Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Action Comics #654 (1990)


Action Comics #654 (June, 1990)
"Dark Knight over Metropolis, Part Three: Deadly Covenant"
Writer - Roger Stern
Penciller - Bob McLeod
Inker - Brett Breeding
Letterer - Bill Oakley
Colorist - Glenn Whitmore
Associate Editor - Jon Peterson
Editor - Mike Carlin
Cover Price: (Still only) $0.75

Okey doke, let's wrap this one up!

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We open on a pretty contentious scene in which Superman and Batman patrol the Metropolis skies.  What's interesting is Superman is acting quite a bit standoffish... almost as though he's intimidated that Batman is on "his turf".  Perhaps it's more him seeing Batman not returning his favor of staying out of "his" city.  Either way, I really dig this.


They happen upon the building across from Cat Grant's apartment... ya know, the one where the roof caved in.  Superman decides to investigate the scene, while Batman enters Ms. Grant's pad to search for clues.  Superman is shocked when, digging through the rubble, he finds Gangbuster's helmet.  He's even more surprised to hear Jose Delgado's familiar voice from above.


Jose shares what had happened that night... and mentions he might have imagined Chiller shape-shifting into his likeness.  Moments later, Shockwave emerges from the rubble... and it appears as though like he's lookin' for a fight.  Superman is happy to oblige... and the fight doesn't even occur on panel, so that oughta tell ya how it went.


We shift scenes to an industrial park where Cat Grant is being delivered to an Intergang-allied doctor.  This is Doctor Moon, and he is interested in altering Ms. Grant's memories so that she will offer a more favorable testimony during Morgan Edge's pending trial.  I'd forgotten that she was a key to all that.


It isn't long before the World's Finest arrive on the scene to dispatch some justice.  Chiller immediately suggests that Shockwave sold them out.  Yeah, prob'ly...


While the heroes tangle with the disposable armored folks, Doctor Moon decides to take advantage of the distraction by flipping the brain-drain switch on Ms. Grant.  Before he can, however... Gangbuster launches into the scene and kayos the good doc.


The fight continues for a few pages, and wraps up the only way it can.  As the dust settles, we can see that Intergang big-bad Mannheim has been watching the events transpire via video monitor.  In a great bit, his "yes man" Gillespie asks what this means for Morgan Edge... and Mannheim's all, "Ehh, I guess this means he takes the rap."  Cold-blooded.


Superman readies the baddies for arrest while chatting with Cat and Gangbuster.  It's brought to his attention that nobody's seen Batman for a few moments.  Well, of course not... because he split... that's kinda what he does.  This time, however, he left a note!  On his cute Bat-logo stationary to boot!  He informs Superman that he'll "know where to find him."


Well, where can that be?  Oh yeah, Amanda McCoy's apartment... it's awesome that so many loose ends are being tied up here.  Such a "packed" issue, yet it's not overwritten and it's not an info-dump.  Superman arrives, finding Batman sitting (sitting on a couch... which is funny to me for reasons I can't quite put into words) amid McCoy's wrecked and ransacked pad.


Superman first accuses Batman of the ransacking... which Bruce just brushes off.  He hands over the book he's been reading... Amanda McCoy's diary.  It would appear she was quite the prolific journal-writer... and boy howdy, she wrote about everything... which includes the fact that Superman and Clark Kent are one in the same!


From here, we get a bit of a guided tour regarding several key moments in Superman lore dating back from just following the John Byrne Man of Steel reimagining!  Amanda being fired by Luthor for suggesting Superman is really Clark Kent, her hiring a P.I., who wound up dead in Clark's apartment (during the Exile story), up to and including her own demise... which, of course isn't written about in the diary, but I think we can take Batman's word for it.  I would have to imagine that these two pages were mighty satisfying for long-time readers!


Superman realizes that the folks who killed Amanda were likely now in possession of the Kryptonite ring.  Oh, not so... Batman reveals that he's had it the entire time.  Superman is a bit off-put by this revelation... maybe he's a bit shaken to realize that at any point in their team-up, Batman could have actually killed him.  Batman hands over the lead-ring-case, and suggests Superman take the diary, along with the Smallville High School Yearbook, and Kent family photo album he'd found in the McCoy abode.  Wow, lady was a bit obsessed, no?


We shift ahead in time and across the bridge to Gotham City, where Bruce Wayne is checking the morning news.  The headlines indicate that Morgan Edge was found guilty... and, the Jane Doe at the morgue has been positively identified.  As Alfred brings him his morning tea, the Batcave alarms go off!


He heads downstairs and throws on his costume to greet his "guest".  Of course, it's Superman... and from the way he's talking, this is likely his first post-Crisis visit to the Batcave, which is pretty cool!


The two chat... and it's still pretty contentious.  Superman even says that they are not friends.  He tells Batman that he trusts him... he feels that he is a good person, who is working toward similar ends as himself.  He proceeds to hand over the Kryptonite ring... explaining that, should he (Superman) ever become mind-controlled, or go rogue... to use it to put him down.  Awesome scene, and amazing way to end this storyline!


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Dark Knight over Metropolis ends on a high note!  I think I'm so used to storylines petering out... or just plain not ending, that this really caught me off guard!

We had a few big moments here... so, let's unpack those first.  Let's start with the ending... it's here that Superman gives Batman the Kryptonite ring, with the instructions to "end him" if he were ever to go rogue.  It's funny to think about in retrospect... even if Superman and Batman didn't see eye-to-eye in the post-Crisis world, I always remember them knowing each other a bit better when Batman is given these instructions.  Reading it back now, it's crazy to consider that the two were little more than strangers at this point!

Their standoffish nature and uneasy alliance is great.  I really dig this version of the World's Finest... Superman telling Batman to get out of his city, Batman revealing that he had the Kryptonite ring the whole time... all great stuff!

The reveal of just how deep Amanda McCoy's Superman/Kent obsession runs was really cool as well.  We readers knew a bit about it, from the events way back in Superman (vol.2) #2, Intergang killing the P.I. in Clark's apartment during the Exile storyline... just so many bits and pieces weaving together perfectly here.  This truly feels like something that had been built toward since the Man of Steel reimagining.  It's as though we can draw a line under this... with the next month's books being the start of a real and proper "next chapter".

The actual Cat Grant-Intergang story kind of pales when compared to all the rest of the stuff we just discussed, but it was handled quite well.  I'd forgotten that she had vital testimony in the Morgan Edge case.  I thought it was really cool how Mannheim just decided to cut his losses when things went sideways.  He was cool with helping Edge... but, when push came to shove, he was fine with just walking away.

Overall... this entire storyline is most certainly recommended.

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