Assault on Engine City
Credits: Karl Kesel (writer), Tom Grummett (penciler), Doug Hazelwood (inker), Albert de Guzman (letterer), Glenn Whitmore (colorist)
Summary: Superman, Superboy, and Steel invade the newly christened “Engine City.” They defeat an army of Mongul’s alien henchmen, but are unable to stop the Engine Bomb from being launched towards Metropolis. Superboy grabs on to the missile and attempts to use his powers to dismantle it. The missile is still intact when it reaches Metropolis, but Superboy is able to pull it away from the city. Tana Moon watches in horror as the missile detonates over the horizon with Superboy still onboard.
Irrelevant Continuity: Superman suggests “Man of Steel” simplify his name and go by “Steel,” making this the first time the name is used in an actual story.
I Love the ‘90s: Superboy wishes Superman were referring to Michelle Pheiffer when discussing a “full frontal assault.”
Total N00B: Perry White exclaims “Great shades of Elvis!” as the Engine Bomb reaches Metropolis. I assumed Perry’s Elvis fixation was an invention of the Lois & Clark TV series, but it seems this issue saw print a few months before its debut. Was this line added as an early tie-in to the series (like Renee Montoya’s earliest appearances in the Batman titles), or was the Elvis gimmick already in place?
Review: It’s the big action issue that has the real Superman teaming up with the two Supermen that are only a few months away from starring in their own spinoffs. The only real significance of the issue, aside from the debut of Steel’s official superhero name, is the image of Superman picking up gigantic ‘90s guns and blasting away at the enemy. (They’re not quite implausible enough to be Liefeld guns, but they’re close). Superman only uses the guns to “hold them back,” meaning there are no images of anyone actually getting hit with the weapons, but the creators are clearly using this imagery to provoke some kind of a response out of the readers. Superman’s probably the last hero who should be picking up gigantic guns, which I get is the entire reason for doing the scene, but within the context of this story it feels utterly gratuitous. It doesn’t come across as parody, yet the story doesn’t take itself seriously enough to justify this as a grim turning point for Superman, either. I realize there’s a larger point behind this event, showing how Superman can still be traditional Superman and compete against the ‘90s breed of hero, but a scene like this seems to undermine what DC has been trying to prove for the past year. It feels like an image that’s thrown out there just because it’s “so wrong,” but aside from intentionally provoking a response from the more traditional readers, there’s no obvious point behind it.