Wednesday, October 1, 2014

ACTION COMICS #686 - February 1993


Who’s Buried in Superman’s Tomb?
Credits:  Roger Stern (writer), Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier (artists), Bill Oakley (letterer), Glenn Whitmore (colorist)

Summary:  The Guardian patrols Metropolis after receiving time-off from Cadmus.  Dubbilex mentally contacts him, telling Guardian to return to Cadmus immediately.  Guardian discovers that Paul Westfield has stolen Superman’s body and is planning to clone it.  Guardian is indignant, but eventually realizes that the plan could have merit.  Meanwhile, Lex Luthor joins Supergirl and the Metropolis Police in investigating the tunnels underneath Superman’s tomb.  A bomb left by Cadmus floods the tunnel, but Supergirl rescues her companions.  Both Luthor and Maggie Sawyer suspect Cadmus stole Superman’s body.  Elsewhere, Lois sees the Kents and Lana off at the airport.

Irrelevant Continuity:
  • Dubbilex absorbed "mental impressions" from Superman in Superman #58 and Adventures #485.  Cadmus plans to use Dubbilex’s powers to recreate Superman’s personality.
  • A Superman cult appears outside of his memorial.  A footnote says they previously appeared in Action #638.
  • Maggie Sawyer had a prior encounter with Cadmus in Superman #34.
  • Dr. Teng, “terminated” by Luthor in Action #678, used Cadmus’ data to create a new body for Luthor.  Luthor says he’ll have to find someone else to infiltrate Cadmus.
  • A news report lists 189 confirmed casualties in the Doomsday assault, with nearly 900 still missing.

I Love the ‘90s:  Guardian’s high-tech motorcycle records a laser disc of his fight against a group of car thieves.

Total N00B:  This is the first story in the Death of Superman and World without a Superman trades to reveal that Lex Luthor, Jr. is actually Lex Luthor in a younger, cloned body.  I also discovered this issue that former Cadmus head Dabney Donovan created the Underworlders. 

Review:  This is the unofficial Tribute to Jack Kirby issue, featuring several characters he created for DC that were eventually grafted on to the Superman mythos.  Roger Stern is legendary for his knowledge of continuity, and this issue he manages to merge the Kirby material with numerous post-Crisis Superman storylines, all in logical and occasionally provocative ways.  Stern also has fun giving “Terrible” Dan Turpin an excessive amount of quotation marks in his dialogue, a reference to one of Kirby’s oddest scripting quirks.  Most readers today would probably get the joke, but I wonder now what the average fan in 1993 thought of this.

Guardian receives much of the attention this issue, serving as yet another Superman replacement on the streets of Metropolis, before getting dragged into the drama surrounding Superman’s stolen corpse.  Guardian’s initial disgust at Cadmus’ actions is minimized when he realizes that Paul Westfield’s plan isn’t too different from what happened to his own body.  How could a man whose life has been extended through cloning object to Superman getting the same opportunity?  This is Superman, after all, so how could he possibly argue that the world doesn’t need him to return?  Speaking of cloning, Lex Luthor has his own ties to Cadmus’ work, and he’s certainly smart enough to deduce what their plan is.  Tying up last issue’s Supergirl plot could’ve been time-killer, but Stern uses Luthor in a clever way to add some intrigue to the larger storyline.

Jackson Guice and Denis Rodier are also channeling Kirby, although it’s a strange direction for the duo to suddenly explore.  Their previous issues seemed to be an early experiment in incorporating photorealism into superhero art, and now they’re throwing Kirby into the mix.  There’s really no way to do realistic Kirby, post-1970 Kirby at least, so visually the issue doesn’t seem to have any real consistency.  Some pages are very Kirby, but the style quickly swerves back the other way in just a few panels.  I’m personally not a fan of most “realistic” superhero work, so my favorite pages are the more traditional action pages.  When the issue is supposed to evoke Kirby, such as the double-page Guardian spread, that’s what this book should look like every issue.

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