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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!

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The ’90s Revisited – Flash Annual #5

90s_revisited

flash_annual_005Run-In!

Story: Mark Waid & Craig Boldman
Pencils: Travis Charest
Inks: Dan Davis with Scott Hanna and John Lowe
Letters: Tim Harkins
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Edits: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Charest & Davis
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

This issue opens with some context narration from Wally West–the Flash. As he’s out jogging he notices a building that wasn’t there before. On investigation, he finds the Trickster, and winds up ambushed by the Weather Wizard. The rogues escape…and Wally recuperates had his friend Chunk’s place. Chunk, apparently, has a black whole inside himself AND knows Wally is The Flash. Wally helps Chunk with a new device, which pretty much blows up in their faces–a warp effect arced with Chunk’s singularity, but they’re able to get it shut down. Elsewhere…Trickster, Weather Wizard, and Captain Boomerang find themselves summoned by Golden Glider…who ‘borrowed’ Captain Cold’s device to do so. She introduces them to Chillblaine…and ropes them into a plan for a heist…to steal a black diamond! Later, we see each party arrive "early," having designs on getting the treasure without the others’ involvement. Glider kisses the guys, poisoning them…and offers an antidote to whoever brings her the diamond. Flash gets involved–taking the diamond from the rogues, and having the offer extended to him as well. Flash finds himself in some sort of metal boot contraption attached to the globe-thing containing the black diamond. While Flash faces the rogues, it turns out that Glider already got the genuine diamond, and the one being fought for is a fake. Flash gets the boot device off, and he and the rogues soon learn that it’s some sort of explosive. Flash gets rid of it before anyone’s actually blown up. As Glider and Chillblaine rejoin the battle, she begins displaying Eclipso’s likeness and abilities. In the fight…Flash winds up possessed by Eclipso. The rogues slink away.

I’ll be all over the place on this one, I think. First thing, the issue ends with Flash possessed, AND a note of "End!". There’s no "To Be Continued in…" nor any blurb for where to go from here for this event. After the first few chapters directed the reader onward…this is the second annual to not do that, after The Demon. THAT one seemed tangential enough to be self-contained with no such direct continuation or follow-up…but it’s not quite the same for The Flash!

This came out in 1992…still RELATIVELY early in Wally’s career as The Flash. I’d forgotten about the whole "eating thing" for him keeping up his energy because of his speed-metabolism. And his lack of confidence and trying to measure up to Barry…stuff like that.

I liked that this felt mostly self-contained…being (re) introduced to Wally/The Flash; meeting some rogues, learning about them, seeing their interaction with Wally and each other…I actually mostly forgot that I was reading an "Eclipso issue"–other than "a black diamond" being referenced for a heist, there was nothing about Eclipso here. No Bruce Gordon showing up, no "eclipsed Starman" or other shapeshifter; no Eclipso himself monologuing his plans to obtain Flash, etc.

For the first 46 or so pages.

Glider’s got the black diamond, though, and winds up possessed by Eclipso briefly…but long enough to provoke Wally and eventually get HIM. Over 2/3 of an issue and it’s relatively routine-ish seeming stuff for Flash, in a Flash comic…and then some obligatory Eclipso action and an ending.

Except having the hero possessed at the end doesn’t seem like a proper ENDING…though it does seem an interesting "cliffhanger." So I’m a bit baffled at there not being any notes of where to pick up…even if it’d be to the very end with the 2nd bookend issue of the event.

Visually this felt like a strong issue.  I’m not sure if this is the "regular" art team for the Flash title at the time…but the work is quite good here and certainly fits the snippets I remember for early-Wally-Flash, and I’d be more than willing to read further work with this entire creative team.

Other than my repetitive noting of there not being any "To Be Continued" note, this is a solid, fun issue that gives a good taste of Flash stuff, includes some Eclipso for "theme," and actually has me thinking about–and curiosity up about–the main Flash series at the time. That’s a blind spot for me in DC, though…maybe I’ll get to it someday.

There doesn’t seem to REALLY be enough Eclipso here to fully justify it as a part of an event…though it DOES explain how the villain got Flash, assuming that fact comes into play later in the overall event. Instead of just being "told" later that Eclipso got him, this gives the details. Outside of that, this was a fun (of sorts) read, and definitely worth the time TO read, and I’d say quite worth a bargain-bin purchase.

Not the greatest Flash, certainly not the worst…but one of the better Annuals I can think of offhand for sampling the series while serving another event and inspiring interest in the ongoing series!

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The ’90s Revisited – Justice League America Annual #6

90s_revisited

justice_league_america_annual_006Maximum Eclipse

Dark Design: Dan Jurgens
Writer: Dan Mishkin
Penciler: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Jose Marza, Jr.
Letterer: Clem Robins
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

This issue opens with an introduction to Eclipso and his plotting (aka "monologuing") before cutting to a bickering Justice League (in 2022, seems this one’s the "Bwa-Ha-Ha!" JL). Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner, Fire, Ice, Maxima, Bloodwynd…and loosely, apparently, Superman. The group (along with Bruce Gordon) awaits Superman’s arrival on his request, and is joined by Metamorpho. Superman attempts to recruit Wonder Woman, but she turns him down for reasons. Elsewhere, Eclipso takes control of a jewelry store security guard that leads to Wonder Woman deciding she cannot forego helping the League.

The League bickers some more, while Ice and Maxima each have reactions to Wonder Woman’s presence regarding Superman. Maxima and Metamorpho wind up storming off, leaving the rest of the group to deal with things. Maxima is quickly met by the Eclipsed Starman, who hands her a Black Diamond. The angry Leaguer is immediately possessed by Eclipso, and used to go on a super-powered rampage. This splits the League, with Blue Beetle left at HQ to work on a solar device with Gordon and the cooled-off/returned Metamorpho, while the rest set out to deal with the super-powered threat. There’s a prolonged confrontation with the Eclipsed Maxima, while Eclipso seems to show up "in person" at HQ to attempt to kill Beetle. Lots of fighting, Eclipso (via Maxima’s psychic abilities) gets temporary hold of Wonder Woman, while Beetle trashes HQ evading and fighting Eclipso. In the end, Wonder Woman is freed of Eclipso, but the villain maintains control of Maxima…and the League returns ‘home’ to find Blue Beetle missing.

In 2022, I feel like these annuals keep taking me off-guard in their length and density. Any one of these annuals has the "feel" of at least a couple–if not SEVERAL–modern comics’ issues. Broken record that I am, that seems fitting, as each title in the even had a single (annual) issue participating, where present-day these WOULD all be at least 2-3 issue miniseries!

This issue felt at once jam-packed and yet surfacey to me. While very AWARE OF this incarnation of JLA, I’m not nearly as familiar with it as I perhaps ought to be; and this is an issue I definitely had never read before. On the whole, I enjoyed reading through this and getting an action-packed adventure…it’s certainly plenty in one issue to "justify itself" to me.

The writing doesn’t blow me away, but definitely comes off as rather familiar (if not cliché) in the presentation of the characters. This almost feels trope-y to me, with the characters a slight step above caricatures or such. I recall Ice having a crush on Superman, and the Guy/Ice dynamic, but don’t think I’d recalled stuff being so blatant or melodramatic. At the same time, that’s also something to be said for "thought bubbles" still being a part of comics 30 years ago where they’re rarely present these days.

I liked the art overall in this issue, and was rather surprised when I actually took in the credits to write this post–Dave Cockrum. THE Dave Cockrum? I tend to think of him and the X-Men…not so much anything for DC. That’s another thing for being in 2022 and reading these, though: I’m looking back at comics from THIRTY. YEARS. AGO. Of course creators like Cockrum were still around THEN!

The opening scene of Eclipso reads like the start of any particular story to me, which works well here. It’s primarily introduction and context to set the issue up, but has expected vague references to place this as part of a continuing thing. Though we don’t get some definitive conclusion/ending, overall this seems to stand on its own. Having read other "Eclipso Annuals" recently, I have a fuller context here…but this reads more like picking up the start of a story amidst an ongoing series than picking up a middle chapter of some event series.

I can’t speak much to this issue’s place within the main title, but taken alone I’d say if you’re a fan of (or curious about) this era of JLA, this is another issue that’s likely at least worth grabbing from a bargain bin and reading.

I’m "curious" where the story goes from here in terms of the ‘event’ and have some vague recollections from reading other issues back in the ’90s, at least regarding Maxima.

The issue itself ends with a "To Be Continued" directing one to The Demon Annual #1, which was apparently on-sale the same week as this very issue…a change from the apparent "weekly" gaps between Annuals thus far.

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The ’90s Revisited – Superman Annual #4

90s_revisited

superman_annual004Enduring the Night!

Writer: Dan Vado
Penciller: Scott Benefiel
Inker: Trevor Scott
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Assitant Editor: Dan Thorsland
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

We open on Superman patrolling Metropolis, watchful for Eclipso-activity. He happens across an apparent mugging–some guy desperate to get off the planet before he’s possessed by an alien from the moon again. A police officer doesn’t take kindly to Superman’s intervention, nor the Man of Steel’s questioning of what part of the guy’s story he didn’t understand. Unfortunately, with a Black Diamond present, an Eclipso is unleashed. Fortunately, Bruce Gordon had just shown up, so is able to be part of the action…managing to save Superman by solar-blasting this particular manifestation.

Meanwhile, Lois Lane arrives in Crater Bay to investigate corruption (which just so happens to be where the "mugger" from earlier is from). She’s not exactly put at ease by her contact there, nor the hotel manager. And for good reason as it turns out the manager is a shape-shifted, Eclipsed Starman…and her contact is being blackmailed as part of Eclipso’s attempt to "get" Superman. Eclipso has also used this town to spread his Black Diamonds over the years. As Gordon and Mona near the town, an Eclipso creature ambushes them, and their solar trap is broken. Superman’s arrival saves the lives of the scientists, though not their car. As he flies them the rest of the way to Crater Bay, we cut to Lois, talking to her contact and being spurred to anger. It’s Superman arriving that tips her over the edge, and she’s possessed by Eclipso, thanks to the Black Diamond given to her by the hotel manager. Superman engages but is soon overwhelmed…not just by Eclipsed Lois but other Eclipsed individuals and manifestations. Mona sees the hero’s plight and as desperate times call for desperate measures, she grabs her Black Diamond and allows herself to be possessed, directing her rage at Eclipso and stalling things a bit. Ultimately, Superman is able to keep Eclipso busy til the sun rises, which releases the villain’s possession of Lois. Unfortunately, Mona is not so fortunate. As Superman, Lois, and Bruce debrief, Superman declares that he’s got to go back to save the rest of the town.

I’m definitely a bit mixed on this issue. I feel like I "understood" it better this time through than whatever previous time(s) I’d read it; though I definitely had a sense before that the Eclipso situation had been a bit more drawn out and dire by this point, where so far it seems and feels more like isolated incidents than a concerted event. While I don’t totally "buy" Lois losing her cool so easily, at the same time it works for this story…and hey, it gives us extended time WITH Lois, seeing her go about investigating and such rather than JUST being TOLD she does what she does. As she and Superman were engaged by this point and she knows he’s Clark, I don’t really see her getting angry at Superman as she’d surely "understand" his intent and not take his tone/words as patronizing or such.

There’s definitely a lotta brawling in this issue and some visuals and a Stephen King reference, but it’s not very deep. It does feel like the issue tries to take on a bit of "tone"–or play on "tropes"–of horror films/stories, I guess.

The visuals aren’t bad, but aren’t particularly memorable; the art gets things across but doesn’t really stand out. Which, really, means it does a good job as we get a story, that is a comic book, but the art isn’t trying to carry the entirety of the thing.

I do wonder a bit about Eclipso possessing Lois and her having all this strength to tear up trees, street signs, etc.–we’ve had the manifested "Eclipsos" show plenty of physicality, but it’s seemed til here that Eclipso’s possessing someone was just that–possession–and not bestowing of supernatural strength and such. If Lois gets all this power just by Eclipso possessing her, why does he need Superman’s body if he himself grants all this power?

I appreciated the general Lois story this time more than in the ’90s…but it’s still not exactly my favorite of these Annuals. That said, this is another that’s decently worth the one-off read if you can snag it from a bargain bin. Not entirely self-contained, but a pretty meaty chunk of story that can be decently appreciated as a "middle chapter" of a story in a way that standard-sized single-issues do not work on modern "decompression."

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The ’90s Revisited – Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #1

90s_revisited

supermanthemanofsteel_annual0001The Gathering Darkness

Pencils by: Chris Wozniak
Dialogue by: Robert Loren Fleming
Inks by: Brad Vancata
Letters by: Albert De Guzman
Colors by: Matt Hollingsworth
Assists by: Dan Thorsland
Edits by: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

We open in the offices of the Daily Planet, where someone vaguely Jimmy Olsen-ish suggests Clark (Kent) needs to see something–a monster tearing up the mall. Moments later–as Superman–he’s on his way and engages the creature. Eventually the situation is handled, as Superman meets Dr. Bruce Gordon and his friend Mona…who tell him about Eclipso. This is essentially a shared scene from Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1; but if you didn’t read THAT issue, it sets things up well for this one. If you did…well, it’s a few pages of deja vu. As Superman talks with Gordon and Mona, the (possessed-by-Eclipso) Creeper bursts in to antagonize the group and taunt Superman with a black diamond. While Eclipso fails to "get" Superman, it leaves the hero winded. In Eclipso’s moon citadel, the villain monologues a bit while we see the eclipsed Lar Gand (Valor) as Eclipso’s primary trophy so far. We then shift to a secret jungle mission where Phantom Lady has been captured and an undercover Starman has to reveal himself to the villainous scientist…who is an Eclipso "agent," and Starman is taken. Eclipso has another prize…this one with the ability to "hide" the fact that it’s "Eclipsed," giving the villain a way to spy on other heroes, beginning with "playing it normal" for an awakened Phantom Lady. Elsewhere, the boy that unleashed the "Eclipso" at the mall returns home and winds up unleashing another instance of the creature, resulting in a rematch between it and Superman. This is ultimately dispatched with heat vision from our hero–who gains his powers thanks to the sun, and thus Eclipso is vulnerable to it. Later, the Eclipsed Starman pays a visit to Kitty Faulkner and provokes her to bring out Rampage, leading to another Eclipsed hero. However…Eclipso’s found himself a conundrum as the focus of Rampage’s anger was "himself"–leading to a battle between Starman and Rampage, both as aspects of Eclipso. Superman eventually gets involved and is able to drive Eclipso out of Rampage (who reverts back to Kitty Faulkner)…but Eclipso escapes in Starman. While the rescued scientist is a ‘win,’ there’s no time to really rest. And we’re directed to Eclipso’s next appearance coming in Green Lantern Annual #1 in a week’s (real-world) time.

The writing for this issue is more or less on-par with Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1, lending a good bit of continuity to a second chapter of this ‘event’. Which makes sense as Robert Loren Fleming is a shared creator credit between the issues! The story is solid overall, albeit lacking the ‘depth’ I associate with the "main" Superman titles of the time. This is a separate work using the character, though, which explains its detachment from "proper" ongoing Superman stuff of 1992. While we DO get a footnote reference to the "recent adventure" Starman had involving Eclipso in Starman 42-45, it hardly seems to matter as it doesn’t really impact this story; neither Starman nor Eclipso particularly acknowledge anything from that story (Such as Eclipso himself being behind Starman getting his powers, and the villain long having had designs on utilizing Starman for his own nefarious purposes). The "reference" seems to have been shoehorned in to "justify" or "create" a sense of "continuity" with a then-very-recent story that involved the characters but apparently isn’t useful or relevant to this unfolding tale. There’s also no real indicator of anything particular going on between Starman and Kitty/Rampage…which seems to totally disregard their culmination from the 45-issue Starman series.

If this was a regular-sized issue, I’d have a huge problem with a 5-page re-tread of another issue. In 2022, that’d be 1/4 of an issue! However, this being an annual and more than double-length compared to a regular issue, it helps this one to stand alone…which is definitely a good thing! Other than the Starman/Rampage plot points ignoring/disregarding the characters’ developments in his solo series though, this wasn’t bad. And those continuity bits did not even phase me when I first read this issue in 1992…as I’d had no idea there WAS a Starman series and surely glazed over the footnote with zero knowledge of how recent that series was, etc. I believe I mentioned in my post on Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1 that it was my first exposure to The Creeper…but I think it may actually have been THIS issue; as I’m pretty sure I’d read this one prior to that one, first time through.

Visually this is not a bad issue, though it certainly steps a bit away from my preferences from the main Superman titles of the time. Superman himself comes off fairly generic here, almost seeming too large and such. That said, it’s definitely "’90s art" and fits the story pretty well…and while not uniquely memorable in and of itself, was very recognizable to me reading it this time through and recalling snippets of my reading it 30-ish years ago as a kid. There’s one panel in particular of Bruce Gordon as he is horrified to see Superman with a black diamond that reminds me very much, somehow, of Norm Breyfogle‘s art, and stood out to me in that way this time where it certainly never did before.

The cover may be the best visual of the issue, though, and is certainly one of THE "Eclipso images" I think of when I do think of this story…and while not one of my first few comics, it’s definitely a stand-out piece that takes me back to the earliest days of my getting BACK into comics in 1992. A friend had gotten the issue–it was a pretty big deal as it was a Superman comic, and it was a #1! (Back in 1992 it was still a rather novel thing for a comic to have a #1 on its cover, if you can believe it. Seems like there are several new #1s every single week now in 2022, and any given series gets a new #1 itself every couple years, pretty much). The cover is a Quesada piece, and while I see plenty of significance to his name (and Palmiotti!) now… in 1992 I didn’t know them from any other artist…it was just this cool image of Superman in space with an eclipse behind him ,and the stylized coloring of the S shield that wouldn’t otherwise be visible except…well, comics.

Eclipso: The Darkness Within was my first exposure to the villain, and by nature of this story–he’s actually a huge threat–he’s never been "just" a "joke" character/villain to me. Of course, it’s also the nostalgia of this being probably my earliest real "crossover" or "event" in comics–even though it was almost 20 years after the fact that I actually acquired the entirety of the thing.

I’m definitely eager to get into further chapters of the story, not to mention just getting to the whole of it. Re-reading Funeral for a Friend a few weeks ago had a deep, personal aspect to it so fresh off losing Dad…but it’s also reignited my interest in re-reading stuff…or in this hybrid case with Eclipso: The Darkness within, reading the event for the first time all the way through, including re-reading what issues I HAD previously read, this time in actual context of the whole.

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The ’80s Revisited: Superman #31

80s_revisited

superman0031Mr. Mxyzptlk! in "As Good as His Word!"

Scripter/Co-Plotter: Roger Stern
Co-Plotter: Tom Peyer
Guest Penciller: Paris Cullins
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: May, 1989
Cover Price: 75 Cents
Published by: DC Comics

I think this issue went over a little better with me as a kid than Adventures of Superman #453. I had no idea who this "Mxyzptlk" was, but it was cartooney, magical, random shenanigans and I just took it at surface value.

The cover is one of the more distinctive to me; albeit like the Adventures issue, perhaps more to me as it’s one of MY first-ever comics. Still, a giant Superman stomping kaiju-style through Metropolis is not something you see all the time; nor the "meta"-ness of the cover with Mxy folding back the corner and talking to the reader, saying "This scene PROBABLY doesn’t appear in this issue…but with me around it COULD!" We also have the typical trade dress stuff I mentioned with the Adventures issue; standard enough stuff at the time but rather foreign in 2022 comics!

The story opens with a giant Mxy already in Metropolis, greeting the city and proclaiming his return. There’s a note from Editorial that Superman is unavailable for this issue, and the credits are worded a bit creatively with a "meta" tone to them as well. Essentially, Mxy’s back, causes a bunch of destructive, painful mischief trying to draw Superman out to "play," but when he doesn’t show, the imp goes for the next-most-powerful-guy-around, Lex Luthor. There’re a lot of "sight gags" and cartooney (if a bit more realistic/violent) stuff; and Luthor devises a plan to get rid of the imp by lying to him. While this plan technically proves successful, it leaves open the question of what happens if Mxy ever comes back…and lies?

The art is solid here; it definitely has a rose-colored-glasses appearance for me as one of my very first-ever "new" Superman comics. I’m sure I saw the editorial note that opened the issue, and took it at face value. I know I had no real clue who Mr. Mxyzptlk was, but contextually figured out he had these shape shifting/transformative powers like a cartoon character but in the "real world." Luthor worked something out and the guy went away, so all was well that ended well. 41-year-old-me in 2022 recalls that this wound up impacting Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite; as it was here that Mxy learned how to lie, and that came back to bite Luthor in the backside during that story.

Yet another comparison to Adventures 453…at the time, it didn’t even phase me that the "main" story was so short; I probably felt at the time like it was a truly "bonus" story; albeit I didn’t much care for the 2nd one.

Hostile Takeover Part III: Poison Pill!

Artists: Dan Jurgens & Dennis Janke
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Pharmacist: Jerry Ordway

This issue’s Hostile Takeover chapter actually seems to flow out of the main story, beginning with Luthor visiting the hospitalized men of his Team Luthor squad that were inside the power suits "transformed" by Mxyzpltlk’s visit. While Luthor visits a lab where "Brainiac" is being held, we learn that his aim for wanting Star Labs is a specific facility that will allow him to mine the alien intelligence’s mind for alien tech! A montage of "people on the street" reactions to the potential buyout shows that certain themes don’t seem to change…feeling as natural for 2022 as they must’ve been in 1989! Meanwhile, the Star Labs board determines a way to fend off the takeover by issuing new stocks and divesting themselves of the facility Luthor is after, which apparently plays right into Luthor’s plans.

The art is again quite solid, with Luthor in particular being recognizable. That the story flows from the main story adds to the general "continuity" and that it’s another part of the same issue rather than being 100% separate stories. As a kid when I first read this, I certainly did not understand this story nor care for it; though it’s got a lot more interest for me as an adult that sees/understands more what’s going on; as well as the nostalgia of re-reading as a 41-year-old what I first read as an 8-year-old.

* * * * *

Though this issue falls amidst the Exile story arc, it’s not itself a part of it; it’s more of a "filler" story with a purpose that gets referenced a couple years later. It continues the Hostile Takeover story, so places this "in order" after Adventures 453. As I’m almost certain that this issue is not at all in the Exile TPB and not sure if it’s in the omnibus; it’d make sense being so far removed to be excluded. It should be present for "completion" of this era of the Superman comics, but narratively doesn’t touch the actual story of Superman’s quest in space…despite obviously showing us what’s going on on Earth while he’s in space.

This one works better as a one-off for the Mxy story in that that part is a one-off itself. Heck, at 14 pages, add a couple and that story could have been a 2-part backup with the Hostile Takeover doubled in size and being the main story somewhere.

I’m actually interested enough now in the Hostile Takeover story that I’m tempted to dig out the next chapter just to see if my guess of where it’s going was right; and it re-interests me a lot more in this "era" of the Superman comics.

While this issue’s significance is primarily personal for me, it’s definitely worth snagging from a bargain bin, especially if that bargain bin is 25-cents! Since I’m pretty sure Hostile Takeover has never been specifically reprinted, if you’re able to get the four chapters for 25 cents each, that $1 alone would be definitely worthwhile, I think, for being a solid Luthor story!

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The ’80s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #453

80s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0453Words and Pictures: Jerry Ordway
Lettering: Albert De Guzman
Coloring: Glenn Whitmore
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: April, 1989
Cover Price: 75 Cents
Published by: DC Comics

This cover is one of the MOST iconic in all the comics that I own. Yet to many, I imagine this is just another cover. But for me, it sticks out in a big way because it was one of my very first comics I ever owned; one of the first four comics Mom ever bought for me. It was my first issue of Adventures of Superman; and thus has that very special distinction FOR ME.

The cover has a lot going on. The trade dress is at the top; the DC "bullet" in the upper left, and a generic image of Superman immediately below it. It’s no "corner box" like Marvel used to have, or that DC would eventually use; but it showed that it’s a DC book, and Superman, just from that corner. The title logo is across the top/center of the cover; a standard location so if you only see the very top of the issue, you know what the title is. The number is in a small white box along with the cover date, the price, and the old Comics Code stamp. There’s a cover blurb "Phantoms of the Past!" to add a bit more to stuff. The main image is 3 people emerging from the ground and reaching for a startled Superman, with a moon-like thing behind him on an otherwise black background. Then there’s a box at the bottom for the barcode for the issue, as well as a companion box showing a headshot of a bald guy (Lex Luthor) with a banner stretched between stating "Plus: Part Two of Lex Luthor’s ‘Hostile Takeover!’" and some creator names.

We start the issue on some sort of planetoid or moon or such; a barren wasteland, with a silhouette of Superman, and narration from someone (Superman) reflecting on the place. Suddenly, three figures emerge from the ground, raining dirt and debris and accuse Superman of burying them alive; though he didn’t kill them, he intended to, and so his guilt remains. The scene then cuts elsewhere to a conversation between a "Jonathan" and a "Martha" via narration boxes, while we see what looks like an old woman in anguish in a bedroom. As the conversation continues and then "Martha" enters this room, now the person looks like Clark Kent, which causes "Martha" to faint in shock. Meanwhile, two of the figures from the ground shift appearances but all three taunt Superman, crushing an air mask before disappearing as Superman lies on the ground. The scene shifts to some older man tinkering with an armored suit while on the phone, discussing something about Luthor and STAR Labs. There’s a guy in the suit and the helmet malfunctions…he gets it off and shields the older guy as it explodes. Back to Superman and the figures now shift to look like a Superman himself, Clark Kent in a suit, and some other guy with the chest of his suit ripped to show a Superman costume underneath. These continue to taunt Superman before he absorbs them and leaps into the air, now whole once again…and then drifts in space, where he’s picked up by some ship and the aliens discuss selling him for games or a body bank.

Fourteen pages, but wow…that’s a lotta stuff going on! I was at most 8 1/2 years old when I first read this, and I had NO IDEA what was going on. Didn’t know how Superman came to be where he is, or who these people were that were confronting him. Something about him having killed them…but I thought Superman DIDN’T KILL? But it must be ok since they’re here and alive; but where’d they go, then? And whatever that conversation was, something about someone having been killed in an apartment…I guess these could be Superman’s parents, but who knows? And the person that looked like an old lady–"Matrix"–becoming Clark Kent? Hokay? And no clue who the guy working on the superhero suit was, nor the guy in it, nor who was on the phone; only vaguely recognized Lex Luthor. I remember "getting" that Superman/Clark Kent/the other guy were apparently parts of Superman and his "absorbing" them back into himself; and something of him being in space and apparently needing air (given his mask was crushed and affected him).

Of course, 33 years later and I know Ma and Pa Kent; Matrix; Luthor; Emil Hamilton and Jose Delgado (Gangbuster). I know General Zod, and the pocket universe, and the Supergirl Saga and whatnot. That in the aftermath, Superman went into space feeling he was too dangerous to remain on Earth and so had exiled himself. As that kid, though, all I knew was that it said Adventures of SUPERMAN on the cover, had Superman on the cover, and whatever had happened to Superman, here he was in space and all that. I’m sure I noticed the high number and "connected" that with all of Grandpa’s comics having numbers on them; but he hadn’t had any with this particular logo or title, so this must’ve been different.

I had absolutely no concept of a Crisis on Infinite Earths or "Pre-Crisis" or "Post-Crisis," nor what a "Reboot" was, hadn’t heard of anyone named "John Byrne," did not know of any comics with the words "Man of Steel" as part of the title; etc. But I read the words on the pages; I reread the issue at least a few times given how few comics I owned at the time; and just took stuff in at face-value. This was "a comic." Obviously I didn’t have the previous issue, nor the next one yet. It wasn’t what I recognized Superman as, but hey, this was a NEW comic at the time (33 years ago!) so it probably wasn’t going to be like "older comics."

Looking at this as my 41-year-old self; this is a good story and moves stuff along. We see Superman being very low on air and thus hallucinating, as he fights through his guilt; mulling over questions such as why he would feel justified to execute the Kryptonian villains, but NOT villains like Lex Luthor or Brainiac; as well as recognizing that even AS "Superman," he was also Clark Kent AND Gangbuster. And that fortunately, as he runs out of air, he’s picked up by some alien spaceship and thus doesn’t actually suffocate to death. We see stuff from Superman’s point of view–his hallucinations; and we get some context of recent events (presumably) going on like someone was killed in Clark’s apartment; and we see Matrix/Mae take on the guise of Clark, shocking his parents (who are still alive in this continuity).

The art is good. I especially noticed the contrast in Superman’s darker blue compared to the brighter blue for the hallucinated version. This is an older issue; the copy I read this time through is especially old-seeming with its newsprint; so some color work has presumably been lost by nature of the printing process and the paper, as well as the amount of detail in so many panels just kinda blending to a darker overall appearance that’s soaked into the paper a bit over the last 3 1/2 decades.

This is by no means an "ideal" jumping on point or first issue…but it was MINE. And it did NOT put me off so much that I never got any more. I just had to gradually catch up and figure out what was going on contextually, piecing stuff together and accepting what the present was.

Even knowing I’ve read this a number of times before, and at least once in/after college as an adult with much more context of what Exile is/was, parts of this felt new to me; especially with Hamilton and Gangbuster.


Hostile Takeover Part II: Insider Rumors!

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Dan Jurgens & Dennis Janke
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Insider: Jerry Ordway

I’m not a huge fan of "backups" in comics; especially not when they cross titles. This issue had "Part Two," and Superman #31 had "Part Three." But at the time, I accepted it; because it didn’t seem that out of place when older comics were often these shorter/multiple stories in one issue; so I just simply had what I had. Though with Superman not even IN this "Hostile Takeover," and as an 8-year-old I had no clue what a "hostile takeover" even WAS, and it just seemed to be a bunch of adults talking, I am pretty confident that I largely ignored the segment when I read this as a kid.

NOW in 2022, though, it’s actually fairly interesting to me.

We start with various people discussing rumors of Luthor buying out Star Labs; and we see reactions from "common people" as well as Luthor himself.  Star Labs workers confront a boss who knows nothing of a buyout; there’s some sort of groundbreaking ceremony for a new facility in Tokyo for Star Labs that Luthor shows up to. Other people react to Luthor’s being on the news; and then as they’re anxious to sell shares of Star Labs, Luthor offers to buy them for $50/share and they seem all too eager.

This is an 8-page backup story; it moves stuff along. Sort of introduces the situation with rumors; we see that Luthor has a plan; and after rumors raise the price of the stock and then people are ready to panic-sell, he magnanimously steps in to take shares off their hands.

The art is good; Luthor is at his overweight, bald, businessman best here. I recognize the likes of Emil Hamilton and Perry White; and of course Luthor himself. I don’t recall what had happened in Hostile Takeover Part I; and I’m not sure even now if this backup has ever actually been collected/reprinted! I’m pretty sure even the Exile Omnibus excluded these segments; and that they were not in the Exile TPB, either.

I’m not sure the behind the scenes context or reasoning for this as a backup feature rather than being a subplot; I can guess, though, that in PART it was that it’s a major plot point with a specific sequence, so it was clustered together and its parts numbered for continuity, where other parts of Exile may not have been as "hard-coded" order-wise requiring a specific order. It may have been to allow other creatives to be involved as well; maybe something was running late; I don’t really know, and I don’t really care.

* * * * *

This is a dense issue; a bit physically murky and aged; and having the place it does in my memory and "comics life," I’m not exactly impartial to it. I can’t say that I necessarily ENJOYED this time through the issue…but it definitely brought back some familiar memories, and certain panels and such jumped out at me that I DEFINITELY remembered being striking to me as a kid. While this holds a lot of nostalgic value for ME personally, I don’t know that it otherwise stands alone overly well except in that this era of the Superman comics were generally quite high quality, so if you get it from a bargain bin, it shouldn’t be bad…but you’ll likely appreciate it all the more if you have several of the Exile issues as a cluster; and I definitely recommend the Exile arc as a whole, if not the single issues!

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

90s_revisited

superman_the_man_of_steel_0021Ghosts

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.

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The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics #686

90s_revisited

action_comics_0686Who’s Buried in Superman’s Tomb?

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: February 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

While literally a bit "dark" in coloring, this is another "recognizable" cover for me…specifically because it is part of this Funeral for a Friend story, with the black border, Supergirl starring in Action Comics, showing her on the cover, with the question "Who’s buried in Superman’s tomb?" The image is presumably the point of view of the empty tomb looking out, and is a memorable cover…even though prior to this re-read, I really could not have specified from memory what actually went down in this issue.

We open on the Guardian dealing with the hijackers of a van, before he’s summoned back to Cadmus by Dubbilex. Meanwhile, Luthor and Happerson discuss Superman’s missing body and Luthor wonders if all of this is some ruse by Superman to catch him unawares–we get slight flashbacks to the "truth" behind our young Luthor here. Luthor meets Supergirl, Turpin, and Maggie Sawyer to investigate the tunnels under the tomb, while Guardian arrives at Cadmus and discovers what Westfield’s been up to. Though appalling, with the argument that they might be able to–for Superman, for Metropolis–at least create some facsimile of the Man of Steel, Guardian hesitantly stands down. Back in the tunnels, Supergirl just manages to save her "crew" when an undetonated charge detonates, flooding the tunnel. Seeing the Superman cultists outside the tomb, they agree to keep the missing body hush-hush for now. And amidst these events, we see Lana and the Kents preparing to leave, and Lana and Lois get a connecting moment.

While–as said–I could not have recounted to you from memory what went down in this issue…having now re-read it, there’s a fair bit that stands out. I do remember that at the time–first time or so I read this–I pretty much totally "missed" the Luthor stuff. I mean, I read it…but I had no context at that point. I missed the entire "Death of Luthor" stuff by a few months and this Lex Luthor II was already present when I came back during the Eclipso stuff, end of Panic in the Sky, etc. in 1992. I also knew next to nothing about Guardian’s background, particularly the present-day status quo…just that he was a character that was "there." Having come to realize–particularly from the Death and Life of Superman novel–stuff seems natural and obvious to me here such that I "know" more than what’s let on.

While the Cadmus stuff is fairly important to the story, I would’ve preferred a lot more "tell, don’t show" on that with much more page space given to Lois, Lana, and the Kents and their relationship.

Visually, this is another great issue…though it did seem to have more double-page splashes than I remembered being in most issues. At least even those have dialogue, though, rather than being multi-page filler that we often seem to get in contemporary comics.

I’m really feeling like Funeral for a Friend is essentially two 4-parters joined as one 8-parter. The first four chapters with the immediate aftermath, moving to the funeral itself and into the heroes gathering to help on Christmas Eve. And then this Cadmus-steals-Superman’s-body stuff. That leaves this as another issue I’m not gushing over, and that I felt a lot more disconnect from, compared to the opening chapters.

As with Adventures of Superman #499…I’d definitely recommend this as part of the "set" of the story, but I definitely would not specifically, singly recommend this as a stand-alone in-a-vacuum issue.

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