Sunday, July 31, 2016

Adventures of Superman #444 (1988)


Adventures of Superman #444 (September, 1988)
"The Supergirl Saga, Part II: Parallel Lives Meet at Infinity..."
Plot & Script - John Byrne
Plot & Pencils - Jerry Ordway
Inker - Dennis Janke
Letterer - Albert De Guzman
Colorist - Petra Scotese
Assistant Editor - Renee Witterstaetter
Editor - Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $0.75

Enjoyed yesterday's introduction to the post-Crisis Supergirl Saga, figured I may as well keep on keepin' on...

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We open up pretty much dead in the middle of the scene portrayed on the cover.  Superman is kneeling before the graves of his foster parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent... this universes, Kents.  To make matters even worse, Lex Luthor informs him that their version of Superboy has also perished.  Superman mourns, and makes mention that it actually feels as though a part of him has died.


We get a bit of Time Trapper 101 to follow.  While the Trapper scanned the timestream, he found that in the far-flung future there was a team called the Legion of Super-Heroes, who assembled due to their being inspired by Superboy.  Only, this is the post-Crisis DC landscape... there never was a Superboy.  The Time Trapper had to act to ensure the team still came into existence, and did so by... well, removing everything from the universe except the Earth and Krypton.


Krypton was a scientific utopia, while the Earth... well, was the Earth.  Apparently world history is so heinous in and of itself, Lex Luthor believes it to have been a construct of the Time Trapper.  Superman breaks the news that, nah... the Earth has had its share of nastiness.  What this (pocket) Earth doesn't have, however, is superheroes!


We get a bit more of a flashback from Lex regarding his first day in Smallville.  He arrives in search of Superboy to tell him about his proposed cure to Kryptonite poisoning... only to find he's arrived a bit too late.  We learn that Ma and Pa passed shortly thereafter.


He introduces himself to Pete Ross and Lana Lang, and posits that there may be a way to find the fallen Boy of Steel... but no guarantees.  Lana and Pete bring Lex to Superboy's laboratory... and show him the secret room inside.  The trio comes across a locked cabinet, and Lex can't contain his curiosity.  He shoos Lana and Pete off so that he may try and open that sucker up.


Lex eventually finds his way through to find Superboy's Time-Viewer Scope inside it.  While flipping the channels in search of anything Legion-related, he comes across three "trapped" Kryptonians.  One introduces himself as Von-El, Superboy's Uncle!  He claims that he and his family, Mara and Ston-Ar have been trapped in what he refers to as the Phant--... er, Survival Zone.  They've always depended on the kindness of strangers, and hope that Lex might just be able succeed in "rescuing" them,  where their nephew had failed.  Lex shrugs, and goes "ehh, what the hell?", and frees the poor disembodied bunch.


Now, we know what Lex just did... now Lex is about to find out what he just did.  He freed General friggin Zod, Zamora and Quex-Ul from the Phantom Zone.  It doesn't take them terribly long to, ya know... take over the world.  Zod proclaims himself King of the world, and destroys everything and everyone in his path.  Man, woman, child... it don't much matter...


In an interesting and fun scene, Luthor erects a base of operations in Smallville, and drafts some familiar faces to his cause... Bruce Wayne, Hal Jordan, and Oliver Queen!


Luthor continues... he found a way to give Lana superpowers.  He also outfitted her in similar togs to Superboy as a way to provide inspiration to the survivors on this Earth.  Pete and Lex continued to do their best to hold up the resistance... including continually scanning for any sign of Superboy...


By this point the King Zod and company have grown tired of dealing with the insurgency... and decide to swat a fly with a cannonball... to get rid of the resistance, they should... get this, just wipe out all life on Earth.  And so, all three start boring down to the molten core of the planet.  This is likely what led to the pocket Smallville being under the dome in our opening chapter.


Luthor continues s'more... in order to make contact with the Superman he'd found on the scanner... he decides to send Lana to the "other" Earth... where she will lay dormant under the ice of the Antarctic for two-hundred years before approaching the target.  Luthor can not only place fast and loose with dimensionality, but also time it seems.


Superman's heard enough.  Five-billion humans, and uncounted billions of lifeforms have died at the hands of three Kryptonians.  It's time for some retribution... but just how far is Superman willing to go to neutralize this threat?


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We find ourselves getting a bit of a Pocket Universe info-dump.  Done in such a way that it doesn't so much feel like a "lesson" but as an intriguing and enjoyable story.

I've said in the past that the mere mention of General Zod usually makes me glaze over a bit, however, I find myself really getting into this version of the character.  He, as well as the other Phantom Zone criminals, are friggin' nuts... Makes me wonder just how Superman's gonna... ahem, neutralize the threat they pose.  Poor Lex sure fumbled letting them out!

It was fun to see the civilian Bruce Wayne, Hal Jordan, and Oliver Queen getting involved in the proceedings.  We can see that the Time Trapper really wanted Superboy to the be only superhero here.  We even see that he/it eliminated the entire universe except Earth and Krypton.  Talk about dedication...

The opening with Clark mourning his parents reminded me of the first issue of the Superboy-less Legion of Super-Heroes, wherein Superboy finds himself in front of his foster parents graves too.

All told, another great chapter in this story.  Jerry Ordway's art is just different enough from Byrne's, but not so different as to be jarring.  They're both wonderfully talented craftsmen, this was really a great time for the Super-books.

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