Post-Crisis Superman by John Byrne and Co. Jun 30, 2022 14:56:57 GMT -5 Roquefort Raider, thwhtguardian, and 1 more like this
Post by mistermets on Jun 30, 2022 14:56:57 GMT -5
I've read much of John Byrne's Superman run, and have been interested in going through the whole damn thing. Recently, I found some hardcover reprints in the library so that makes it a convenient time to go through an important and controversial run.
This is controversial in the best sense, in that plenty of readers think that it was terrible and unnecessary, while others believe it lived up to the hype (it made the CBR list of Top 100 runs). There's a reason DC kicked off Bendis' run on Superman with a Man of Steel mini-series.
In the 1980s, the DC Universe was rebooted with Crisis on Infinite Earths. John Byrne had been poached from Marvel where he had been one of their most popular and prolific writer/ artists, with the most popular Fantastic Four run since Lee/ Kirby, his own superteam in Alpha Flight and major shakeups on the Incredible Hulk. He would take over Superman, relaunched with a new #1. He would also would also work on Action Comics, taking it over as a team-up title. Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway worked on The Adventures of Superman (which took the Superman numbering.) Byrne would also work on a few other Superman-adjacent projects including a few one-shots, and mini-series about the mythology of Smallville, Krypton and Metropolis.
Byrne was obviously in charge of Superman, working on over half of the main comics on his two years on the book. The entire run would begin with The Man of Steel, a six issue mini-series providing Superman with a new origin and early adventures. I remember picking up The Man of Steel and Batman Year One at a Borders when I was ten or so. The Man of Steel was a much better deal, with six issues for a cover price of $7.50, while Batman Year One was an expensive four issues for ten bucks, although I did have to acknowledge that it was the better comic.
Shaxper has a great thread where he reviews post-crisis Superman in depth, so anyone who like deeper synopses can go check that out. I'm going to focus on my own opinions, and mainly look at the stories until Byrne's departure. My focus is on the comics collected by DC under the Man of Steel umbrella in a series of nine TPBs, and four oversized hardcovers. I'll also look at some comics of interest to readers of the era, like the Jeph Loeb/ Tim Sale mini-series Superman For All Seasons.
Let's start at the beginning.
The Man of Steel #1
An unusual choice with the mini-series is that every issue is a single issue story. For the most part, the run does consist of shorter arcs, either single issues or two-parters. It's an interesting decision by a writer/ artist I have generally seen as willing to tackle longer stories. In the introduction to the first Man of Steel trade paperback, Byrne does associate Superman with multiple stories per issue. This could be why the first issue is also split into several sections.
One of the biggest changes was the sterile futuristic world of Krypton where children are conceived in gestation chambers, and it's normal for them to not know the touch of a parent. I get the argument for this take, but I'm not a fan. Still the prologue is a decent sci-fi story as Jor-El makes a major discovery about himself in the last moments of Krypton.
Chapter One is set in Smallville as Pa Kent tells eighteen year old Clark where he came from. It's economical, and does have an ideal setup for Superman's family life, so that he has two living parents in Kansas to contrast with his life in Metropolis. His parents are pretty effective as a moral conscience for the most powerful man on Earth, although other versions of this type of scene function more effectively, as it makes more sense for Superman to learn of his alien origins before he learns of his amazing powers or immediately after. Here he's not only a star high school football player when he sees the craft his parents found him in, but he's had X-ray vision and flight for a while.
Chapter Two is set a few years later, as the world has learned about Superman. This is probably the best sequence in the issue. It's a rescue scene we've seen a lot (Superman saving people on an experimental rocket) but it also represents a point of no return for a character who has tried to keep his existence secret, but had to make the decision to reveal his existence in order to save lives.
Byrne is able to pull off one of the most important superhero scenes, the decision to adopt a secret identity. There are small details that sell it, like his parents helping him come up with an iconic uniform, or even the decision to hide the idea that he has a secret identity, so that the public would have no reason to suspect that Clark Kent is Superman any more than they would guess that Clark Kent is secretly Tom Cruise.
One interesting twist here is that they're not sure where Superman came from yet, which allows more discoveries about Krypton to be an effective story engine. It also reflects the national paranoia at the tail end of the cold war.
This was meant to be the definitive take on Superman, and it falls short of that. But it's an okay beginning to John Byrne's take on the character.