Friday, 20 May 2011

Superman #3

Hey guys, welcome back to the World of Superman.

Before we get going today, I just wanted to throw a shout-out to Jeffrey Taylor, co-host of From Crisis To Crisis and a contributor and administrator of the Superman Homepage. I had the great pleasure of meeting Jeffrey at the start of April in San Francisco, where my holiday coincided with WonderCon, and Jeffrey was kind enough to take a part of his Sunday morning to share breakfast and chat about Superman and life in general. Jeffrey has just started a series of articles for focusing on the production of the upcoming Superman: The Man of Steel film. The first instalment went up a few days ago, and future instalments will arrive every other Tuesday. Go check it out! The article is a great read, and I'll be looking forward to future posts. Don't forget to add your comments and interact as sell - I'm told that the next post will be worthy of comment!

But let us turn our view away from Jeffrey, and instead take a look at a maniacal super-god, determined to conquer the Earth. I'll leave you guys to make up your own punchlines!

Legends Chapter 17: Legends From The Darkside

Writer/Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Tom Ziuko
Editor: Andrew Helfer
Cover Artist: John Byrne
Cover Date: March 1987
Release Date: 11/12/1986

Lois Lane arrives at the Metropolis Grande Hotel to interview G. Gordon Godfrey. Godfrey resists attempts by Lois to pry into his background, and tells her that the true goal of his crusade is to see super-heroes wiped from the face of the Earth.

In the streets below, Clark Kent rushes through the crowds in a panic. He is being pursued by two beams of light that take great care not to strike anyone as they chase him, and is unable to change into Superman as a result of President Reagan’s edict. Clark heads into the sewers, ducking to avoid the beams, but is struck by them when they unexpectedly reverse direction. The beams take him to Apokolips, to Darkseid’s feat. Darkseid cannot understand why his omega beams haven’t brought Superman to him, and gaining no help from the Phantom Stranger, he hurls Clark through a window and into the Armagetto below.

Finding himself in the garbage of the Armagetto, Clark wonders about the Phantom Stranger’s involvement with Darkseid’s plans. Denizens of Armagetto quickly descend on Clark, stripping him of his possessions and clothes, revealing him as Superman, who easily bats them aside. Exploring the Armagetto, Superman reviews all he knows of the New Gods. He uses his telescopic vision and discovers that New Genesis no longer exists. Superman ducks further down into the Armagetto to avoid detection by Parademons, and uses rags and cloth to disguise his costume.

Proceeding on foot, Superman comes across an angry mob, protesting the imminent execution of a woman who preached against Darkseid’s rule. Recognising that a life is in danger, Superman steps forward, breaking the fence that keeps the mob back and demanding the woman’s release. With the shock troops distracted by Superman’s show of strength, the woman escapes. The troops summon a pacifier, an oversized armoured soldier, who attacks Superman. The two fight, and Superman is able to crack the armour, releasing a parasitic slug-like creature which attacks Superman, attaching itself to him. As Superman struggles, he topples into a flame pit. Looking on, Darkseid laughs.

This is a great book. Whilst I felt that the Legends series proper had lost momentum leading into this crossover, this book comes out of the gate with all guns blazing. Lois gets to grip with G. Gordon Godfrey and his twisted philosophy, and his manipulation powers come across as far more insidious when directed solely at Lois. Her admission that his arguments are so persuasive that she has to remind herself which side she is on carries as much weight as the baying mobs seen in the back half of the Legends storyline.

In the meantime, an unprepared Superman narrowly avoids a one-on-one confrontation with Darkseid. Clark’s madcap dash through the streets of Metropolis has a real sense of panic to it. You really get the feeling of his desperation, forced to stay in his civilian identity but frantically trying to outpace the omega beams. Thankfully the Phantom Stranger is present to help deflect Darkseid’s attentions when he arrives on Apokolips, although it is unusual that Darkseid should be so trusting of another’s word, especially when it would appear to cast doubt on his own abilities.

Superman’s adventures on Apokolips are interesting. After twenty-five years of Superman vs Darkseid stories in different media, we are used to Superman marching into Apokolips on a war footing, ready to throw down with Darkseid as soon as he needs to. Having him skulk around in the Armagetto, his costume covered by rags, is an different and clever way to get Superman involved with the story. I particularly like the touch where Superman’s aura that keeps his costume intact during battle also prevents the grime of the Armagetto from dirtying him, forcing him to hide in the shadows to avoid detection by Darkseid’s troops.

Of course, a whole issue of skulking would not make for a satisfying read, and it doesn't take long for the injustices of Apokolips to bring Superman out. The throwdown with the pacifier is a great piece of action. John Byrne’s style seems particularly suited to the designs and environments of the Fourth World, and the pacifier – and the slug-like parasite within – are strong visuals.

I love, just love, the final page of this book, where the camera pulls back from Superman’s descent into the flame-pit to a menacing, gloating Darkseid. It takes a lot to be able to draw Darkseid smiling or laughing, and Byrne really sells the image in the final panel. There is an incredible amount of sinister and insidious delight in Darkseid’s reaction to Superman’s plight, and this whole page makes for a great cliffhanger to the book.

The Geeky Bits: Man, I can’t believe I forgot to drop this in on the last post!

Although this is the first time that readers saw Superman face Darkseid after the Man of Steel reboot, Clark's thoughts here clearly indicate that the two have met before. John Byrne wrote the story of how Superman first encountered the New Gods in the closing issue of his series Jack Kirby's Fourth World (covered here), and later events would seem to canonise the pre-Crisis Justice League of America #183-185.

This is the first time all of the current Superman titles directly tie into each other, with the story continuing from book to book. For the next few years, such inter-title continuity will be the exception, rather than the norm, but as we move from the 1980s into the 1990s, these three books (with the addition of Superman: The Man Of Steel) will form a continuous ongoing storyline, eventually linked by the ‘shield numbering’ on the covers, that will be known colloquially as the Neverending Battle style of storytelling. This will last until 1999 when the replacement of almost all of the creative teams on the four titles will only see continual inter-title storytelling for special events and crossovers.

This issue was covered on Episode 5 of From Crisis To Crisis.

Next on World of Superman: Forgive me, for I have been watching too much Futurama (particularly All My Circuits), but… Superman comes down with a sudden case of… AMNESIA!!!?!?!!

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