New Reviews of Old Comics
At one point this comic was a nice square-bound magazine with bright pages and a nice cardstock cover. 20 years later the binding is a little busted, the cover is creased all over with remnants of a yard sale sticker and the tattered pages have all turned an odd tannish-yellow. Oh, well. At least all of those yellow pages are still there and readable. It’s only in the last few years I’ve been able to read and enjoy Superman comics; I used to avoid them like the plague. How interesting can a story be where the hero has no real threat (apart from random chunks of supposedly rare rocks)? I prefer the older, pre 1970s Superman comics because they’re just flat out goofy for the most part, but I’ve been gradually coming around to some of the newer stuff.
Of course the 500th issue of any title should be something special, and if it’s for arguably the biggest name in the world of comics, it better make “special” an understatement. This issue is part 11 of a much broader storyline about the Man of Steel taking a dirt nap. “Life After Death!” was written by Jerry Ordway with art by Tom Grummett and Doug Hazelwood and is aptly named because we all know Superman can’t really be dead; DC isn’t cashing in the chips on this franchise any time soon, right? It starts off with Pa Kent (Jonathan, for short) on a stretcher surrounded by Ma Kent (Martha) and some medical personnel who are working on a clearly troubled Pa. Ma is just worried. The rest of the story flashes between Pa Kent’s dream/Near Death Experience and how the people close to Superman/Clark Kent are dealing with his disappearance. People know Superman is dead, while others are just wondering where the hell Clark has been the last couple weeks. No one can make the connection, and why would they? True, they’re both about the same build, have same hair color and operate out of Metropolis, but Clark wears glasses and no one has ever seen Superman wear glasses. Whatever. I didn’t read the previous 10 parts so I’m a little lost, but there is the insinuation that Pa Kent put himself into cardiac arrest in order to go find Clark and bring him back. While I don’t think his insurance is going to cover that, he does eventually catch up to Clark/Superman/Kal-El who is undergoing a Kryptonian ceremony of the dead (or something). And this is good timing because these aren’t Kyrptonians leading Kal-El to the ceremony but demons. Superman “wakes” up to what is going on and fights to bring him and Pa back to the land of the living. Surprise! In the hospital Pa is miraculously on the mend. Around Metropolis people are seeing red streaks in the sky and bad guys are getting beat; badly. People are beginning to think Superman is back, but maybe not because he never pounded bad guys quite like this before. Lois, Clark’s wife at this point and in on the whole Superman joke, grabs a cop buddy to open Superman’s tomb only to find an empty casket. Hmmm. Was he only gone three days? Never mind. The rest of the issue is a series of four page montages by different writers and artists with different Superman-ish characters emerging; big guy named “Doomsday”, a Bono-looking Superman who is looking for vengeance, a (1990s) modern looking Superboy who doesn’t like to be called Superboy (but he does have an earring) and a cyborg Superman. I’m guessing part 11 wasn’t the last issue of this storyline.
So all in all I did enjoy this issue quite a bit. It seems to me the cover is missing something, like it should have an overlay that was peeled off, but I still like it and see how it reflects the story, so nice job there. The story kept my interest through the various transitions in and out of Pa Kent’s journey and what was going on back in the land of the living. Let’s face it, no one reading this issue truly thought Superman was dead for good; we knew he was going to come back, but how he comes back is the heart of the story and Ordway drew me into that. The art was well done, differentiating those still alive with standard comic art and mixing it up a bit with Pa and Clark traveling through whatever realms of the dead they happened to in. I’m kind of interested in what happens next, along with how they even got to this point. What more can you ask from a $1 comic?