Superman: The Man of Steel #99 (April, 2000)
"All that Dwell in Dark Waters"
"In the Belly of the Beast"
Writer - Mark Schultz
Pencillers - Pablo Raimondi & Doug Mahnke
Inker - Sean Parsons
Letterer - Ken Lopez
Colorist - Glenn Whitmore
Separations - Wildstorm FX
Associate Editor - Maureen McTigue
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $1.99
More spooky-Superman... well, not really.
We open on the Kent farm. Ma, Pa, and Clark are sitting around the dinner table... and the folks are a bit curious as to why Clark flew solo for this visit. This is the time when Lois wasn't really Lois... but the Parasite... which may be the very definition of "strange bedfellows". Luckily (I guess), Clark uses his super-hearing to note that someone drove their car into nearby Drear Lake. Saved by the accident, Superman takes off while Ma and Pa hem and haw.
As he approaches Drear Lake, Superman mentions that all during his youth this lake was rumored to have been haunted. He plunges into the drink, and finds that the passenger of the runaway car is none other than Lana Lang... because, of course it is. After bringing her to safety, she tells him that her husband Pete Ross is still down there... back in the lake our man goes.
Underwater, Superman opens the car like a tin can and proceeds to pull Pete out. He is then confronted by perhaps the homeliest looking "Lady of the Lake" I've ever seen. I mean, she's got the male pattern baldness thing going, which makes her look not unlike Benjamin Franklin. She reveals herself to be Ukulele... er, Unketeli... and lispily informs Superman that she "claimsss thissss one", meaning Pete... because "he isss evil".
Superman's all "nuh-uh" and heat heat visions the water-witch... only after she gives him her secret origin. Sometime back she was drowned in this very lake by evil men. As he swims away with Pete, she warns him that Pete's evil will cause innocent people to suffer... a fate that is now completely on Superman's head.
On land, Superman hands Pete over to the paramedics. They express surprise that Superman was able to rescue both Ross' so quickly... which makes Clark wonder if he'd imagined the whole Unketeli encounter.
|That Paramedic is INTENSE!|
The next day we rejoin Clark as he stands before his old tree house. Lana walks up on him and informs him that Pete will be okay. She reveals that just prior to the accident the two had been fighting... something they've been doing quite often of late. Clark knows those feels, considering he's shacked up with the Parasite. Clark asks Lana if Pete mentioned anything weird happening while they were underwater... but no dice. Clark begins to reminisce about their childhood, and mentions how his old tree house was sort of his "Fortress of Solitude" when he was a lad. They do the whole "I'll always be there for you" thing, and part ways.
Now for something completely different, we join John Henry Irons... Steel, in New Metropolis as he watches a crew of black-clad weirdos deep inside Brainiac's new-fangled City of Tomorrow. He's wearing a new open-faced costume, which if I'm being honest doesn't look nearly as cool as his old one. Anyhoo, the weirdos are planting a bomb... but Steel is able to save the city by taking the brunt of the blast.
With his armor smoking, Superman flies up on him. They exchange pleasantries and conclude that the men in black are trying to figure out just how this B-13 virus ticks so that they can wrest away control from Lex Luthor. Superman then mentions that he has a favor to ask of Steel, however, before he can do so John Henry's niece Natasha sends out an S.O.S.
Apparently a side affect of Brainiac 13's gift was a sort of residue that John Henry collected and stored for future research. It is proving to be quite a bit less stable than he had hoped... and appears to be, in essence, a miniature Sun.
Superman and Steel return to Natasha in time to pull her out of harm's way. Superman questions if this is just a Brainiac booby trap as he leaps into it... to no avail. John Henry has the crazy idea to coat the flaming ball in 24 tons of molten iron... and wouldn'tcha know it, it works! Well, if changing a miniature Sun into a miniature Black Hole is what we wanted. As luck would have it, turns out that's exactly what we wanted at this juncture.
The mass goes from Sun to black hole to... nothing. John Henry reaches for where the mass once was, only to find that his hand and arm disappear. Turns out they done made a Tesseract... a pocket dimension. Superman and Steel pop in to see what's what, and Clark pops the question... will Steel help him rebuild his Fortress of Solitude?
Well, I guess we really can't judge this book by its cover. Not a whole lot of "haunting" going on here. Sure, we get a "Lady of the Lake", but she's only there for a few pages. I would've figured this would be all about the "haunted" lake. The story's shift to the Steel/New-Metropolis stuff was a bit jarring... though, necessary to set up the reveal of the new Fortress of Solitude in Man of Steel #100.
I know it's kind of a contentious subject among Superman fans, but I really liked the "City of the Future" era. I've heard several criticisms, such as Superman not being the most fantastic thing in his own book... which I get, however, in looking at the whole package... I thought that the Man of Tomorrow in the City of Tomorrow gave the Superman titles a certain something which differentiated them from the rest of the DC line. I always knew when I was reading a Superman book, versus a Superman appearance in another book.
Back to the first story... we learn that Pete Ross is evil... I gotta plead ignorance/forgetfulness here... not sure where this is going. This is an early 2000 book, so it's before he becomes Vice President... can't for the life of me remember why the Lady of the Lake would say he's evil. If I'm ever struck by lightning, and bedridden for a number of months, I'll definitely read through this era.
Overall, I enjoyed this. I'll admit I liked the first half a whole lot more than the second... but, the whole package was good stuff that builds toward the milestone issue #100 that follows. Speaking of which, I remember feeling insanely old around this time. A few books I'd followed from issue #1 were hitting their centennial issues... X-Men (vol.2) and X-Force spring to mind immediately. I couldn't wrap my head around being part of something for a full hundred issues, and started feeling positively ancient... at the ripe old age of 20. Y'ever wanna go back in time and slap yourself upside the head? Anyhoo... this was a fun one, though probably more fun in the context of the triangle-numbering system.