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The ’90s Revisited – Action Comics Annual #4

90s_revisited

action_comics_annual_004Living Daylights

Written by: Dan Vado
Pencilled by: Chris Wozniak
Inked by: Karl Altstaetter, Trevor Scott, Karl Kesel, Steve Mitchell
Lettered by: Albert De Guzman
Colored by: Matt Hollingsworth
Assistant Edited by: Dan Thorslan
Edited by: MIke Carlin
Cover Art by: Joe Quesada
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

[Note: Apparently I covered this issue once before, back in October 2013. This 2022 post is my current take on the issue.]

Professor Bennet’s daughter Mona is still under Eclipso’s control. Superman and the Justice League plead with him for help but he’s got nothing to offer. Superman decides that the only option left is that he turns himself over to Eclipso in exchange for the citizens of Crater Bay. He leaves without knowing the League’s plans, as that would just tip Eclipso off. While the League prepares for a battle with an eclipsed Superman, the man of steel goes through with his plan and gets himself eclipsed. With the help of Lex Luthor II and Professor Hamilton they get a new solar trap ready…but it’s got to be installed and is on a timer, so Booster/Fire/Ice attempt to keep Eclipso-Superman busy until the "cavalry" arrives. Said cavalry is Captain Marvel, with the power of SHAZAM…Earth’s Mightiest Mortal, The Big Red Cheese, yadda yadda yadda. A number of pages are eaten up with the fighting between Captain Marvel and Eclipsed Superman…amidst their battle, the League attempts to deal with the many eclipsed citizens…and the town winds up burning. Jerry–who we met in Superman Annual #4–meanwhile comes across the solar device and manages to change its timer to go off much sooner. Ultimately, the Crater Bay townsfolk are freed from Eclipso…but the town has been practically destroyed, and Eclipso gets away with Superman’s body.

As much as I wrote summarizing this issue, it’s a very loose summary…you’ll get a lot more out of reading the actual issue.

For me, this is very much a "key issue" that I remember from being a kid and first reading it in the summer of 1992. I’m pretty sure this was my first exposure to Captain Marvel in any "modern" sense…and was definitely one of my earliest exposures to the 1992 incarnation of the Justice League.

The cover is very memorable to me, with an enraged, eclipsed Superman in a chokehold from Captain Marvel and the tagline "The EVIL of ECLIPSO vs. the Power of SHAZAM!" It’s certainly one of my earlier exposures to Joe Quesada’s art.

I recall covering at least one issue of the Lightning Strikes Twice story that ran in Action Comics #826/Adventures of Superman #639/Superman #216 for comiXtreme/csPulp back in 2005 (ahead of the lead-up to Infinite Crisis) and feeling like it retread a bunch of stuff…and citing this particular issue as why it felt like such a retread. (Interesting to me to note that at the time, Lightning Strikes Twice was 13 years removed from Eclipso: The Darkness Within…but LST is now 17 years removed from the present!)

On this read-through I found the story to be fairly basic and simple…though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Superman gives himself up to Eclipso, the League calls in Captain Marvel, and fighting ensues. Despite expectations that the heroes would "win" and get Superman back, they don’t…and we’re left to get more of the story (and resolution) elsewhere.

The art didn’t impress me all that much, though it’s not bad. Superman seems too large at points, but overall characters I should recognize, I do…and no one looks so "off" as to be any great problem or disappointment to me. Passive acceptance of the art rather than any active response on my part.

While the issue isn’t terribly "deep," it’s definitely a "favorite" for me, if only as a bit of nostalgia. Summer 1992 and this Eclipso event were parts of my main "deep dive" into comics, that has more or less lasted for 30+ years now. I can concretely "place" this exact issue as something I definitely read that summer, I have memories of shared time with a friend, discovering comic shops, and other things that have stuck with me long-term.

I remember thinking that Eclipso: The Darkness Within had a much more linear, serialized story, largely based on this issue’s opening feeling like it came directly out of a previous issue released immediately prior. This does feel like a much more "crucial" chapter of the event than say, The Demon Annual #1 or The Flash Annual #5. With this issue, though, I am at about the halfway point of the event, though it’s breezed through 3 of 4 Superman titles of the time. I look forward to getting to the final Superman Annual and the bookend issue of the event that finished things out…but I’m definitely also curious as to how the rest of the Annuals will read. This feels like a late issue, but with half the event yet to go, we’ll see how I take ’em!

action_comics_annual_004_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics Annual #4

actioncomicsannual004Eclipso: The Darkness Within / Living Daylights

Written by: Dan Vado
Pencilled by: Chris Wozniak
Inked by: Karl Altstaetter, Trevor Scott, Karl Kesel, Steve Mitchell
Lettered by: Albert De Guzman
Colored by: Matt Hollingsworth
Assistant Edited by: Dan Thorslan
Edited by: Mike Carlin
Cover by: Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.50

Offhand, this issue is my earliest memory of the Captain Marvel character. If I was “aware of” him prior, it’s not a conscious memory. I wanted to re-read this issue given my recent foray (October 2013) into the Shazam/Captain Marvel character, as well as for the nostalgia. That, and while not from the 1970s or 1980s, I would have pegged this as a perfect issue for the Superman vs. Shazam collection…and this is certainly the issue that I think of when I think of the two characters fighting.

The issue’s cover is fairly iconic for me, showing an Eclipsed Superman struggling with Captain Marvel, captioned The Evil of Eclipso vs. the Power of Shazam! It’s rather interesting to realize the cover is by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, given Quesada‘s eventual and current involvement with Marvel. The 11-year-old Me certainly had found it engaging, igniting curiosity as to the Eclipsed Superman and who this other guy was that he was fighting.

The interior art, while not nearly as thrilling, gets the job done. Particularly on this re-read, I was more interested in the characters and interactions than the actual art, though nothing about it particularly screamed “go find more that matches this art!” Given this is an extra-sized issue produced simultaneous with the weekly ongoing saga in the main Superman books, and is from 21 years ago, it’s not a great concern and largely gets a pass as such.

The story itself is a bit mixed. On one hand, I’ve read this before, I know the overall bit of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within ‘event’ and where things go; I have a fuller context all these years later of the characters, situations, and so on, so it’s hardly as engaging as it was originally.

The story picks up with a town having been captured by Eclipso, and the heroes are unable to reclaim it. The only condition by which he’ll relinquish his hold is in trade for Superman’s body–which he has, thus far, been unable to possess. Given this is Superman, of course he agrees–willing to sacrifice himself for the good of others (regardless of all the potential harm that could be done by Eclipso controlling his body and powers). While he makes the deal with Eclipso, the other heroes begin a plan to combat an Eclipsed Superman, which involves bringing in Captain Marvel–the only one to truly have a chance of going toe to toe with the Man of Steel.

The story itself isn’t terribly deep…though it does provide reasonable motivation for what occurs…stuff doesn’t come outta nowhere (such as Captain Marvel just happening to “fly by” at the exact moment he’s needed…he actually has to be called in). We have broad, ongoing plot points of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within story in general, and this feels much more like a key point in the event rather than “just” the “encounter of the week” with a Black Diamond.

I actually paid $4 for this copy of the issue, for the immediate gratification of getting to re-read the thing without having to dig through umpteen longboxes or quintuple the issue’s cost paying for shipping, etc. Despite paying that kind of money for a 21-year-old comic that typically oughtta be 25 or 50 cent-bin fodder, it was worth it for the reading experience…especially given the cost matched virtually any current Marvel, many current DC, and anything presently on my pull list–yet this issue has more than twice the content of a current series (in some cases, nearly 3 times the content!).

If you can find this in a bargain bin or just have an interest in Superman and Captain Marvel/Shazam fighting, this is definitely a worthwhile issue. Ditto if you’re looking for just a handful of the Eclipso Annuals from 1992.

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