Action Comics #687 (June, 1993)
Writer – Roger Stern
Penciller – Jackson Guice
Inker – Denis Rodier
Letterer – Bill Oakley
Colorist – Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor – Jennifer Frank
Editor – Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $1.95/$1.50
Continuing our #Action100 endeavor… and doing so in my wheelhouse.
Today we’re going to discuss one of the four Reign of the Supermen books… that were all released the same day! I mean, could’ja imagine? April 27, 1993 saw eight Superman books hit the shelves! Eight! Well, four really… but two versions of each (I included the “newsstand” cover below). I was there for it… and boy howdy was it overwhelming… and spendy.
Of course, in 2018… it’s not unusual to drop crazy amounts of dough every Wednesday (and only come away with the tiniest of reading piles), but for a kid in 1993… this was pretty intense.
We open in Antarctica where a pair of researchers are looking on at the Aurora Australis while it’s flaring up something fierce. They wonder what might be causing this… little do they know that beneath the ice a crew of Kelex-y robots are pumping energy into a glowing red sphere. From that sphere steps… a man?!
The man is intangible… and, as you might imagine, rather disoriented. He isn’t completely without memory, however… and finds a way to tap into recent satellite transmissions. It’s here that he’s able to see Superman’s death… his own death?!
The feed continues… showing a funeral, and the erecting of a memorial in Centennial Park. In a panicked state, our new friend proclaims that he must get to the body… because that is where the power lay.
And so, we shift over to the crypt at Centennial Park in Metropolis… where he bonds with his (?) body. He also takes the cape for good measure. Upon stepping outside, he finds the Sun too strong for his eyes to take.
We pop over to join our old friend Bibbo! Who is not in the best of spirits. He can’t shake the feeling that he let his fav’rit sooperhero down when he couldn’t revive him with the shock-paddles. In a pretty touching scene, our Mr. Bibbowski dedicates his life to filling Superman’s shoes the best that he can.
Back in Antarctica, our new pal (now equipped with some fashionable shades) claims that his resurrection was the result of a Kryptonian Regeneration Matrix. He also performs a bit of a power demonstration… which reveals that, in addition to his regular “powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men”, he can now also shoot energy blasts from his hands!
On his monitor bank, he can see all of the turmoil going on around the world… including, that odd cult wearing Superman Snuggies.
And so, he suits up… and heads into action… complete with his cape and “S” shield.
Upon his arrival in Metropolis, it’s made very clear that this fella ain’t exactly our Daddy’s Superman. He has been affected by his death… and has returned far more ruthless than before. He saves a woman from a masked creep… and does so using lethal force.
Shifting scenes over to LexCorp… Supergirl barges into Lex’s office, and she’s not happy that the news of her Cousin’s body going missing hadn’t been brought to her attention. Lex does his best to convince her that this might just be a hoax.
Out on the street of Metropolis, a plane is about to crash into a crowd of Metropolitans. Lucky for them, Superman just happened to be in the neighborhood.
Conveniently, Lois Lane pulls up in a cab at just the right moment. She shouts over to Superman, and is swept away in his arms so they can chat.
We wrap up on a nearby roof (I feel like I type that an awful lot when we’re discussing Superman), where Superman makes is rather clear that what he and Lois shared before his death can no longer be. This is just Superman who returned… Clark Kent is still dead.
I remember the first time I read this… way back a quarter-century ago. Jeez. I admit, I was almost hoping that the Cyborg would be the “Real Steel Deal”, but figured… out of our four options, this would almost certainly be revealed as “the one”.
It’s a pretty big change to the Superman character… but, you gotta remember, this was 1993. The times were very different, and the squeaky-clean superhero wasn’t exactly in vogue. This was the era of trenchcoats and permanent five o’clock shadow… heroes who had very little problem with killing. Those were the comics on the Wizard “hot” list. Superman, sadly… (Death excluded, natch) wasn’t all that relevant.
It didn’t feel outside the realm of possibility for Superman to return from a dead a bit… hardened. What my 13 year old peanut brain didn’t quite consider was that this Eradicator character might just be a commentary on all of that. He looks like Superman… yeah… but, he sure doesn’t feel like him. The use of Lois toward the end of this issue was pretty perfect as well. She notes his coldness… which, I mean, how could you miss it… but, it adds so much. Kind of a monkey’s paw wish come true here… “Superman” finally makes his return, but not the way she/we wanted it.
Maybe in making the most “obvious” Superman hyper-violent, cold, and aloof… we’d realize just what we’re missing. There is a place for the blue Boy Scout. Maybe we had taken him for granted… rushing to the shops for our foil-covered X-Men and Image books with the word “Blood” in the title. It’s an interesting byproduct of this whole Death and Return endeavor… it works both narratively and on a meta level. If only I were bright enough to get that my first time through!
Can’t end this without chatting up the Bibbo scene. As I grow older, this scene resonates more and more with me. I’m sure young teen Chris probably thought the scene was stoopid… er, stupid… but nowadays, it damn near chokes me up. Maybe it’s a result of seeing the years pile up in my rear-view… but, this was damned heartfelt… and if you pause to think about it… I’d bet it would have an emotional effect on you.
Overall… haven’t cracked this old chestnut out in awhile, but… I’m guessing if you’ve somehow stumbled across a DC Comics review blog, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve already read this. On the off-chance that you haven’t… I’d say you ought to. You should probably read the entire Death and Return story… if’n that seems like too daunting a task, you can always listen to our four-part Cosmic Treadmill retrospective (cheap plug!). This issue is covered in Part Three, by the way.
This issue has been collected several times over… and is available digitally.
Letters Page (featuring Uncle Elvis!):