about the four replacements. I liked how they represented certain aspects of Superman. Steel represented his ethics, the Eradicator represented his alien heritage, Superboy represented his public side, and the Cyborg (before his villain phase) represented his epicness:
  • Steel – While Steel’s stories were possibly the weakest (though not bad), I liked his character. While John Henry Irons really has no connection to Superman, he is the closest in terms of ethics and morality. All the others are pretty connected on a physical level, but not on a mental or ethical level. For a while, it was hinted that John actually had the spirit of Clark. Luckily, they don’t go down that route. He had a great look with the armor and hammer. There is a little bit of Iron Man in him since he has the suit and he created weapons that eventually got in the hands of evil folk.
  • Superboy – Superboy was also one of my favorites in the arc. He was a clone created by Cadmus in case Superman died. While he was a teenager with attitude, he did have the spark of a hero. He just didn’t have the experience or mind that Clark had. He was also pretty naïve since he could be easily swayed by older folk. His stories were also some of the best with him learning what it really meant to be a hero. While his look reeks of the 90’s, I like it especially his jacket.
  • The Last Son/the Eradicator – For those who don’t know, The Eradicator was an ancient Kryptonian device that was created to contain the purity of Krypton. It once tried to take over Superman’s mind and then it was able to form a body and tried make Earth a new Krypton. When Superman died, it came back, took Superman’s body from his tomb, and used it to take Superman’s form. He was also the most aggressive of the four in that he killed his villains. He also went on a journey that was similar to Superboy’s. He began to see what the symbol Clark wore actually meant and that his aggressive actions aren’t what the world needs. His suit was alright and it felt like a mix of Superman’s uniform and Kryptonian garb.
  • The Cyborg-Superman/Hank Henshaw – There’s not much to say about his journey since he’s the villain of the story. Hank Henshaw was a scientist who ultimately lost his life, wife, and friends to a shuttle accident. He gained the ability to inhabit technology and control it. He left Earth and the solar system by using parts of Superman’s birth matrix. While in space, he gained a huge hatred for Superman, amassed great power, and made Mongul his underling. He came back to Earth in order to sully Superman’s name.
  • I thought the Cyborg was a decent villain for the most part. He’s ultimately just a guy out for revenge. Still, he gets to do something that most villains don’t get to do: destroy an inhabited city. The destruction of Coast City led Hal Jordan to do some messed up things, but that’s a story for another time. Henshaw’s look is fine but it definitely makes him out to be the bad guy. If you look at the four men in a room and get told that one of them is evil, he’s probably the one you’ll look at.

I thought the overall story was handled pretty well. The writers made sure to get all of the different replacements to work gel together in the DCU.  I especially like how the supporting characters reacted to the replacements especially Lois. I thought some of the new characters introduced in Superboy’s part of the story were fine. When Superman officially comes back, it all gets ramped up for a fist-pumping finale. The dialogue, while a bit expository, was good. I also liked that they were able to explain the Eradicator’s and the Cyborg’s backstory.
Preach, John! Preach!

The artwork was pretty good as a whole. The looks of the four replacements ranged from decent to pretty cool. The art team did their best to make everything look cohesive throughout the storyline. I think Grummett gets the “Most Valuable Player” award here since his artwork was really good. Jurgens is probably tied with Grummett as well. Guice’s stuff was pretty good, but I didn’t like all of his work in the story. While Bogdanove had some good work here, I didn’t like all of it. He was probably my least favorite of the four main artists. By the way, I thought M.D. Bright’s stuff was good but not great.
Oh Hal... the stuff DC editorial does to you  later might want you to use that hammer again.

I don’t have too many negatives on the story. The dialogue could get a little winded even for a 90’s comic. There were also some things that made little sense. The most notable thing was the fact that Superman wasn’t keeling over around all of the Kryptonite in the final battle. Also, some artwork could be a bit messy. I noticed this more with Bogdanove stuff thought that could have been the inking and colors as well. My last issue is more of a nitpick. Some things got cut out of most issues in the trade. I guess this was done to make room and focus on Superman’s return. At least I have the issues that have the parts that were cut out. Oh yeah, Jeb Friedman is another dislike. I dislike any idiot who'll flirt on a woman whose fiance just potentially died. 
Not from the storyline, but it fits here. Don't worry, Jeb does get some pushback especially a few years later.

Overall, this was a good story. It gave us some new heroes to root for and ended a pretty interesting time during Superman’s publication. Out of the whole story line, the Return is probably my favorite of the three since it mixes good action and good story. All four replacements stuck around for a long time. Steel and Superboy got their own books, The Eradicator joined the Outsiders, and The Cyborg-Superman was a thorn in Superman’s and Green Lantern’s side over the years. Steel, Superboy, and The Cyborg-Superman have even appeared in the New 52. I’m not sure about the Eradicator though.
You know, I do wonder why the Cyborg didn't throw Doomsday into the Sun. I know this comes back later, but it is something to think about.

Well, I have to say this month was fun. I got to look at some heroes who I probably wouldn’t have gave two looks at. I’m planning on continuing to read Alan Moore’s Supreme, Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, and a few others. I might even give Mighty Avengers (Blue Marvel’s a part of the team) a chance. While the “Super-Analogues” part ends here, I do have one more post do to. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and don’t trust cyborgs who really look evil.

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