Action Comics #839
Title: Up, Up and Away — part six
Writers: Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek
Artist: Renato Guedes
By Joe Sergi
22 August 2006 — Once again, this book's plotting is magnificent. The story opens with an Infinite Crisis flashback. But instead of a simple recap, the authors take yet another opportunity to show the readers the soul of Clark Kent. Superman needed to do what had to be done. He would have gladly sacrificed his life (just like Kal-L and Kon-El did) to stop Superboy Prime, but it was his powers he lost in the battle. However, after the battle, Clark's sole desire was to return home to Metropolis. To Lois. To rest. The scene then flashes back to the present and we know that the time for rest is over. As you will recall, we left our hero last issue in a standoff with a plethora of villains in Outlook Park, including Livewire, Silver Banshee, Hellgrammite, Bloodsport and Riot. Superman dispatches these villains with relative ease, because he thinks rather than rushes in. As a result, the fight is plausible and fun. Equally fun is the crowds' reaction to the victory: a standing ovation. Guedes does a great job showing just how happy Superman is to be back.
I've described this series as reinventing the status quo. It turns out that this description is not 100% accurate, because Johns and Busiek add something to the character. They upgrade his powers. I'm not sure if this is a direct result of New Earth or something else. It appears that Johns and Busiek might be attempting to elevate the post-Crisis Superman to Silver Age power levels. His senses have increased and his brainpower is boosted. The power increases are handled well, and we work through them with Superman. In fact, one of the best scenes in the book involves Superman simply floating across Metropolis learning to adapt to his newly enhanced senses. At first, he begins to feel sorry for himself because he will never truly be normal. But then he catches himself and realizes that his powers are gifts that provide him with the opportunity to save countless lives. I'm not sure if this scene was written to parallel elements in Superman Returns, but it's a great character moment nonetheless. Similarly, Guedes does a wonderful job with the super feats and rescues. Whether carrying a bus to safety or simply saving a dog, Guedes demonstrates Superman's benevolent nature and character perfectly.
Speaking of characters, once again, everyone is spot on. This is especially true in the case of Perry White. It is good to see him actually doing his job for a change. Other writers have either watered him down or made him act out of character in an effort to move implausible plots forward. For example: I never understood why (as was part of the last storyline) Perry replaced Clark Kent, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, with Jimmy Olson, an immature photographer. It just didn't make business sense for the Managing Editor to do this. Busiek and Johns return Perry to greatness. He actually manages the paper. He also manages the people, which is apparent in the scene where he practically begs Lois to keep her husband on the straight and narrow. This characterization rings true of Perry.
Finally, there is Lex Luthor. We finally see his master plan develop. He has a crystal space ship that speaks Kryptonian. Given the revelations in Birth Rite, which stated that Krypton did not have the capacity for space travel, I'm not sure exactly what this means. Personally, I hope it means that Johns and Busiek are moving away from Birth Rite, or even ignoring it altogether. Lex also confirms that the new Toyman is not Winslow Schott, but rather was created by him. I am sure this clue was given to develop a future story involving the various Toymen, the third one being the child genius Hiro Okamura (last seen in Superman / Batman #26). Luthor then boards his crystal ship and attacks Metropolis. Of course, Superman is there to stop him. Superman's last words in the issue left me counting the moments until parts seven and eight: "All right, Luthor. Let's end this."
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