The last of the Superman retrospectives, DC Retro-Active Superman 1990's, came out last week. This trip in the WayBack machine reunited the superlative Superman Man of Steel creative team of Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove.
And, much like the first two Retro-Actives, this issue really captured the spirit of the decade. While the 1970s and 1980s read like true 'one and done' issues of those time periods, this 1990's issue is very continuity heavy. For someone like me who lived through this period and read this run, this issue was like a comfortable pair of slippers. I was able to slip back into the Superman storylines of those years and enjoy what I was reading. As a result, I wonder if this book was as accessible to readers who just picked this up and hadn't read those arcs. Simonson does a good job of adding exposition through dialogue to fill in the information. But for me, it all just came flooding back. This took place in the aftermath of Doomsday and Reign of the Supermen, a time I feel where there was a tremendous creative explosion in the Superman books.
And it was good to see Jon Bogdanove on Superman again. His art was the most warped and outrageous on the Superman books on that time but felt fresh in comparison to the other books. I am glad there wasn't a 'art style' on all four Superman books as it may have felt stale after a while.
Simonson does a great job of putting us into the right time frame, hitting the key pieces of continuity within the first few pages. The Daily Planet is in financial trouble. Lex Luthor's cloned body (when he was posing as his 'son' from Australia) is also in trouble as the 'clone plague' runs through Metropolis - effecting the Underworlders and Cadmus clones.
But one thing doesn't seem to change, Luthor's hatred of Superman.
If Luthor is going down, he is going to take Superman and Metropolis with him. And his weapon will be a genetically engineered Cruiser II, a earth munching monster under the Luthor's control.
Look at that thing! We need Muad'dib to ride that thing!
This is a Metropolis still digging out from the Doomsday catastrophe. In this quick scene in the Planet, we see the happily married couple doing their jobs.
I like that Lois is on the Mayor's case trying to figure out just where the city's economic hardship is going to hit the hardest.
And Clark's ponytail makes another appearance! The Superman mullet was something I was not sad to see go.
The Cruiser begins worming its way under the city, weakening the foundation of city buildings, causing earthquake like phenomena and leveling some city blocks. Luthor wants more than simple destruction. He hopes to destroy these lower income level housing in order to build luxury hotels.
It gives Simonson the opportunity to show Superman in some classic poses, saving people from danger. Is it me, or is there something Fleisher-studio like in this pic.
And even more than just good real estate business, Luthor knows that the Cruiser's wake of destruction will be blamed on the Underworlders!
I love the cruel calculating Luthor, covering all bases.
The Cruiser is growing faster and faster as he munches his way through Metropolis' bedrock, collapsing subways and toppling more buildings.
Finally, Luthor sends it to attack Cadmus (another way of shining some guilt onto the Underworlders). Luckily Superman is there. Incredibly, the slime Cruiser secretes to ease his swimming in the mud is so corrosive it hurts Superman.
I mean ... it effects him. Look at the burned and bald Man of Steel.
Superman's current condition allows us to take an interesting look into the warped mind of Luthor.
Throughout this issue we have seen Luthor setting up his enemies to attack each other. He callously looks the other way at death and destruction. He seems to be coldly efficient. And yet he gets some glee out of seeing a bald monstrous Superman. There is some pettiness inside that malevolence.
Finally, Cruiser outgrows the controlling modules Luthor embedded in it and goes wild, even damaging the LexCorp headquarters.
It is too massive to fling into space. If up is not an option then down is Superman's only option. He pushes the Cruiser into the Earth's core.
Does that kill Cruiser? Who knows.
There is actually some concern that Superman may have died again when he doesn't immediately return. Luthor has one brief moment of joy thinking he has finished off his enemy.
That is ... until Superman returns, leading to a deliciously classic image of a villain screaming 'no'! I thought Luthor was the most compelling character in this issue.
But my favorite moment of the book was the ending one, Lois lovingly rubbing Clark's bald head and telling him to break out the fedora. There is such happiness and joy on her face. And he has such a sheepish look on his face. These are the moments that I will miss with the dissolution of the Lois/Clark marriage. What could 'ground' Superman more to humanity than having a loving wife at home?
As I said above, this Retro-Active really felt like a look back as it was solidly enmeshed with the continuity and major plot lines of the time period. I, for one, really enjoyed this look back and that is knowing that I was bored to tears with the 'clone plague' arc when it was coming out. Maybe that is nostalgia talking. But Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove did a great job sending me back in time.