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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #77

90s_revisited

superman_0077The End

Words & Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Brett Breeding
Letters: John Costanza
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Edits: Jennifer Frank
Edits: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: March 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

While this issue’s cover isn’t “bright and flashy” and no “gimmicks” and it’s just a singular cover, period–no variants, no sketch versions, no blank versions, etc…it’s deep. It’s simple, but meaningful. It’s labeled “The End” on the cover. And for a couple months, it WAS. In a way, this was truly the end. Superman was dead. There’d been a funeral. Respects paid, memorials. This was an ending for sure.

The issue opens on Luthor in a training session; he’s none too happy to take a kick in his distraction, reflecting on what he’s himself lost with the death of Superman. Lois and Supergirl interrupt with the revelation of Cadmus’ involvement with the missing body. “Meanwhile,” Jonathan Kent–code blue–is being rushed through a hospital with a distraught Martha nearby. We see parallels of the present with Jonathan’s perception/memories of the past and his boy. Also meanwhile, Jimmy’s meeting with higher-ups of the Planet and Newstime, as his photos will be used for a memorial issue of the magazine…and he–Jimmy–should be the one to choose the photo for the cover. Someone attacks Sasha–one of the trainers–in the locker room; while Supergirl leaves Lois outside of Cadmus when she realizes the reporter isn’t entirely in the moment. Supposedly for her own safety, but that leads Lois to join up with some “Outsiders” to get in. While Cadmus security is well aware of someone breaching, they prove no match for Supergirl…who Lois and the Outsiders meet as she bears the body of Superman from the facility. At the hospital, medical personnel fight to save Jonathan, as Superman fought to save others. In Metropolis, Superman’s body is returned to the crypt, and a new casket is provided. Lois says one final goodbye, and Luthor asks for a moment alone…where he gloats over the casket.

At the hospital, the doctor pounds Jonathan’s chest, urging him to breathe! He opens his eyes–horrified at the idea of Doomsday, urging Clark to look out–and he fades. The heart monitor sounds its alarm, Martha rushes toward the bed, Jonathan “sees” Clark–as Superman–telling him not to be afraid, and reaching for him. As Jonathan takes Clark’s hand, Martha grasp’s Jonathan’s…the monitor remains flat, as Martha holds Jonathan’s hand, begging him not to leave her alone.

The End.

The issue actually ends with those words. “The End.” It’s the end of the issue. End of the story. Superman is gone. Jonathan’s heart’s given out, Martha’s left holding his hand, now losing her husband on top of just weeks earlier having lost her son. There’s no solicitation for Superman #78. There are some of stand-in books: The Legacy of Superman, Supergirl and Team Luthor, the Newstime special. But no Superman #78. No Adventures of Superman #500. No Action Comics #687. No Man of Steel #22.

Jurgens’ art is just about my favorite for Superman–character and this comic series–but it feels more subtle here, somehow. It just IS…it doesn’t call undue attention to itself, nor does it distract. I recognize some of Jimmy’s photos…I’m not sure if I did originally when this was published, but knowing what I do in 2022, I’m pretty sure one photo may have been the one Jimmy took at the end of the Exile arc. Another maybe around that time with Matrix standing in for Clark. And of course, the iconic Newstime cover photo of the shredded cape; and the iconic images of Superman on the pavement where he fell; as well as the combatants falling away from each other from the final blows. This “re-using” of art may or may not be direct…but it’s close enough to assume it’s “re-use.” I normally would consider it a cop-out, especially on a full page…but here, it serves as actual continuity; the images are–if I’m not projecting–from multiple previous issues/instances that a reader can go back and find on-panel of Jimmy taking!

Story-wise, I still could do without the Cadmus stuff; but at least it was minimal. I did not even remember the “Outsiders” in this issue until I got to their page. I remembered Lois’ daydream/flashback, but not that it was while she was with Supergirl. Jonathan’s memory/hallucinating of Clark and the old car fits right in with what we saw in Man of Steel #21; though jumping between the present and past with doctors and the hospital rather than Jonathan being in different places at the farm differentiates.

I can only imagine Lois’ horror at seeing someone carrying her fiance’s body “loose,” mostly covered with a cape, but no casket/stretcher/etc; no dignified transport. And seeing the body in a casket, one last look before knowing one’s earthly eyes would never again see that person…I “get” that.

I knew coming into the issue–even this entire story–that this final scene with Jon, Martha, the hospital–that it would be hard on me. Because while I could read the words on the page, see the images on the page, KNOW that this is fiction, that it’s a story with these fictional characters–Jonathan Kent, his wife Martha, their son Clark–a superhero, a Superman–the imagery obviously rooting it in the events of the Doomsday arc, the Superman comics of the early-1990s…its parallels struck me in the reading, even as the memory of them had crossed my mind in a hospital room just hours shy of six weeks ago as I TYPE this. [EDIT: 9 weeks tomorrow, as this post has gone live]

These pages were a gut punch in the past. I remember at least one time reading them, and FEELING them, and being moved to tears. I don’t remember exact time, just that I have that memory. This time, they’re far more personal, too personal, too identifiable. As I imagine it is for many more than just me.

“The End.”

Of life as it was known. As it was with people important and crucial to our lives. Even IF a larger story continues…there’s still that ending.

And so we have that here.

I know what comes next; and I kinda remember that sense of finality with this issue initially. I’m far from impartial here.

But it’s possible that I even dove into this story now when I have, and stepped through each issue individually…not so much “for” the “29th anniversary” of their seeing print…but as a part of processing my own loss, of my Dad. I don’t remember talking to him, really, about these issues…but I’m confident that I remember THAT he’d read this entire story. Pretty sure he did not read Adventures of Superman #500…but he read Doomsday with me that night in November 1992, and I am pretty sure he read these issues, too, as they came out, as he took me to Capp’s Comics each week to get them.

There are few stories out there that have stuck with me so much. Sure, I forgot a lot of small details…but other details and “moments” throughout Funeral for a Friend were either very clearly in my memory, or had left their marks on my memory. Part of the significance is surely that it was such a momentous time in comics in general, and I was there. I was a kid and hadn’t yet been jaded by the “industry” and such; I didn’t yet realize “the speculator” stuff; etc.

And I got to read comics with my Dad.

Funeral for a Friend is “the heart of the story.” It’s why there was a Doomsday!, why we had The Death of Superman. So that we could get this. It took a 7-issue story to show Superman’s fall; these 8 issues to take us through the aftermath and the deep moments and reflections of the supporting cast and guest-stars; and sure, it left us with a five-month saga later to get the pieces put back for “status quo,” but that’s something for another time.

You don’t have to have read Doomsday, you don’t have to read Reign of the Supermen. But if you want a deep, moving story about Superman…this is it. Even though he’s not even truly “in” it…it’s about him, it’s about his impact on others, how they deal with losing him…even if you cut out a couple chapters, the first 3-4 and this one cover a lot of ground.

Definitely recommended–especially as a complete story.

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Action Comics #976 [Review]

action_comics_0976Superman: Reborn Part 2

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza, Christian Alamy, Trevor Scott
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason & John Kalisz
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

[ SPOILER WARNING! This issue WILL BE SPOILED below… ]

I suppose I shouldn’t be entirely surprised, yet I still managed to be: after three issues building toward something HUGE…this felt very anti-climactic. Rather than coming off as "organic," to me–at least on this initial read-through–it came off as rather forced and after-the-fact than an organic, planned development.

[ I really will be spoiling this below, so consider this your final warning…spoilers after this line are preceded by plenty of SPOILER WARNING to absolve me of feeling guilty for discussing the issue in detail plainly. ]

We open on Mxy going off on Superman…or at least A Superman. In Mxy’s pocket-existence where Jon’s being held, A Superman and Lois have arrived. Jon recognizes them…they fail to recognize him. While Mxy revels in the chaos, even taunting this Superman, Jon realizes with horror that the woman he believes to be his mother doesn’t even remember him. While two spheres of blue energy approach Jon, Mxy opts to leave, warning of someone far beyond even himself as the cause of everything. That he–Mxy–was merely taking advantage of a situation already present. Channeling power from the blue ‘ghosts’, Jon manages to oppose Mxy, who offers him one last chance to leave this existence. Jon refuses, and Mxy leaves. As the reality crumbles, the blue energy merges with the New 52 Superman and Lois, restoring their memories of Jon and their lives together…and all reality re-knits, merging what we knew from pre-Flashpoint and the New 52 into one continuity, with Superman simply…Superman. But married to Lois, and with their son–Jon–as Superboy. Somewhere else, Mr. Oz looks on and marvels at the situation, at the love shared between Lois, Clark, and Jon, and how it unites realities. And finally, a hint that there’s someone–and/or someTHING–else out there still influencing things.

I feel like this was telegraphed a mile off, so to speak. New 52 Superman and the "real" Superman would merge, their realities fused/merged into one, to simply BE Superman, supposedly no more "divide" and smooth over stuff.

It doesn’t really work for me, as far as the in-story stuff goes. I could even have probably "bought" the notion of Mxy re-setting stuff somehow, though usually his machinations are undone when he disappears. Just continuing to merely "hint" at something else out there is getting old, and I’m ready to just be TO whatever ‘event’ that will be, and get beyond it. To just have A single DC Universe, even if it’s actually a multiverse, and either the New 52 completely wiped away or officially merged and just have a set UNIVERSE that is what it is and get on with stuff.

Visually, parts of this issue were quite "off" for my preferences, but not bad. I really like the "new costume" for Superman, essentially being the classic costume minus the trunks, and a modified (solid) belt (instead of the dots of red thing that’s been going on awhile). We seemed to have pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark turned into energy and merged with the New 52 versions…but then a sort of switch up with the new costume, and it seems that Jon’s been given additional power (I had it in my head that he couldn’t fly, and he seems to be, here).

This resolution and issue as a whole seems to be an attempt to bring stuff together and "unify" fans of either Superman by making it so that both are one and the same–that New 52 Superman was always part of THE Superman, and the pre-Flashpoint Superman we had from Convergence, Superman: Lois and Clark, and the past ten months of Rebirth was not himself whole, but is now, with the merging of the new. This combined with stuff from last November’s Superman Annual would seem to have stuff in line for that, to firmly establish Superman is Superman and now whole, PERIOD.

I guess time will tell.

There’s still plenty of dancing around the fine details…even with the double-pager showing stuff from "both" continuities, it’s hard to tell–for me, at least–exactly what’s what, or supposed to be what–and what’s just looking different because of the artist’s rendition.

While I’ll grant that the "new costume" deserved its full-page "reveal" and the double-page spread of the "new history" deserved the room, I’m also a bit disappointed at how quick a read this was.

My feelings on this issue are certainly victim to the "hype machine," and to wanting to see some overt reference to Superman Red/Superman Blue, to SOMEthing more with the notion, at least, of Red and Blue, and some overt explaining of things. Instead, a lot seems to have been left to the visuals, to whatever the reader wants to interpret. Maybe it’s stuff to be explored in coming issues–but to consider this a conclusion seems to understate things, and though I certainly appreciate NOT having stories stretched out, I think Superman Reborn certainly deserves to be at least another chapter or two, to really lay things out and concretely state what’s what and when and all that.

Superman Reborn started strong, with a lot of epic possibility and potential. Sadly, it–at least for me–ends far short of what I’d hoped for, underwhelming me despite itself. I trust that stuff will play out in coming weeks and months, with further details and ramifications touched on…and hopefully this mainly just means that we’re NOT locked into "the graphic novel" of exactly X issues to a story with hard stop/starts. Perhaps this is just a "main event" and the full details WILL be revealed here and there–organically–as things continue.

I had to go to two different shops to find a copy of this issue, and got the last copy at the second shop…so I’m pretty sure that a number of people have been grabbing this issue even if they hadn’t been getting previous issues. Perhaps the nostalgia, more likely the hype–particularly from sites like Bleeding Cool–and jumping on for whatever this one issue would hold, regardless of continuity. Story-wise, art-wise, it’s a solid enough issue (note my feelings of its failings above) well worth getting if you’re already following either/both titles or this particular story.

But it’s not worth the "hype," at least on one read-through and thinking on it. That said, I won’t be surprised to have my feelings on it changed by further thought, analysis, and points of view…this post simply being my initial thoughts/reaction to the issue on a single read-through.

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Action Comics #870 [Review]

Brainiac: Finale

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inkers: Jon Sial & Bit
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Assoc. Editor: Nachie Castro
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Gary Frank (variant by Andy Kubert)

As the issue opens, Brainiac has kidnapped Metropolis (putting it into a bottle as he did Kandor and countless other cities from alien worlds), and is preparing to destroy the Earth. Though somewhat down, Superman proves that he is far from out, as he breaks free of Brainiac’s ship and fights not only for his own life, and the lives of every citizen in Metropolis, but for the entire Earth as well (and this time, lacking the backup he’d assembled during the 1992 “Panic in the Sky”). The battle extends beyond the ship, and Superman is able to–with backup from Supergirl–rescue not only Metropolis, but Kandor as well (c’mon, that was spoiled months ago!). And with Brainiac’s final attack, many–but not all–lives endangered are saved.

I’ve come to really, really appreciate Frank’s art on this book. For this “new,” “Post-Infinite-Crisis” Superman, he seems PERFECT. We get a very realistic-looking Superman (and supporting cast), we get excellent detail, and yet, there’s a certain subtlety to it that just makes for a great visual result; I’m ready to add Frank to the top of my list of favorite Superman artists, holding rank with Dan Jurgens and Jim Lee.

Story-wise, this is solid Johns all the way. On the whole, no real complaint with the writing in and of itself–stuff seems consistent with prior issues, and this just continues the story begun over the past several chapters. The issue’s end…well, I’m not sure how I feel on it quite yet, but will hold judgement until I see how it plays out (hopefully by Johns, through the upcoming “New Krypton” arc and beyond).

For something like what ocurred in this issue to come as a surprise to me adds immensely to the power of the story–I honestly did not see it coming. I figured I had things nailed, given that we’re just a week or two away from the start of “New Krypton,” and that this would be like “The Death of Superman.” You know how it ends going in, but read to find out the HOW to it all. Instead, I got something much deeper.

This is a kick-butt (no pun intended) action-filled issue that will have certain, immediate, deep ramifications across the Superman family of titles and characters. If you’re a Superman fan, and/or thinking of checking out the “New Krypton” story, this issue would be well worth picking up.

Story: 8/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 8.5/10

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