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The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #21



Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Ed: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: March 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

It’s odd, somehow, in a way…this issue’s cover–Martha running through the field screaming "JON!" and seeing him laying face-down in it…even though I remember reading all these issues basically as they came out, as a kid…THIS one I feel deja vu or SOMEthing, I remember actually being AT Capp’s Comics, picking a copy of this issue up off the table there, the week this came out.

The issue opens with Lois standing on some sort of catwalk or platform with a huge whirlpool in the background, and Superman drowning in it. She "reports" on the situation, but seems oblivious to Superman’s need. It turns out to be a dream…obviously her guilt over only "reporting on" his battle with Doomsday and not doing anything substantive to SAVE him from Doomsday. The whirlpool is mirrored in real life as Metropolis is flooding! Meanwhile, the Kents arrive back at the farm in Kansas and reminisce; Jonathan especially confronts "ghosts" in the form of certain memories sparked by stuff around him. A poignant moment with young Clark and the calf Bessie…even as Jonathan had praised Clark’s care of her, Clark said it was Pa…Jonathan taught HIM how TO care!

Also meanwhile, in Cadmus, the Newsboy Legion finds Guardian and Dubbilex conflicted over keeping Superman’s body; while Lois talks with a cab driver as she heads to the park. Jonathan remembers young Clark and his raisin-oatmeal "airplanes" and a toy plane he gave the boy. The Underworlders continue to deal with the flood; the Newsboys lead Guardian to where the flood is getting into Cadmus…and we cut away to see Batman with Alfred, reflecting on the Kryptonite ring Clark gave him in case he ever had to be stopped. Lois joins the Underworlders and ultimately finds Superman’s body at Cadmus. They’re unable to actually take the body back before the alarm is sounded, but Lois is able to get back and expose the fact THAT the body’s been stolen/held. And though she’d spoken to them about it and promised she’ll see the body returned…the news being out there is too much for Jonathan and he collapses by the crater where baby Kal-El first arrived, leaving Martha holding him in despair.

I think I’d mentioned with Man of Steel #20 that Bogdanove‘s art is my least-favorite of the four Superman titles in this period. While that may be…I was rather surprised toward the end of this issue when I "realized" that I WAS reading an issue of Man of Steel…because somehow, that did not stand out to me here. It even took a little bit for it to "dawn on me" that this MUST be Man of Steel, given the heavy amount of page space given to the Underworlders. While the visuals are obviously Bogdanove…they fit this issue quite well and conveyed the story, and especially worked for the Kents’ scenes.

Just as with Adventures of Superman #499 where I did not remember the details of Turpin vs. Underworlders…I did not remember the extend of the Underworlders’ plight with the flooding for this issue. What I DID remember was Jonathan’s flashbacks/hallucinations/memories of Clark. Those are sort of "surfacey" in a way, only getting about a page each…but they’re deep when CONSIDERING them more deeply. I can by far appreciate more now than ever before seeing stuff and pausing, remembering. Seeing someone so clearly in "the mind’s eye," remembering just these tidbits or "moments" or a handful of words exchanged with a lost loved one. I’ve lost my Dad, so it’s not the same as a father having lost his son and remembering…but the tone, the feeling, the authenticity of it…hits hard.

I still don’t like the Underworlders stuff. While they "fit" in a world where aliens can be raised as humans, have superpowers and all that…they just don’t "work" for me HERE, in this sort of story where I’m more interested in character interactions than "action," and 29 years removed, don’t have the full, ongoing context that the Underworlders subplots had in 1992/1993. What I recall of the novelization excised them, and having read that several times as well as the comics over the years…they just don’t "hold up" for me nor have quite as important a part in what memories I’ve maintained OF the story in general.

This is definitely a solid issue…we get development and forward movement with the on-panel discovery of Superman’s body; that Lois knows; that she gets the word out. The plight of the Underworlders does show how their world has been upended by all this, not mention the allegory or whatever of people slipping through the cracks, which perhaps puts me in a bad light given my reaction to the characters and their presence in this story.

Much of this issue though is stuff I don’t care much for…but the scenes with Jonathan and Martha…and the (surprise/I’d totally forgotten about it) one with Batman and Alfred definitely make the issue worth reading.

I’ve got a couple scenes bubbling up that I apparently remember from the next/final chapter of Funeral for a Friend…and one may well be one of the harder ones for me of this entire story.


Tales of Green Lantern Comics

Last weekend, I had occasion to go through a number of my longboxes that have been in storage for a number of years. While going through these, I found a couple of gems that I’d expected to re-purchase in the near future, as I had no idea where they actually were within my existing collection.

The first of these was the complete 3-issue “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” mini-series from 1981. This is the mini that’s gained some attention the last few weeks for holding the first appearance of Nekron, who looks likely to have a significant role to play in the currently-unfolding Blackest Night story.

In another box, I found an old Green Lantern Annual, from 1998. I vaguely recall this “Ghosts” quasi-crossover with the JLA-related annuals that year. I know I’ve read the Superman Annual, but I’m unsure of the others. Whether I’d bought this as a new comic or scored it from a bargain bin I’m not sure. But seeing the cover, I yanked it outta the box figuring it’d be a small treat to read, and I got quite a kick out of the cover’s blurb “The Corpse Corps.” Turns out that Nekron’s a major player in this issue as well!

I also found a copy of Green Lantern (1990s series) #100 that I acquired somewhere along the way–it featured both Hal Jordan AND Kyle Rayner. This was an issue that saw Kyle thrown into the past where he got to fight alongside a young Hal Jordan before he was corrupted by Parallax; and at its conclusion saw this younger Hal dragged into the then-present DCU for the “Emerald Knights” story. I found it rather amusing, this cover that showed both characters, because I’d just hours earlier rescued another edition of the issue from a folder where it’d been since I was in high school, as I cleaned out some boxes in a closet.

This other edition of Green Lantern #100 is the copy that I originally bought, at Capp’s Comics (my then-LCS). As seen with the accompanying photo, the cover features Kyle quite prominently. However, if you open the issue, you’re confronted with another cover, this one featuring Hal quite prominently.

I’m aware of several such comics that feature a “double cover.” As far as I can tell, these were quite intentional and not some random screw-up at the printer. They basically allow for two different covers to be presented for a comic…yet each customer is able to purchase both covers on the same issue, while only purchasing one single copy of one single issue. And if you don’t like the cover that’s on top…simply pull it off, and voila! You have a comic with the cover you actually want.

As far as I’m concerned, this is the way to do variant covers…at least as a first print. I’m pretty sure the copy of GL #100 that has both Hal and Kyle on the same cover is a 2nd print of the issue–by which point, pick one of the covers and print just that, sure. This is also part of my personal frustration AT the mass of variants offered currently…all the more when a multi-panel image is split up as 2-3 different covers, but used all on the same comic instead of multiple issues of a series or chapters of a crossover.

Along with these, I also found a 30ish issue run of the same Green Lantern series, starting at #2. Fortunately, I have a copy of #1 floating around my collection somewhere, and the first handful of issues are contained in the The Road Back tpb I have on my shelf. I’ll have to track down a few more issues, but it’s likely I’ll be able to read Hal’s adventures in his own series right up to Emerald Twilight.

Finding all of these, though, makes me want to just spend a day going through all my longboxes, and has me curious at what I’d come across that I’ve acquired and forgotten about through the last 10-15 years.

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