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The ’00s Revisited: Superman #164

superman_0164Tales From the Bizarro World

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Ed McGuinness, Carlo Barberi
Inks: Cam Smith, Juan Vlasco
Jimmy Olsen’s Pal: Joe Casey
Letters: Richard Starkings
Color: Tanya + Richard Horie
Assistant Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 2001
Cover Price: $2.25

This issue opens with Jimmy Olsen getting into some trouble, requiring rescue by…well, Superman would be great, but he’s saved by Bizarro #1 instead! While Jimmy deals with the wackiness that his life quickly becomes with Bizarro’s presence, we see Superman and Lois met by Batman, who confirms that there’s no way for them to prove Luthor’s not who and what he claims to be…they can’t throw any last-second interruptions into Luthor’s bid for the presidency. Later, we find Superman watching numerous news reports of the unfolding election night, and J’onn offers a moment of levity against Superman’s rising stress. Meanwhile, Jimmy again finds himself in need of rescuing…this time, an unfamiliar Supergirl shows up. Though the two share a bit of a connection, that’s quickly interrupted by Bizarro. A slugfest ensues, ultimately stopped by Superman…whose presence is a bit unsettling to Jimmy. Finally, we end with the question: is Lex Luthor about to be the President-Elect?

I certainly never appreciated this issue when it came out, back in November of 2000. And I actually recall feeling like I missed an issue somewhere, between this and the one that came the following week. Now, of course, it feels quite appropriate, and I dug it out for a re-read specifically for the timing here…November 2016.

The art is solid enough, though a bit cartooney…as is McGuinness‘ style. I didn’t care for it much back then, and don’t find it entirely appropriate here…but it works, and the art has certainly grown on me…if only for the nostalgia-effect. This issue came out sixteen years ago, and I remember this issue and this period of Superman comics when I was getting the issues brand-new each week.

The story works quite well for me here, and I rather appreciate the glimpse into Jimmy’s side of things. It also gives the reader an entry-point that made this work pretty well as an isolated read, recalling solely that Luthor was running for president, and that this takes place within a couple issues of the Emperor Joker stuff. Which of course explains the new-ness of Bizarro to Jimmy; and this also seems to take place around a major change in the then-current Supergirl title…a lot of changes coming together in one issue.

It’s eerie how appropriate the story is at present, given the nature of the 2016 US Presidential Election. And I think it’s safe to guess that pretty much everyone sees "a Luthor" in the race.

Given all he knows about Luthor, Superman still trusts "the people" and "the system" to see that Luthor can’t possibly actually be elected President. And despite the obvious in terms of relating to someone of his position and powers and all that (to say nothing simply of being a fictional character!)…I find it quite relatable seeing Superman’s reactions in this issue. Then there’s knowing how it all goes, and even ultimately turns out in issues succeeding this one.

This worked far better than I would have expected as an isolated one-off. It’s by no means a jumping-on point in an ongoing sense…but I would say is one of the better issues to just sit and read. You have Superman himself as well as primary supporting characters, and this draws on subplots that’ve built up and also sets things for issues to come. Common as the comparison’s become…it’s like watching an episode of an old tv series one remembers, and enjoying the episode as itself, recalling enough to get by but not necessarily being fully immersed in the ongoing story anymore.

If you’d find this in a bargain bin, it’s well worth getting, particularly 25 to 50 cents. Above $1 I’d avoid it for casual readers…fans of Superman in general, McGuinness‘ visuals or this period of the character might be more interested.

Adventure Comics Special featuring The Guardian #1 [Review]

New Krypton part three: The Worst Night of His Life

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Pere Perez
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: John J. Hill
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Aaron Lopresti (variant by Victor Ibanez)
Published by: DC Comics

This issue takes place between-pages of the Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen Special from several weeks ago. In short, it details exactly what the Guardian Jimmy tracked down told him, and brings readers up to speed on further details hinted at or sped through in that special.

First off, I think I’m thrilled to see the return of classic characters to the Superman continuity. Agent Liberty last week, more Guardian this week, the revelation that Cadmus’ impact is still being felt after largely being ignored for so many years…

Robinson seems to be quite good at digging into comics’ past and dredging up old characters, working them into the present, and making the whole thing just simply work. This seems to be no exception. Unfortunately, there’s something to this issue that doesn’t quite ring true, and seems like characters have been dealt with as they have for shock value more than anything else…though there’s definitely potential here. The main drawback is in the ambiguity of elements of Superman since Infinite Crisis, and I honestly do not know if this Guardian is the one I remember reading in the Superman books from the early to mid/late 1990s…or if the identity of that character is being mucked with. As it seems there is a lot of mucking about going on lately I fear the latter, and am thus a bit skeptical here.

The art doesn’t blow me away–but it is quite solid, and serves the story very well. I have no real complaint with it, nor any out of the ordinary praise.

What actually makes this issue stand out–and ups the enjoyment factor–is that it is actually part of the New Krypton story going on in the Superman family of books right now. I’d have to look to see if there are any more of these specials lined up…but for now, this issue marks the FIFTH week in a row with a new comic in the Superman corner of the DC Universe…essentially, the fifth week of an ongoing Superman story that continues from one book into the next. I may not be entirely sure the status of certain characters…but the fact that I’m getting so much of a single, ongoing narrative of Superman and his supporting cast–elements all playing into a single, ongoing story…that takes me back to the 1990s and the sheer enjoyment of a new “episode” in the Superman mythos each and every week.

If you’re following New Krypton, you’ll probably want to pick this up given it’s got the trade dress and “triangle number” making it part 3 of the story. If you read that Jimmy Olsen special, this will flesh it out more for you. And of course…if you’re a fan of The Guardian, again…you’ll probably want to check this out.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

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