highlights of the Man of Steel's career are chronicled in
this action-packed anthology. It features a host of classic
tales, ranging from the dawn of Superman's reign to his explosive
adventures in the 21st century, written and drawn by some
of the finest talents ever to work in comics, including Murphy
Anderson, Terry Austin, Otto Binder, Wayne Boring, John Byrne,
Matthew Clark, Tom Grummett, Edmond Hamilton, Doug Hazlewood,
Stan Kaye, George Klein, Andy Lanning, Elliot S Maggin, Frank
Miller, Denny O'Neil, Jerry Ordway, Greg Rucka, Jerry Siegel,
Curt Swan and Ira Yarbrough...
you can get past the contradiction inherent in the title,
which reminds me of those seemingly endless processions of
The Best (insert musical genre here) Album in the
World... Ever compilations, this is a very enjoyable collection.
again, several of the featured stories revolve around Superman's
home world, Krypton. Written by Otto Binder, with art by Wayne
Boring and Stan Kaye, Superman's Other Life (originally
presented in Superman #132, 1959), is one of the earliest
"what if" narratives. Through the device of the Man of Tomorrow's
super-univac computer, this fascinating tale explores what
might have happened if Krypton hadn't been destroyed. One
can see possible source material for Futurama here,
as characters use not only a "what-if machine" (the super-univac)
but also a skill machine, which assigns people's careers for
moving Superman's Return to Krypton (Superman
#141, 1960), by Jerry Siegel, Boring and Kaye, goes further
by propelling our hero back in time to meet his parents, Back
to the Future-style. Not only does he get to interact
with his biological parents, Jor-El and Lara, but he also
observes his would-be adoptive human parents, Jonathan and
Martha, and has a hand in ensuring that their romance blossoms.
Jonathan punches out an evil rival for Martha's affections,
and Lara decides to name her son after their strange visitor,
Kal-El. Marty McFly would be proud! Both of these Kryptonian
tales show their ages with some decidedly '50s Earth fashions
in evidence on the alien planet.
collection also contains a number of firsts. The Team of
Luthor and Brainiac (Superman #167, 1964), written
by Edmond Hamilton, with pencils by Curt Swan and inks by
George Klein, sets of tone for countless future villainous
team-ups. It also features a brief return visit to the planet
where Luthor is considered a hero, last seen in The Showdown
Between Luthor and Superman (recently reproduced in the
first volume of The
Greatest Stories Ever Told). This tale also
demonstrates how the mythology of the series evolves gradually
over the years, by showing a slightly different motivation
behind Brainiac's capture of Kandor City than is seen in Superman's
Return to Krypton.
Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk (Superman #30, 1944), by
Siegel and artist Ira Yarbrough, marks the very first appearance
of the eponymous imp. You can compare this with one of his
most recent materialisations, in Greg Rucka, Matthew Clark
and Andy Lanning's Narrative Interruptus Tertiarius
(Adventures of Superman #638, 2005 - recently reprinted
Healing Touch). The artwork is a lot more sophisticated
nowadays, but the sense of fun remains, in this case including
some brilliant imitations of the artistic styles of Sin
City, Calvin and Hobbes and the Superman Adventures
(based on the animated series). Another "what if" story, this
strip also demonstrates how aspects of the mythology have
recently come full circle. Having undergone a change of appearance
(sprouting great horizontal tufts of hair and donning a futuristic
orange outfit) and name (the slightly different spelling of
Mxyzptlk) in the 1950s, here we see the return of the bald-headed
purple-suited imp of the 1940s.
Breaks Loose (Superman #233, 1971), written by
Denny O'Neil (better known for his work on the Batman
family of titles) with art by Swan and Murphy Anderson, sees
an early appearance by Morgan Edge.
and you'll miss the witty four-page strip, The Legend From
Earth Prime (Superman #400, 1984), penned by Elliot
S Maggin and drawn by the legendary Frank Miller (The Dark
Knight Returns, Sin City).
Superman anthology would be complete without a contribution
by the great John Byrne. The Secret Revealed (Superman
second series #2, 1987 - reprinted a few years ago in The
Man of Steel - Volume 2), with inks by Terry
Austin, showcases Byrne's reinvention of Lex Luthor. A powerful
and terrifyingly ruthless business leader, he is nevertheless
blinkered by his own megalomania. This strip also features
Clark Kent's adoptive parents, Martha and Jonathan, who are
still alive in the post-Byrne mythology and who play a larger
role in the next story...
32 pages, Life After Death (Adventures of Superman
#500, 1993), by Jerry Ordway, Tom Grummett and Doug Hazlewood,
is the longest tale in the collection. It would have been
even longer had the final few pages from the original comic
been included, but these acted as prequels to the four "pretenders"
who filled in for Superman prior to his eventual return from
beyond the grave. And there lies the problem with the more
recent strips: there just aren't as many self-contained stories
nowadays. Both this and Narrative Interruptus Tertiarius
are part of much larger arcs: the "World Without a Superman"
and "Ruin" storylines respectively. Though these examples
hold up well enough in isolation, many other single issues
from the '90s to the present day just don't stand alone as
well as the strips of the '40s, '50s and '60s can.
offering something from every decade of the Man of Steel's
career, this anthology is suitably super.