Adventures of Superman #17 came out this week, the last issue of this title which has been a true joy for me. For the last year and a half I could count on this book for showcasing a classic take on Superman, an inspirational figure, a true hero. And this book always seemed to come out just when something particularly odious happened in the main books. Ranging from straightforward 'Supes fighting Brainiac' to more philosophical treatises on Superman as immortal hero, this book stretched my mind and made me glad to be a Superman fan again.
And so it was with a sad heart that I see this book come to an end.
But what a way to end. We have three very different stories, each of high quality, proving that in the right hands we can have a cosmic Superman, a Superman horror story, and a Superman romance story. The next time I hear someone tell me Superman is boring or that you can't tell a compelling Superman story, I'm going to hand them this issue.
Just fantastic stories and from great creators. Jerry Ordway and Steve Rude. Steve Niles and Matthew Dow Smith. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro. It is a perfect lineup for this title's swan song.
The first story is written by Jerry Ordway and drawn by Steve Rude, two creators I have complimented many many times on this site. There is something timeless about Superman and Rude's style has that timeless feel to it. I mean, just look at this panel as Superman streaks to stop a massive asteroid from crashing into Earth. Beautiful.
But knowing that OMAC was going to be in the story was bonus. Rude has always shined when doing Kirby.
Landing on the satellite, Superman is startled to see a robot assemble itself and start a fight.
There is something amusing about seeing Superman, under rubble, cape over his head, wondering why every robot he encounters starts a fight.
But this is more than just your standard robot. This thing can somehow has Kryptonite and actually gets the upper hand.
That is, until OMAC arrives. And it is the classic OMAC. Not evil robots. Not the finny New 52. Buddy Blank, sent by Brother Eye back in time to rescue Superman and stop robot G-7.
This just screams Kirby. The poses, the line work. Classic.
It turns out that G-7 was sent from the future to kill Superman. The hope being that without Superman as a symbol of hope and selflessness that Brother Eye and OMAC would not exist allowing the nefarious villains from the future to reign supreme.
Luckily, with OMAC's help Superman survives and the bomb is brought back to the future where OMAC uses it to blow up the headquarters of Dr. Skuba (the villain of the piece).
"The great heroes of the past have inspired us to pursue justice for the oppressed Brother Eye."
This is why I love this book.
But the last panel is great as well, showing the inspiration as it exists. After all a satellite saw the asteroid coming and a one-man-army-corps named Superman was sent to stop it.
Now I love Ordway and I really love Rude. But this was just the appetizer in this book.
"Ghosts of Krypton was the next story in the issue, written by horror specialist Steve Niles with moody art by Matthew Dow Smith.
In this story, Superman is the dedication of a moon base when a ghost from Krypton's past arrives. It turns out that this astronaut also left a dying Krypton and was rocketing to Earth. But he died during the trip, crashing on the moon.
With the usual powers of a poltergeist, this ghost begins to shake the foundations. And then he sets his eyes on Kal, wondering why he hasn't conquered Earth.
You know, call me old fashioned, but I still like to think of Krypton as a peaceful, advanced society and not a bunch of expansionists.
Superman finds the actual body of the ghost and then says ...
"I am of both worlds. Krypton is in my soul. But Earth has my heart."
That is why I love this book.
And rather than fight this specter, Superman decides to help it. He reunites the body and soul of this explorer and gives it a burial. Incredible.
It turns out Pa gave Clark some advice about ghosts, about how they only have the power you give them. And that helped in a pinch.
So science fiction Superman story? Check.
Horror Superman story? Check.
How about some romance to close the book?
"Mystery Box" is written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, one of my favorites. And there is wonderful understated art by Valentine DeLandro on the piece.
Now people have heard me lament the treatment of Lois Lane in the New 52 for the last 3 years. And, much like I look for a classic Superman in this book, I also get to see a more classic take on Lois as well. Thanks goodness Adventures and Smallville are around for Lois fans!
We start out almost with an Bond movie teaser, Lois in disguise, running from bad guys, jumping out of a moving car and into a propeller plane. It's almost a riff on Indiana Jones!
Just a perfect opening hook!
And then we find out it's Valentine's Day later in the week and Lois has given Superman a mystery box. It is small, leadlined, wrapped.
And so begins a mystery. What should she have given him?
And more importantly what should he give her?
It leads to an interesting travelogue through the DCU as Superman asks friends - Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman - what the box could be and what should he get her.
The answers are hysterical. And frankly, I'm not sharing. You need to buy this issue to see those scenes.
But the end scene is fantastic and deserves to be shared. Lois and Superman are at nice romantic picnic for Valentine's Day.
So Superman presents Lois with his gift to her, in a little velvet box.
The progression of the panels is great. First some incredulity by Lois - 'seriously'. Would Superman ever get on one knee and propose?
The that middle panel, wide smile, you know she thinks it is going to be an engagement ring.
Then the look of disappointment. But also a hint of annoying. He got her a watch? Not exactly romantic!
The art is sooo wonderful here. That expression in the third panel is perfect.
But there is more, Superman's watch is made from pieces of her most recent adventures. And it doesn't tell time because he will wait for Lois. Their love is timeless.
Again, great middle panel art here with Lois smiling wide.
She then gives Superman her gift again.
It turns out it is a box that can't be opened. Her gift was a mystery ... something rare for Supergirl.
But this is the best part ... at least for me.
Lois is giving this long prepared speech about how awesome her gift is when Superman starts laughing.
Initially Lois seems irked. Is he laughing at her? But then he brings back the romance as he says she is a constant mystery for him. He didn't need the box.
A happy, loving Superman and Lois. Complete with a little adventure and romance. And the art captures it so effortlessly!
It is just fantastic. And it makes the perfect capstone for this book. Because who knows if we will ever see this Lois and Superman in a New 52 book.
So a trilogy of stories showing how great Superman could be in multiple genres. And just like that Adventures of Superman is over.
And it will be missed. Thanks to Alex Antone, the editor of this book, for crushing it for a year and a half.
Overall grade (issue): A+
Overall grade (series): A