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Superman #652
Title: Up, Up and Away part five
Writers: Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek
Artist: Pete Woods

By Joe Sergi
26 July 2006 "Up, Up and Away" is quite possibly the best Superman story in decades. The pacing is perfect. In the first four parts we were reintroduced to the world of Clark Kent, an ace reporter who was once the costumed adventurer known as Superman. We witnessed his relationship with his loving wife. We reveled in his success as a newsman, and beamed when his coworkers treated him with newfound respect. And we watched him rely on his wits and network of superhero allies, instead of his fists and alien powers. However, the book is called Superman, not Clark Kent: Ace Reporter. So, as expected, his powers returned at the end of part four.

Superman #652 has all the perfect comic book elements: humor (Clark attempts to leap a tall building in a single bound), romance (Lois and Clark share a tender moment), intrigue (Luthor's grand plan moves closer to fruition) and action (Superman versus six super villains). Most of all, there was the return of the iconic costume.

While lesser authors might have rushed Clark back into the suit, Busiek and Johns took their time. One suspects this was done to reintroduce us to Clark Kent, who's oft-overlooked by coworkers and Superman readers alike. Yet, when Clark finally dons the uniform, it is not drawn-out. They do not tease us with will-he or won't-he plotlines.

More importantly, it is clear that Clark missed the never-ending battle for truth and justice. Pete Woods does an excellent job conveying this through Clark's detailed facial expressions. This is especially true in the quieter moments, such as when he takes the time to wave hello to a helicopter pilot. Similarly, Woods perfectly conveys the elation of the citizens of Metropolis. This happiness is not expressed by way of dialog, but through illustrations of the stunned crowd and cheering children, who all welcome Superman back.

Life before, Busiek and Johns provide us with several great villains. Not A-listers, mind you, but certainly memorable ones. First Superman quickly dispatches a female Puzzler. He's then tag-teamed by Livewire (who originated in Superman: The Animated Series), Silver Banshee (last seen trying to collect a billion-dollar bounty in Superman / Batman, vol. 1: Public Enemies), Hellgrammite (last seen in Underworld Unleashed), the original Bloodsport (a villain obsessed with the Vietnam War) and Riot (a former member of the Superman Revenge Squad). Each villain plays their part and moves the story along.

In addition to the villains, Busiek and Johns have once again truly captured the characters. For example, we find out that Clark's power loss was largely subconscious. Once he acknowledges this, his powers gradually return. Of course, it takes life-threatening danger to Jimmy Olson to get him back to full-strength.

I have expressed this before, but I really am enjoying the way they write the Lois and Clark relationship. I especially liked their discussion regarding Clark's newly returned powers. It would have been very easy for the authors to take the easy way and use the powers to create tension between the two. For example, Clark could have decided to keep their return a secret from Lois, thus creating trust issues. Or, as other writers have unsuccessfully attempted, Lois could have reacted with jealous, petty words. Instead, they address the problem head on. Clark is upfront and Lois is supportive. Some would argue that this is not realistic. I disagree; Lois and Clark have a strong, loving relationship that transcends jealousy. I thought it was great that Lois summed up her feelings in three little words: "Go get 'em."

This brings me to a discussion about Lois' three little words. I'm not sure how many people, like me, read the DC solicits or attend panels at conventions. But all summer, DC has been hinting "three unexpected words mark a turning point for Lois and Clark." There has been much speculation as to what these words would be. I was initially letdown. "Go get 'em," really? Then I pulled out my March edition of Previews. It turns out that the three unexpected words are set to appear in Action Comics #839, part six of this eight-part epic. I can't help but think that these three little words were meant to play with readers like me, who read the advance solicits. Of course, I could be wrong. And if so, if these are the three unexpected words, shame on you, DC, for building towards a colossally anticlimactic moment.

I read this issue two days ago. I'm still smiling. And Like Jimmy Olson, I say, "Welcome back, big guy!"

Another solid A.

Questions or comments can be sent to joesergi@cox.net.

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Up, Up and Away
Part One :: Part Two :: Part Three :: Part Four
Part Five :: Part Six :: Part Seven :: Part Eight

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