Superman has his hands full when he encounters Rampage for
the first time and has a rematch with Mammoth, together with
the rest of the Fearsome Five. But all that pales into insignificance
when a super-powered teenager wearing a version of his costume
appears on the scene. Who is Superboy? The answer lies across
time, in the 30th century...
DC and Titan's presentation of the "rebooted" Superman of
the late 1980s, this graphic novel collects stories from Superman
issues 7-8, Action Comics 590-591, Adventures of
Superman 430-431 and Legion of Super-Heroes 37-38.
The reason for the inclusion of material from the Legion
of Super-Heroes series is due to a major crossover event
involving Superman, the Legion... and Superboy. When writer/artist
John Byrne reinvented the Man of Steel, his version of Clark
Kent didn't don the famous red and blue costume until after
he had moved to Metropolis as an adult. So where did that
leave Superboy, who had been a regular character in Legion
of Super-Heroes for years? The answer is revealed over
the course of four of the eight issues collected here. Along
the way, Byrne has fun with characters from a bygone age,
including, most notably, Krypto the Superdog!
that's not the only crossover in this volume. The third chapter,
lifted from Action Comics 590, features another blast
from the past, in the flexible forms of the robotic Metal
Once again, the episodes by Byrne are superior in terms of
illustration and storytelling. The material from Adventures
of Superman is, as usual, just a little bit more cluttered
in terms of art (by Jerry Ordway for issue 590 and by Erik
Larsen for issue 591) and just a little bit clunkier in terms
of writing (by Marv Wolfman). Larsen's segment also has the
dubious distinction of an apparent guest appearance by Queen
guitarist Brian May as the super-permed villain, Doctor Stratos!
However, the weakest art and the clunkiest scripting comes
courtesy of the Legion of Super-Heroes team of writer
Paul Levitz and artists Greg LaRocque and Mike DeCarlo. Levitz
gives us such dialogue gems (by the way, I'm being sarcastic)
as "The only question is whether it can hold enough power
in a single burst, instead of being supplied current gradually
by the fusion powersphere." Hmmm, my thoughts exactly. As
for the art, you can directly contrast the relative merits
of LaRocque/DeCarlo versus Byrne by comparing pages 88-89
with pages 110-111, the latter of which are a direct recap
of the former.
art of LaRocque and DeCarlo is also troubled by the fact that
Superboy, Cosmic Boy and Mon-El look confusingly similar to
one another. To be fair, though, not even Byrne is blameless
in that department, as his rendering of the Metal Men's controller,
Will Magnus, looks rather like Superman with a check jacket
my esteemed colleague Pete Boomer, who, in his review of Volume
2, disapproved of the paper stock used for
this series, I believe that this is the best way to reprint
material that was originally coloured with newsprint-style
paper in mind. This is preferable to the effect you get when
you use bright, shiny paper to present such material, as was
the case with Titan's recent Star
Trek: To Boldly Go graphic novel.
chronology of this collection is a little confusing. For one
thing, the final page of Superman issue 7 takes place
after issue 8 and Action Comics 591, while Adventures
of Superman 430 takes place over the course of a week
- a week that includes the events of Superman 7. If
you want to read this volume in a semblance of chronological
order, you could try beginning with pages 50-71 (the Metal
Men segment), followed by pages 28-34, 5-26, 72-161, 27, 35-49
and finally 163-184.
being a mixed bag, this book's super-strengths far outweigh
its weaker moments.
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