Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The World of Metropolis #3

Mr Kent Goes To Metropolis

Writer: John Byrne
Penciller: Win Mortimer
Inkers: Dick Giordano, Sal Trapani
Letterer: Albert de Guzman
Colorist: Tom Ziuko
Assistant Editor: Renee Witterstaetter
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: John Byrne
Cover Date: October 1988
Release Date: 14/06/1988

Deep beneath the Metropolis financial district, three crooks use a stolen LexCorp laser to tunnel through the rock to a bank vault. Suddenly, the laser stops boring through the rock. The crooks turn it off and see a familiar 'S' shield in the hole they have created. Superman has been tipped off and swiftly apprehends the crooks. As he flies away, he remembers his first time living in Metropolis...

Having just arrived in Metropolis, Clark checks into a cheap hotel then takes off to do some sightseeing. Making sure that he won't be noticed, he uses his flight powers to see the city from above, but quickly notices shots being fired at policemen from a building. The gunmen have stolen a LexCorp weapon shipment, and are setting up a heavy-duty assault cannon. With everyone distracted by the gunfire, Clark is able to fly in through a window without being noticed. Manipulating his flight carefully, Clark is able to fly inside for the first time, reducing his chances of detection. He is discovered by one of the gunmen, and is forced to knock him out. However, even one of his softest punches has enough power to break the gunman's jaw, and Clark resolves to get more practice to allow him to use his power without causing unnecessary injury.

Using his x-ray vision, Clark sees that the gunmen have finished assembling the assault cannon, and are ready to fire. Clark dives out of the window and is able to catch the missile as soon as it is fired. Both the police and gunmen are confused at this, as Clark was moving at super-speed and wasn't seen by them. The gunmen fire again, and again Clark catches the missile. The police start to move in on the building, and the gunmen respond with more machine-gun fire. From the roof, Clark uses his heat vision to melt the bullets, protecting the policemen. He then throws one of the missiles at the building to flush the crooks out. Heading inside, he helps an old staircase collapse, and the gunmen literally tumble out of the building into the arms of the police.

With the situation resolved, Clark heads across town to meet with the Dean of Metropolis University, Dean Reynolds. Reynolds is happy to accept Clark into the university, until he discovers that Smallville High doesn't have the necessary accreditation. As Clark is a promising student, the Dean promises to see what he can do about the situation. Leaving the University, Clark ponders on a comment made about his accent by the Dean, and decides to see what he can do about losing it. As he wanders past a diner, he notices a 'Help Wanted' sign, and before long he has a job as a washing up boy.

After a week, Clark is promoted to short-order cook, and uses his heat vision to speed up his orders. A redheaded waitress named Ruby complements him on his speed. Ruby has a bit of a crush on Clark, and offers him a lift home. When she drops him off, she gives him a kiss on the lips, and promises more.

The next night, Clark is flying above the city when he notices a lady being chased by a car. He dives into the sewers, popping up underneath the car and disabling it by wrenching the back axle off. The car comes to a halt in a narrow alley and the crooks are unable to get out. The lady climbs over the car and gets away. As she does so, she taunts the crooks by telling them that she will be filing her story on their crime ring at the Daily Planet - the lady is Lois Lane. Clark overhears her taunt and is intrigued by the thought of working for the Daily Planet.

The incident has made Clark late for his appointment with Dean Reynolds. Despite being late, Reynolds allows him to take the tests that will allow him entrance to Met U, but his time to complete them has been shortened. By writing at super-speed, Clark is able to complete the exams in time, and is granted entrance as a student. Leaving the university, he is met by Ruby, who had followed him throughout the morning. Worried that his secret has been exposed, Clark is releaved to discover that she had lost him almost immediately, and was only at the university on a hunch that he would be there. They go for a burger, where Ruby expresses her concerns that Clark may overwork himself as a student and holding down a job. Clark reassures her that he will be fine. Over the next two years, Clark and Ruby grow close, but eventually Clark's time as a student and diner worker come to a close. He bids an emotional farewell to Ruby and the diner, and heads off into the world.

Back in the present day, Clark goes to visit Ruby and her family.

This is probably the most satisfying issue of World of Metropolis. The looser structure to the story, based around a series of events rather than one notable incident, allows the characters to come through more noticeably, and gives more of a sense of the earlier life of the spotlighted character than either of the previous issues have done. This issue is also stronger through the lack of Lex Luthor as a primary antagonist. Although his influence can be felt in the background of the issue and the city, it is more befitting that Clark Kent should not meet or even be aware of the malicious nature of Luthor at such an early stage in his career.

A lot of time is spent in this issue working with the fact that Clark is not used to using his powers in immediate or prolonged situations. He struggles to fly indoors, and breaks a mans jaw by punching him too hard. The whole sequence with the gunmen really feels like Clark is flying (no pun intended) by the seat of his pants, hurtling from one challenge to the next. He feels more comfortable with his powers in controlled situations, like super-cooking burgers or aceing college entrance exams. Although the gunmen fight sequence gives a good insight into his learning process, it would be great to revisit this era to see him become more comfortable with his powers and gradually becoming the Superman we know today.

The not-quite-an-encounter between Lois and Clark is also a nice touch, even if the inspiration for Clark wanting to work at the Daily Planet seems a little sudden and baseless. Again, this major decision in Clark's life feels like it needs more grounding, and that there is unexplored territory. One thing this scene does is confirm Lois as the binding thread between the issues of the miniseries. The one consistent character throughout all four issues is Lois, from her cameo in #1 to her full blown focus in #2, to another cameo in #3 and her supporting role in #4. This makes a lot of sense; outside of Superman she is the most important character in the Superman books. Whilst Clark has an established history in Smallville, Lois has never been given such an established younger life, and touching base with her at different points in the history of the characters spotlighted in this story grounds her nicely in the run-up to Man of Steel.

Although I'm not a fan in general of this World Of... miniseries, this issue is a great reminder of the potential of the miniseries, and of the general idea of a pre-Year One set of stories. Sadly, much like Clark's relationship with Ruby (surely doomed due to the lack of an 'LL' name), events within this issue have little to no resonance outside of its covers, a running theme for the early life of Clark Kent which, notable Superman-related moments aside, rarely get referenced beyond their original appearance. Sometimes that's a good thing, but when the story is as strong as this, it can sometimes be a shame.

Next on World of Superman: The Secret Origin of... The Signal Watch!!!

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