Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Back Issue Box: Superman #363

I continue my look at a COVID-19 inspired back issue box review today by looking at Superman #363.

In last issue, Lois and Lana got exposed to a deadly tropical plague germ, a universally fatal disease. Ironically, it is the same tropical disease which killed Ma and Pa Kent. At the time Superboy couldn't save his adopted parents, even a Kryptonian blood transfusion failed.

Superman has a little more time because Lois and Lana are young and healthy. So Superman begins the search for a cure and it takes him to some funny places. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

There is a nice little, almost easy solution to the whole thing. I am sure I am not spoiling things by saying that Lois and Lana survive. Writer Cary Bates shows just how distraught Superman becomes during this infliction, perhaps missing the answer in front of his face because he is reeling. Perhaps the most interesting thing that happens in this issue is a side scene with Lana. More on that later.

I also have to wonder how ethical it is for Superman to not tell Lois and Lana that they have the infection. Shouldn't he share this info so that they can get their houses in order? I am rubbing my chin on this. What do you think? Should he have told them? I think yes.

The art is steady as always in the hands of Curt Swan. But the win is the cover by Rich Buckler with Luthor cackling with glee over not helping his foe! Amazing.

But to be honest, the real reason to find this issue is that back up story where Bruce (Superman) Wayne - this Elseworld like story has the Wayne's discovering Kal's rocket - marries Barbara Gordon! And Babs becomes Batwoman! Wild stuff.

On to the issue!

If these issues taught me one thing it is that no one knows how to draw an emotional bereft Superman better than Swan. Everyone goes to Alan Moore's scene in 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow' with the crying Superman sitting down, his shoulders slumped as an example. But Swan is firing on all melancholy cylinders in this two parter.

And we start with the splash page where Superman seems to be hiding his eyes, as if trying to not see the tragedy facing him, as well as seemingly hugging himself. It is terribly awkward body positioning but I think that is the whole point. We are used to seeing iconic Superman, hands on hips, smiling  as he looks out at the horizon. This is a beaten man. It looks like he is trying to hide from the awful truth. And that juxtaposition works.

And around him are signs of his failure which includes, oddly enough, some of his greatest enemies.

If the title, 'The Dying Days of Lois & Lana' doesn't bring you in, this intriguing splash page will.

The story opens with Lois and Lana acting perfectly normal. They are younger and heartier than the elderly Kents so the progression of this disease isn't as fast.

But here is where I think Superman's logic might be flawed. After all, if their lives are ebbing away by the minute, shouldn't he tell his friends? He can still continue his quest for a cure!

Hmmm ...

Maybe he has some time. After all, if he stuffed Mon-El in the Phantom Zone for 1000 years, surely he can put Lois and Lana there for a bit.

But revenge is a dish best served cold.

The Phantom Zone villains won't let Kal use their prison as a medical limbo. They won't let him save his friends. He'll have to suffer witnessing Lois and Lana's deaths. Zod, Jax-Ur. and Faora use their combined telepathic might from the Zone to fry the wiring of the Phantom Zone projector. It will take Superman too long to fix it. Lois and Lana will be dead before he can send them there.

There is a lot of hate coming from that zone.

Superman does know that Lois and Lana are dying even if they themselves don't. And so he sets up his own 'goodbye' tour. Hey ... maybe Lana might want to spend the day with family?

But Clark takes her out for a night on the town. And he is charming.

He has a 'most charismatic array of inner qualities' that enamors Lana. She can't believe she might be falling for Clark.

And, in classic Lana form, she isn't afraid to act on it.

But before any move can be made, a neighbor's cat escapes and Lana needs to help, allowing Clark to slip away.

This era of Lana is interesting. She was definitely aggressive in her moves on Superman when she first returned to the book, rebuffed by him in Superman #333 by Marty Pasko.

So this move on timid Clark makes sense.

Slinking off, Superman heads away thinking about after this evening he knows how deeply he cares for Lana ... as the sister he never had!

Ouch. No romance there.

I am a confirmed and out Lana fan. This stung a bit.

Hey, if throwing Lois and Lana into the Phantom Zone was a bust, why not go to another evil source?

Superman heads to Lex Luthor and says he can arrange a pardon if Lex works on a cure. And Luthor thinks he has a better than 90% chance of making one. But his answer is, of course, no.

He'd rather let Superman suffer.

And then in an odd move, Lex tries to smash the vial on the floor to infect himself to force himself into working on a cure. But Superman catches the vial. After all, there is a 10% chance Lex might not make the cure and Superman doesn't want another death on his head.

There is a lot of hate in that prison cell.

The next stop on the Goodbye Tour? Paris in the late 1800's, a period that Lois loves.

So why not go on a  date there? The perfect last date.

I suppose it is nice that Superman is fulfilling a wish. But I have to think that Lois might want some time with Lucy, maybe to visit her father, see Jimmy and Perry.

Am I over thinking this?

Finally the girls start to succumb to the infection. Superman took them for a tour of his Fortress as another of his last rites. But now it seems too late. And maybe he needs to tell them what is going on.

But then he realizes that he is thinking to three-dimensionally.

He can break the time barrier. So why not head to the future for a cure.

Hey! I recommended that last issue!

He goes to at least the 68th century where he encounters a very peaceful science-driven society.

But these leaders aren't going to give Superman the cure. It could cause some unforeseen paradox or a new timeline. They refuse.

They do tell him a cure for the virus is discovered in Superman's present.

Well, the bad guys and the good guys refused to help with a cure. It looks like Lois and Lana are out of luck.

The Superman realizes a very simple truth. One that he knew seconds after the germ was released at the beginning of this story. He has antibodies against this plague. This time a simple blood transfusion will work as his serum contains the super-infection fighting cells that his younger self lacked.

Remember, this plague only infects adults. Superboy didn't have it so he had no antibodies.

One panel later, Lois and Lana are back to normal.

So ultimately this was a simple solution that probably eluded Superman for so long because the pain of his parents' deaths weighed on him so much.

If only we could inject Superman's blood into our own veins to combat some pandemic like virus!

Anyways, this was a silly story in many ways but I did like how it showed the hatred Superman's villains have for him. And poor Lana!

Also, the back-up feature is bonkers.

Overall grade: B


John (somewhere in England) said...

We don't seem to have had a review of the short Legion of Super Heroes story which was published in From Beyond The Unknown a few weeks ago. Just thought I'd give it a mention in case ANJ and other Legion fans have missed it.

Martin Gray said...

I’m looking forward to reading that, John, hopefully it will appear as a DC Digital First so we folk outside the US can read it.

And hey Anj, I guessed the solution in last issue’s Comments. OK, I did read this when it came out but that was about 400 years ago. Now I’m wondering, did this story deepen his relationship with Lois and Lana? I can’t remember just when Lana and Clark began dating, but obviously Superman wasn’t with Lois back then.

Top review!

Anonymous said...

How odd, I recall buying this one off the rack but I don't recall the bonkers back up feature at all. On the other hand trust Lex Luthor to find a way to weaponize Superman's innate humanitarianism and use it to torment the Man of Steel.


Anj said...

You sure did guess it Mart! Kudos!

Thanks everyone for comments!

H said...

Decent solution, but I remember there being a couple Silver Age stories where Superman gave Lois and Lana transfusions and there were complications. I think that in one they got temporary super powers and in the other Lois had the wrong blood type so it didn't work or something. Maybe he just gave white blood cells this time.

And Mart, I believe there was some relationship stuff with both Lois and Lana around this time. Lois went on some foreign assignment to get away from the drama and Clark and Lana realized there wasn't anything between them.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks H! Oh, the joyous angst of it all.