Adventures of Superman #424 (January, 1987)
“Man O’ War!”
Writer – Marv Wolfman
Pencils – Jerry Ordway
Inks – Mike Machlan
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Tom Ziuko
Editor – Andy Helfer
Cover Price: $0.75
Yesterday we discussed Superman (vol.2) #1… so I sez to myself, “Self, mebbe we ought to talk about that other Superman book coming out at the time.”
If you read yesterday’s piece, you’ll know that one of my sole… well, not so much “complaint”, but maybe “neutral observation” regarding Superman #1 was that it didn’t feel like a real “#1” issue. I didn’t mention it yesterday, but the cover for that issue (while I like it) didn’t really feel like the start of a whole new volume either!
This issue, on the other hand, has a spectacular cover… totally worthy of ushering in a whole new direction. Let’s see how the insides hold up.
We open with the Lane family… that is Sam, Lois, and Lucy huddled around the hospital bed of Lois’ mother, Elinore. Having been in an accident, she’s in a pretty bad way… and it doesn’t look like she’s going to make it. There’s definitely some tension between Lois and Sam… might be due to the fact that Lois addresses her folks by their first name. I know that would grind on my gears too! Meanwhile across town, a meeting of distinguished fellows regarding oil ends poorly… and so, a Quraci representative excuses himself… and blows up the building.
We shift scenes over to the Daily Planet, where Clark Kent has a chance meeting with a beautiful blonde woman. He “oafs” if up a bit, getting his foot caught in an elevator door… and when she helps wriggle him free, he winds up on top of her. If Kelly Kapoor can be trusted, I think the kids today would call that a “meet cute”. If I ever use that term again, please shoot me.
Later that morning, Lois and Clark are called into Perry White office, where they meet the newest member of the Daily Planet staff… it’s that same blonde Clark just went ass-over-teakettle for, Catherine Grant!
During this meet and greet, Clark gets a call from a Gunderson asking if he might be able to contact Superman. Before this goes anywhere, however, Cat swoops in and suggest the two of them grab lunch at the Cossak Tea Room… I hear their $30 cup of soup is to die for! This leaves Perry and Lois alone in the office… the Chief asks how Lois’ mother is doing… but she ain’t in the mood to chat.
On their way to a very pricey lunch, Lois and Cat drive by that building that was blowed up earlier in the issue. They hop out of the car and try and take a look around. An Officer shows them a note found at the scene, wherein an outfit called the Freedom League takes full credit for the boom. Clark uses his x-ray vision to scan the wreckage, and suggests that the First Responders keep digging for survivors.
As Clark and Cat hop back in the car, the former uses his telescopic vision to try and get a better read on the situation. He can see “grappler marks” on some of the stone, which tells him this wasn’t an ordinary explosion. Speaking of explosions… City Hall is next!
A giant tank burrows from out of the ground and attempts to blast right through City Hall. A note wafting across the foreground implicates that Freedom League again. They seem really annoyed at America.
We return to Clark and Cat who are following up on a fellow in Suicide Slum. It’s Professor Emil Hamilton, a sci-guy who was shunned and discredited by the United States Government. Ya see, he’s got this invention that we’s sure will keep the country safe… it’s a force-field of sorts, which he demonstrates on Clark. Clark is shocked at the strength of the thing… even with his super-strength he is unable to break out. Then, Emil pulls out a gun and fires it directly into the field… which further proves its strength (good thing it didn’t ricochet!).
While Cat and Emil chat, Clark overhears everything that’s going down at City Hall… and so, he makes a hasty exit. Cat doesn’t even notice until he’s already gone. After “suping up” he rushes right in to punch up that tank. This doesn’t go so well.
Inside the tank, we meet a bunch of Freedom League members. It’s heavily implied (but not said outright) that these folks are on a suicide mission. They might not be expecting to come out the other end of this.
Superman continues to fight the tank… until it runs him over!
We shift back over to Lois, who is on the phone with her sister. Lucy is pretty frantic about what’s going on with their mother… and Lois fears that if the worst comes to be, Lucy won’t be able to get through it. As she leaves the Daily Planet Building, she is
ushered forced into a Town Car by one of Lex Luthor’s goons chauffeurs.
Back at City Hall, Superman pulls himself up out of the wreckage (seems to do that a lot post-Man of Steel). Before heading back over for Round Two with the tank, he pulls a survivor out of the debris.
After saving the Officer, Superman heads over to the Metropolis Police Department to chat up Inspector Henderson. It’s there that he learns that the Freedom League is likely tied up with the Qaraci Government. He heads back out into the fray… somehow convinced that Lex Luthor is actually the one behind this. Seems our Man of Steel has himself a bit of a fixation.
Back to Lois. She’s loaded into one of LexCorp’s jets where she is met by a waiting Lex Luthor. He offers her champagne, and suggests that by the end of this chat, they might become friends.
Ya see, the accident Elinore Lane was in happened at a LexCorp subsidiary… a branch of LexCorp Mistuh Luthuh himself didn’t even realize he owned! He feels, in part, responsible for what went down… and so, at his own expense, enlisted the aid of some top scientists to concoct a serum to keep Lois’ mother alive and kickin’. Only catch is, she’s gotta come to Lex once a month for the dose. Lois begrudgingly decides to have dinner with the man so they can talk out the particulars.
Back on the street, Superman continues fighting the tank… until other bits and pieces of terroristic tech show up… combine with the tank, and become like this giant mechanical hybrid of a grasshopper and scorpion?
We wrap up back with Lex Luthor, who is celebrating his “victory” over Lois Lane. Ya see, not only did Luthor know about the accident that nearly claimed Elinore Lane… he was responsible for it! He knew Lois would need him to come up with a cure… and, get this, the cure could have been administered in a single dose… but where’s the fun in that?
I tell ya what… they sure didn’t skimp for story back in the 1980’s! A story like this would take 4-6 months to tell nowadays… and would still wrap up with a non-ending! I really enjoyed the issue… though, like its “sister book”, Superman (vol.2), it doesn’t feel much like a “first issue”. I mean, it’s not a “#1”, but still…
If you’re a new reader to the Superman family of titles and were maybe lured in by the cover (it’s certainly a strong enough cover to do so!), and didn’t know to pick up Man of Steel, you’re probably going to feel a bit lost. Whereas the Byrne book might’ve gone overboard with the exposition… this one may not have given us enough. I’m sure there could’ve been a happier medium between the two.
I’ve never been a fan of the Qarac stuff that seemed to worm its way into so many post-Crisis DC books. I get that they’re going for a “real world” sort of thing, but really, I’d rather a more fantastical threat…
Speaking of threats… they sure did power Superman way down, didn’t they? I mean, he’s getting beaten up by everything in these early issues! I’ve read that one of the complaints about this era was the “Marvelization” of Superman… they reduction of his powers to make him feel more fallible. I don’t have a problem with that… though, I could see why some might.
Keeping the threats coming… Lex Luthor.
Before we look deeper into him, I wanna talk about Superman assuming he’s the “big bad” behind everything. I mean, it’s only the once so far, but it just feels a bit silly. Inspector Henderson suggests that Qarac is (secretly) behind the bombings… but Superman is still sure it’s Luthor. Not sure if any of you remember A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, that show where the Scooby Gang are all little kids? I don’t remember much about it… but I do recall that anytime anything would happen, Fred would insist that a kid named “Red Herring” (get it?) was behind it. Of course, he never would be… but Fred just wouldn’t give it up. I got definite “Red Herring” vibes from Superman’s insistence here.
Now, Lex’s plan to get a “win” over (and to “win over”) Lois. It’s a really good look at what a slimeball Lex is… and how he isn’t above using people as pawns to get what he wants. The “accident” he orchestrated could’ve very easily resulted in Elinore’s immediate death… but that didn’t matter to him, so long as there was a chance he’d be able to get Lois under his thumb (to say the least). I like this Lex… sometimes a “heel” has just got to be a heel.
The art here is great. Love that Jerry Ordway was given the opportunity to be a part of this launch, he never disappoints! My only minor quibble (which has nothing to do with the quality of the art) is that his Lois looks different from Byrne’s. What I mean is, they have completely different hairstyles… which, I mean… we’re not even a month into this thing, and we’ve already got conflicting style-guides? Hey, maybe this really is the Marvelization of the DC Universe!
Overall, I had a lot of fun with this. I’d definitely suggest having a bit of familiarity with what went down in Man of Steel before jumping into this one, but even if you don’t, I doubt you’d be all that lost here. This issue has been collected in one of those Man of Steel trades, and is available digitally.