Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Superman Begins Again

Back in 1985, there was a Crisis on Infinite Earths followed by John Byrne's Man of Steel Superman revamp. Man of Steel purged many longtime elements of Superman's past in the interest of streamlining his history. Gone were any other survivors of Krypton, gone was Superman's early career as Superboy, as well as his membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes. Today, with the rebirth of multiple Earths in Infinite Crisis as well as other reality-twisting events in 52 and other DC titles, Superman's history has been tweaked once again. Action Comics Annual #10 gave us a good look at the new Superman landscape, and a welcome return of some long-lost favorites.

It looks like we have Superboy back in the picture, albeit in a more subdued light. It now seems that Clark operated in Smallville as a non-costumed "urban legend" superboy. While all Silver Age Superboy stories were invalidated by Byrne's revamp, this new development allows for any number of those stories to have "happened", including the introduction of Mon-El:

I'm also happy to see Lex Luthor returned to full blown mad scientist status. The "legitimate businessman" angle was great, but it was pretty much played out by the time Luthor became president. Luthor's days as a businessman and owner of most of Metropolis may be behind him, but he still has the funds and the brains to cause Superman no end of grief:
Brainiac seems to be back to his classic form, as well. Brainiac never really gelled in Byrne's revamp, recast as a circus mentalist possessed by an outer space presence. DC spent years trying to bring him more in line with the true threat Brainiac should pose, but the character always seemed half formed and for years, lacked a consistent look or personality.

The Superman movies are referenced as well. In recent years, with the "no other Kryptonians" edict, no one was allowed to use the Phantom Zone criminals, and Zod was a red armored Superman clone raised by Russians. The new continuity brings back the Phantom Zone as well as a decidedly movie-inspired trio of Zod, Ursa, and Non. This time, they are more political agitators than outright criminals, as they were sentenced for trying to speak out about Krypton's doom:

We also see in this issue that the Bizarro World still exists out there somewhere, apparently independent of Bizarro #1 :

Finally, Superman's fortress is back, integrating elements from his storied past:


I notice that Superman's interplanetary zoo is back, and holding a Kryptonian thought beast, among other familiar creatures. It looks like Superman/boy was once again a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The bottle city of Kandor retains it's reworked origins as a shrunken city of aliens named after Krypton's Kandor. It also looks like the original (Earth-2) Superman is remembered and memorialized by today's Superman. Finally, Superman is once again guarding the Phantom Zone projector, another plot device that had seen little use recently.

When Byrne originally performed the Superman restart, the character had become something of a joke, weighed down by years of absurd continuity and gimmickry. A new beginning was just what the franchise needed. Now, twenty-plus years later, it's a good time to go back and reintegrate some of that old magic. With this latest "soft reboot", DC is able to cherry pick the best elements of Superman's past and polish them off for a new age, while ignoring the truly goofy stuff. So far, I like what I see.

4 comments:

Harvey Jerkwater said...

The re-Silver-Aged Fortress of Solitude reminds me of something that always bugged me as a kid: the Superman Robots. The robots had all the powers of Superman and were capable of filling in as needed. Okay, that's weird but groovy.

So why the hell wouldn't Superman just have, say, three of them perpetually zipping around the world, doing good deeds? (Keep a few in the fortress as reserves.) Fer cryin' out loud, wouldn't four Supermen be better than one?

Or couldn't he at least keep them on speed-dial, and bring them in whenever he was in a big pickle? "Oh, crap--Brainiac's about to steal Antarctica...lemme call on my six robot doubles to administer a super-beatdown!"

As a young'un, I could never figure that out. Hey, even sans super-powers, if I had functional robot doubles of myself, I'd use them daily. Ah, well.

Brian Hughes said...

Robot doubles are more trouble than they're worth, just ask Donna Troy.

Anonymous said...

So Zod, Ursa, and Non were jailed for trying to warn about Krypton's destruction? Boo FREAKING hoo! I hate it when they retcon the villians to be "tragic victims", instead of letting them be bad because they WANTED to be bad.
Also as I remember, Ursa had murdered several men for no other reason than she HATED MEN. I believe that they were hinting that she was a lesbian!

Pere Ubu said...

Multiple types of kryptonite! Wheee! Happy happy happy!

(yes I'm easliy amused - why do you ask?)

Just wish they had brought back white K while they were at it.