Thursday, March 26, 2015

SUPERMAN #81 - September 1993

Credits:  Dan Jurgens (story and art), Brett Breeding (finishes), John Costanza (letterer), Glenn Whitmore (colorist)

Summary:  Superman emerges, but with weakened powers.  When no one believes he’s telling the truth, he takes Lois aside and recounts private moments only she would know.  He kisses her goodbye and asks to borrow a pair of boot-jets from one of Luthor’s men.  He flies off to Coast City with Superboy and a skeptical Steel.  Meanwhile, Cyborg Superman punishes Mongul for a perceived slight.  Two of the aliens serving Mongul discuss the cyborg’s origin.  Cyborg Superman was once Hank Henshaw, an astronaut with a grudge against Superman who could project his consciousness into metallic objects.  He discovered Mongul, who also hates Superman, on a distant planet and possessed his ship.  After torturing Mongul, the cyborg forced Mongul over to his side.

Irrelevant Continuity:  
  • Hank Henshaw began life as an obvious Reed Richards parody.  The details of his origin are found, according to the footnotes, in Adventures #466 and #468.  It’s revealed that Cyborg Superman was able to duplicate Kryptonian DNA because he once grafted himself on to the birth matrix that Superman arrived on Earth in.
  • Superman’s hair isn’t as long as it was in the previous chapter’s final splash page, although it’s still all the way down his neck.  The style isn’t obviously a mullet until Jurgens draws Superman from the side, then it’s clear he’s going full Uncle Jessie.
  • Lois’ ridiculous pants from the previous chapter have been toned down this issue.

Total N00B:  I had no clue who Hank Henshaw was, so the extended origin recap is definitely appreciated.

Review:  Superman finally makes his real return this issue, and while it would be easy to have all of the characters obey the plot faithfully and just accept it, Jurgens adds an element of realism to the plot.  I like the fact that no one, not even Lois, is one hundred percent convinced this is the real Superman by the end of the issue.  The return of Superman also means the debut of his new look, and while I think the black and silver color scheme is kind of cool, it’s impossible to ignore the mullet.  If you want to say that Superman’s hair grew while in his rejuvenation pod, fine, but there should be some internal consistency here.  If his hair has grown, that means he should also have a scruffy beard and long fingernails.  (A more masculine, less groomed Superman isn’t necessarily a bad idea anyway.)  More importantly, his hair wouldn’t have grown into a specific style!  One that was already going out of fashion in 1993, as I recall.  Why would his hair only grow on the top and back but not the sides?  Was there a Billy Ray Cyrus setting in his regeneration matrix?

The attention is split this issue between Superman’s return and the origin of Cyborg Superman.  I’ve complained about the casual way past continuity is introduced in many of the DC titles I’ve reviewed, but Jurgens goes out of his way to make sure that any reader, regardless of his of her familiarity with specific Superman continuity, knows who the cyborg is.  Established readers might complain that the flashback drags on for too long, but actually seeing the details of previous stories, along with the new backstory, fleshed out in a deliberate, coherent way is a welcome gesture towards the casual fan.  And speaking of that origin…how crazy is it that the main villain in the “Reign of the Supermen” event turns out to be a Reed Richards parody?  It’s never played for a joke, but it is an utterly insane idea.


j said...

I'm still not sure it was supposed to be a mullet. Most artists just drew him with long hair. I think he looked fine when it was just long hair. Some artists went nuts with it though.

comicfanvents said...

I've heard arguments for years about the super-mullet. I think it was just a case of artistic license. Some artists gave him the mullet because it was in style a few years earlier (comics are almost always a few years behind the trends), though I believe it was supposed to be just shaggy and grown out... just something a bit different for the resurrected Superman.

I do wish editors would be a touch stricter on character models though... we're about 3 years into the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel and it appears NOBODY can agree on whether she has long hair or short hair.

Miguel said...

What's amazing is I had issue #466 as a kid (and was suitably creeped by it, especially the poor Thing parody committing suicide at the end) AND I had all the Reign of the Supermen books, and yet somehow I never made the connection, and remembered the Fauxtastic Four being a stand alone story. I swear my reading comprehension was not usually this bad. Anyway, 20 some years later and I'm suitably impressed they brought that character back in such an ostentatious and sinister way.

G. Kendall said...

I think it was CBR that just ran some quotes from Dan Jurgens on the long hair. He says it wasn't intended as a mullet, just longer hair, but that's the style some of the artists went with. Looking at these issues, his hair doesn't seem to be the same length even from page to page in some chapters.

wwk5d said...

And he seems to have his normal shorter haircut on the cover, no?

Steven said...

As Clark Kent, he would put all his hair (including the front) back into a pony tail. You can't do that with a mullet.

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