Superman: Up, Up, and Away
It all begins here, the “Geoff Johns Era of Superman,” for lack of a better title. This story bridges the gap between Infinite Crisis and the “New Earth” Superman, establishing new status quos for many of the main characters in an attempt to reintroduce more Silver Age concepts to the series. And no character is hit harder than Lex Luthor.
While the story focuses mainly on Clark Kent as he is pulled out of superhero retirement, this is nothing new, stories like this are rampant in superhero comics. It is Lex who changes the most. Here, businessman and politician Lex Luthor’s crimes finally catch up to him, and we watch as he is stripped of his untouchable status. Yes, the legal system lets him off scot-free again (he blamed all his recent crimes on his alternate universe doppelganger, Alexander Luthor… seriously!), but the people of Metropolis are not easily fooled, and Lex soon discovers he has lost their respect and protection. As a result, Lex embarks on a vendetta against his city, reverting to the classic “1950’s fugitive mad scientist” version of the character.
Lex’s scheme to use Kryptonian Crystal technology to destroy the city (a plot not unlike his Superman Returns one) eventually calls the powerless Clark back into action. The only problem is we are never really told how Clark gets his powers back (ironically, kind of like in Superman II). The logic given is that Clark was actively rejecting his powers after the tragic events of Infinite Crisis, only to magically “allow” their return when his city was in danger. This is an interesting choice for Clark, even on a subconscious level, and it’s one I intend to dissect in a future post.
While the Silver Age Lex makes his return, it is the Richard Donner movie version of Krypton he attempts to utilize, complete with the crystal-growing technology first seen in the films, and later displayed in Returns, Smallville and even DC vs Mortal Kombat. The idea of fusing of these two elements, Silver Age and Movies, is one that will continue for the next several years.
While I credit Geoff Johns with this story, it was actually co-written by him and Kurt Busiek and I suspect Busiek actually had the task of writing the scripts for this one, as certain parts of his own run debut here as well, and the overall tone just fits Busiek. Sadly, with the gift of hindsight, one can see that Busiek’s run does not necessarily fit well with the current direction of the series, and so I won’t be reviewing any of his other work. That’s not to say they are bad, in fact Busiek does a great job of creating a tight continuity within Superman’s world. Unfortunately, this came at a time when Superman’s past, present and future were still in flux, and the attempts to create a solid world ultimately did more harm than good. Again, this is not Busiek’s fault, but the changes he made have all but been ignored since his departure.
The art chores are handled very well by both Pete Woods and Renato Guedes. The joy here being that these two are still very much involved in the Superman line of comics to this day, so it is fun to watch their art evolve over time.
At the end of the day, this story strives to reintroduce Superman to the world (complete with his powers returning in stages resembling their development over his entire history). And given the fact that this is a New Earth and indeed a new Superman, this is a much needed “pre-cursor” to the rest of Geoff Johns’ era.
So what do you think? Were you onboard with the decision to incorporate themes and visuals from the Movies into the comics? How about the return of Mad Scientist Lex Luthor? Do you think Busiek got a raw deal when it comes to his time on the books? Please, let us know how you feel!