Superman: The Unauthorized Biography
Glen Weldon (Author)
A celebration of Superman's life and history - in time for his 75th birthday. How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally renowned demigod he is today.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Cover date: February 2004
Writer: John Byrne
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: John Byrne
"Century 30: Time and Time Again"
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
Superman searches through the shattered landscape of Smallville and finds Cosmic Boy and Chameleon Boy under a piece of wreckage. The two teen heroes are happy to see Saturn Girl, who tells them that she has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Instead of bringing Superboy she has brought Batman, Superman and Lois, the great-granddaughter of the Man of Steel. Before Cosmic Boy can brief Batman on the situation the group comes under attack by a squad of Parademons. The heroes counter-attack as Jordan Kelley; the Green Lantern for Earth arrives to help. After some quick introductions Jordan leads them into battle. Superman spots Wonder Woman fighting in the distance and joins her. Wonder Woman is glad to see him and even happier when she learns that he has brought others.
In one of the battleships over Earth a squad of Parademons watches Superman and his forces, shocked because they were under the impression that Darkseid chose this period of time because the heroes were not supposed to be there. One of the Parademons orders the preparation of the Helix. Outside the ship Lara notices that the ship has shut down its weapons and is powering something up deep inside the hull. She flies towards the ship and stops it, but the Parademons not only activate the Helix but detonate a weapon known as the Sky Scorcher as well. Lara is caught in the blast and sent hurtling towards Earth.
Back on the surface Superman and the other heroes burrow out from beneath the wreckage caused by the Sky Scorcher. Batman asks where Lara is, but Superman isn't sure that he could have survived being on top of the Scorcher, much less his great-granddaughter. Batman won't hear of it and flies off in search of his beloved. He finds her and despite his belief in 30th Century medicine Lara knows that she is about to die. In her last moments she gives Batman the key to end all of the madness. She asks him to go back and change history, like they did when they saved Saturn Girl. Her only regret is that when they do change the past than things won't play out the way they had. With her dying breath she asks Bruce to change everything, but to also remember her and what they had together.
After a quick burial Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern debate whether or not they should actually go into the past and change history. Superman suggests that they should be able to get to New Genesis using Green Lantern's ring since a previous Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, was able to do the same. Jordan agrees and adds that since his ring was once Hal's the parameters are probably encoded in the matrix. Both Jordan and Wonder Woman are not so sure that they should actually go so far as to change the past, with Wonder Woman asking whether or not they have the right to undo hundreds of years of human history. To Batman, the question is clear; do they have any right not to?
In the past Kanto and Desaad discuss the recovery of their lord Darkseid when the dark god enters the room, having fully recovered from his "rebirth." He asks Desaad how many Parademons survived and when his minion informs him that barely three dozen are left he begins to reveal his plans to not only create a new breed of Parademon, but is of such exquisite complexity that will finally crush all of his enemies. Granny Goodness bursts in with news of a Star Gate opening outside of the station but stops when she notices Darkseid has risen. When he asks her about the Star Gate she reveals that the energy signature pinpoints the origin of the Gate on Earth.
Outside the ship Green Lantern wonders if they should go back further considering that Darkseid is responsible for a lot of bad stuff in his life. Superman is sure that if they go back any further than the day Darkseid was resurrected than the uncertainties increase. The debate over the rights and wrongs of the situation ends quickly as the remaining Parademons swarm towards the heroes to defend their master. Superman and Batman notice that the Parademons are not like the ones they fought before with more robotic movements. Green Lanterns suggests that Darkseid must have whipped up a new batch for the attacks through time. Wonder Woman agrees, adding that a greater degree of intelligence would have been needed to operate as the Parademons did. Superman hopes that Wonder Woman isn't suggesting what he thinks she is while Green Lantern urges them to get on with the mission while he deals with the rest of the Parademons.
After breaking through the hull of the station the heroes fan out. Batman comes across Granny Goodness and the two fight before Granny blasts him with a mega rod. In another part of the ship Desaad is shocked at this since Granny's blast sliced into one of the main plasma conduits. Darkseid orders him to reroute the energy flow as Kanto leaves to deal with the other invaders. He finds Wonder Woman and before the Amazon can defend herself the assassin stabs her in the back. Before he can do any further damage Green Lanterns arrives and attacks, crushing Kanto with an energy construct. He collapses onto Wonder Woman as he succumbs to the wounds he received in his battle with the Parademons.
Meanwhile, Darkseid demands to know where Superman is. Desaad informs him that the chain reaction caused by Granny's errant blast is out of control and that he can't track Superman. Suddenly the Man of Steel burst into the room and announces that they don't need to track him. Darkseid tells him that his life will end and fires a blast of his Omega Beams. Superman throws Desaad into the blast, which kills him instantly. Superman lashes out, flying towards Darkseid and pummelling him with a savage succession of blows. As the chain reaction destroys the complex around them Superman tells Darkseid that the rules have changed and nothing matters except that his menace ends their and it ends forever.
Time and space rip apart as the station and the timeline are destroyed in a massive explosion.
Location: deep Space Sector 294-G. Date: September 22, 2925.
Lana Lang searches the bat shaped space craft looking for Superman. She finds Bruce Wayne and asks is he has seen Kal since they were supposed to meet with the Theluvian Ambassador. Bruce doesn't reply at first, lost in his own thoughts. When he does respond he asks for Lara. Lana asks if he is okay and after a moment he tells her yes and that he had a strange moment of déjà vu. He also asks what she said about Kal and Lana explains that both she and Superman were supposed to meet with the Theluvian Ambassador in about an hour to help put down the rebel uprising on Theluvis VII. They find Kal and Batman asks if something is troubling him. Kal replies that he isn't sure, but he does have the strangest feeling that something just slipped his mind and that he hopes it isn't important.
Story - 3: Have you ever truly disliked a comic despite the fact that you know it ended the only way it could have?
I have and it's Superman and Batman: Generations III #12.
On one level you could call this series a success because it seems that John Byrne has told the story he set out to tell. Now I can't say this for sure since I don't know John Byrne and outside of the fact that I have fired a few e-mails off to the man over the years I don't have that much contact with him but after reading the past eleven issues I have developed a sense of what I think Byrne was going for. To me, this was a time travel story and more than that it was an imaginary story (of course it was, the words "an imaginary series" are right under the title) and in the great tradition of imaginary stories at the end the events that played out "never happened."
For this reason above all others I generally dislike these types of stories. Now you could argue that because of that I dislike all Elseworlds stories, but this isn't the case. While these stories don't fit into the overall continuity of the characters they do have their own internal logic and exist in their own timeline. I have always been a big fan of the multiverse concept because I like seeing new versions of the same character and the differences, large or small, in their histories. I love going back and re-reading the stories when there was an Earth-1 and Earth-2 because it is just plain fun.
This is why I enjoyed the two previous Generations series. They harkened back to those days and Byrne crafted a complete world where he could play with all kinds of concepts, the most important of which is ageing the characters from their first appearance to today (and the future) and showing the consequences of that and what would happen if this happened "in real life."
So I like the concept of an imaginary story (Elseworlds or otherwise) itself. I just hate it when an author creates a story where anything can happen and all the Rubicons are crossed and in the end it turns out that none of it happened because a few characters went back in time to pull a Sam Beckett and put right what once went wrong. This is the best example of creator getting to have his cake and eat it too because it let's said creator have free reign with no consequences. Now again the argument could be made that the Elseworlds concept itself frees a creator to do this and this is true. Elseworlds allows for anything and if I have the burning passion to do that incredible story where a young Bruce Wayne's parents lived in a trailer park and after their deaths Bruce discovers that all he wants to do is surf the 'net all day looking for topless pictures of Paris Hilton than by God Elseworlds will let me do that.
The thing is that with crafting more than one instalment of his Generations saga and creating some semblance of a continuity for that world Byrne has created another Earth and a timeline all his own. It's not just a throwaway story where the creator can sow without reaping and can do pretty much what he or she wants without facing the consequences, which is why I was looking forward to this series so much and why I am so disappointed with it.
One of my biggest problems with this issue (and the series as a whole) is that the drama and emotion of the story is completely voided when Superman and company change history. There were some extremely dramatic moments where characters died or fell in love or had children and when Byrne wasn't putting these events out as throwaways they were negated in the final issue and that is extremely frustrating as a reader. While I didn't live and die by this series when I was reading it there was an emotional investment.
This begs the question of what was the point of this series. What was Byrne trying to say and do? If I had to hazard a guess (and I will because this is my review and since I am not mindlessly bashing the book I feel I have the right) I would make the educated guess based on how the previous issues played out that Byrne wanted to use the Generations world to play with different comic genres (western, romance or war to name a few). If this is the case and Byrne wanted to dabble in other ponds using super-heroes, so what? If you don't have a solid foundation to build a story on than the story itself will crumble and fall apart. While the overall plot was interesting it was all based on the concept that it could be changed and then nothing that happened matters.
Which brings up my main problem with this issue (and the series as a whole) is that I felt nothing for the characters. A new Green Lantern is introduced and killed and the only interesting thing about him is that his first name was Jordan. Wonder Woman is brought back into the series and killed in the dumbest way possible. Lara dies and never has to deal with the fact that she lied to her great-grandfather and lover about the Parademons intelligence. In fact everybody dies in such a rushed manner that it's hard to feel anything about the characters and story.
My secondary problem with this issue was how rushed it was. You would think that by having twelve issues to tell a story that the ending would be wrapped up a little neater. Instead Byrne barrels through the story and finishes it off with Superman and Batman having a funny feeling. This issue went by faster than just about any other comic I have ever read and was not enjoyable because of it.
In the end I guess it doesn't matter. The series is over and done with and the events of the story never happened, leaving some unanswered questions. For example, if Superman was never thrown back in time to 19th Century Smallville and never brought his adoptive mother to that doctor to save her life from the gunshot wound she received while Jonathan was fighting with Jonah Hex how could she have lived to be Superman's adoptive mother? This seemingly untold tale now never happened because the timeline was changed and Superman was never thrown back in time.
My only hope is that the next Generations series is a lot better.
Art - 3: This was the weakest issue as far as art is concerned. Like the story it feels rushed and has little of the flair that most Byrne artwork has. The lines are thick and distracting and the layouts are pretty unimaginative. The weakest moment came when time was changed. Throughout the entire series there have been some fantastic coloring effects to go with cosmic events. They were neat to look at, but here we have your basic shattered reality effect that looked great back in the '80s.
I have nothing against Byrne and do enjoy his art, just not in this issue.
Cover Art - 3: All in all a seven on the "Grab Me" meter. The characters look good and the layout is decent, but the whole thing is uninspired and doesn't do much for me.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2004.