Monday, March 20, 2017

Superman (vol.2) #44 (1990)


Superman (vol.2) #44 (June, 1990)
"Dark Knight Over Metropolis, Part One: Green Death in Crime Alley"
Writer/Artist - Jerry Ordway
Inker - Dennis Janke
Colorist - Glenn Whitmore
Letterer - John Costanza
Associate Editor - Jon Peterson
Editor - Mike Carlin
Cover Price: (Still only) $0.75

When I first decided I wanted to hunt down all of the "From Crisis to Crisis" issues of the Superman books, I remember taking a look at some of the "holes" in my collection on sites like ComicVine, to see which covers I'd need to look out for.

The set of covers which immediately jumped out at me were part of the Dark Knight Over Metropolis arc.  I mean, let's be honest, the Super-books are often quarter bin-to-dollar bin filler, with a few exceptions... one of those exceptions is... whenever Batman's involved... those usually get an inflated price tag and are among the more difficult to track down "in the wild".

I managed to luck out and found the first two parts of this story pretty quick (and on the cheap)... it was the conclusion in Action Comics that eluded me for a rather long time.  I did eventually snag it though... better yet, it was in a dollar bin.

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After a shot of a confidential file, we open with Jose "Gangbuster" Delgado escorting Cat Grant and her son Adam home from a showing of Gone With the Wind.  In the background, we see Superman crouched on a building, watching... in the foreground, we can see they are also being watched by Detective Slam Bradley.  I always dig it when Slam's included in a story... I mean, dude first appeared in Detective Comics #1!  Anyhoo, in spite of Jose's reservations, the trio head into an alley because Cat's Jag is parked in a garage that-a-way.


As they continue down the alley way, Jose gets socked in the mush by... a brick wall?  The wall then grabs Cat and Adam yanking them in.  Adam is able to shake loose, and so he heads to Delgado's side.  Slam Bradley shows up... and also gets socked for his troubles.


Jose stirs back to consciousness and decides that it may be advantageous to toss the contents of a bucket of popcorn at the strange moving wall.  He is hoping the popcorn might help outline Cat's body... and, it does!  He yanks her away from the wall-man and nails him with an almost impossible kick before he and the Grants take off.


Once Jose is out of sight, Superman descends on the scene.  Slam instinctively fires a shot... which Superman catches without much effort.  Bradley is confused as to what's going on with this crazy wall... and so, Superman uses his x-ray vision to see the invisible man's organs.


The wall-man knows the jig is up, and pleads with Superman not to hurt him... after all, he "don't know nothing".  Our man warns the baddie not to mess with Cat Grant... and then yanks out the geek's power pack.  Slam Bradley cuffs him, while Superman is alerted by the intense squeal of Emil Hamilton's signal device.


Moments later, Superman arrives at Hamilton's.  Emil is working with a rock sample believed to be Kryptonite.  At this point, the Prof concludes that the rock might be a by-product of the Kryptonian artifact, the Eradicator's attempt at recreating Krypton's fate on Earth.  The discussion shifts to discussing Superman's very-real vulnerability to the very-real Kryptonite.  This leads into a flashback wherein Amanda McCoy confronted him with Lex Luthor's Kryptonite ring.


Speaking of Amanda McCoy... just where in the world could she be?  Oh yeah... dead.  We shift to the Coroner's office where Inspector Henderson is getting the low-down on a recent murder victim who was found with a glove that had traces of radioactivity on it!  Henderson's ticked off at the state of Metropolis... and exclaims that this is the sort of thing that might happen in Gotham.


Speaking of Gotham... let's go there next.  In an alley a homeless man is being robbed of a cigar box by a vagrant.  Luckily, Batman is perched atop an overlooking building.  He hops down and proceeds to tie down the would-be thief before checking on the victim... who is now dead.  He checks the cigar box, and sees a green ring which appears to be glowing from within.  There is also a recent bus ticket from Metropolis.  He snags the goodies and takes off, leaving the thief tied up on enemy turf.


We shift scenes to the LexCorp building, where Mr. Luthor is changing into his radiation suit.  He discusses how he'd recently lost his hand (and nearly died) due to radiation from wearing his Kryptonite ring.  He heads deep into a vault... and is shocked to find his prized ring is missing!  He calls out to his assistant, Jennifer to start an investigation.  She asks if he wants her to call off the Zenith Awards Banquet... he says no.


Zenith Banquet?  What's that?  Well, it's an Awards banquet to celebrate "Integrity in Journalism"... and ya know who wants to go?  Morgan Edge!  We shift to him meeting with his lawyer regarding his impending racketeering trial.  His lawyer, Morty, recommends he not attend the banquet.


We shift to Intergang boss, Bruno Mannheim who is receiving word from his underling, Gillespie in regard to the "freelancer" (the invisible brick wall dude) from earlier winding up arrested.  Disappointed, Mannheim turns to assassins Chiller and Shockwave to "take care of things".


At the Batcave, Batman is putting the green ring through a battery of tests.  He deduces that this glowing stone was not man-made, yet shows all the polish of one that was.  He cannot understand why anyone would produce or own a radioactive ring... and remembers that the poor homeless fella had a Greyhound ticket from Metropolis.  He also remembers that Bruce Wayne might have some business in the Big Apricot... and so, he has Alfred prepare for the two of them to take a trip.  And, heck... long as he's out that way, he may as well meet up with Superman.


Speaking of Superman, we now catch up with him as he checks in on the Fortress.  He sees everything is as he left it... pretty much destroyed.  He spends a little time rebuilding a statue of his blood-parents, Jor-El and Lara.... before it's time for a very important date...


... with Lois Lane.  He arrives just in the nick of time, and the two share a bit of playful banter.  They head out on the town just as Batman arrives... and lurks.


--

It's strange when I chat with fans who are a bit older than me... those who grew up with Superman and Batman being (literally) Super Friends.  Having grown up very-much post-Crisis (I was 5 in 1985), I was more accustomed to the World's Finest team being sorta-kinda "at odds" more often then not.  I mean, there's clearly a (begrudging?) respect between the two... but they ain't about to have a sleepover and dish about the other superheroes.  I like the idea of Batman checking in with Superman... pretty much as a last ditch.  A "might as well"... rather than just ringing him up, or flipping a Superman-Alarm switch in the Batcave.

I gotta say... it's been a long time since I've read a lot of this era of the Superbooks... and, it was a bit difficult finding my footing here.  Don't get me wrong, I love how connected the Super-titles were during this time... but it's not easy to just pick an issue and jump in.  There is plenty of exposition and sub-plot advancement here... which, again... I love!  It's just that when reading this issue in a vacuum, it's a bit tough.  I gotta wonder if they included the full uncut issues in the (relatively) recent trade paperback collection.

If I had to pick any nits... which I don't, but I will anyway... the cover is a bit... okay, almost completely deceiving.  Superman and Batman have no interaction throughout this issue... a kid in 1990 who just dropped three shiny quarters for this mag might be a bit miffed that the World's Finest share exactly zero panels.

The writing here was great... Ordway has a great "voice" for each and every member of the cast.  Plots advance, and pieces are put in place.  The entire triangle-numbering era (of which this issue is a precursor) feels to me like a sort of masterful game of writing-chess.  It's almost a lost art to produce this sort of serialized storytelling, much less with such precision and attention to detail.  The art throughout this issue is also great... with one exception.  Lois looks a bit rough.  I hate using terms like "fivehead"... but, golly... there were a few sketchy panels here.

Overall, I really enjoyed this... and I think we'll see this story through to its conclusion over the next couple of days.  I think I can safely recommend this to any fans of either (or both) character.  Even though the heroes don't have any interaction here, it's still a good time.  Available digitally, and (as mentioned) has been collected in trade paperback.

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