Action Comics #836 (2006)

Action Comics #836 (April, 2006)
“Superman This is your Life, Part Two”
Writer – Joe Kelly
Pencillers – Dan Jurgen, Dick Giordano, Ed Benes, Ian Churchill, Phil Jimenez, Tom Derenick, Renato Guedes, Lee Bermejo & Doug Mahnke
Inkers – Kevin Conrad, Jose Marzan, Norm Rapmund, Andy Lanning & Drew Geraci
Colorists – Guy Major, Dave Stewart  Renato Guedes
Letterer – Nick J. Napolitano
Assistant Editor – Jeanine Schaefer
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

Sometimes we can get a little too “close” to our comics.  For the longest time, this was a Superman story I couldn’t bring myself to reread.

I mean, as comics readers (or fans of any consumable entertainment/media), I think we’ve all experienced that feeling where we have an idea where a story is headed… and knowing that we’re powerless to stop it.  That’s how I felt reading this back in 2005-2006.

I remember the first time I heard (in comics) that a Crisis was on its way.  It was an issue of Teen Titans by Geoff Johns… and from that point on, my DC-reading fell into sort of a fog.  I wasn’t around for the first Crisis… so this was really my first time not feeling “safe” as a DC Comics fan.

Of course, these days that almost seems quaint.  DC is getting just as bad as Marvel when it comes to reboots/relaunches/re-whatevers… and the industry has become so knee-jerk reactionary that I can’t even remember the last time I felt “safe”.

Anyhoo… this issue (and the story it’s a part of) comes from a very… shaky time in my (and likely some others’) DC fandom.  Things were weird… and nebulous at best.

Let’s give it a look and see if time has soothed this fan’s soul.

We open with three… kinda different tellings of Superman’s origin story… it’s a tale of three Kryptons… three families of El… three rockets, and three sets of Kents.  Yeah, there’s definitely something weird going on here.  It’s almost as though we’re in the midst of experiencing a… Crisis of sorts.  Hmm…

We jump ahead to the events(ish) of Man of Steel #1, where Lois and company are about to crash the “space plane”.  They find themselves saved by a strange flying man, who upon setting them down gives Lois a peck on the cheek and introduces himself to her as “Superman”.  Well, that’s not right… right?

We briefly pop into the present, and find Superman in the heat of battle with… somebody.  This somebody is commenting on the corruption in the world… and is wondering why Superman hasn’t done more.

We hop back to the past… this time, it’s the first meeting between Superman and Batman.  This is a contentious meeting, so clearly post-Crisis.  Batman tells Superman if he steps near him, it will set off a bomb that will kill an innocent.  Superman calls his bluff, because he knows the bomb is on Batman’s person.  They agree to team up.

We briefly check in with the Earth-2 Superman, who is holding vigil over the ailing Earth-2 Lois Lane.

Back to the past!  We relive an… altered version of Lex Luthor’s Kryptonite Ring saga.  It starts similarly enough, Lex taunts Superman with the one thing that appears to hurt him.  He (Lex) then contracts cancer due to the Kryptonite exposure.  Then, on his death-bed, Superman makes Lex an offer he can’t refuse… he’ll use Kryptonian technology in order to grant Lex a quarter-century of life.  Lex accepts.

Then… a couple of versions of Lois Lane learning “the secret”.  They both end the same way.

Then… Doomsday!  It’s a greatest hits (pun!) from Superman (vol.2) #75… right up until the ending.  Ya see, the titans both land their “finishing blow”… only, this time around Doomsday’s punch isn’t enough to keep the Man of Steel down.

We jump ahead… though, still in flashback… to the events of Identity Crisis.  The satellite-era League is arguing about what they ought to do about Doctor Light.  Just as in the original story, half of the team seems a-okay with the mindwipe… and the other half ain’t exactly on board.  Superman arrives to offer a third alternative.  Well, he doesn’t so much offer it as “invoke” it.  He zaps Doctor Light… and banishes him to the Phantom Zone!

This, somehow, is viewed as the worst option by the League.  Mindwiping is totally cool… but Phantom Zoning is “crossing the line”.  It’s not that I disagree, but, c’mon… the League was acting a bit shady in the original Identity Crisis story.  It’s not like they have all that much room to talk.  Anyhoo, the League holds an intervention with the Man of Steel… it seems as though the “Phantom Zone banishment” has become something of a go-to for him.  Superman decides to disband the JLA… to which, Zatanna attempts to put Superman “to sleep”… but cannot seem to muster the words.

Then we meet Superman’s new running buddies: The Elite.  Well, the Justice League Elite.

We wrap up back in Metropolis where Jimmy Olsen and friends are having drinks and trying to ride out the apocalypse.  Jimmy tells his pals that Superman has the situation under control… and there’s nothing to worry about.  Then… something happens.

Such an… uncomfortable read.

This entire issue just feels “off”, which I suppose is the point.  It’s like the “fun-house mirror” version of the post-Crisis Superman story.  Added the “jam” of artists here… I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.

I get that this is just running alongside the actual Infinite Crisis event book… so things are being left purposely nebulous, but today… just as over a dozen years ago… I really can’t talk myself into liking this.  Perhaps it is the years of hindsight we now have… or maybe I just never let go of my reboot-bitterness.  We’ve definitely hit, at least in my opinion, the point where these sort of things have diminishing returns.

I think back to the early days of the “Berganza era” and the influx of, what many post-Crisis fans referred to as “S.A.S.” (that’s Silver Age Sh-tuff)… and how that didn’t really bug me.  I felt like that was adding something, where I feel like this is only taking away.

Overall… this is a difficult one for me to recommend.  I will say, if you do decide to give this a whirl, read the entire three-part story… and not just the middle chapter like we’re doing here.  It’s available digitally, and has been collected in the Superman: Infinite Crisis trade paperback.

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