Unshelved: Superman May ’94

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!

Alright gang, we’re jumping right back into all the craziness in Metropolis after a few divergences into Superman Doomsday: Hunter/Prey and a passel of Superman Elseworlds Annuals! As you’ll remember, the Underworlders (a group of clones living below the city) are furious at the surface dwellers, thinking that they poised them with a clone plague that’s also ravaging secret clone Lex Luthor II and the Newsboys. The Man of Steel wants to help, but his powers have been increasing to dangerous levels ever since he returned from the dead.

As you can see on the cover of Man Of Steel #33 by Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove, our hero is approaching Hulk proportions. In fact, he’s so big that when he tries flying by Lois’ apartment, he nearly brings the neighboring one down. Meanwhile, Lois and the rest of the world realize how Lex planned on destroying her after she submitted a story tying him to the missing Sasha Green. Instead, the headline claimed that Luthor’s mother was actually an alien. When I read that, I flipped out because it felt like a major oversight. These things have to go through editors. Well, we later learn that the copy editor approved the piece and then went missing, meaning Luthor’s not just using technology (he can get into any LexCorp computer) and good old fashioned bribery. He also gets her arrested for drunk driving, though I’m not sure which method he used for that. Meanwhile, Superman goes to Cadmus for help and Paul Westfield attempts to use the Parasite’s power-absorbing abilities, but that goes about as well as you’d think so they shoot him into space. Oh and this will play out big time soon, Lex makes a deal with Clawster of the Underworlds that will have ramifications for the entire city.

The story continues directly in Superman #89 by Dan Jurgens (I like Stuart Immonen, but I’m glad my fav’rit is back) where the older Big Words of Cadmus leads Big Blue to a Cadmus satellite where he hopes to draw off the excess power. As you might expect, this doesn’t go well and the whole place blows up. Superman has to wrap metal around his eyes to stop the heat vision from pouring out, but still managed to save Big Words as they crash back to Earth. This issue doesn’t get into the clone stuff as much, instead spending most of its terrestrial scenes with Perry White defending Lois Lane from the paper’s owner who wants to fire her. Though the chief absolutely has Lois’ back, he still has to let her go.

The power surge story — it actually seems funny to me that they didn’t name this storyline like they did with “Bizarro’s World” — finally comes to an end in Adventures Of Superman #512 by Karl Kesel and Barry Kitson while also carrying on all the other elements and adding yet another for Supes to deal with down the line. This issue felt very high-stakes because the now-huge Superman must once more deal with Parasite who is now addicted to his energy. At the same time, Lois just barely missed the firebombing of her apartment and the continued escalation of the clone wars. In a nice tie-in with Superboy #3, Superman and Parasite fight on the moon which is where the Scavenger’s secret cave is located (though I didn’t realize that on my first read). The Man of Steel is able to use some of the artifacts to stop Parasite before accidentally teleporting them back to Earth where the souped-up villain escaped and Superman returned to his normal physicality, though he passed out.

In a bit of a twist, I’m going to now jump over to Supergirl #4 by Roger Stern and June Brigman. When last we left her, she had spiked out her look and wage her own war against her former boyfriend Lex Luthor II. She starts off by destroying all of his houses around the globe and then finally going after Lex himself, finally seeing him as the desiccated man he had become. She starts tossing him around the room only to be stopped by Superman. After discovering that he was really dying, she flew off to be consoled by the Kents before once more meeting up with Lex Luthor I’s ex-wife Elizabeth Perske, a character I really like, but don’t remember making an impact down the line.,

Stern and guest artist Norman Felchle (he did S.T.A.R. Corps!) picked the ball up with Action Comics #699. He asked Dr. Hamilton to run some tests on him and then caught up with Lois who was understandably furious at everything going on. In sharing their stories, the reporters put it together that Luthor might be a clone. This leads directly into the scene where stops Supergirl from hurting Lex (though they don’t line up exactly). Beyond that, Perry White starts to realize that the LexCorp computers might be part of Lane’s problems. Back out in the city, things are finally bubbling over as Guardian, Cadmus’ forces, the Metropolis SCU, Lex’s armored stormtropers AND the Underworlders (who have been secretly armed by Luthor) all come very close to destroying each other.

And right when things are really heating up, we cut to the other two spinoffs! With Steel #4, Louise Simonson gets sole writing credit and is joined by artist Kevin West. Aside from a brief conversation with Lois where she recommends that he work with DC cop Lieutenant Shauna Beryl to bring down AmerTek. He mentions hearing that she had been fired, but is presumably in her apartment before it got blown up. From there, John Henry Irons’ life continues to get complicated as his family is attacked by someone hyped up on Tar at a child’s funeral, a neighborhood kid gets shot in a drive by and his niece gets hit by a car.

Things are not so serious for Superboy, but he’s got a lot going on in his life too. He appeared in The Ray #1 and 2, which came out with May and June 1994 cover dates. Normally I’d split those up, but they both take place chronologically before Superboy #4. So, in the first Ray comic by Christopher Priest and future JLA artist Howard Porter, the young legacy character with the cool jacket decides to fly off to Hawaii for some R&R. Unfortunately, the giant fiery monster Brimstone — who debuted in the very-important-at-the-time event Legends –followed him there! Superboy flies in to help out and gets blasted which makes Ray think that he died! The next issue, by the same team, starts with Ray burying Superboy with rocks on the beach! The Kid didn’t take it personally, though, and the pair really worked well together this time to stop Brimstone.

After all that he’s pretty wiped out in Superboy #4 by Kesel and Tom Grummett. Mike Parobeck’s also on board to draw scenes from the Superboy cartoon his manager Rex set. It’s a fun bit that was also done a few years later in Guy Gardner: Warrior #41 with art also by Parobeck. Basically a filler episode, this one ends with Superboy passing out presumably from the clone plague running through Metropolis which will lead to his involvement in the main books next time! By the way, add The Ray to the list of books from the 90s that I now want to read, up there with the rest of these tie-ins and Hawkman!

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