Superman (vol.2) #84 (December, 1993)
We shift scenes to Superman as he pulls a storm-stranded ship to shore… say that three times fast. He does so with the quickness, and using his x-ray vision, is able to see a sunken Spanish galleon under the sands. He digs down and retrieves a treasure chest… which I’d have to assume becomes at least somewhat important in a later issue.
From here he returns home to Metropolis… where he surprises Lois to an all-day trip to Paris, France. Lois questions the irresponsibility of such an act… as she slips into her little black dress. Clark points out that it’s Sunday… and Halloween… and nothing will go wrong. Hmm…
Later on we join Cat Grant and her son Adam as they arrive at a Halloween party at the school. Young Adam is decked out in his Kon-El gear… which looks awesome. He even corrects his mother when she refers to him as Superman. The school has gone all out… even hiring costumed entertainers… like Turtle Boy! And a pastiche on Barney the Dinosaur.
Adam runs off to hang with his pals… none of whom have nearly as cool a costume as he does, when our phony Barney waddles up to offer him a cookie. Adam’s all “beat it”… which leads our dino to reveal that there are some video games in the next room. Not just video games, mind you… superb video games! Now, I’ve played a game or two in my time… I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “superb” to describe any of them… I will now though! Anyhoo, Adam can’t fight the lure of the Lextendo, and heads off with the Dinosaur… alone.
Meanwhile, in Paris… Lois and Clark are having a grand old time. They’re taking in the sights, and rediscovering one another. They promise not to take things for granted anymore as they sit down to a romantic dinner. Of particular interest, Lois ponders what would have happened had Clark landed in the Soviet Union.
Back in Metropolis Jimmy reports to Cat that there’s no sign of Adam. One of the kids said they saw Adam leave with a man in a dinosaur costume… to which, Jimmy reports that the agency did not have any record of sending anyone in a dinosaur suit to entertain. Things suddenly go from urgent to sobering as the pair realize what horror may be facing them.
We travel to the Toyman’s lair where he’s deposited young Adam. The lad mocks the Toyman’s old timey toys, which sets him off on a diabolical lecture… during which, Adam sneaks away. He comes across the toy jailhouse. They beg him to find a way to let them out… and as luck would have it, there is a screwdriver on the floor. Adam is able to free the kids, and even summons his inner Kevin McAllister by kicking over a bucket of marbles to trip up the Toyman. Though the baddie hits the ground, he is able to grab Adam by the ankle… we see the Toyman raise his knife… and then, only blood.
Some time passes before we rejoin Cat and Jimmy. They are at the Daily Planet offices waiting to hear from the MCPD. Officer Turpin arrives… hat in hand. He stammers a bit… apologizes that he’s not very good at “this part” of his job, and directs her attention to the person he’d brought with him… a priest. I think this was a missed opportunity. This is all on the same page… however, if the reader had to turn the page to reveal the priest, I think it would have had more impact. Up to this point, we don’t know that Adam is dead. I would assume that many readers would think that the person with Turpin was Adam…
Cat is lead to the morgue… and all is confirmed. Adam Grant is dead.
Later still, Lois and Clark return from their European excursion and appear to be happy as clams. The Daily Planet they return to is a very different place than the one they left. Jimmy immediately gets on their case for not being there… what he thinks Lois and Clark could have done to stop this from occurring is beyond me. The Kents learn what happened to Adam… and Clark learns that when it comes to Supermanning, there are zero days off.
Now this was a pretty hardcore issue, no? You really wouldn’t expect to see a child murder go down in an issue of Superman. We’ll delve deeper into that in just a bit… first, we’ll discuss the non-Adam-getting-killed aspects of the book.
First, loved Adam’s Superboy costume. That looked pretty damn cool. He’s always had a bit of a hate-on for Superman… which made it cool when he corrected his mother for referring to him as such. It was also something of an inversion on Kon-El’s arrival… everyone called him Superboy, and he would get annoyed and correct them… here’s Adam doing the exact opposite. Very cool.
Lois and Clark finally get a “night off” and decide to live it up for a day in Paris. I’m glad attention was drawn to this. Superman doesn’t punch a clock… and doesn’t take days off. He chose just a regular fall Sunday to indulge… and, it just so happens to be the day that his friend Cat’s son gets abducted… and murdered. We’re almost in Peter Parker territory here… I almost expect the next several issues to begin with Adam’s ghostly floating head of guilt giving Superman a hard time.
Speaking of giving Clark a hard time… what the hell, Olsen? Dude was going off as though Lois and Clark’s presence could or would have changed Adam’s fate. That’s a whole lotta responsibility you’re piling on a dude you don’t know is Superman… I get that he was frustrated… so, I can’t be too hard on him… but it did feel a bit harsh… like it would have only made sense had Jimmy known that Clark was secretly Superman. Even if he did, there’s no guarantee that Superman could have stopped this… and, really… if it wasn’t Adam, it would have been another child. A hollow victory, if you can even consider it that.
Now… Toyman. I’ll concede I don’t have a ton of experience with the character. I understand that this is quite a departure from his original take… and he was a much goofier fella before. Here he is incredibly creepy. I mean, dude sleeps in a giant crib… and keeps children as (literal) playthings. I suppose I should count my lucky stars this wasn’t produced in the past ten years, otherwise I’m sure we’d have been treated with a shot of Toyman wearing a diaper.
Onto Adam… this really is a brilliant way to do this. I mean, Adam… let’s face it, Adam’s a jerk. He’s not a lovable kid… he didn’t ingratiate himself to the cast or the readership… and that’s why this works so well… that’s why it had to be him. Child abductions are, unfortunately, something that happens in the real world. It could happen to a nice child… or a jerk, psychopathic kidnappers often don’t discriminate.
Of Adam, we can say that he went out as a hero. He was trying to free his fellow captives when it all went down. Of course, at this point that’s just between him and we readers… and that works as well! Not that anybody in the cast would be happy that something horrible befell him, but they may actually struggle to think of his good points if put on the spot.
This story’s true strength… at least to me, is that it is all predicated on being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Adam just happened to be at the Halloween party where a talking dinosaur solicited kids to play his Lextendo. Having done a tremendous amount of research on missing children over the past few years… that scene… well, I can’t say it “hit close to home”… but I can say that it raised quite a few red flags. Even the safest places have the potential of being the most dangerous. This kind of thing can happen anywhere at anytime. It’s sobering, disturbing, and if you let it… maddening.
This is a landmark issue during a landmark Superman run. One of my higher recommendations.