Monday, May 7, 2018


Setting by: Marv Wolfman | Design by: Jerry Ordway
Engraving: Albert de Guzman | Hues: Tom Ziuko | Editing by: Mike Carlin & Andy Helfer

The Plot: Superman battles the Fearsome Five in Metropolis, but they defeat him and escape. As he worries over his parents’ upcoming anniversary party and the two sides of his dual life, the Five argue over whether or not they should have finished him off. A week later on the night of his parents’ party, Clark Kent receives a call warning him that the Fearsome Five are aboard a luxury liner called the Augustus Mandrell. Superman arrives and fights them again, and again they escape.

Clark misses his parents’ party and shows up after all the guests have left. Pa Kent gives him a pep talk about letting his two lives coexist in harmony, and the next day, having received another phone call about the Fearsome Five’s whereabouts, Superman barges into their hideout. This time, not distracted by the conflict between he costumed life and his secret identity, he defeats the group.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The Fearsome Five count two new members among their number: the mysterious Charger and Deuce. We see during the story that they’re more bloodthirsty than the rest of the group and that they joined as a couple. It’s also revealed in the story’s conclusion that Deuce was the one who called Clark Kent, apparently knowing he was actually Superman, to tell him where to find the Fearsome Five. Presumably we’ll learn at some point that these two are members of the Circle.

Jonathan and Martha Kent celebrate their forty-ninth wedding anniversary this issue, meaning if we buy John Byrne’s story that Superman is twenty-nine years old, then the Kents adopted Clark twenty years after they got married.

We get a page telling us that a week passes in the span of this story, during which Superman teamed up with the Green Lantern Corps (and, by nature of that story picking up from the prior issue’s cliffhanger, presumably also Hawkman and Hawkwoman), and battled the mutated Professor Kitty Faulkner. No footnotes are provided, but obviously these events took place in ACTION COMICS #589 and SUPERMAN #7.

My Thoughts: Okay, so last week I warned that continuity would get a little choppy thanks to SUPERMAN #7 featuring an epilogue page set three days after the main story — and that within those three days, the next issues of both ACTION COMICS and SUPERMAN would take place. But little did I know just how bad it would be!

Presumably due to poor communication and coordination, Marv Wolfman has kind of fouled up John Byrne’s timeline a bit here. He tells us that within the span of one week in the middle of this issue, ACTION COMICS 589 (and, as noted above, logically 588 too) occurred. No problem there. But he also tells us that SUPERMAN #7 took place in that week as well. The only problem there is that Superman disappears for three days within the pages of SUPERMAN 7! Now this still doesn’t totally screw things up, except that Wolfman charts the entire week out, day by day… so, going by his timeline, Superman’s missing three days could never have happened.

Mind you, Byrne shares blame for this snafu too, since there was (at least not as far as I can see yet) no reason for the “three days later” epilogue to close out SUPERMAN #7. But in any case, I suppose the best thing to do here for continuity’s sake is just pretend Wolfman’s page describing Superman’s busy week doesn’t exist. That way, this issue can take place either before or after SUPERMAN #7 with no issues.

However, I also have a gripe with Wolfman’s portrayal of Clark Kent here. Now, don’t get me wrong — writers on different books starring the same character are certainly entitled to their own sub-plots starring said character. But Wolfman gives us a Clark who can barely hold his two lives apart, while Byrne’s version of the character doesn’t have this problem at all; never even says or thinks anything about it. That in itself isn’t bad, though, since Wolfman wraps up the plot by this issue’s conclusion — until you factor in his idea that Clark’s work is suffering as a result of Superman’s heroics. Perry White chews Clark out early in the issue for missing several deadlines. Yet in SUPERMAN 7, there’s a page where a Daily Planet intern thinks about the fact that Clark is the paper’s very best reporter. And that scene, at least according to Wolfman’s apocryphal “week in the life” recap page, took place during this week in which Clark has been botching his assignments!

I can’t totally blame Wolfman or Byrne for this, though. It’s really something Mike Carlin and Andy Helfer should have caught and fixed at the plotting stage. And, as I ranted a few years back regarding Roger Stern and Bill Mantlo working on two Spider-Man books, I’m pretty sure Byrne is considered the “lead writer” on Superman right now. Wolfman should be following his lead at all times and not undermining him, whether well-meaning or not!

And lastly, a minor issue with the cover on this one: As can be gleaned from above, at no point in this story does Mammoth (or any other member of the Fearsome Five) set foot anyplace near the Kent farm or Smallville. I understand artistic license on covers, but that's practically false advertising!

Next Week: Superman teams up with the Metal Men in ACTION COMICS #590, then meets the Legion of Super-Heroes in SUPERMAN #8.

1 comment:

  1. The Fearsome Five were truly worthy foes for this issue of "The Adventures of Superman."