Superman #666 (October, 2007)
“The Beast From Krypton”
Writer – Kurt Busiek
Artist – Walter Simonson
Letterer – John Workman
Colorists – Alex Sinclair & Lee Loughridge
Associate Editor – Nachie Castro
Editor – Matt Idelson
Cover Price: $3.99
Hello friends! Welcome to the six-hundred sixty-sixth daily discussion and review. Figure we’ll commemorate the beastly event by telling Superman to “Go to Hell!”
Six weeks ago, the crows began acting strangely… Hawkman knew he was coming for Superman. Six days ago, the animals followed… Animal Man then knew he was coming for Superman. Finally six hours ago, the fish… and Aquaman also knew. He’s coming for Superman.
After that ominous open, we shift scenes to the Daily Planet Building. Jimmy and Clark are discussing whether or not to go see a Monarchs game, when… a Stranger approaches. The Phantom Stranger informs Clark that they have much to talk about… and the pair vanish. When the ethereal dust settles, nobody remembers that Clark even arrived that day.
After a brief aside about the destruction of Krypton, we rejoin Clark who is working late at home… on a typewriter! How ’bout that! He wraps up his story… or at least enough of it to keep Perry off his back for another day, and joins Lois in bed. There, he dreams of a world in which he rules with an iron fist.
It’s a world where those who matter wear his “mark”. It’s also a world where the other heroes do his bidding.
Clark wakes up. Thinking that was a rather odd dream, he heads out for some (literal) air. Before he leaves, however, Lois asks him to bring back some pickles and ice cream. Hmm…
At the store, Superman lashes out… smashing the display of pickles! I mean, $2.98 for a jar of pickles isn’t too unreasonable, right? He is joined by Zatanna in her astral form, and she’s definitely concerned. Superman informs her that he’s most certainly still dreaming. He cites Lois’s request for “pickles and ice cream” to be too much of a cliche to be real.
He uses his super-breath to blow her away, before delivering a doozy of an insult. Might be the line of the issue!
He heads outside, where he finds himself surrounded by panicked Metropolitans. Turns out that Lex Luthor (in a giant mech-suit) is terrorizing the city. Superman, tired of this never-ending crap, simply spits through Luthor’s head… killing him! Whew, finally.
Then… Brainiac arrives. Superman claps his hands, then runs them up and down to create super-friction, which in his words leads to “shakkaboom”. Brainiac is toast.
If that’s not enough… Superman’s entire rogues gallery arrives on the scene next, including Doomsday (and frickin’ Conduit)! The Man of Sleep makes short work of them.
When the dust and guts settle, he hears a familiar sound… the zeezeezeeezeezeezee of Jimmy Olsen’s signal watch. So, off to Jimmy he goes… finding him pinned under some rubble. Rather than saving his pal, he lets him know just how annoying the signal watch is… before popping the poor boy’s cranium with a high-pitch super-whistle! I mean, this is definitely a dream, but c’mon… who didn’t wanna see this?
Perry White’s the next to fall… then, Lois (and their unborn dream baby)!
Superman then flies to Washington, D.C. where he topples the Washington Monument and evicts Honest Abe from his own memorial! Crazy!
Much like his (initial) dream, Superman now lords over the Earth. The military launches missiles at him, but c’mon… that’s not gonna do anything more than annoy him at this point. He is once more joined by Zatanna. He freezes her with his super-breath, then shatters her body on his way to… Smallville.
Now, he goes to Smallville in order to… ya know, destroy Smallville. Or at least punch a giant hole in it. While his friends and family call out to him, he enters into the lava pit and descends ever downward…
… all the way to Hell! Where he meets… the Demon!
Superman casually tosses ol’ Etrigan out of his way. He’s got bigger fish to fry, it seems. He approaches the throne of Hell, and tells its current occupant that he’s in his chair.
This is Rakkar, and he shares a story. Ya see, when Krypton exploded, so too did Krypton’s Hell. Rakkar was able to grab on to baby Kal-El’s rocket and hitch a ride to Earth. Man, a devil and Beppo the Super Monkey! That was one crowded rocket! Rakkar continues, claiming that he is pressed with corrupting the Man of Steel… and he was able to take a foothold once Superman resorted to killing.
Superman claims to never have taken a life… so, I guess the whole Phantom Zone criminals thing never happened post-Infinite Crisis, huh? Rakkar’s cool with that, however… because Superman didn’t need to technically murder anybody for this to work. Just the fact that he dreamed it is enough! Rakkar lunges, transforming Superman into a Beast of Hell!
This victory, however, is short-lived. Superman punches right through the Hell Beast’s chest. He reveals that the Phantom Stranger divided his soul… making one corruptible and the other clean. He flings Rakkar over his shoulder and delivers a stirring speech to the Hell Golems.
Back in Metropolis, Zatanna goes to high-five the Phantom Stranger for a job well done. As you might imagine, he leaves her hanging.
Clark returns home with some pickles and ice cream, prompting Lois to wonder if she’s been somehow transported to a horrible sitcom. He asks her if he’s ever killed before, and she says “of course not, don’t be ree-deke-o-los”. We wrap up, back in Hell… where Rakkar the Nothing still lives!
Had a lot of fun with this one… and I really didn’t think I would!
Of course, it’s a throwaway one-off issue just playing into the issue number. Then again, this is a throwaway one-off blog post doing the same thing! It was fun (and a little bit scary) to see what a Superman who “gives no effs” might be like. Dude was just ruthless, aloof, dismissive… sarcastic. Really made for an interesting read!
What’s more, being as though this was a one-off, we didn’t have to meander through a half-year’s worth of stories to get here. This wasn’t a Superman becoming slowly corrupted… or a Superman from another Earth invading, this was Superman taking advantage of the fact that he knew he was in a dream. And really… tell me you wouldn’t kill Jimmy Olsen if you knew you were dreaming!
The idea that Krypton also had a Hell was an interesting one… one I hadn’t even considered. If we look at “Hell” as being planet-specific, that opens up a whole lot of storytelling possibilities. Imagine hundreds of Hells joining forces to take on the Justice League!
It kinda sucks that the Phantom Zone Criminals bit appears to have been wiped away in Infinite Crisis. I feel like that was a defining story for the character… leading to an arc of self-discovery, penance, and Superman’s acceptance that there are “no win” situations out there.
Some really powerful visuals here… including, perhaps especially, Superman sitting in Abraham Lincoln’s chair lording over the Earth. Really enjoy Walt Simonson here, his rougher style really makes this story stand out.
Overall, I think there’s a lot of fun to be had with this issue. It’s well-written, and features several (no pun intended) dream scenarios. Well worth checking out… it’s been collected in Superman: Redemption and is available digitally.