Having been absent for a year, the Man of Steel has returned
to protect his adopted planet. But is he the real deal? Friends
such as the Teen Titans think so, but the public, the press
and even the US Army aren't so sure. Either way, Earth needs
his help again as an alien auctioneer and his robot servants
set about stealing churches, statues, bridges, islands - even
metahumans! Rendered powerless, can Superman - with the help
of Nightwing, Firestorm, Livewire, Aquaman and many other
heroes and villains - stop this cosmic fire sale before they're
all sold to the highest bidder...?
that the last time he disappeared from and then returned to
the DC universe (the comic version, that is, not the movies),
he was temporarily replaced by four impostors (in the "Reign
of the Supermen" storyline of the early 1990s), it's hardly
surprising that some folks are sceptical that the re-energised
Man of Steel might be a fake. After all, once bitten, twice
shy. However, in the three-part Back in Action, which
first appeared in the pages of Action Comics #841-843
and which follows on from the graphic novel Up,
Up and Away!, Superman gets the opportunity
to prove his credentials.
Pete Woods continues to fulfil the artwork chores, though
this time without the assistance of Renato Guedes. There is
some impressive use of airbrush effects to create the impression
of bright light, as seen on the glowing parts of Firestorm's
costume, though fine line details sometimes look rather uneven,
especially when depicting artificial structures such as buildings
Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza's storyline is richly populated
by guest characters from other DC titles. Though there are
some very familiar faces, such as the Teen Titans, Nightwing
and (the new) Aquaman, the emphasis is very much on more offbeat
and less well-known creations, like Skyrocket, Blue Jay and
Veteran. If you're looking at any of these names and thinking,
"Who?", then don't worry - I did the same thing!
authors throw in a little mystery for development in future
volumes - evidence of another Kryptonian living on Earth -
and have fun with the Auctioneer's mercantile set-up - his
robots refer to his prisoner's containment units as packaging.
Perhaps this volume should have been entitled Back in Auction!
However, some of the merchant's initial dialogue exchanges
with his systems and bidders are somewhat hard to follow.
As I said, this story is just three episodes long, so to fill
out the collection, Busiek has also selected three previous
unconventional Super-team-ups from the late 1970s and
early '80s. Featuring the Metal Men, Deadman and an earlier
incarnation of Firestorm, these stories (from DC Comics
Presents #4, 17 and 24) are more than mere fillers, boasting
dynamic and detailed art by José Luis García-López, whose
work has all too often been restricted to promotional material
and comic covers rather than their interiors. These tales
are also notable for their repeated visits to the Earth's
molten core, evidently a subject of some fascination for the
writers (Gerry Conway and Len Wein) at the time.
This volume is not the epic experience that Up, Up and
Away! was, but it's still nice to see the Man of Steel
back in action.