Friday, January 2, 2015

SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #23 - July 1993


Ambush!
Credits:  Louise Simonson (writer), Jon Bogdanove (penciler), Dennis Janke (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Glenn Whitmore (colorist)

Summary:  Steel defeats a gang of Sharks while searching for the White Rabbit.  More gang violence soon erupts, drawing the attention of Superboy and the Daily Planet.  The Planet’s chopper is destroyed by one of the Toastmaster guns; Steel saves Lois, but the pilot, Frank, is killed.  Steel berates Superboy for dodging out of the way of the Toastmaster’s blast, which resulted in Frank’s death.  After speaking to Steel, Lois wonders if he actually does have Superman’s spirit.  Later, Lex Luthor arranges a meeting with Steel.  He reveals White Rabbit’s location to Steel, while also placing a bug on his armor.  Steel discovers White Rabbit is Angora Lapin, his former co-worker and lover.  She’s stolen the weapons technology Steel created and is selling it on the black market.  When he refuses to join her, White Rabbit shoots him out of the window and escapes.

I Love the ‘90s:  The camcorder footage of Steel’s battle with the Sharks is dated 5-23-93.  Also, Jimmy Olsen wears a Spin Doctors t-shirt to work.

Review:  I’ve noticed that Louise Simonson’s plots tend to be much denser than the other Superman writers; a technique she absorbed while working for Jim Shooter, perhaps?  This issue continues the gang war/White Rabbit storyline, provides Steel’s origin, features his first meeting with Lois Lane, has Lex Luthor discovering Steel’s secret ID, and throws in the new Superboy as a guest star.  There’s a lot going on, but it’s never confusing and the pages don’t feel as if they’re crammed with too much information.  We discover that Steel’s motivation is similar to one that’s been grafted on to Iron Man (and now just an accepted part of the canon, thanks to the movies):  he made some weapons, the wrong people got a hold of them, and now he has to make amends.  Attaching this to inner-city street violence is slightly absurd, but I guess it’s somewhat defensible within the context of a superhero comic.  Steel continues to be presented as a likable, easy to root for hero, although I think Simonson goes too far during the Lois scenes.  Yes, John Henry Irons has the “spirit” of Superman, but why would Lois think that he literally has the spirit of Superman?  Has Lois ever been established as someone who would believe in reincarnation?  

The real problem with the issue doesn’t relate to Steel at all, however.  Superboy, in only his second real appearance, is directly responsible for someone’s death.  That’s supposed to be a pretty heavy burden for a hero, especially in this era, so it’s strange to see it attached to the cool, carefree Superboy so soon after his introduction.  That kind of angst point doesn’t suit his character, and the event isn’t even occurring in his own title.  Steel’s lecture to Superboy is well-written and a nice way to dramatize how Steel is a different hero from the other Supermen, but the scene still feels terribly misguided.

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