Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Adventures of Superman #428

Have you seen that new button at the top of the sidebar? That marks me as an official competitor in the MCM/Blogomatic 3000 Battle of the Bloggers that will be taking place at the end of the month at the MCM Expo. I have no idea what to expect, but with such an event taking place on my doorstep, how could I not take part? Click the button for further information, and expect a write-up of the event a few days after it has happened. If you're coming to the Expo, then swing by the event and cheer me on!

Personal Best

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Jerry Ordway
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Tom Ziuko
Editors: Andy Helfer and Mike Carlin
Cover Art: Jerry Ordway
Cover Date: May 1987
Release Date: 19/02/1987

Three days after his ‘meeting’ with President Marlo, Superman launches a further assault on Qurac’s military forces, decimating its air force and assaulting its navy with one of its own submarines. Superman holds a televised meeting with Marlo, again warning him over harbouring terrorists. Clark and Cat Grant watch television coverage of Superman’s recent attacks, flirting throughout. Their fun is interrupted by Perry White’s appearance on television to publically condemn reputed mobster and city councilman Jay Falk, as he had been instrumental in investigating and exposing him.

Elsewhere in Metropolis, Jerry White, Perry White’s son, tells Jose XXXX that he is ready to quit his street gang. As he reflects on his volatile relationship with his father, his former gang attacks him for planning to quit. As the beat him up, mobsters arrive, breaking up the fight and kidnapping the unconscious Jerry. The crooks contact Perry and demand that he kills his expose on Falk. Perry clears his office, before storming out of the Planet building.

Later that night, Falk throws a party. Superman arrives to confront Falk, demanding to know where Jerry is. Getting nowhere, Superman drags one of Falk’s ‘bodyguards’ to the roof of the Daily Planet, threatening to leave him stranded atop the globe if he doesn’t get the location of Jerry from him. The terrified goon agrees to talk.

Later on, in the Ace of Clubs bar, Superman asks for the location of mobster Louie Lyppe. Taking offence at his style, Bibbo Bibowski thumps him in the stomach, injuring his hand. The rest of the barflies clam up, but as Superman makes to leave, Bibbo offers to buy him a beer.

At home, Perry White is unable to write his expose on Falk, wracked with worry for Jerry. Alice tries to calm him. The two briefly argue about whether Perry should abandon his journalistic principles to save his son.

Returning home, Louie Lyppe is surprised in his apartment by Bibbo. Bibbo intimidates Louie into giving up the location of Jerry. Bibbo then reveals himself as a disguised Superman, threatening to tell Lyppe’s boss about Louie’s betrayal if anything should happen to Bibbo in retribution for his subterfuge. As Perry settles down to retract his story, Superman breaks into the warehouse where Jerry is being held. A mobster holds a gun to the restrained Jerry’s head. Superman uses his heat vision to set the mobster’s pants on fire, before using his super-breath to extinguish the flames and incapacitate the mobster.

Superman returns Jerry to his family. Jerry and Perry argue about Perry taking so long to take action to save his son. As Superman looks on, the two row, before Jerry storms out.

The last issue of Adventures of Superman eschewed the action scenes (after a few pages) for some mind-bending explorations of what Superman means to different elements of his life. This issue brings back the action, opening with one of most dynamic and ferocious scenes of Superman’s might. Superman’s previous assault on Qurac is merely a warm-up for this sustained assault, decimating its armed forces in the space of three pages. This is real balls-to-the-wall action, the standout being the moment when Superman sinks a battleship by bursting through its hull with a submarine. I was debating the merits of Superman Returns a few nights ago, and one of the points I made was that the plane-crash was a sequence that could only occur in a Superman film, Iron man, the X-Men, Captain America and Batman just don’t have the sheer force and combination of powers required to save that plane. The same can be said of Superman’s actions here. Only Superman (or heroes blatantly modelled on him) could use a submarine to sink a ship. I also love that this scene is only a third of the double-spread. I can’t help but think that if this scene was published today, that one panel would take up an entire double-spread (although it would look absolutely glorious).

Later on in the issue, Superman has to play detective to track down Jerry White. One could ask why he doesn’t just do what he’ll do in an upcoming issue of Superman and use his x-ray vision to scan Metropolis, but if he had done so then we wouldn’t have had Superman doing his best-ever Batman impersonation. Superman’s investigations are superb. He forces – and blunders – his way throughout Metropolis from the heights to the dregs of society. I particularly like his not-so-subtle confrontation with Falk, casually destroying a work of art before denouncing it as a fake, making the councilman sweat with every artefact he touches. Straight after, Superman’s Batman impressions comes to the fore as he drags a henchman to the top of the Daily Planet globe, toying with his fear to get the response he needs.

Wolfman’s writing in this scene – and this issue in general – is excellent, and there’s a moment in this scene where Superman flies away from the henchman, making him think that he’s been abandoned in the skyline. The art shows Superman making a loop back around, and when he returns, he says: “Hi, miss me? I had to rescue a cat from a fire”. In this one line, Superman establishes exactly where the hoodlum sits in the pecking order, and that Superman’s attention regarding him is short and fickle, so he’d better start talking immediately. Of course, the thug is too stupid to ‘fess up. Superman’s next lines – click the image to enlarge – are hilarious.

This issue sees the first appearances of three characters that would form part of the Superman family for the next few years: Jerry White, Jose Delgado and Bibbo Bibbowski. When you consider that this title has also introduced Emil Hamilton and Cat Grant, it seems clear that if Action Comics is the team-up book, and Superman is the flagship title, then Adventures of Superman seems to be primarily concerned with world-building. With the exception of last week’s issue (and, of course, the Apokolips-set Legends crossover), each issue has provided depth and development for Metropolis and Superman’s supporting cast. Here, Perry White takes a feature role for the first time, and we take our first trip into Suicide Slum. This Metropolis has depth and diversity, a more textured and real city than that which we’ve seen in the Superman comics for the past few years.

Overall, this is a fantastically strong and enjoyable issue. Whilst the story of the Circle outstays its welcome by the end, Wolfman’s slice-of-life story in Metropolis is incredibly strong, and his use of Superman throughout the issue, adopting different strategies to track down Jerry, is highly notable. Ordway’s art is also superb. He informs the anguish of Perry’s struggles with his journalistic morality with skill, his action sequences are fantastically well-drawn, and his depiction of Superman-as-Bibbo is delightfully ambiguous, making great use of shadow to convey the deception.

The Geeky Bits: This issue was reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Steel vol. 3 and is covered on episode 7 of From Crisis To Crisis.

Next on World of Superman: Work allowing, midweek will see the posting of the next instalment of my looks back at what I will and won’t be missing in the relaunched DC Universe, whilst next weekend will finally see Superman confronting the mummy!

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