Monday, March 23, 2015

THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #503 - August 1993


Line of Fire
Credits:  Karl Kesel (writer), Tom Grummett (penciler), Doug Hazelwood (inker), Albert de Guzman (letterer), Glenn Whitmore (colorist)

Summary:  Cyborg Superman contacts the White House and requests they send Superboy to help him locate Eradicator.  Shortly after Superboy arrives on the West Coast, he’s shocked when Cyborg Superman destroys the GBS news copter that’s following them.  Superboy tries to stop Cyborg Superman but is unable to control his powers.  Inside Mongul’s ship, Mongul’s thoughts reveal his own plans to rule the new metallic Warworld being constructed in Coast City.  In Antarctica, an armored suit begins a trek through the bottom of the ocean.

Irrelevant Continuity:  
  • This issue establishes that the real-life city of Santa Barbara was also wiped out when Coast City was destroyed, and that earthquakes have begun along the West Coast, killing thousands in cities like Portland.  I don’t believe that the damage outside of the fictitious Coastal City ever remained in DC continuity.
  • The first hints of Superboy’s unique power, tactile telekinesis, appear for the first time during his fight with Cyborg Superman.
  • Superman faced Mongul for the first time in Superman #321, according to a footnote.

I Love the ‘90s:  Superboy has a Spin Doctors poster in his apartment.

Review:  The casual treatment of not just one (fictional) city being destroyed, but also much of the West Coast is a clear sign we’re dealing with a storyline conceived years before 9-11.  I realize that movies and comics are now back to the routine destruction of major cities, but there does seem to be more of an effort to acknowledge the civilian toll in these situations.  This issue, people are freaked out over what’s happened, but no one’s especially sad.  Over seven million people are dead, but the cast acts as if they’re in just another superhero adventure.  Superboy never stops smiling and goofing off in the story, until he’s directly faced with a news copter that’s destroyed (that seems to happen around him quite a bit).  Now he’s upset, while the deaths of several million people couldn’t put a damper on his day, this is just too much.  It’s hard to accuse the issue of being insensitive since Americans had no real context for an event like this at the time, but looking at it today, it’s amazing to see how blas√© the creators assumed the public would be regarding such a massive loss of life.  Even Tana Moon, presented as the moral center of this book, is more upset that she won’t get camera time when Superboy travels to Coast City than she is over the millions dead.

Regarding the Cyborg/Superboy fight, it’s enjoyable enough.  Tom Grummett handles the action well and Cyborg Superman isn’t bad as an over-the-top villain.  It’s the tone that’s all wrong, however, and it’s impossible to read this issue today and not notice just how badly the creators have misjudged the mood of the story.

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