Superman (vol.2) #153 (February, 2000)
Writer – Jeph Loeb
Guest Pencils – Mike McKone
Guest Inks – Marlo Alquiza
Letters – Comicraft
Colors – Tanya & Richard Horie
Associate Editor – Maureen McTigue
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $1.99
Welcome to the penultimate day of our Third Annual Twelve Days of Christmas on Infinite Earths! I hope you’ve all enjoyed 2018’s trip down Santa Claus Lane.
It’s Christmas Eve (just like in real life!), and Lois Lane is trimming the tree at the Kent Family apartment… talk about waiting til the last minute, right? She is lost in thought, and shares with us some “journo code”. Ya see, Perry would always put a “-30-” at the end of her pieces when they were ready to print… I guess that’s something folks in newspapers understand… and something that Jeph Loeb really wanted us to know that he knew as well? Fair enough.
We shift scenes over to the rooftop of the Daily Planet, where Jimmy and Superman are having a pow-wow. This is right off the heels of Jimmy running a story about there being a “Mrs. Superman”… which is something he is very sorry for. Superman shrugs it off, and reveals to his pal a wedding band. Ya see, Jimmy, Superman is married… so, quit makin’ waves. Of course, Superman doesn’t share the who’s and how’s of the situation.
Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of… Mongul! Well, Mongul’s son… who is also named Mongul. Uh, not the guy behind the destruction of Coast City… nor the guy from For the Man Who Has Everything… but the son of that guy… ya dig? Whole thing would be easier if we could just call him “Junior”, so we’re gonna.
Mongul (Jr.) informs Superman that he needs his help. Turns out the world-eating Imperiex is heading toward Earth… and if they don’t stop him, billions of lifeforms will die. Superman turns to Jimmy and gives him the phrase that pays, “Beef Bourguignon With Ketchup”… he tells him to go find the Kents and repeat that phrase to them.
Superman and Mongul, Jr. arrive in deep space… might be Saturn… might be another ringed-planet in another galaxy (I assume there might be one or two, right?). Suddenly the planet explodes… I think… so, yeah, probably not Saturn then? Amid the boom, we can see Imperiex’s tremendous warship.
Imperiex doesn’t seem all that worried when he notices Superman and Mongul, Jr…. in fact, he just goes about his work until it becomes clear that they probably won’t be leaving him alone. Despite getting nailed by a tremendous blast from the baddie, Superman maintains that he and Mongul ought to remain diplomatic… and attempt to negotiate.
Junior ain’t havin’ none of it… he tells Superman that it’s fight or flight at this point, the time for talking has passed… if, in fact it was ever there to begin with! They pile on Imperiex… and manage to stagger him… if only a bit. The baddie then launches Junior out of the fray!
Back in Metropolis, Jimmy passes the phrase that pays over to Lois. We learn that this is sort of an “I’m okay, and I’ll get home as soon as I can” sort of message, that has origins in tornado alley, where Clark grew up. It was a special way to let family know you were still kickin’.
Back in space, Superman lunges after Mongul to save him from… I dunno, crashing into another planet or something. This ticks Junior off in a big way… he scolds Superman for taking his eyes off the prize.
And indeed, as Superman makes his way back to the site of the battle, Imperiex has already bugged out. At this point, Round 2 can begin… Mongul, Jr. attacks Superman from behind! He’s still ticked that Superman had often humiliated his father.
They fight for a bit, and Superman winds up winning… duh. At that very moment, it just so happens that the Main Man is riding by! He notes that Mongul’s got a pretty large bounty on his head… and so, Superman hands him over as a sort of Christmas gift. Okay, that was pretty funny.
We wrap up back at the Kent apartment where Superman has arrived just in the nick of time to grab a Christmas Eve kiss from his wife.
But then… an Epilogue! Imperiex returns to his home base… and we learn that, the being that fought Superman and Mongul, Jr. to a standstill wasn’t Imperiex at all… only a probe of the real Imperiex!
I feel like I’m using the word “breezy” as a descriptor a bit too often these days. Maybe I’m just looking at too many post-2000 books in a row… but, that feels like the right word to use. This doesn’t necessarily feel decompressed, as it (for the most part) is a self-contained story… and doesn’t so much seem like it’s being stretched to fill space… the pacing, though, is smooth and fast. Might have something to do with Loeb’s screenwriting background.
A few days back I talked about how much I enjoy those “quiet” downtime issues… and while this one was chock-full of action, it was very much a transitional issue… bridging between the first “beat” of the Berganza era and Y2K era “City of Tomorrow” Metropolis. It allowed us to both catch our breath and get a taste for what’s to come. Really well done.
Let’s look at Imperiex. Love this design! There’s just something about it that feels, I dunno… substantial. Just looking at him, you know he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with. Superman needed more threats like him at the time!
I always talk about these grand “rereading projects”, and this era (through Our Worlds at War) is always toward the top of my list. It’ll likely never happen… not anytime soon, anyway… but, it’s always scratching the back of my brain. Rereading this issue makes me want to pull the trigger all the more!
The Lobo cameo really cracked me up. I’d completely forgotten that he makes an appearance here… and it’s such a silly thing. Superman just hands Mongul, Jr. over to him as a Christmas gift. How cool is that? Loved it!
Overall, a pretty great issue. Mike McKone, who, back in the long ago, wasn’t my cuppa tea… puts in some great work here. It fits in with the bubbly bombastic tone set by (series regular) Ed McGuinness, and I really dug it! This one’s certainly worth a look… and it’s available both digitally and collected in Superman: No Limits!.
Remember to come back tomorrow, if you can fit it into the festivities and we’ll wrap our Third Annual Holiday celebration up!