Superman #651 (2006)

Superman #651 (June, 2006)
“Up, Up, and Away! Chapter Three: Bare Hands”
Writers – Kurt Busiek & Geoff Johns
Artist – Pete Woods
Colorist – Brad Anderson
Letterer – Jared K. Fletcher
Associate Editor – Nachie Castro
Editor – Matt Idelson
Cover Price: $2.50

Will Clark take the ring?  Let’s find out…

We open with Lois joining Hal, Kendra and Clark on the roof.  This is just after Hal offers Clark his very own power ring, which he’s decided to take for a spin.  Interesting, Clark’s “lantern form” is… still Clark Kent.  Not a green variation on his Superman costume, or even a standard Lantern Corps uniform… he’s just Clark.

Across the water at Stryker’s Island Prison, some strange chittery insects arrive.  I’m thinkin’ there’ll be more on them in a bit.

Back on the roof, Clark thanks Hal for the spin… and tells him he’ll “think about it”.  Things seem to be “working” for now.  The Justice Society is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the northeast… also, Supergirl is around to answer signal-watch calls.  Suddenly, the foursome hear some commotion coming from Metro Square.  Hal and Kendra leave civilian-Kent to check it out.  Turns out the Prankster is… well, pranking people.  It’s a neat bit, but goes on a little long.

Back at Stryker’s, the chitterbugs (who are calling themselves the Flea Circus) have gotten inside and found their quarry… the Kryptonite Man!

In Metro Square, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl continue fighting oversized prank constructs while Lois and Clark look on and collect information for an article.  They also talk a bit.  Lois can tell that Clark misses being Superman, to which he tells her that he’s not going to take the power ring.  He knows it wouldn’t be right, as when he slipped it on… he remained as Clark Kent.  If his heart was still in the Superman-game, he would’ve changed to look like him.

Hal and Kendra are able to break away from the pranks… and head right for the Prankster.  They burst the bubble he’s floating around in, which unfortunately only releases a bunch of itching powder.  I guess you don’t mess with the classics, right?  When the dust (and powder) settles, all that remains is a note.  Lois learns that amid the panic, the Kryptonite Man has been broken out of Stryker’s Island.

In fact, just a flip of the page and we learn that he’s been taken to Lex Luthor’s ‘lliterative Lab.  Also, a paralyzed Metallo.  I should mention that throughout this issue we saw brief bits of Metallo being quite argumentative toward Lex… which really never works out for the arguer.  Lex invoked a “jamming field”, which froze him… but, and this will be important, allows him to “feel” everything that’s about to happen.  The Toyman contributes an oversized Operation table for Lex to work on.

Lex comments that Metallo’s non-robotic clone body allows him to feel pain… right before plunging his hand through his chest and nyoinking out his Kryptonite Heart.

We wrap up with Toyman asking Lex if it’s “finally enough”.  Together they walk into a room full of Kryptonite Karts (and a Kryptonite Man), and Lex replies that it’ll “have to do.”

Still really enjoying the overall story here… but this one felt a bit weak.

Feels like we’re taking the scenic route here, in both narrative and structure.  While previous chapters haven’t necessarily been “chock full” of story, this was the first bit where it actually felt decompressed.  Like we have a five or six-part story here, but we really need to get eight issues out of it.  It’s weird to say, because this issue might have more action than the previous two combined… but still.

Let’s look at the Prankster.  Really not sure what his purpose was here.  Well that’s not completely accurate, I know what his purpose was… I’m just not sure it was necessary.  The Flea Circus could have easily broken the Kryptonite Man out… I mean, bad guys in the DC Universe break out of prison every day!  So, why the smoke screen for this particular jailbreak?  Feels like the Prankster was included just so we’d have a fight scene where Lois can project that Clark misses being Superman.

Then there’s Metallo.  Did we really read several Metallo scenes to build up to Lex stealing his heart?  Okay, fair enough.  However, when we see that Metallo’s heart is just one of the thousands of Kryptonite Rocks Luthor has… it feels a bit less, I dunno… special?  Unless we’re about to learn that Lex has been beboppin’ around the Multiverse collecting Metallo hearts… that would be pretty cool, I guess.  I honestly don’t remember… so, for all I know that might be a “self-spoiler”.  I will say though, the Operation table was all class!

The chat between Lois and Clark was probably the high-point of the issue.  Clark feels like, because he didn’t instantly change into Superman upon slipping on the power ring… that he doesn’t really miss it.  Lois tentatively agrees… and looks to feign comfort.  It’s pretty clear to me that if being Superman was completely off the table for Clark, he never would have taken the ring to begin with… but what do I know?

Overall, a bit of a lesser chapter in my opinion… however, one that’s still worth checking out.  There is a bit of bloat here, but at least it’s still well-written and well-rendered bloat.  I haven’t commented on the art yet, but Pete Woods does some great work here.  Also, the Dodson covers are really nice as well!

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