With Unshelved, I pull comics from my collection and give them another read, sometimes for the first time in 30 years! These days I’m going through all of the Superman and Superman-related books from the end of Return of Superman through 1999!
When last we left our hero, he was in the middle of the “Bizarro’s World” story which found an unstable clone of Superman flying around the trying to play hero and causing all sorts of damage. Man Of Steel #32 by Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove presents the fourth installment of the crossover and its a doozy as Bizarro does everything he can to make Lois Lane love him, including stealing the giant, plastic ring display from a local jeweler and presenting it to her. To save the city, Lois agrees to act as bait for a trap laid by Guardian and Cadmus that nearly kills Bizarro. Sure it’s a bit King Kong-y, but I really like how this one plays on the themes of misplaced love and their dangers both to the person feeling those intense emotions and the person they are aimed at.
“Bizarro’s World” comes to a conclusion in Superman #88 by Dan Jurgens and Stuart Immonen. Lex Luthor II’s now in full-on Professor X mode. He’s not only bald, but has taken to floating around in a flying chair and is using computer programs to make the world think he’s still the vibrant young man with flowing fiery locks. Lex orders his scientific lackey Happerson to perform further experiments on Bizarro to try and find a cure for what ails Luthor. Happerson even succeeded, but as Bizarro lay dying — after Superman and Lois broke into the facility he was being held in — the clone let out one last blast of heat vision to destroy the computers holding the information and then passed away. Oh and in a nod to upcoming events, Superman flew up into space and noted that he’s feeling physically larger. That’s not a commentary on his workout routine, but a story thread that will fully play out in the next few months.
But before we get there, we have to dig further into all of these clone problems in Adventures Of Superman #511 by Karl Kesel and Barry Kitson, which sports an awesome cover featuring our hero and Guardian both looking rad and ready for action. However, inside, our hero is having a tough time controlling his powers, even crashing through buildings after returning from space and hurting people he’s trying to help. Meanwhile, Lex tries reaching out to Cadmus head Paul Westfield to collaborate on a clone cure and is rebuffed, much to Dabney Donovan’s delight as the mad scientist is watching from his own underground lair. Lex also learns that all of Lois Lane’s digging has lead her to write a story about his involvement in Sasha Green’s disappearance and vows to destroy her. This jam-packed issue also reveals by way of Dr. Emil Hamilton that Superman is dealing with a power surge because of Cyborg Superman’s blast that went through Eradicator before hitting and re-powering the Kryptonian back during the “Return of Superman” story (I told you it would come into play!). Also, the Newsboy clones are sick AND there’s a group of Underworlders who think they are being wiped out and begin to wage war against the rest of Metropolis.
With Action Comics #698 by Roger Stern and Jackson Guice, all out chaos explodes across Metropolis. Superman’s still concerned about his increased powers, Dabney Donovan’s releasing new clones to attack the city, inflaming the already brewing confrontation between the Underworlders and the above-grounders. Better yet, some of the clones are of Lex Luthor II! Anyway, the Man of Steel can’t really give the conflagration his full attention because his heat vision and other powers are going out of control and he doesn’t want to hurt anyone too badly. Meanwhile, Lois sends off her story about Lex, but he’s able to change it because the whole system is based on LexCorp tech, though we’ll see what that actually means in the following few months. Without giving too much away yet, I’m still stunned at how this huge story plays out and love how the creatives brought together all of these stories (Supes’ power surge, the clone stuff, Lex possibly dying, war breaking out in Metropolis) and where they go with it.
This is a great place to shift over to Roger Stern and June Brigman’s Supergirl #3 which feels more pertinent than ever. A banged-up SG seeks safety in Smallville at the house of Lana Lang (who is preparing for her wedding to Pete!) and explains that she finally used her powers for sneaky purposes and found Lex Luthor’s laboratory FILLED with clones of herself (who are all wearing Supergirl costumes for some reason). They crack right out of their Matrix-like egg-shaped pods and attack the Woman of Steel looking like combinations of Supergirl and the Female Furies of Apokalips, along with an OMAC nod. She tries reasoning with them and defending herself without hurting the clones, but she soon discovers that the copies return to protoplasmic form when exposed to a specific element. In her rage, she destroys the entire lab and decides to take her vengeance on Lex. Before that, she’s still talking to Lana about what she did and the character finally feels like she has some depth. It’s incredibly sad and you can see how much the experience took its toll on her…and then she decides to take on a spikey look that’s…odd. By the way, I actually read all four issues of the Supergirl series in one sitting, but I would highly recommend going the monthly route like I’m covering here because they actually play more into the ongoing Super Events than I Initially realized.
Speaking of tie-ins Superboy #3 by Kesel and Tom Grummett has Guardian checking in with Dubbilex to see how he and Superboy are doing with the clone sickness hitting Metropolis so hard. He’s okay so far, but is feeling a little ill as he takes on Scavenger immediately after mixing it up with Knockout last issue. He holds his own against the older villain, but never really knows what his deal is or the importance of the artifacts they’re fighting over. Meanwhile, Steel #3 by Simonson, Bog and Chris Batista is just silly. Remember how I said that book feels weird and off balance? In this issue, the enormous man in a shiny suit of armor and Spawn-esque flowing cape decides to sneakily break into the AmerTek offices in the middle of the day. He also seems to be committing a LOT of crimes including slapping around a ton of guards with his armored hands. I feel bad ragging on this book, but I’m hoping it starts hitting for me soon because I love this character.
Before getting back into the issues dealing Superman’s out-of-control powers and the brewing clone war in Metropolis (ha, Clone Wars, that’s funny) I’m going to take a little side trip and get into the six Superman-related Elseworlds annuals from 1994, including one of my all-time favorite DC alternate reality stories of all time!