"Superman This is Your Life Part 1"
Writers: Joe Kelly, Jeph Loeb
Artists: Jerry Ordway, Howard Chaykin, Renato Guedes, Tim Sale
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: During his fight with the Earth-2 Superman, the current Man of Steel experiences his counterpart's life.
Commentary: I have a great deal of affection for the Earth-2 Superman. I don't really have a favorite version or era of the character, but there are incarnations of the character that I like more than others. Along with the John Byrne/Marv Wolfman era, I have a soft spot for Kal-L. There is something cool about having a Superman who started his career during the Golden-Age and fought in World War Two and was part of the Justice Society and married his Lois (which may not seem special now, but that was a pretty big deal back in the day) and still worked for the Daily Star as its editor-in-chief. Before the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, this was the Superman who had the potential to grow and change and while some of the stories were kind of silly, it was still a great concept.
The fact that Eddie Berganza decided to end his run on the Superman line of books by telling Kal-L's story was kind of surprising but at the same time very welcome. With the attention that Kal-L has been getting in the pages of Infinite Crisis, it makes sense to have a story for newer readers who are not like me and do not have the obsessive/fanatical knowledge of DC's history that I have been cramming in my head for the past twenty years or so. It is not a complicated history, despite what some may believe, and to go out telling this story is kind of special.
As a package, this was an impressive book. Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines turned in a great cover featuring a terrific version of the Earth-2 Superman's costume with the Fleisher symbol and the boots with the yellow trim. The distressed (for lack of a better term) effect was fun, and I have to admit that I thought that the corner of my book had actually been ripped until I realized it was just made to look like that. It's great to have a comic that is examining a past version of Superman that looks like an old comic.
The main reason I thought this story worked as well as it did is that instead of simply retelling Kal-L's story from a contemporary perspective (which would have been fine), Joe Kelly had the current Superman reliving his counterpart's life. This worked on two levels: it was entertaining, and it gave a new perspective of that era through the eyes of a Superman who feels he has made a lot of mistakes. It takes the concept of looking at a "simpler" time and wishing you could have lived during that era to the next stage.
The origin sequence was fantastic. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale told the reader all they needed to know while paying homage to the original two page sequence from Superman #1 from 1939. The commentary by Lois Lane made the scene work well and gave the emotional context that it needed. If the rest of this storyline tanks horribly, it will all have been worth it just for this scene alone.
While Joe Kelly has never been my favorite Superman writer, he certainly turned in a great story with this issue. The Howard Chaykin portion of the issue had another reference to Superman #1 (with one of my favorite comic book quotes ever, "You're not fighting a woman now.") before delving into Kal-L's involvement in World War II. Superman's reaction to Pearl Harbor was very effective as were his actions over the next few pages. I don't think that Chaykin's style is normally suited to Superman, but with the feel of the scene he brought the proper emotion and feeling to page. The Holocaust page was especially poignant and really drove home in one single image the rage that the Earth-2 Superman might have felt after discovering what the Nazis had done.
The last portion was such a powerful sequence and had a cool, cinematic feel to it. It is hard not to get behind the concept of Superman standing up to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Renato Guedes' art had such a natural flow to it and like the Chaykin bit, it fit the mood of the piece. He nailed the indignation the JSA felt and Superman's entrance was just awesome, made more so by the fact that he reveals his identity to the members of the committee. With that admission, Kelly brought back that feeling that anything could be done with this character, even if it ends up being the current Superman playing in that sandbox. Either way, it was such a solid ending to the story with a mix of surprise and enticement for the reader to pick up the next installment in Action Comics.
In The End: Despite the rather odd last page, this was a great book. It was the entire package with a well thought out story, fantastic art and a neat cover that really stands out from the rest sitting on the rack this month. It is also odd to consider that this issue is the end of an era. This is the last issue of this particular Superman title, which is kind of weird since this is one of the first books I regularly collected starting at issue eight. As a send off, it was great, and if the book is going to end it should end on a high note. Joe Kelly and Jeph Loeb, along several talented artists, sent this book off in fine style and you couldn't ask for a better last issue.
What did you think of this book?
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