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Superman #650

Posted: Friday, March 24, 2006
By: Michael Bailey



Writers: Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek
Artist: Pete Woods

"Up, Up and Away Part 1: Mortal Men"

Publisher: DC Comics


Plot: It's One Year Later and in that time Superman has been missing from the skies of Metropolis. Clark Kent though is going strong, having spent the last year reestablishing himself as one of the Daily Planet's leading reporters. He and Lois cover the acquittal of Lex Luthor, who despite beating the charges leveled against him has fallen from grace in the eyes of the people of Metropolis. When a new Kryptonite Man appears, Clark summons Supergirl to take care of the villain. Afterwards, Clark is threatened by Lex Luthor and without his powers is beaten by Luthor and his men.

Commentary: This first chapter in the eight part "Up, Up and Away" hit all of the beats it should have to kick start the next era of the Man of Steel. A quick recap of his origin, Clark Kent on the job, the supporting cast gets to shine, Lex Luthor's back, a new villain is introduced, and there is a neat little fight towards the end of the issue. What made this issue work so well is that Busiek and Johns took those elements, which could easily be considered clichés, and created a story that was so character driven that you almost didn't notice them.

I mean here is a comic that is supposed to launch the new adventures of Superman, and the Man of Steel isn't even in it aside from the movie that Lois and Clark went to see in the park.

The thing is, I didn't mind. If anything, I was glad to see Clark get some serious screen time. The Superman books had focused so much time and energy on Superman that the Clark Kent aspect was largely ignored. This bothered me because one of the reasons I became a regular reader of Superman was John Byrne and Marv Wolfman's take on Clark. To me, Clark is essential, and I have always been in the "Clark is the real guy and Superman is the disguise" camp. One of the things Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (though by season four are they really "new adventures" anymore?) got right was the episode from the second season where Dean Cain, as Clark, says something to the effect of, "Superman is what I can do. Clark is who I am." Clark should be every bit as important as Superman, and this issue certainly proved that. Johns and Busiek did a terrific job of reestablishing him as reporter who is respected by his audience and peers. They also showed that Clark on the beat can be entertaining if done right.

Clark wasn't the only highlight. Lois was written well, as were Perry White and Jimmy Olsen. Lois seems to be the hardest for some writers to deal with, but even though she wasn't a huge part of the story, I thought that Busiek and Johns nailed the Lois and Clark relationship. Lex Luthor was another treat. Lex seems to be in a bit of a predicament. His lawyers got him out of legal trouble, but he has lost face with the people of Metropolis. This puts him into an interesting position, and one that has a lot of potential. It's nice to have Lex back in the books, especially with the way Geoff and Kurt are handling him.

Then there was the new Kryptonite Man. His origin may have been a bit retro but he worked nonetheless. You knew right away this guy was going to be trouble. Look at his outfit. It glows. Anytime a normal person is wearing a funky outfit, especially one that has its own illumination, and acts like a jerk and deals with radiation (especially Kryptonite radiation) you know that guy is headed for a bad turn. The fight with Supergirl was a little too short, but the fake out of Clark ducking into the alley and activating the signal watch made up for that.

The ending, though, was what really hooked me. From some not so subtle clues, I got the sense that Clark had lost his powers, but to receive such a beat down from Lex Luthor and thugs was a great way to reveal that fact. Not only did it show that Lex Luthor was back as the villain, but it also demonstrated that Clark is still going to fight the never ending battle even without his abilities. I also liked the fact that Clark's stories were one of the main reasons the public turned against Lex. It adds a new wrinkle to the relationship between the two and makes Clark just as much of a threat to Luthor as Superman.

And what was up with that crystal that Luthor had? For those interested, the Kryptonian language on the crystal reads "Doomsday," which doesn't bode well and probably has a lot to do with the thing that crashed to Earth at the beginning of the issue.

But that could just be me.

I do find it a tad coincidental that Superman is most likely going to return a few months into the story right about the time Superman Returns comes out in June. It may just be happenstance but even if the timing is intentional, this isn't a bad thing. By making the series somewhat accessible to those who see the movie and may want to check out the comic, DC may hook some new readers, which is something I really can't argue with. In any case, with all of the media attention surrounding Superman lately, this creative team was one of the best they could have gone with.

In The End: "Up, Up and Away" is off to a fine start, and I get the feeling that this might be one of the best Superman stories in quite some time. Pete Woods did a fantastic job with the art, and I really dug the Dodsons' cover. As a long time reader, I was truly satisfied with this book and think that if you're one of those people who have been sitting on the fence in regards to buying a Superman comic, this is definitely the one to start with.



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