Cover date: June 2006
Writer: Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns
Artist: Pete Woods
Up, Up, and Away - Part Three: "Bare Hands"
Reviewed by: Nick Newman
At Stryker's Island prison, a group of three strange creatures climb the walls of the jail.
Landing on his roof, Clark hands the ring back to Green Lantern and tells him that he'll think about it. The two heroes try to convince Clark to take it, but he says that between Supergirl and the JSA nearby he's fine. Suddenly a commotion from the city distracts them. Clark asks them to take him, but they tell him that as long as he's a civilian he stays behind.
Downtown every TV set suddenly flashes static before displaying the Prankster. On his command, hundreds of refrigerators across the city come to life and begin charging at innocent people. As the appliances attack the populace, the subway overfills with crumpled newspaper as all of the walk signal figures come to life and rampage across the square. High above the chaos, the Prankster sits inside a protective bubble directing the destruction. Green Lantern and Hawkgirl arrive on the scene but are quickly knocked down by the giant walk men.
The strange creatures, having smashed through the wall at Stryker Island, attack the prison guards and proceed to the Kryptonite Man's cell. They introduce themselves as the Flea Circus and break him out.
Working together, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl begin to clean up the attack on Metropolis. Approaching the scene, Lois and Clark are just now arriving, and Clark notices how much harder it is without his powers.
In the sewers below Metropolis, Luthor and Toyman talk to Metallo about their plans. Metallo continues to threaten Luthor, but Luthor finally shuts him up by pressing a button on a remote. The cyborg freezes in place, deactivated.
At the edge of the battle, Lois and Clark talk about the offer of the Green Lantern ring. Clark tells her that he's not taking it. If he was supposed to take it, he would have appeared as Superman when wearing it, but instead it showed him as Clark. Lois tells Clark that it's his decision, but she's been happy the last year, without having to share him with the world.
Finishing off the last of the attackers, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl crash through Prankster's bubble, only to have him vanish and replaced with itching powder. Watching from the ground, Lois and Clark suddenly receive word of the break-in at Stryker's. He signals for Supergirl, but she arrives too late to stop the escape.
Back at Luthor's lair, the Flea Circus carries the Kryptonite Man inside. Luthor then turns his attention to Metallo, strapped down on a table. He opens up his chest and savagely rips his Kryptonite heart from his ribcage. Walking away with the chunk of Kryptonite, Toyman asks Luthor if it's finally enough. Luthor says he would always like more, but this should be enough as he walks into a storage vault holding thousands of pieces of Kryptonite.
Story - 5: I could not be happier with this book. I haven't really felt this excited about Superman in years.
It depresses me to say it, but despite the fact that Superman is still the greatest hero (I wouldn't be part of this site if that wasn't the case), I'm rarely looking forward to a Superman comic coming out in the same way that I look forward to some of the other books I read. Yet Johns and Busiek have managed something pretty incredible when you consider the state of the Superman books this decade. Superman's books are again at the top of my list. The only thing I look forward to more than Superman right now is Batman, and that's only because James Robinson can do no wrong.
Neal and I have both used the word, but this is pure, iconic Superman. However, they've managed to pull off iconic without erasing the past twenty years of continuity, which is normally the first casualty whenever someone tries to 'restore Superman to his roots'. The writers have reestablished (or in some cases just reemphasized) many of the classic elements of "everyone's Superman".
Clark is a great reporter.
Luthor is an evil scientist.
Kryptonite kills Superman.
But, and this is the great part for more serious fans like us, we've got the elements that we've come to know as well.
Clark and Lois are married.
Luthor is, or rather was still a corporate king.
Doomsday still killed Superman, producing Superboy, Steel, and the Cyborg (check out Green Lantern in the coming months for Hank Henshaw's awesome return).
Some people will point to the silver age, specifically the 1960s era Superman for what the character should be. Others are most familiar with the post-Crisis Superman of the past two decades, and for them classic is the first few years after Byrne's Man of Steel.
What I never understood is why these two concepts couldn't be combined. And now I really feel like that's what Geoff and Kurt are doing. This book reads like a best of the best. I love corporate Luthor. The concept of Lexcorp was probably the best change to come out of Man of Steel, and I love Luthor being above the law because of his money. However, there is something very compelling about Luthor being so ridiculously intelligent that he doesn't need a building full of underlings to carry out his evil plots.
What we're seeing here, and I really hate this term but I do feel it applies, is a modern classic.
This issue in particular continued the goodness that we've been enjoying all One Year Later.
The cliffhanger from the previous issue, pertaining to a certain Green Lantern ring, ends as we all knew it would of course. Superman doesn't use a ring after all, and I did like the touch that Clark thinks so too. We're also starting to get more of a feel for how much Clark misses his powers. Lois may be happy, but there is no way anyone goes from Superman to mortal and doesn't miss it.
They also managed to do something that I didn't think was possible. I actually enjoyed Prankster in this story. He's still not going to be one of my favorite villains, but at least he actually accomplished something here.
I loved the reenactment of the classic scene from one of the first post-Crisis Superman books (Superman #2 maybe?) when Luthor pulled Metallo's heart out. I am kind of disappointed at the removal of Metallo already (although he's had backup power sources before, so I wouldn't count him out yet, there's certainly enough Kryptonite around).
And speaking of Kryptonite, wow. I'm not sure what Luthor is planning with all that Kryptonite, but it definitely makes me want the next issue. Of course, I'm hoping that Luthor accidentally ends up restoring Superman's powers, but we'll see if that pans out.
I never thought that I would enjoy a Superman book without Superman this much, but I do, and I'm loving every page of it.
Art - 5: There isn't much I can say about this art that I didn't already say last month. Pete Woods is doing a fantastic job illustrating this book. His art has a fantastic look to it that I'm not really sure how to describe, but it fits very well.
I'm still not fond of his Lois, not because of the art itself, but because of her short hair, but that's really a minor problem.
I continue to be a fan of his Metallo redesign, with him being at least partially organic inside of his metal frame. It makes any shot of him opening his chest up much more impressive.
Finally, and I know I already mentioned this, but the coloring in this is just fantastic. The watercolor look is really growing on me. Renato Guedes' art saw it on one of the last issues of Adventures, and the colors here show much of the same effect. It adds a nice depth to the images.
Wood's would never be my first pick for a Superman artist, but he's doing a fantastic job.
Cover Art - 5: I was going to give this cover a 4, I really was. I like it enough. I like the use of the crystal's facets to show all of the players in this story, but it's not a very dynamic cover. So what saved it? Maybe I'm overeating to this, but I really love that Luthor is holding the crystal and that we can see his reflection. It may be small, but that really sold me on this cover.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2006.