Title: Up, Up and Away — part three
Writers: Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek
Artist: Pete Woods
By Joe Sergi
24 May 2006 — We begin where Action Comics #837 left off: a powerless Clark Kent was offered a power ring by Green Lantern to "get back into the game." I expected an outright refusal from Clark. (He has thought, on numerous occasions, that Superman is too powerful to have a power ring.) What actually happens is so much better. Clark tries the power ring on, but instead of donning a green Superman uniform, he still appears as Clark Kent. Even Green Lantern comments, "I was expecting a big green S at the very least." As expected, Clark gives the ring back, saying that he will think about it. We also get another glimpse of Clark's innermost thoughts and realization that he really misses not having powers. This feeling of loss is enhanced by Hawkgirl's reaction. She appears annoyed that he does not want powers. She also punishes Clark for this when he wants to come along after the Prankster attacks. She chides, "If you're staying retired, you're a civilian. We'll handle it." This all adds up to a great opening scene, which is full of character.
And speaking of characters, once again we are treated to the return of a classic Superman villain: the Prankster. When we last saw the Prankster, he was a pawn of Manchester Black in the "Ending Battle" storyline from 2002. Before that, he was working for Lord Satanus, who gave him a younger, more athletic body. It is good to see the Prankster with his original personality back. While I admit, I never really liked the character, I had not realized how much I missed him. By returning him to his roots, Busiek and Johns made him a satisfying and enjoyable villain again.
Like so many of the recent adversaries, the Prankster is not the story's main villain — he is merely a distraction while Lex Luthor puts his plan into action. Luthor wants the new Kryptonite Man, introduced in part one. To get him out of Stryker's Island, Luthor enlists the help of the Flea Circus. The Flea Circus is a group of sentient insects whose leader owes Luthor a debt. In addition to the Flea Circus and the Prankster, once again Toyman and Metallo rear their heads. Like the others, these character only serve as pawns in Luthor's game. In fact, when Metallo attempts to take a stand against Luthor he is quickly taken down and has his kryptonite heart ripped from his chest. It should be noted that Luthor pulled out Metallo's kryptonite heart once before, in Superman (vol. 2) #2. It was later discovered that Metallo had back-up life support systems which allowed him to escape. So I'm sure we will see Metallo again.
We also get a further glimpse into Luthor's plan. He has stockpiled an enormous amount of kryptonite. He hints that he will use the kryptonite and the sun crystal to destroy Metropolis. Luthor gloats, "For too long a living relic of Krypton has protected this city — now another will destroy it." However, knowing Luthor, his plot is probably not that simple. I look forward to discovering his endgame.
Once again Busiek and Johns deliver a solid Superman story, in which Superman doesn't even appear. Their characterization is dead on — again. All of the villains are perfectly and consistently in character: from the Prankster's megalomania ("It's the surprise return of a sentimental favorite — fun with Uncle Oswald!") to Toyman's sick sense of humor ("And the blood — it sets off the green.") to Luthor's callousness ("Now that [Metallo] is in a clone body though — it'll probably hurt like hell."). We also see the loving Lois that is strong enough to admit that she likes not having to share her husband with the world. Finally, there is Clark, who is happy with his life, but is starting to miss being Superman. And I am sure that when Busiek and Johns finally put Clark in his uniform, we will have enjoyed the journey as much as the satisfaction of seeing the big red S once more.
Pete Woods is really doing good things with this book, especially the scenes with the Prankster — which could have wound up being too campy with a different artist. And like last month, the coloring by Brad Anderson is incredible. From the power ring's aura reflecting on Lois' face to the beautiful sunsets, Anderson uses just the right amount of color to be impressive and yet still subtle enough as not to distract from the art. Some people believe that all colorists do is fill in the lines; a book like this shows the depth and emotion they add to the story.
I liked the cover by the Dodson's more than Action 837, but they still aren't Wowing! me. Busiek and Johns are bringing the iconic Superman back. I think it would be better if the covers reflected this return to greatness. Despite this, I do like the fact that the cover actually relates to the story, with Luthor holding the sun crystal. If I can't have an iconic cover, I am happy to get a relevant one.
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