Action Comics #840 (2006)

Action Comics #840 (August, 2006)
“Up, Up, and Away! Finale: The Adventures of Superman”
Writers – Geoff Johns & Kurt Busiek
Artist – Pete Woods
Colorist – Brad Armstrong
Letterer – Rob Leigh
Associate Editor – Nachie Castro
Editor – Matt Idelson
Cover Price: $2.99

Is it finally over?  Lemme tell ya, “Up, Up, and Away!” sure felt like a never-ending battle.

Picking up where we left off yesterday, Superman and Lex are plummeting into the water.  They both emerge, with Lex noting that his arch-foe doesn’t look all that hot… so, what follows is one of those classic depowered Superman vs. Lex Luthor fistfights.  It doesn’t go terribly long, though Lex is able to get in a few good shots before ultimately being kayoed.  Superman passes out right after.

He is awakened by the Coast Guard and informed that Luthor was on his way back to Stryker’s Island.  Rather than be escorted back to the city, Superman decides to fly… passing over thousands of cheering fans as he heads back to his Sullivan Place apartment.

The next day we can see that the rebuilding has already begun.  Luthor’s crystal chunks are being carried away to be divvied up between universities and shadowy government agencies for study.  At the Daily Planet, Clark receives a gift from his parents in Smallville.  His co-workers are disappointed that this isn’t a box of oatmeal raisin cookies, and is instead… a typewriter.  Ya see, Clark’s “power surges” have caused any electronics he comes around to go fritzy… remember?

Perry comes stomping in demanding an explanation for Clark’s disappearance.  Clark claims that while he was bed-ridden he made some calls to follow up on the story, and hands over his notes.  Perry’s pleased, but like any good editor, prefers dependability to flashes of brilliance.  If only he were an editor in comics!  Lois lays into the Chief… which causes a bit of rumbling in the bullpen.  Clark is referred to in hushed tones as “Mr. Lane”.  Sick burn.

Jimmy wishes aloud that he could chat with Superman… and Clark “arranges” it.  Later that day, Superman and Jimmy head to a nearby roof (I feel like I’m typing “nearby roof” a lot lately).  While there, an exchange is made.  Jimmy hands over a shard of Sunstone he’d snagged during the fracas.  Superman hands back Jimmy’s Signal-Watch.

Their “reunion” is interrupted by a brouhaha at the Avenue of Tomorrow.  Turns out some geek calling himself Dr. Virus has unleashed an “Omni-Germ” he calls Kryptococcus.  I almost gagged the last time I was tested for that.  Nothing quite like a q-tip tickling your uvula.  Superman takes him out in a single page… which is kind of what he does with villains for this story.

Doc Virus is hauled away by the police and Superman finds himself swarmed by his adoring public.  While he signs autographs (but not body parts) he overhears the news that Lex Luthor has already broken out of prison.  He sighs, knowing things are truly “back to normal”.

He prepares to leave, but is stopped by Mahjoub… the pretzel vendor from allllll the way back in Chapter One (feels like it’s been six years since we read that).  We shift scenes to Superman arriving at the Polar Icecaps in the Arctic.  He activates the Sunstone shard… and a new Fortress of Solitude raises from the ice.

We end the issue… and arc, with Superman ruining his soft pretzel by smearing mustard on it… and taking a bite.  We’ve come full-circle… or maybe, full-pretzel.

Whew… remind me never to cover an eight-parter all in a row ever again.

Not a whole lot to say about this issue… it’s an epilogue.  Superman takes out Luthor… while having like the same exact argument they had last issue… and then acclimates back into his old role in Metropolis.  Could have been squeezed in as a five-page epilogue last issue… but, whattayagonnado?  Then we might not have gotten a whole page of Superman beating up an Omni-Germ or whatever!

Now… “Up, Up, and Away!” as a whole.  Was it a bad story?  Nah, not at all.  What it was, however, was an ambitious story desperately trying to be the next “Superman epic”.  Unfortunately for us, many people conflate “epic” with “lonnnnnng”.  This could’ve and should’ve (if you ask me) been told in four issues rather than eight.  Hell, even if we go with our standard “padded” trade paperback format and gave it six issues, I feel like it would have been better for it.

When I look back I can’t help but feel that so much of this story was unnecessary.  Did we really need to see the Kryptonite Man get his powers?  Not only that, did we need a second issue just to break him out of jail?  Did we need the Metallo subplot… or did they really just want to “Hush” this storyline up by showing as many members of Superman’s rogues gallery as possible?  Lex almost certainly didn’t need that one extra rock of Green-K, right?

The wasting of Superman’s B-Squad rogues about halfway through was also a bit unfortunate.  I’m not sure if this was a commentary on the era these baddies were born in, or if they just wanted “any half-dozen villains” for Superman to quickly beat up.  Feels like maybe a little bit of both, though I concede that I might be projecting.  I never like it when creators use meta-commentary to “judge” things that came before them.  I dunno… this just kinda feels like a dismissal of the post-Crisis era.  I mean, these villains had all taken Superman to the limit on their own… and here they are together… being taken out in a handful of pages.

Speaking of things from the previous era being left out… there’s no mention here of Lex ever having been President of the United States.  I mean, that would almost definitely come up in a fistfight where Lex is ranting about all the things Superman has taken from him, right?  I think it a damn shame as that arc and character progression was some of my very favorite things about turn of the century DC Comics.  I thought that was just so cool… but I suppose the new powers that be didn’t quite agree.

Personally… there have been very few times in my Superman reading “career” where I haven’t felt some sort of a connection to the character.  The New-52! is one… Grounded is another… and this story makes three.  There’s just this odd aloofness to Superman here… that I can’t quite explain.  He’s not unlikable… but there’s a coldness here.  Maybe I’m imagining it… but it sort of feels like we readers are being kept at “arm’s length” here.  Know what I mean?  Ehh, maybe I’m just talking nonsense.

Anyhoo, if you’re interested in this story… maybe the trade will prove to be a satisfying read.  I don’t think this would make for a necessarily long (or as drawn out) of a read in one sitting.  If you’ve got the issues handy, I’d say you’d be fine reading the first two and the last two… just with the understanding that Superman gets his powers back in the middle.

Overall, “Up, Up, and Away!” was a decent enough story that, in my opinion, overstayed its welcome.  Still worth a read, especially given that… from what we understand, it’s still (mostly) in continuity.  The entire run is available digitally, and has been collected in trade.

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