Monday, December 24, 2018


Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Inks: John Beatty
Colors: Petra Scotese | Letters: John Costanza
Editor: Mike Carlin | Assistant Editor: Renee Witterstaetter

Scripter/Co-Plotters/Penciler: John Byrne & Jerry Ordway | Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Albert de Guzman | Colorist: Petra Scotese
Assistant Editor: Renee Witterstaetter | Editor: Mike Carlin

The Plot: (SUPERMAN 21) On his way home from his encounter with the Doom Patrol, Superman realizes he’s being followed by an invisible being. She reveals herself as Supergirl, then as Lana Lang, and says that she got her powers from Lex Luthor. A brief scuffle ensues, during which Superman finds his parents and the real Lana tied up in Lana’s house. Superman lures Supergirl to Metropolis and Lex Luthor, where she realizes he is not the man she thought she knew. This triggers the return of her full memories, and she beams herself and Superman to another world, where she introduces the Man of Steel to a fit, red-headed Luthor.

(ADVENTURES 444) On the “pocket universe” Earth, Superman learns that his encounter with Superboy happened a decade ago, and Superboy never returned from his trip to the future with the Legion of Super Heroes. Since then, General Zod and his henchmen, Zaora and Quex-Ui, were released from the Phantom Zone in Superboy’s lab and conquered the Earth, ultimately destroying nearly all of it. Superman vows revenge alongside Luthor, Supergirl, Pete Ross, and their resistance.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: In SUPERMAN 21, Jimmy talks Perry into sending him and Lois to Ireland to investigate Silver Banshee.

While speaking with Supergirl/Lana, Superman reminds her of the time Luthor kidnapped and tortured her in issue 2. Some pages later, he recaps the “Pocket Universe” saga from issue 8.

In a cool touch by Byrne and Ordway, the resistance wears orange versions of Lex Luthor’s powersuit from the pre-CRISIS universe.

As noted above, the Pocket Universe story is said to have occurred ten years ago on that Earth, but Superman notes that it’s been only “weeks” for him.

The post-CRISIS origin of the Legion of Super Heroes is revealed here (I assume it was already established in their own title following the Pocket Universe story, though): They were inspired by legends of Superboy, and never actually met him. We also learn that there are—or were—only two planets in the entire universe: Kyrpton (which blew up as usual) and Earth, thanks to the Time Trapper.

The Time Trapper also saw to it that Superboy was the only hero on his planet, by preventing the inciting events that would have led other Earthlings to don costumes. However, even without powers or super-identities, Bruce Wayne, Hal Jordan, and Oliver Queen came to join the resistance.

Speaking of Earth, Zod and his cronies drilled down to its core, draining the oceans into it, where they turned to steam and burned off Earth’s atmosphere, leaving it a lifeless husk — except for Smallville, which was protected by a shield designed by Luthor.

My Thoughts: Hey, we’ve had some fun recently talking about the number of civilian casualties in John Byrne’s Superman run, but there’s obviously truth to those snipes. So it’s kind of fitting that Byrne’s run (of which we have only one issue remaining) should come to a close with General Zod killing the entire population of the planet Earth (aside from Smallville) in a spectacularly gruesome fashion. Sure, it’s not the real Earth, but still…!

Anyway, I’ll offer final thoughts on Byrne’s full run next week. For now, we’re just looking at these two issues, and overall I like them. I believe Byrne was forced into the original Pocket Universe story as a way to help DC sort out the post-CRISIS history of the Legion of Super Heroes, but presumably he’s doing this one on his own.

Part one is more-or-less a long fight scene between Superman and Supergirl, and it’s a lot of fun. Byrne draws the entire issue (save the first and final pages) as two-page spreads—not two-page splash spreads, mind you, but simply using every pair of pages like a single “landscape” page, akin to what he did in an issue of FANSTASIC FOUR some years earlier, only bigger. As a result, we get some terrific long panels, which look particularly outstanding when the pair reaches Metropolis and Byrne illustrates the cityscape.

The second chapter is drawn by Jerry Ordway in the same way, but somehow doesn’t work as well to my eye. Where Byrne used the format to give us these tremendous “widescreen” visuals, Ordway just fills his pages with lots of smaller panels, sort of like a Sunday comic strip. And while it works well enough, I can’t help feeling Byrne’s approach to the conceit is way more exciting.

The story in ADVENTURES 444, meanwhile, counterbalance’s SUPERMAN 21’s nonstop action with tons of exposition, filling in the story of General Zod’s domination of Earth. We sort of just went through a similar tale with the Mike Mignola-drawn fever dream in SUPERMAN 18, but for whatever reason, this second try works way, way better. The story of the Kryptonians enslaving Earth was sort of clinical; perhaps since it was told through Jor-El’s perspective as a visitor to our world. But here, Luthor, Pete, and Lana tell a more impassioned tale to Superman, and somehow Zod’s conquest feels far more real than what we saw in SUPERMAN 18. So while I find the creative choice to do a similar story so close after the previous one odd, I can’t deny that I really like this one a lot more.

Next Week: I take New Year's week off and give you my traditional "Year in Review" post, then we'll be back at it with WONDER WOMAN #21 and 22 one week after that!

1 comment:

  1. It's been quite a SUPER year for you to review Post-Crisis Superman. :)