Sunday, 13 November 2011

Superman #5 - The Mummy Strikes!

This isn't quite as planned, as my laptop is having a few problems reading my latest set of pictures, featuring all of my lovely MCM Expo goodies, from my memory card. So, whilst I wrestle with the technical issues, I figured it was probably worth  getting back to the bread and butter of this blog - the life and times of the Post-Crisis Superman!

Don't forget to grab the latest episode of the 20 Minute Longbox. Not only is it a super-sized episode featuring my good friend Jon M. Wilson as a special guest-star, but it also contains an exciting announcement about a future project!

And on with the issue!

The Mummy Strikes

Writer-Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Karl Kesel
Colorist: Tom Ziuko
Letterer: John Costanza
Editors: Andrew Helfer & Michael Carlin
Cover Art: John Byrne
Cover Date: May 1987
Release Date: 12/02/1987

Superman dreams of fighting Apokolitian Warhounds in Washington DC and the arrival of Wonder Woman. The two defeat the Warhounds together. Wonder Woman makes to leave, but Superman grasps her wrist. The two are about to kiss when Clark awakes, amazed at the intensity of his dream.  Starting to wonder if there might now be place for romance in Superman’s life, Clark realises that he is late for work.

At the Daily Planet, a package has arrived on Clark’s desk. Distracted by Cat Grant’s flirting, Clark forgets about it. Summoned to Perry’s office, he sees a video message from Lois Lane giving an update on her secondment to an archaeological dig that suddenly cuts out. Perry sends Clark to South America to investigate.

Superman flies to South America before changing in a dig tent. As Clark, he meets up with Lois, who has been trying to fix the radio. She accuses him of trying to scoop her again, before reluctantly mellowing as he convinces her that he is here to help. Dr Estevez, the dig chief, shows Clark a piece of machine-tooled metal found inside a 3000 year old jar, the key to the dig. Descending into the site, Clark sees futuristic panels secreted behind naturally grown stalagmites, which are the source of the interference that blocks communications. As Estevez attempts to work the panels, a wall crumbles as two large bandage-wrapped hands burst through.

The hands belong to a giant mummy-like creature that attacks Clark and Lois with eyebeams. Clark gets Lois and Estevez to safety, wondering how he can use his powers without compromising his identity. He uses his heat vision to bring a section of the roof down around him, giving him cover to use his powers. The ‘mummy’ surprises him however, by blasting into the air with rockets. Clark has to pull his punches, as his x-ray vision cannot penetrate the ‘mummy’ to discover if it is a living being or a robot.  He realises that he cannot change into Superman as he hasn’t shaved, and both Clark and Superman being seen by Lois in another country with stubble would be too obvious.

Clark lunges for the panels, trying to halt the attack. A giant explosion rocks the ruins. In the aftermath, Lois crawls into the rubble, looking for Clark. She finds him unconscious, and she and Estevez drag him to safety. Returning to investigate, she comes face to face with the ‘mummy’, whose bandages have disintegrated revealing a large robot underneath.

For the second issue in a row, John Byrne takes an opportunity to move beyond Superman’s rogues’ gallery and bring something new to the table. This issue is all about continuing to establish the world in which Clark and Superman operates, and raising the stakes of the threat. Explanations and revelations will be saved for the next issue; this is all about the setup.

It might be a given, considering that the book is named after him, but this really is Superman’s issue. I love his gentle rebuttal of Cat’s not-so-obvious flirting, caused by him forgetting to shave. I really appreciate the page where Superman flies from Metropolis to South America, going suborbital to get there as quickly as he can. What is implied about this page is Superman’s intelligence. He knows how far away his destination is, and has a strong enough understanding of XXXX to be able to maximise his abilities to get there as quickly as possible.

The fight scene is a great example of Superman’s brains and brawn coming together. Realising that if both Clark and Superman appear to Lois with a five o’clock shadow then his secret will be out, Clark stays in costume and seals himself inside the ruins with the mummy-robot so that he can tackle it without worrying about his identity. This leads to come great visuals as Clark, clad in khakis, a shirt with rolled-up sleeves and a tie, goes toe-to-toe with a 20-foot tall mummy. I also like that he pulls his punches in case the mummy is an innocent living being, showing a respect for life regardless of the circumstances.

The cliffhanger to the issue is nice and strong. Clark, his secret safe thanks to not getting changed, is rendered unconscious by a huge explosion, whilst Lois is menaced by the unwrapped mummy, revealed to be a sleek-but-giant robot. We’ll see next week that the story takes a turn that’s nearly impossible to predict from the information given in this issue, which, in my opinion, makes the story stronger without cheating the reader.

The Geeky Bits: The intensity of Superman’s Wonder Woman dream is probably an after-effect of Prana’s attack in Adventures of Superman #427. Superman met Wonder Woman in Legends #6, and will feel drawn to her over the next year-or-so’s worth of stories. Look for Action Comics #600 to see what will happen between the two of them.

The mysterious package has been seen before, but for the sake of spoilers (!) I’ll hold off any futher commentary until we come to resolve this plotline in the books.

Collected in Superman: The Man Of Steel vol 3. It was covered in depth on episode 7 of From Crisis To Crisis.

Next on World of Superman:
Superman #6. Well, what did you expect?