Action Comics #811 (March, 2004)
“Strange New Visitor, Part One”
Writers – Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art – Karl Kerschl
Colorists – Tanya & Richard Horie
Letterer – Rob Leigh
Associate Editor – Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.25
Over the past few weeks I’ve been researching some turn of the century Superman for an upcoming episode of Weird Comics History. It’s been a lot of fun revisiting some of these stories… Y2K, Emperor Joker, Our Worlds At War, President Lex, Return to Krypton (I and II), and of who could forget… Time Storm?
Time Storm is a particularly interesting little curiosity because it played with the concept of multiple Earths in a time between Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis. I doubt this is the first and/or only time this had been done, but it definitely didn’t happen all that often. Better yet, this story has to do with DC’s acquired WildStorm Universe!
Let’s get right to it!
We open with the Time Storm tearing through Metropolis… a young boy looks as though he’s about to be swept into it, however, just in the nick of time he is rescued by… Mr. Amara? Well, it couldn’t have been Superman, as he went missing a week earlier when the Time Storm began. We join Mr. Amara at the Daily Planet where he is giving an interview to Lois Lane… who is day-dreaming about the first time she’d experienced “Superman”. We’re going allllll the way back to Man of Steel and the Space-Plane incident for this one.
Once she comes around she thanks Amara for his time. Across the office, she sees Jimmy and Perry having a… sorta heated conversation. More like Perry’s annoyed and Jimmy’s trying to cool him down, so, ya know… Tuesday. Lois informs the Chief that she’ll hopefully have a story for him later on that evening… and we follow her to S.T.A.R. Labs where the former Steel, Dr. John Irons and his team of geniuses are trying to get to the bottom of the Time Storm event. John sends his niece Natasha, who is the “new” Steel skyward with a sensor… and is hit by (time?) lightning!
She begins to plummet, but is luckily caught by Superboy. This leads us into another Lois Lane-flashback… this time to the Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. She can’t help but to think, what if this time Superman doesn’t come back? What if this time, she loses her husband?
She hops a cab and heads into Suicide Slum… more specifically, the Ace O’ Clubs, where she decides to have a chat with our favorite salty barman, Bibbo Bibbowski who has been dispensing his own version of “street justice” in Superman’s absence. I’m always a fan of that! She wraps up her interview by asking if Bibbo believes Superman will come back… and, duh… of course he does. Lois, unfortunately, isn’t convinced.
We shift scenes to the apartment of Lana Lang as she tries to quiet her son Clark. She is on the phone with her ex-husband Pete Ross… who I can’t remember if he’s still President of the United States at this point or not. I’m pretty sure Lex has already been ousted… but can’t recall if they’d moved on completely from Presidential affairs. Anyhoo… Pete’s calling to discuss custody. Uh-oh.
We hop to the Fortress of Solitude, where Superboy and Steel (Natasha) are trying to sway the Eradicator to their cause in stopping the Time Storm. It’s deduced that it is likely a residual result of Brainiac’s B-13 virus from the Y2K storyline. That was the event/virus that transformed Metropolis into a literal “City of Tomorrow”… all high-tech and futuristic. We’ll talk a bit about that below, suffice it to say… it’s divisive among Super-fans, but I really dug it. Back to the story… the trio (and Krypto) decide to use a Phantom Zone Projector in hopes of containing the anomaly.
On her way back to the Planet, Lois conducts several “man on the street” interviews. She had initially feared that there wouldn’t be enough stories to tell… and now finds herself with too many to even attempt! She stands at a station waiting for the sky-tram to arrive, when suddenly… the ground begins to disappear! It’s as though Metropolis is rejecting the B-13 virus. Lois attempts to outrun the disappearing ground, however cannot! As she teeters from a beam she finds herself rescued by… Mr. Majestic?!!
Really enjoyed this! I feel like this era in the Super-books is a bit underrated… though, to be fair, I am picking and choosing what I’m checking out. Perhaps if I made an effort to read through the “Berganza-era” in toto, I’d feel a bit differently. I mean, we haven’t yet discussed things like Cir-El here on the blog… and there is that Chuck Austen run… annnnd, the Jim Lee/Brian Azzarello story. Okay, maybe the era (as a whole) is rated about right… but that isn’t to say it can’t be a whole lot of fun!
I’m a big sucker for “shared universes” which apparently extends to “shared multiverses”. I really dig the appearance of WildStorm characters in a main-line DC Universe book. It makes the story feel a bit “grander”… more important. Silly as it sounds, it’s almost like we’re witnessing history. This isn’t a Prestige Format out-of-continuity one-shot… this is actually happening within Superman’s “monthlies”.
Let’s hit up a bit of background. The B-13 Virus transformed Metropolis into the futuristic “City of Tomorrow” back in the Y2K arc. I’ve heard folks criticize this… claiming it makes Superman appear “less special”, and I totally get that. Flying cars might take a bit of the wind out of the sails of a flying man. I totally agree, but cannot deny that I loved the look of the city on an aesthetic level. It just felt different from everywhere else in the DC (and Marvel, for that matter) Universe. While I feel it ran it’s course pretty quickly, and probably overstayed it’s welcome… I was still kinda sad to see it go!
For the issue itself… while I enjoyed it, I do tire of using a writer’s notes as narration. This is a Lois-centered issue, which I suppose lends itself to being narrated by an article she’s writing… but it kinda feels played out. Also, wasn’t terribly keen on the art… Lois in particular. She looked a bit too “bubbly”, which isn’t to say “upbeat” but more a descriptor on the shape of her head. We did perhaps get a couple too many full-page spreads here too. Didn’t feel warranted… but whatayagonnado?
Overall… despite the last paragraph, I had a good time with this. I’d say it’s worth checking out… though, you’ll likely get more out of it if you’re already familiar with the World of Metropolis post-Y2K. It is available digitally, and has been collected as part of Majestic: Strange New Visitor.