Monday, June 4, 2018

SUPERMAN #9 & ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #432

“TO LAUGH AND DIE IN METROPOLIS”
Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Inks: Karl Kesel
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Tom Ziuko | Editors: Michael Carlin & Andrew Helfer

The Plot: A fake Superman robs the Metropolis Diamond Exchange. When Superman responds to the robbery, the imposter reveals itself as a robot with a nuclear bomb in its chest. Superman flies the robot into space, where it explodes, then returns to Metropolis to find that the Joker was behind the robbery. Joker calls on Superman with Jimmy Olsen’s signal watch, revealing that he’s captured, Jimmy, Perry White, and Lois Lane, and is holding them hostage in lead-lined coffins around the city. But Superman easily determines the coffins are empty, then tracks down the Joker, saves his friends, and brings the Clown Prince of Crime to jail.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Clark receives a package in the mail at the Daily Planet, containing his mother’s scrapbook which was stolen by agents of Lex Luthor in issue 2. Soon after, in Smallville, Lana Lang is approached by a strange probe which knocks her out.

Upon returning to Earth after disposing of the bomb, Superman attempts to fly and falls flat on his face, furthering the sub-plot about his powers periodically acting up.

Maggie Sawyer puts in an appearance, allowing Superman to explain to her that he and Batman are not friends. Moments later, Superman notes that Jimmy created his signal watch himself, and muses that the young man is destined for great things.


My Thoughts: Okay, so you’re John Byrne. You’ve rebooted Superman. You’re having some fun introducing him to certain characters for the “first time”. You decide it would be really cool for Superman to cross paths with the Joker. Sounds like a great idea!

So you have Superman thwart Joker’s plan with minimal effort in the span of just a couple pages, and then have him chidingly explain to the villain that he doesn’t understand how Kryptonian powers work.

Congratulations, John Byrne. You’ve successfully phoned in an entire issue of SUPERMAN and squandered a fun story idea.

“GANGWAR PART ONE: FROM THE STREETS, TO THE STREETS!”
Writer: Marv Wolfman | Artists: Jerry Ordway & P. Craig Russell
Letterer: Albert de Guzman | Colorist: Anthony Tollin | Editor: Mike Carlin

The Plot: Superman helps put out a tenement fire at a building owned by Lex Luthor in Metropolis’s Suicide Slum. Jerry White is found at the scene, but his guidance counselor, José Delgado, with whom he’s staying, clears him with an alibi. Later, Lex Luthor announces a new charity to help at-risk youths such as those believed to have caused the fire. However Luthor’s men actually take the kids off the streets in order to train them for tasks such as armed robbery.

Lois meets with José, but he ducks out on her in a hurry to go to a rug warehouse and confront some street gang members. Meanwhile, Superman thwarts a subway robbery perpetrated by a group of teens with LexCorp-manufactured weapons, and Jerry is among their number. Superman confronts Luthor over the incident, but the tycoon says that the troubled teens were, in fact, more trouble than they were worth, and they stole the guns when they left his program.

The gang sets the rug warehouse on fire, intending to let José and Lois, who followed him, burn, but Superman arrives and saves them both, then puts out the fire, realizing as he does so that the building also belongs to Lex Luthor. While José is taken to the hospital with Lois, Superman vows to take Luthor down.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Shoddy inter-title continuity strikes again! Superman claims he nearly didn’t get to the fire in time because he was finishing up with the Joker… but Lois and Jimmy are at the scene of the fire, and they were also there when the Joker adventure wrapped up in SUPERMAN #9. I assume John Byrne and Marv Wolfman weren’t communicating much as they wrote their respective titles, but you’d think one of the two editors would catch oversights like this!


When Superman arrives on the train, he begins to recite the Miranda Rights to the young robbers, reminding us that, as established in THE MAN OF STEEL, he’s still a duly deputized officer of the law.

My Thoughts: Well, we’re 2-for-2 on stinkers this week. Byrne’s story may have felt phoned in, but Wolfman’s just feels sloppy. Here, that’s due to the fact that a fire happens, the next day Luthor establishes a charity to deal with troubled teens, and apparently the day after that, the troubled teens have been fully trained in committing crimes and departed with a bunch of guns to do same. This is stuff that should have happened over a number of weeks, spread out as sub-plot pages in around six or so issues of the series!

But this is par for the course on Wolfman’s ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. Byrne’s stories aren’t all winners, but they’re generally solid action stories, if nothing else. Wolfman’s stuff feels weirdly disorganized and unwieldy, like he’s trying to cram way too much story into a single issue, and as a result he winds up with something borderline unreadable.


I had similar problems, as I recall, with the very earliest issues of NEW TEEN TITANS, in which Wolfman and George Pérez seemed to struggle with pacing for a while before they finally got it straight. Considering that the same thing is happening here and the only commonality is Wolfman, I can’t help wondering if it was actually Pérez who kept him on track in TITANS, and this is just how a Wolfman unencumbered by a strong co-plotter always writes.

(Though I read Wolfman’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN run some years ago and found it fine… It seemed lackluster to me in terms of stories, but the plotting and pacing always felt perfectly readable — so who knows?)

Next Week: Superman and Big Barda, uhh... make a porno in ACTION COMICS #592 and 593.

10 comments:

  1. Ha! No diplomatic softballing on this one!

    Actually, I fondly remember this one, mainly for the cover. That one jumped out at me from the stands and got me excited to dive in, as a good cover should.

    Turns out, the story had a bit of trouble following the cover. Mainly because I learned that I like Byrne's artistic depiction of a Super-Jokerbot more than his take on the actual Joker himself. The angular, pointy, cartoony face on Joker seemed particularly exaggerated and put me off. It wasn't scary, or disturbing, or fun, just somehow annoying.

    I didn't mind the by-the-numbers story, but I guess I wasn't exactly dazzled either. I kind of liked the lead-coffins-sticking-out bit, just a fun bit of obviousness that could be plausibly overlooked. I felt weird about Superman surviving a nuke, as I had gathered that post-Crisis Superman was supposed to be a bit more down-to-earth in terms of power set. Still, I did like how he was drawn in his weakened state.

    Am I remembering correctly that this issue had the Lex Luthor back-up story that seems to get lots of internet love? I'd be interested to read your take on that, too.

    -david p.

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    1. Ugh... Yes, it looks like this issue does have "Metropolis 900 Mi" in it, and the MAN OF STEEL trade paperback reprinting the issue omits that story! I thought this one seemed a bit short, but I didn't bother to count pages and verify. If you hadn't told me, I'd never have realized, so thanks for letting me know. I'll have to track down that story elsewhere. I know it gets lots of critical adoration.

      (This is classic DC, by the way -- their reprint department is a massive mess and frequently does dumb stuff like this.)

      Regarding the rest of the issue -- I do like the cover quite a bit. It's chilling and promises something great within, which is probably why I was extra let down by the actual story. However if I'd read "Metropolis 900 Mi" directly after, I might have overlooked this one's shortcomings!

      I agree on Byrne's depiction of the Joker here; he looks abnormally cartoony and off-model. And Byrne had just drawn the Joker not long ago in LEGENDS, where he looked pretty much normal! (Where "normal" equals "in line with the Neal Adams/Jose Luis Garcia Lopez version".)

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  2. Goddamnit I've been waiting for Metropolis 900 Mi, I have important* open questions about the millionaire chatting about his indecent proposal with his chauffeur, and the scene's relationship to a 1988 novel and a 1993 film.

    * They are!

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    1. I'll get there eventually. Maybe somebody has scans of the story online someplace. If so, I can try to do it this week or next, to stick as close as I can to when I posted the above. We'll see what happens!

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    2. They do; google image search finds every page of the story and it's easy to piece it into correct order.

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    3. Thanks, Teemu! I'll try to take a look at it today and maybe get a bonus post up this week to cover it.

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  3. Why does this whole Joker story feel like John Byrne correcting someone on how they think Superman's powers work?

    I mean, I was there back then, and I don't remember anyone thinking "If it's lead Superman can't see it." Hell everyone remembers how Luthor, in the first Chris Reeves Superman movie, tricked him into exposing himself to kryptonite by hiding it in a lead lined container. Everyone knew that he couldn't see through lead, not that lead was a perfect camouflage.

    Maybe I'm just picking on the guy because I like your blog and he's being a jerk at you, but it does feel like he sat down and said "NO THIS IS HOW X-RAY VISION WORKS" when...no one said otherwise.

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    1. I totally get that "correction" vibe too. Like Byrne got so frustrated with some ignoramus's inability to understand Superman that he created this story using Joker as a proxy. And it's something Byrne would totally do, so the theory has justification.

      Anyway, thanks for the support!

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  4. So that's why you didn't include the story. I thought there was something funny...
    I wonder if this is the Post-Crisis debut of Jimmy's signal watch, which plays a sound only Superman (and dogs) would hear. I do know JB covered it in his WORLD OF METROPOLIS LS. The issue about Jimmy had the character inventing the piercing sound effect and using it to save a friend who had attempted suicide. Figuring Superman would be the only one quick enough to get the friend to the hospital, Jimmy turned on the sound, hoping Superman would detect it by his super-hearing, and be annoyed by it enough to search for the source. He does and saves the friend.

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    1. Jimmy used the signal watch to summon Superman to the diner Bloodsport had shot up in SUPERMAN #4, and that was the first I saw of it in reading all these issue, so unless he used it someplace else prior, I would guess that was the post-CRISIS debut. I was actually a little surprised, given how "gritty" Byrne seemed to be going with the reboot, that he kept it in continuity!

      I didn't realize until recently, but it looks like DC released all three WORLD OF... mini-series on Comixology just this past February/March, after I'd started reading all this stuff and writing my posts. If I'm not too burnt out by the end of the year, I might see if there's any sort of DC sale on and pick them up for a coda to the full run; something like one mini a week for three weeks.

      We'll see, anyway...!

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