The Return of Superman 30th Anniversary Special #1 (One Shot)
Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 31, 2023
Writers: Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson, Jerry Ordway, Karl Kesel
Pencilers: Travis Moore, Jon Bogdanove, Jerry Ordway, Tom Grummett, Dan Jurgens
Inkers: Travis Moore, Jon Bogdanove, Jerry Ordway, Doug Hazelwood, Brett Breeding, Denis Rodier
Colorists: Adriano Lucas, Glenn Whitmore, Elizabeth Breitweiser
Story Titles: “Legacy”, “Speed!”, “… He Had Me Thinking He Was Superman… “, “The Metropolis Kid”, “Betrayal”
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
The Cyborg Superman has escaped the Phantom Zone and is attacking STAR Labs. At the Daily Planet, Editor-In-Chief Lois Lane mobilizes her reporters into action to cover the story. Ron Troupe arrives and gives her one of Perry White’s journals, which has entries on the four men that appeared after Superman’s apparent death and assumed his mantle. Lois quickly reads the journal, and they head to cover the Cyborg’s attack.
On the way, Ron tells her about his encounter with Steel where the armored hero saved people from his neighborhood from criminals armed with the high-tech Toastmasters. Lois tells Ron about Perry’s run in with the Superman that was revealed to be The Eradicator and how Perry didn’t like how violent that Superman could be. Perry also had an encounter with Superboy and was present when the picture was taken of The Kid saving a woman during a battle with the first Bloodsport. Another entry details the story of the Cyborg Superman and how Perry felt like he had let the world down by endorsing the villain, though once Superman returned, he absolved Perry of that guilt.
Superboy, the Eradicator (who is intangible thanks to being trapped in the Phantom Zone), and Steel arrive to take on the Cyborg and it is revealed that he is there to get the genetic material from his colleagues on the Excaliber to bring his wife back to life. The Eradicator becomes tangible enough to grab a projector and send the Cyborg back to the Phantom Zone. Superman returns from his mission in space and tells everyone that he had every confidence that the three heroes could handle things while he was gone. Back at the Planet Ron and Lois tell Clark about what he missed, and Lois tells them that while Superman is the hero to the world Perry White is their Superman based on the standard he set during his time as Editor at the Planet.
Story – 5: Overall, I loved this special. It was a much more personal experience compared to “The Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Special” from last year. I’m not suggesting that one was better than the other. They’re just two very different books. In the Death special there was a main story and three back-ups, which was a lot of fun and got the creative band back together. This special had separate chapters by most of the creative teams from 1993 (with Jerry Ordway stepping in for Roger Stern and Jackson Guice) but those chapters were part of an overall story that was mainly told from the perspective of Perry White. Ron Troupe had his own section, but for the most part it was Perry White’s journal that carried the narration.
And I really liked that. The Perry White that existed back in 1993 and throughout what is commonly known as the Triangle Era is “my” Perry White. I loved how the various writers handled the character and made him an important part of the book. To paraphrase a good friend’s feeling on a certain wall crawler, I came to the books for Superman, but I stayed for Clark, Lois, Perry, Jimmy, Cat, Ron, and the others. Getting into Perry’s head when it came to the Eradicator, Superboy, and the Cyborg allowed us to see what he thought of the various Supermen that were running around in a way the original stories didn’t allow for. Mainly for time.
“Legacy”, the bridging story written by Dan Jurgens, tied this special to the present without getting lost in it. I appreciated that Dan had the Cyborg attacking for a specific reason instead of just being a random act that kickstarted the plot. The Cyborg wanting to get the genetic material to clone his wife gave his actions a personal feeling and elevated them above just being a mechanical mustache twirling villain. The bits with Lois and Ron were great as well. I love Ron Troupe as a character and seeing him get such a spotlight in this special did my fan heart good.
“Speed!”, the Steel story written by Louise Simsonson, had some great character work. One of Louise’s strengths as a writer in general and specifically as a Superman writer was her human touch to the stories. In this chapter we got to see how things in Metropolis were not always equal for everyone and Ron’s ties to his neighbors. Steel was a part of it, but we never got into his head like we did in the original stories, which, again, gives us as the audience more of an insight into what things were like for the people of Metropolis.
“… He Had Me Thinking He Was Superman… “, the Eradicator story written by Jerry Ordway, not only highlighted more of the Superman supporting cast from the era (in this case Maggie Sawyer and Dan Turpin) but addressed how Perry felt about this more violent Superman. Something that was mentioned but never really delved into back in 1993 was how the Eradicator/Last Son of Krypton Superman reflected the more violent characters that were more popular in the late eighties and early nineties. This was a Superman that didn’t hold back. He was ruthless and cold and was willing to cripple the criminals he was fighting, and, in this chapter, we got to see how much of a problem Perry had with that.
“The Metropolis Kid”, written by Karl Kesel, was a fun chapter, which makes sense because Superboy was, as originally created, a fun character. The angst that came later worked, but it’s easy to forget that Superboy was a teenager that didn’t take things too seriously. The best part of this chapter is that it made the poster that came in ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #501 an actual event rather than a poster that was cool to look at and, in my case, made me buy multiple copies of the book so I could tear it out and put it on the wall. Perry’s interactions with Tana Moon were interesting as well, though it’s a little sad seeing her since Tana died in the later part of Superboy’s ongoing series.
“Betryal”, written by Dan Jurgens, might have come off as a simple retelling of the events of SUPERMAN #82 if not for the focus on how Perry felt about endorsing the Cyborg on the front page of The Daily Planet. Seeing how Perry had his doubts but ultimately came out for the Cyborg only to have the Cyborg… you know… commit genocide is another one of those story beats that the original stories didn’t have time for. The scene with Superman towards the end of that didn’t let Perry off the hook but it did help to ease his mind, which I loved.
The wrap-up at the end was the perfect way to close out the book. Superman showing up and letting everyone know that he had confidence in them was nice, but Lois honoring Perry was the bow that tied the special together. Perry, as a character, did not get as much screen time in the Post Triangle era. Sometimes he was presented as the Jackie Cooper version from the films. Sometimes he just yelled at everyone. Sometimes he came off as gruff, but not in a loveable way. What he stopped being was the father figure for the Daily Planet staff and as much as this special celebrates the 30th anniversary of REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN it was also a celebration of Perry White and what he meant during that time.
And that makes me happy.
Art – 5: Another strength of this special was how well it flowed visually despite having several very different artistic styles. Travis Moore’s pages had a very modern feel to them. They were good, but I’m old and there are wolves after me and modern comic book art and I don’t get along entirely.
It’s a total me thing. I am not trying to say that Moore’s art was bad in anyway. It wasn’t. It told the story well and was attractive. I just didn’t dig as much as the others because… again… I’m old.
Jon Bogdanove’s art was spot on. His stylized… style was a great fit for his chapter and I LOVED seeing the original Steel design in all its glory. Jerry Ordway’s chapter was equally as good, and it was cool seeing Jerry not only tackle the writing but the art of one of the Supermen. His last issue before leaving the titles for a time was ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #500, so he missed out on REIGN as a story. I am a mark for his art, though, so I was predestined to enjoy that chapter. Tom Grummett and Doug Hazlewood’s art put their section into the back of the net, so to speak, and while the current Conner Kent look is evocative of the original design it was cool to see the OG suit in all its nineties glory.
Jurgens and Breeding’s chapter was a stand-out, mainly due to the coloring. Glenn Whitmore did the colors for the Steel, Eradicator, and Superboy section, which was great. Glenn was the colorist on the original books and a big part of making the Triangle Era look as consistent as it did color wise, so him getting a chance to work on this was great. Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colors made Jurgens and Breeding’s end of this stand out and gave it a darker look, which fit the Cyborg as a character and was a major factor in making that section my favorite.
Realize, though, that having a favorite doesn’t mean any of the other sections were bad. The Cyborg chapter was the one I responded to the most visually. Promise.
The pin-ups and the back matter to this special were a nice way to close things out. Jackson Guice’s pin-up was a great way to get him involved with the special. Ordway’s pin-up allowed him to draw the other three Supermen as well as Superman in the recovery suit, which I dug. Daniel Sampere’s pin-up was moody and had a neat style to it. Pete Woods’ pin-up had a cool layout and would make a good cover to future printing of REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN.
Main Cover Art – 5: This is the perfect main cover for the Special. Everyone looks great, especially the Cyborg, and it’s just an epic, poster worthy image.
Variant Covers – 5: There were four main variants to this special, each made to look like the covers to the first issue of the four main books after ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #500. John Giang handled the Cyborg, Dave Wilkins drew the Steel cover, Ben Oliver covered (pun intended) the Eradicator, and Francis Manapul drew the Superboy cover. All of them are fantastic and the coloring on them pops. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Manapul’s, but, again, that isn’t to say that the others were inferior. Manapul’s just spoke to me more.
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