Superman #652 (2006)

Superman #652 (July, 2006)
“Up, Up, and Away! Chapter Five: Speeding Bullet”
Writers – Kurt Busiek & Geoff Johns
Artist – Pete Woods
Colorist – Brad Anderson
Letterer – Rob Leigh
Associate Editor – Nachie Castro
Editor – Matt Idelson
Cover Price: $2.99

Does that say…? Yeah, it does… $2.99.  Kind of a jerk move to hike the price in the middle of a storyline, ain’t it?  Ahh, whattayagonnado, right?  Least it was only 49-cents… these days it’d be at least a buck.

We open two days after the events of the previous chapter.  Clark might have his powers back… well, I mean, it’s clear that they’re back… we just don’t know the extent.  Soooo, why not test ’em?  Clark decides to attempt to leap a tall building in a single bound… and for the most part, he’s successful!  He gets all the height he needs, buuuuut doesn’t quite stick the landing.  Thankfully, he’s back to being invulnerable, so it’s an inconvenience more than anything.  Worth mentioning, he’s wearing a very Kingdom Come Planet Krypton t-shirt.

The following morning he considers how he should “break the news” to Lois… which turns out to be a moot point, as he absent-mindedly rests his hand on a lit burner.  That’s… er… kinda dumb, right?  Like… really dumb.

They chat about the hows and whys… and finally the “what now?”.  Lois heads through their bedroom and into their closet… and gives Clark her blessing to be Superman again.

Meanwhile, at the Daily Planet… Intergang have sent the Puzzler to take out that meddlesome Clark Kent, and is making quite the mess of the newsroom while she’s at it.  She (and the rest of the office) is surprised by the arrival of… Superman.  There’s a good trivia question… Who was the first villain Superman fought post-Infinite Crisis?  The freaking Puzzler!

The pair fight onto the street, and it looks like for a moment the baddie is getting the better of the exchange.  Turns out that wasn’t the case (it so rarely is!).  Superman traps all of the Puzzler’s pieces in his cape and traps her face in a garbage can.

It’s not long before the news hits the airwaves… reaching our favorite TV junkie Lex Luthor just seconds after that.  He’s not pleased to hear that Superman is back… so he cranks up the K-Cannon to expedite retrieval on that Kryptonian artifact.  Toyman expresses concern that the amount of “green energy” being pumped through the K-Man might be too much for him to handle… but Lex doesn’t have time to sweat it.

Back on the street, Superman enjoys the fact that his powers are returning… his super-hearing is the next to come back.  Unfortunately, amid the mini-celebration he finds himself attacked by… well, a lot of his b-tier rogues gallery.  They’re all pleased to see the Man of Steel, because the price on his head is so much higher than the price on Kent’s.  Clark Kent’s only worth a million… Superman’s worth thirty!

They fight for awhile.  During the battle, Superman’s ability to fly returns.  He takes Hellgrammite, Livewire, and Silver Banshee out of the fight by flying them to the dam.  Back in the city however, Bloodsport and Riot are still lingering… and the former takes aim at Superman’s Pal.  The trigger is pulled, and we close out this chapter by learning that Superman is once more faster than a speeding bullet.

Alrighty, we’re back in the duds… but we’re not sure quite how yet.

I thought this was a decent chapter… with a couple of reservations.  I think we had a near-miss on what could’ve been a pretty powerful scene with Clark breaking the news to Lois.  Throughout the first half of this story so much of our internal monologue has been focused on how much Lois and Clark have been enjoying their year without Superman.  It feels like by having Clark just leave his hand on a lit burner for Lois to see, we were robbed of a great scene.

Lois’ response… or lack of a response feels both right and wrong here.  It’s kind of in line with her character that she would give him her blessing… however, it also feels like it ignores the ways she might have changed this past year.  I mean, even after a long courtship and marriage… this was the first year she could actually say she had a “full-time” partner.  Her reaction feels a bit cold… and aloof.  Not that I wanted her to forbid him his return to the tights, but maybe struggle with it for a moment.

The fight with the Puzzler was pretty neat… in fact, I think I’d have preferred that be the only action this issue.  It’s a good way for Superman to knock off some rust… get in a few quips… and figure out a clever way to win the day.  Fair play here.

The other fight… oi.  We take a whole bunch of baddies who have given Superman a run for his money individually… then have him, over the course of four pages, take most of them out.  Feels like a waste.  I mean, they could’ve brought back that fake Fantastic Four that he fought when he came back from the dead in 1993… if not just for the synergy, but they were already losers… so, beating them wouldn’t have been a big deal.

Then there’s the price on Clark Kent’s head.  A million dollars.  You mean to tell me that no “plain clothes” hood wouldn’t have tried to get a piece of that?  It’s hard to swallow that Kent isn’t dodging bullets all day with a number on his head that big.  Also, everybody knows he’s married to Lois… you tellin’ me nobody’s gone after her to get to him?  Man, Intergang is sloppy as hell.

I mean, Clark’s a public figure… just a minute’s worth of research for any would-be nogoodnik would reveal that his folks live in Smallville.  I’d figure there’d have been at least a “tractor accident” by now.

Now, in spite of the past several paragraphs… I did have a bit of fun with most of this issue.  I was happy to see Clark back in the suit… and back in action.  I’m also looking forward to the next chapter… which, I mean… if that doesn’t say that an issue was a success, I don’t know what does.

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