Friday, August 7, 2015

Review: Man Of Steel #5

What do you do when there is no new Superman book on the shelves? You head to the back issue box and find something older to review.

And given the recent announcement that Lucy Lane will be on the Supergirl show, I figured I'd go back to Man of Steel #5, the first appearance of Lucy Lane in the post-Crisis DC Universe. It also is a nice homage by Byrne to Bizarro's original appearance in Superboy.

But this book also resonates a bit with the current Superman book as well. Man of Steel was the reintroduction of Superman into the newly formed DC universe and timeline. John Byrne was given a sort of carte blanche to rethink Superman. There was no Supergirl. There was no Kandor. There was no Phantom Zone. There was one chunk of Kryptonite. And Superman was basically depowered from the pre-Crisis levels. He couldn't survive in space. He could hold up a space shuttle, barely. He couldn't travel through time. Things were different.

And Man of Steel was a way to sort of catch people up. Each issue showed Superman interacting with a main character in the mythos: Luthor, Lois, Batman, Lana. It wasn't a true Secret Origin title. It wasn't Year One. It was a quick primer to get a sense of things. Lex is a Donald Trump vile businessman. Krypton was a sterile planet. Superman isn't all-powerful.

I don't know if I agree with everything Byrne did but I have to admit he injected some life into Superman line. His art is sparse in places (he loves to have no backgrounds). And I find it odd that Dick Giordano is inking his work. Maybe Giordano wanted to be part of something so big?

The issue starts with a great splash page of Superman holding a figure in classic pre-Crisis Luthor armor.

It is a great opening page because we had just learned that Luthor was a businessman in this new world. Would he really be in this armor?

Turns out the answer is no. This was a Lexcorp flunkie wearing experimental armor. Of course, Luthor can deny it all. The armor is stolen. And the armor fries the pilot's brain making him incapable of speaking.

Superman brings the man to one of  Lexcorp's lab to confront Lex but realizing it is a dead end, Superman leaves.

The whole thing is a sting set up by Luthor. The lab is set up with genetic sensors to read Superman's DNA. And Luthor is working with Professor Teng, a geneticist freed by Lex from mainland China to work on Project Changeling.

While we know all about Superman's Kryptonian origins, the world doesn't know that yet. In fact, when Teng's machine can't read Superman's genome, Lex realizes that Superman might be an alien.

The genetic matrix that Teng has made cannot read or recreate Superman's genetic makeup. Instead a 'bizarre' thing. Luthor tells Teng to destroy it.

Meanwhile in Metropolis, we meet Lucy Lane.

Lois' younger sister was a flight attendant until she was blinded by a hijacker. The terrorist threw some unknown chemicals into her eyes. She know lives with Lois, wallowing in sadness on her lot in life. She doesn't like people to see her glazed eyes. She misses her fun life hopping all over the globe.

In this instance, Byrne's lack of backgrounds in the last panel works very well, showing how alone and small Lucy feels.

In fact, Lucy becomes so despondent over her blindness that she decides to end her own life. She jumps off Lois' balcony.

But as she falls, she is caught by someone she thinks is Superman. I mean, who else could catch a falling woman and fly her back to safety.

And why is he so ... dusty?? And why isn't he lecturing her about trying to kill herself?\

Lecture is a weighted word. Maybe he would just say 'you're stronger than you think.'

It turns out that the Bizarro creature hasn't been destroyed. And he is imprinted with some vague sense of Superman's memories.

He arrives at the Daily Planet in a suit and sunglass frames that he has stolen. Superman realizes that this creature will endanger his secret identity and so takes it out of the building.

A standard brawl breaks out but the two seem evenly matched.

It is fun to read these early issues as we learn what remains from the older history and what has been stripped away by Byrne.

Here, the Bizarro creature (now in a duller version of the Superman costume due to a blast of heat vision) sees Lois and scoops her up. And Superman wonders if this thing has some residue of 'the feelings he has been having towards Lois.' Fantastic.

And then we see just how deep those feelings are. Bizarro plants a big old kiss on Lois' lips.

How I miss Clark and Lois as a couple.

Bizarro brings Lois back to her apartment where Lucy again thinks he is the real Superman.

It seems like Bizarro already has a connection to Lucy. And notice Lucy isn't wearing her glasses? Since her interaction with Bizarro her vision has started to clear up a bit.

Of course, Superman thinks Bizarro is a threat and so another super-brawl breaks out.

During the fight, Superman uses his microscopic vision to examine the dust that keeps coming off of Bizarro. The dust are cells shedding off of the creature. And Superman can tell they aren't truly alive. It is mimicking life. And so Superman can use all his strength on this simulacrum.

But instead of Bizarro heading towards Superman to continue the fight, he flies close to Lois apartment. And then he turns around and heads at Superman at full speed. Two irresistible forces heading at each other!

Well Bizarro is not irresistible. When the two collide, Bizarro explodes into a shower of dust.

And as those cells fall onto Lucy, her vision is suddenly returned. Somehow those cells were the cure for her vision. Bizarro must have heard Lucy's comment, realized he could help her more, and sacrifice himself to return her vision.

So even Superman's selflessness was implanted into Bizarro!

This story is a near retelling of the first Bizarro story in Superboy #68, a story in which ... you guessed it ... Bizarro sacrifices himself to restore the vision of a blind girl. That story was written by Otto Binder, hence the acknowledgment to Binder on the title page. Byrne certainly tried to honor many of the original Superman stories, writing similar homages in issues with Lori Lemaris and Mr. Mxyzptlk.

I enjoyed this issue a lot back when it came out and so have some nostalgia about it. Hope you enjoyed this look back!


Martin Gray said...

Thanks for the memories. You say, it turns out the Bizarro creature had survived – but this is the first mention of him in your piece. And I don't remember how he first showed up. Help.

I'd forgotten Lucy has brown hair at first. Change for the sake of change

And Dick Giordano, bless him, often turned on prestige projects we wouldn't expect him to be associated with – funny that.

Anj said...

I must have written something wrong in my post.
This was his first appearance. And this Bizarro dies in that sacrifice.
I think he is brought back any number of ways - Mxyzptlk for one.

Lucy with brown hair ... yeesh.

Jay said...

In retrospect while sooooo many of the changes were bad for the mythos in the long-term, in the short term I really enjoyed these stories.

comic books for kids said...

That's what i thought whoa ? Brown hair ?

AndNowInStereo said...

I don't want Lucy to be blonde in the TV show. How many blondes does one show need on it?

Anonymous said...

"In retrospect while sooooo many of the changes were bad for the mythos in the long-term, in the short term I really enjoyed these stories."

Indeed. Byrne completely screwed the story of Superman only because he hated most of addtions to the mythos and wanted to erase anything he detested.

Including Lois Lane.

Not a joke:

"If I had really had the free hand some fans are convinced I did, I would have dumped Lois altogether and brought Lana back as Superman/Clark's one true love."

Such a stalwart defender of the original mythos.