Action Comics #761 (2000)

Action Comics #761 (January, 2000)
“For a Thousand Years…”
Writer – Joe Kelly
Penciller – German Garcia
Inker – Joe Rubenstein
Colorist – Glenn Whitmore
Separations – WildStorm FX
Letterer – John Costanza
Associate Editor – Maureen McTigue
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $1.99

It’s funny, I’d been looking for this issue for years!  Not quite a thousand years, mind, but a long while.  I first found out about this one during a later Christmas issue (which I’ll hopefully get around to looking at around this Christmas) where Clark gives Diana a miniature Mjolnir as a gift.  Ever since then, I wanted to track this one down.  It proved to be one of those issues that just, for whatever reason, refused to show up at any shops in my town… 

From Superman (vol.2) #165 (February, 2001)
Writer: Jeph Loeb / Artist: Ian Churchill

Then, I found it.  In a random bin, at a random record store… right next to the Adventures of Superman issue I reviewed the other day.  I thought it was interesting that they both played with similar themes… the Lois and Clark relationship dynamic, along with a potential romantic rival… then, I realized that they shared the same cover date (Jan. 00)!  What luck!

Does this one live up to my over-a-decade worth of expectations?  Short answer, maybe.  Long answer… read on.

It’s morning in Amer… Metropolis, and the Kents are huddled up in bed reading the latest edition of The Daily Star.  This is during the “Mrs. Superman” story, and Lois is giving Clark a bit of a hard time over it.  As she playfully gets in her digs and flings open the curtains to let in the morning sun, she is interrupted by a light tapping on the window.

It’s Wonder Woman!  This one page sets the tone for this story.  Such a juxtaposition, and masterfully laid out by German Garcia.

Diana and Superman fly off.  Clark lambastes Diana a bit for her rather brash display of showing up at his (proverbial) doorstep in full garb.  She kinda laughs it off, reminds him that he called her, and jokes that she must have “gotten him in trouble” with Lois.  Superman states that Lois isn’t the “jealous type”, and flies off… Wondy smirks and calls him “Mr. Lane”.

Back at the apartment, Lois is sizing herself up in the mirror.  This is a very cute scene, putting all of Lois’ insecurities on display.  This is not the light we’re used to seeing Lois in… and as such, it makes her all the more relatable…  which, is important for the story to come.

At the Metropolis Police Department, a pair of officers are discussing the recent “Mrs. Superman” controversy while assessing a piece of evidence Mr. Superman dropped off the week prior.  It is a gold-rimmed glass cube with a smoking crystal inside of it.  

This crystal is later served to a cursed female inmate called Encantadora who claims to have kissed Superman.  The smoky shard appears to give her control over those around her (perhaps just men?  perhaps those of her choosing?).  I can’t say I’m all that familiar with this story line, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Back with Superman and Wonder Woman, they are discussing Clark’s recent request that Diana watches over Earth while he is off-planet dealing with the Son of Mongul.  He admits that he has not yet told Lois that he is planning to leave, and Diana is confused (yet touched) that he has confided in her.

Suddenly, a blue bolt of lightning strikes the pair, teleporting them into a battle with an insectoid critter.  Wonder Woman gleefully beats it down, as a shadowy figure approaches from behind.

“Whoa” indeed!

It is Thor… no, not that Thor.  Well, maybe Thor is universal, perhaps he transcends comics universes and the Source Wall itself… I dunno.  He welcomes them to Valhalla, where battles seemingly rage on forever.

Back on Earth, Lois and Jimmy sit on a park bench.  Jimmy is cluelessly going about with how beautiful he finds Wonder Woman… this is clearly not the day to be saying that around Lois, Jim.  Having heard more than enough out of our freckly-friend, she takes the ice cream cone he’d been eating and makes him wear it.

Back in Valhalla, Thor convinces Superman and Wonder Woman to aid him in battle.  Diana is honor bound to help in any Asgardian affairs, and Clark says he won’t leave without her.  Thor tells them the last time they’d faced such a threat was against the Frost Giants in a battle that raged for two-thousand years.

What follows is several pages of Valhallan battle montage, in which dozens of years pass.  Superman begins to forget bits and pieces of Lois, including her smell and her voice… while becoming more familiar to Diana’s.  During these years, Thor is struck dead.  Clark would go on to wield Mjolnir in his stead.

At the Daily Planet, on the same day Earth-time… Lois is sitting in Perry White’s office.  They discuss the pleasure and pain involved in maintaining a healthy marriage.  They share stories, and end on Perry giving her the sage-like advice of “knock it off”… just stop worrying, and be happy… the rest will fall into place.

At this point in Valhalla, 999 years have passed.  On the eve of the one-thousandth year, Clark and Diana share an intimate conversation.  The two appear to very nearly “give in” to their passion, when Clark throws a flag on the play.  Despite how much he cares for, nay loves Diana… he still belongs only to Lois.  Although by now, she is long gone… he cannot be unfaithful.

The following day (in Valhalla) Superman and Wonder Woman enter battle for the final time… prevailing over the Vgrtsmyth Batallians.  At the close of the war, Thor returns to the land of the living to reclaim his mighty Mjolnir.  Clark and Diana ask him for one favor before they return to Earth… which I’m assuming has something to do with giving them back the past millennium of their lives.

On Earth, Lois is leaning on the balcony of their apartment, penning a letter to Clark in which she reveals that she made a deal with Lex Luthor in order to save The Daily Planet.  As she stands, questioning if she’s even worthy of being Mrs. Clark Kent…

… her question is answered.  The Kents embrace and promise to hold each other tight for a thousand years…

I’m of two minds with this issue.  On one hand, I liked it… really liked it, in fact.  This is a wonderful examination of the unbreakable and everlasting love between Superman/Clark and Lois.  This goes to show that no amount of time or distance can change their (or at least Clark’s in this instance) feelings.  

That being said… I really must question Clark’s quick agreement to join Wonder Woman in battle, after all, unless I’m mistaken… there wasn’t any sort of guarantee that he could return to the present.  In that one moment, he gave up his life, gave up Lois… for Wonder Woman.  I kinda dig the internal conflict… but it still boggles my mind a bit.

Superman never wavered in his commitment to his wife.  This is such a beautiful thing.  Even in the face of (almost) certain doom, he remained loyal to Lois.  Speaking of Lois, her scenes were also quite well done.  Her questioning how she measures up to her husband’s unreal superhero social circle was quite interesting.  We are accustomed to seeing Lois as super-confident and career-first… during this issue, however, she was insecure… and full of self-doubt.  Her turning to Perry (and even Jimmy) for guidance really encapsulates what I love about the Daily Planet dynamic.  Perry comes across as the wise fatherly figure, and Jimmy is the goofball little brother.  Love it!

German Garcia’s art does a wonderful job of conveying all of the conflicting emotions.  Seeing Lois and Diana share a panel (from Clark’s point of view)… where Diana is standing upright and majestic… literally bathed from behind in golden sunlight, and Lois as slouched, knobby-kneed and mussed really captures the theme of this issue.

My main… don’t wanna call it a complaint… let’s just say the main thing I didn’t dig all that much was that 1,000 years went by in this issue.  I never had a problem with the theory that Superman can live far longer than us mere mortals… but, actually experiencing in practice?  I dunno… it just makes me feel… err, uncomfortable?  Detached?  Hmm… it’s hard to put into words.

In following the monthly/weekly adventures of Superman (or any character) for all these years… when a massive amount of time passes “without me”, I can’t help but feel, pardon the pun, alienated.  I don’t feel as engaged with the character as I was before.  I had similar feelings during the ElfQuest: Kings of the Broken Wheel series when they time-jumped hundreds (if not thousands) of years.  It just left me cold… this isn’t quite that bad, considering Clark was able to return to the “present”.

Overall, an issue I have conflicting emotions on… which, I’ll concede may be due to my own misunderstandings.  Definitely worth a read!  This one is collected in Superman, Volume 1: No Limits, if you wanna check out the entire Superman family of books in the era (and, I think ya should).

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