Superman: The Man of Steel #109 (February, 2001)
“World Without Superman”
Writer – Mark Schultz
Penciller – Duncan Rouleau
Inkers – Jamie Mendoza & Marlo Alquiza
Colors & Separations – WildStormFX
Letterer – Ken Lopez
Assistant Editor – Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.25
Well, we never seem to be able to go very long without tripping over our old friend Superman, eh?
Today we’re going to discuss an issue early in my “return” to reading Superman… actually my first time collecting the series’s’s’s without a large event going on in the background, like say… a death.
Let’s check out a story in which every time a bell rings, a meta-human gets a cape.
We open in John Henry Irons’ SteelWorks lab, where Superman is stress-testing Emil Hamilton’s new cybernetic arm. Ya see, in the wake of the Y2K-B13 thang, the Prof was taken to an underground world below Metropolis… into the Virus itself. While there, he saw some strange things… including a strange Phantom Zone entity… more on that in a bit. Upon return he had himself one whopper of a cybernetic mitt.
After the test, Superman takes his leave. He is still feeling the effects of Lex Luthor’s ascension into the White House. Steel offers Emil the SteelWorks as a workspace while the Prof’s lab is rebuilt. He also gives him the “nickel tour”, and shows him a strange meteor that had been delivered to him by Superman for study.
We rejoin Clark Kent as he lounges on his couch. He’s flipping stations on the TV between classic Christmas movies, and the 24-Hour news cycle which, at this point is “All Luthor, All the time”.
He finally dozes off… however, is awakened by Liri Lee of the Linear Men! Now, the Linear Men have always bored me to tears… but let’s keep an open mind, perhaps she’s here for something that will wind up being entertaining. Well, if the cover blurb didn’t give it away, she’s here to take him on a tour of a future without Superman… kinda like “It’s a Wonderful Life”… or, uh… “It Will Be a Wonderful Life”, I guess… because future.
And so, we hop fifteen years into the future. Superman’s gone, and Lois, Perry, Jimmy, and Natasha Irons (now going by Iron Maiden) are part of the resistance against Lex Luthor (who must’ve passed an amendment on term limits). For the past six years, however, they have posed as part of the President-for-Life’s Public Relations detail.
Their plan is to record a dicey interaction between Luthor and a representative from Pokolistan… which I can only hope has a capital called Palookaville… to which, you can only ever buy a “one way ticket”. They will install a retinal camera to record the discussion… then broadcast it to the world to show everyone just how bad’a dude Luthor really is. Sounds like they didn’t put nearly as much thought into this as they should… I wonder how it’s going to turn out.
Anyhoo… Liri takes Superman on a quick tour of this new world. Funny, if this were “real time”, the Earth he’d be looking at would be that of The New-52! There’s a reason to panic, right? Where were the Linear Men to warn us when all that was going down?! Okay, okay… she informs him that many of his fellow heroes have either perished, retired, or joined up with Luthor. Also, that LexCorp’s B13 tech has pretty much taken over the entire planet.
Speaking of Lex… our next stop is in a Savannah, where he is planning to meet with the Palooka from Pokolistan. He is flanked by his Press Gang and security detail, featuring Plastic Man, Booster Gold, and Huntress. The landscape looks really cool… as the trees have a bit of the B13 virus in them. Really dig this.
Finally the Pokolistan Colonel arrives, and to celebrate they each kill a tiger. Well, when in Rome…
They start talking details of their nefarious plan… but Luthor stops before getting into the “juicy” stuff. He turns and instructs his security team to detail the press gang. Because, ya know… a video camera contact lens is a really dumb idea, and Lex knew about it all along. Probably because his company invented and manufactured the damn things.
Lex and company kill Lois, Perry, and Jimmy… all the while Superman is powerless to stop him. Liri then pulls him away to show him this Pokolistan. He says he’s never heard of it… to which, she says “you will.” Pokolistan is destined to be the hub of the B13 Virus… and they will eventually take over the world. Not even President Lex will be powerful enough to stop them. From there, the Earth will fall before the Pokolistan Dynasty… and never recover.
Liri returns Clark back to the “present”, asks that he not abandon his adopted home planet… and wishes him a Merry Christmas. Oh yeah! This is a Christmas issue… almost forgot about that!
We wrap up back at the SteelWorks, where Emil and John Henry are checking into that Phantom Zone presence. Listening close they can hear someone speaking… in Kryptonese! Without a translation… grr… okay. They’re saying, “I will surrly”. Ahh, that clears it all up! Glad I took the time to do that. Anyhoo, from this… they deduce that their might just be a Krypton in the Phantom Zone. We know where this is headed.
Not a bad issue. Not nearly as fun as the previous two Christmas romps we’d just read… but, for the time, a really good “imaginary story”.
I’m not sure how “on board” I am with the idea that Superman would abandon the Earth following Luthor’s Presidential victory. I mean, we hear people all the time (on both sides) saying they’ll leave the United States if such-and-such candidate they don’t like wins… and 99.9% of them never follow though. I can’t see Superman actually leaving the Earth as a whole simply because he didn’t like the result of an election.
There are many ways we can take that conversation, but in the interest of… well, not doing any of that… we’ll just let it lay. I think what bugs me most is that not only did Superman leave… he left Lois behind as well! I just can’t see that happening. I mean, check in on New Krypton for a little while, sure… walk across the freaking country… dumb, but okay… leave the Earth forever? Just don’t see it.
I don’t remember off the top of my head if the Pokolistan threat ever became a “thing”. Maybe they had something to do with Imperiex and Our Worlds At War… but it’s been a lifetime since I sat down with that.
The art here… well, I’m of two minds. I like it, and feel like it fits in with a lot of “turn of the century” art… while at the same time, I can’t help but to be distracted that Rouleau draws everyone to kinda look like Antonio Inoki.
Overall, a fine issue… which lays the groundwork for some fairly monumental stories to follow. It might not have been as “Christmassy” as I’d have liked, but I’m glad I revisited it nonetheless. Worth checking out!