Action Comics #838 (2006)

Action Comics #838 (June, 2006)
“Up, Up, and Away! Chapter Four: Powers and Abilities”
Writers – Geoff Johns & Kurt Busiek
Artist – Renato Guedes
Colorist – Brad Anderson
Letterer – Rob Leigh
Associate Editor – Nachie Castro
Editor – Matt Idelson
Cover Price: $2.50

Okey dokey, we’re just about at the halfway point… surely they can’t keep Clark our of the duds much longer… right?

We open in flashback/dream mode.  Superman is being examined by Mr. Terrific and some solar-powered heroes, and we learn that his cellular makeup has been altered not to absorb solar energy… which has led to his current state of de-power-ization.  Clark wakes up and heads down to check on some Intergang activity he’d been following.  It’s been awhile since I heard “no-bid contracts” being used as a pejorative… kinda puts you into the gestalt of the issue, for better or worse.

The Intergangers overhear Clark and Jimmy creeping up, and draw their weapons.  Quick-thinking Clark tells them that the entire exchange has already been uploaded to the Daily Planet via broadband connection… which shuts them down right away.  They didn’t realize that Kent was bluffing… and neither did we!  Guess if Superman is no longer a “thing”, Clark Kent no longer has to pretend to be a coward, right?

Back at the Planet, Clark is approached by Lois… who is surprised to see him wearing a t-shirt because the air-conditioner is on the fritz.  He claims to be comfortable (hmm…), anyhoo… his computer locks up costing him the better part of three articles he’d been working on.  Perry walks up and tells him not to sweat it… he can break as many computers as he’d like if he keeps turning in excellent headlines.  The entire office claps… yeah, /r/thatHappened.

Over at Lex Luthor’s ‘lliterative lab, we find out a bit more about just what he’s up to.  He has the Kryptonite Man hooked up to an apparatus, attached to a vat of Kryptonite.  He calls it the “K-Cannon”… didn’t she play Clark’s mother on Lois & Clark?

The plan is… the power of the Kryptonite will be amplified through the K-Man, and down though the Sunstone Control Unit… more on that in a bit.

We rejoin Lois and Clark at… a monster truck show?  Okay.  Lois, it turns out, is really into watching cars get crushed… while Clark, is just trying to read his book.  Gotta say, if I ever find myself hornswoggled into seeing a Monster Truck show, and see some goofball trying to read a book, I might have to say something.  He’s reading Jennifer Government by Max Barry by the way, which seems kind of in the vain of Infinite Jest.  Ya know, corporations controlling the world… ooga booga.  Anyhoo, he claims that the noise isn’t bothering him (hmm…).  Lois insists he leave anyway, they can catch up afterwards.

Outside Clark finds himself attacked by… Neutron and Radion on behalf of Intergang.  Oddly, when he sees them he thinks to himself “I’ve pissed off Intergang”.  Pissed off?  C’mon Clark.  This is like when Hulk Hogan would say “ass” instead of “butt” in his promos… just doesn’t feel right.  He tries to contact Supergirl via signal-watch, but no dice.

Back at Lex’s, we learn a little bit more about the opening beat of this story arc.  Remember how we started with “68 Years Ago”?  Well, turns out we weren’t talking about Superman’s arrival from Krypton… but the arrival of something else.  A Kryptonian artifact which resembles an arrowhead landed in Texas, 1938.  It then burrowed into the ground, eventually reaching the center of the Earth.  Lex is trying to use the hopped-up Sunstone as a means of “connecting” with this… whatever it is.  And, it looks like it’s working!

Back on the street, Clark is fleeing from the radioactive baddies… and actually gets blasted in the arm by one of them.  He expresses relief that they “missed”, because he didn’t actually feel the hit.  Hmm…

Neutron and Radion chase Clark into a tunnel… and right into the path of an oncoming train!  Considering it a “done deal”, they leave their quarry to die.  That’s always a good idea, right?

Well, of course it’s not.  We see here that not only did Clark survive… but also, he’s ba-ack.

After a slower third chapter, it feels like we’re back on track with this entry.

The powers are back… or are at least coming back, and I think it’s pretty good timing.  So far we’ve read two months worth of stories… 60 days without a powered Superman is long enough.  Not sure if it’s tied to that Kryptonian artifact that Luthor is seeking… or just his body composition returning to normal… I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Clark becoming something of a badass here is an interesting take.  We know that it won’t stick… and really, it probably shouldn’t.  Though, it feels like we’re going to extremes at this point.  Here he’s staring down Intergang without his powers… in a few months he’ll be a goober who can’t keep the mustard on his hot dog.  The post-Crisis (first one) felt like the best Clark.  A nice balance between scaredy-cat Kent and Superman.  He felt real and not so much like a caricature.

We get a bit of political commentary here… but only a bit (though the Jennifer Government drop was a tad precious).  I shudder to think how it would go if this were written today.  Probably best not to even let our minds go there.  I’ve mentioned before that Johns has a certain tact to his writing.  He can brush up against political and social commentary without really “taking a side” or turning a story into a lecture.  It’s there if you want it to be… but can easily be ignored as well.  I certainly continue to appreciate that.

Overall, this feels like a perfect end to the first “act” of Up, Up, and Away! and I’m looking forward to re-experiencing what’s to come.  Ending on such an iconic shot… Clark seeing his own handprint on the front of the train is really cool as well!

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