Then I suppose we're back to the mystery of what Lois' comment meant. I'm assuming Byrne just wasn't paying much attention to what was happening in the Flash title, though it's possible he really meant to write off Jay Garrick. Why write off Jay and keep Alan Scott though?
I know I've been remiss in adding new reviews as of late, but this thread remains constantly on my mind even while life hasn't given me enough time to do anything about it lately.
Anyway, I just found these again today on ebay after several months of trying to figure out what search terms to use to find them. Back when I was a child, these were MY introduction to Superman and his back story, five whole years before Byrne redid everything:
Too bad I don't actually have the books anymore. I'm wondering what the process was behind their creation. I seem to recall reading a Superman reprint a while back that had a few images that looked identical to some pages I remembered from the bottom right book, depicting Superbaby's early adventures in a state orphanage. I'm assuming the images were either lifted from the comics (perhaps Superman #53?) or were dutifully copied from them.
Last edited by shaxper; 04-18-2013 at 09:13 PM.
I haven't read Byrne's run on Superman or Man of Steel but these reviews and the comments on them are still as entertaining and interesting as always, well done to everyone involved!
I realized while reading these reviews that it sounds like Byrne could have done something about a pet peeve of mine when it comes to Superman and his world; The Phantom Zone. While I enjoy the characters that are associated with it and acknowledge that it's a handy storytelling tool it just never sat right with me that the people of Krypton and Superman himself in the present use it as a prison without much thought. Banishing someone to the Phantom Zone (at least in the depictions I've seen) basically equals judging them to DIABOLICAL TORTURE FOR ALL ETERNITY, and something as barbaric just isn't compatible with my picture of Superman or historic Krypton. Now, if I understand it correctly, Byrne's depiction of historic Krypton as a society where the hunt for scientific progress has eliminated and replaced all humanistic endeavours could explain at least how the idea of the Phantom Zone as a prison was concieved, and I'm wondering if he (or anyone else, for that matter!) ever adressed this?
Though I didn't love it, the Steve Gerber Phantom Zone limited series was a pretty thorough exploration of the setting.
writer/pencils: John Byrne
inks: Karl Kesel
colors: Petra Scotese
letters: John Costanza
editor: Michael Carlin
I'm starting to feel like the decent Byrne issues are harder to read than the bad ones. With a truly poorly executed issue, the comically bad blunders become your focal point but, with an issue like this one, where there are few real errors to give your attention to, I instead find myself realizing everything that Byrne's Superman comics are missing and will never deliver; namely:
1. Good characterization
2. A compelling supporting cast
3. A decent villain who isn't either an over-the-top Luthor or a barely compelling one-hit-wonder who will die by the end of the issue
4. A well thought out conflict
5. Consistency/continuity now that Helfer is gone
Really, the most you can hope for in these stories is decent art and good action (and even those comes around rarely in these issues). It's depressing to consider that these issues have NOTHING to offer. With Helfer gone and Byrne not watching continuity as carefully as he should, I'm seriously wondering if I even need to be reading these issues in order to fully follow the Jurgens era (which is my ultimate goal in reading all of this).
Anyway, I suppose I should get around to reviewing the actual issue...
So here we have a storyline in which we finally get to learn more about Captain Maggie Sawyer. Byrne draws a clear and stated parallel here between her custody battle with her ex and Cat Grant's similar but different battle that Wolfman depicted over in Adventures of Superman. I found both conflicts rather tedious, and both characters and their children rather dull. At least Byrne acknowledged his theft of a Wolfman story idea for once.
The strength of this issue initially appears to be the tact with which Byrne introduces the fact that Sawyer is a lesbian and that this is what broke up her marriage and cost her custody of her daughter. It's bold territory for comics in 1987, and I'm actually impressed at first with the tact Byrne uses in telling us this. He never uses the words explicitly so that an impressionable child or easily offended fan can miss or choose not to believe what he's so clearly hinting at. Again, I was impressed at first because I then got to thinking about the whole Barda/Sleeze thing again. Byrne had absolutely no qualms about making it overt that Barda was being habitually raped and that Superman was starring in a porn with her, so that's appropriate content for an all ages comic book, but an upstanding citizen being a lesbian is not?
Beyond that, this is a pretty forgettable issue, introducing a pretty forgettable subplot in the shape of a custody battle, Maggie's similarly forgettable daughter, and a ludicrous plot involving a villain who turns children into mutant bat people and then promptly dies before the story can go anywhere interesting. And by the way, are they going to return to this storyline and discuss what happens to the 20+ mutant kids that were left behind from this story? Seems like it will be hard to make this interesting with the perpetrator already dead. And yeah, we are given a clear hint that Maggie's daughter is still mutating, but I could care less and actually kind of hope Byrne forgets to follow up on this one.
- Superman's "vision powers" can be disrupted/confused by scattered pieces of lead foil.
- Captain Maggie Sawyer is revealed to be a lesbian
- 1st appearance and death of Skyhook
- 1st appearance of Jimmy Olsen's mother (from behind only)
- Revealed that Jimmy Olsen created his signal watch. Superman did not give it to him.
- Superman can only hear the signal watch at the speed of sound, meaning it can take an hour for him to hear it if he is hundreds of miles away.
- Superman needs to know what he is looking at in order to be able to use his X-Ray vision effectively (this makes no sense. In Superman #9, he used his X-Ray vision to scan every building in Metropolis in search of a lead box. In this case, he's just trying to look into one old church for mutant children).
- How can Superman hear a silent alarm from a distance? It's not like it's ringing at some high pitch. It's just sending electronic impulses to the police. Can Superman hear phone calls being transmitted from a distance as well?
- Though Maggie Sawyer's characterization is lacking, I at least respect that Byrne made her balance toughness and sensitivity; not just a stereotype.
- Why does Jimmy Olsen suddenly appear so much younger in his cameo here, especially living with his mother? He seemed quite a bit older/more mature when we last saw him in this title.
- Why would Maggie just randomly feel the need to inform Superman of her sexual disposition? It's not integral to the story unless Superman wants to know why she lost custody of her child.
- Of course, Superman and Maggie show up JUST as her daughter is about to be mutated by Skyhook.
- So wait -- Maggie's ex-husband just leaves his young daughter home alone all day? Even after she just ran away? Even as Superman is flying away from the house and can clearly see this?
plot synopsis in one sentence:
Superman is trying to investigate some high profile thefts allegedly being committed by super-beings and narrowly misses capturing one, Maggie Sawyer is still worried about her missing daughter, her daughter is being recruited by Skyhook, a mysterious and abusive villain grabbing kids off the street and converting them into mutant bat people, Lois is still furious at Clark for abusing his relationship with Superman to get ahead (she currently believes he and Superman were raised together by the Kents), Sawyer uses Jimmy Olsen's signal watch to contact Superman, she gives her entire life story to him, including the fact that she realized late in life that she was a lesbian and this ruined her marriage and custody privileges, Superman searches for Maggie's daughter and finds a flying mutated bat kid, Maggie randomly suspects this is related to what happened to her daughter, and she and Superman find Skyhook just as he's about to mutate Maggie's daughter, Skyhook is killed, the Police Surgeon is stuck with the mutated kids and has no idea what to do with them, Superman implores Sawyer's ex husband to reconsider granting her shared custody, and we're left with the strong hint that their daughter is still mutating.
Last edited by shaxper; 05-16-2013 at 04:41 AM.
I'm not sure about the other kids, but I think someone did follow up on Maggie's daughter and her mutation at some point.
The heroes showing up just in time was a pretty standard comic book trope; I guess it does seem a little contrived now.
I might need to pick this one up, if only because I really like Maggie.
Adventures of Superman #438
"...The Amazing BRAINIAC"
writer: John Byrne
pencils: Jerry Ordway
inks: John Beatty
letters: Albert De Guzman
colors: Anthony Tollin
editor: Michael Carlin
Carlin: So John, what've you got planned for the next issue of Adventures?
Byrne: It's gonna be great!
Carlin: Oh GOOD...because the last few issues have been kind of...well...dull.
Byrne: Watch it, Mike. You remember what I did to Helfer.
Carlin: Sorry, sir!
Byrne: Yeah, this one's gonna reintroduce Brainiac.
Carlin: WOW!!! That's awesome!!!! So what's he gonna do?
Byrne: Well, as I see it, this is really a story about Clark, Cat, and Jimmy spending time at the circus.
Byrne: And giving some attention to animal cruelty in circuses.
Byrne: But then we'll get to Brainiac near the end
Byrne: ...but it's just a mentalist channeling his thoughts.
Byrne: They'll fight for like five seconds, his wife will save the day by hitting him with a bottle, and that'll pretty much be it.
Byrne: Now get down on your knees and be my Barda. Sleeze's feeling a bit bored.
Carlin: Yes, master.
I really can't imagine the story pitch going much differently.
And seriously, what's with Byrne and utterly ruining Superman's best villains? Remember the mute Bizarro from Man of Steel who DIED in his very first appearance? Remember how pointless Toyman was? Really, all Byrne's given us that hasn't been an utterly massive disappointment has been Wolfman's depiction of Luthor (which he still managed to screw up quite a bit) and an adequate Mr. Mxylplex story. Really -- the long awaited return of arguably Superman's second greatest foe; how do you bungle it as badly as Byrne does here? At least the concept is still salvagable. Vril Dox's new back story isn't terrible (though it leaves me entirely confused as to how such a philanthropist can randomly become so evil without explanation), and his consciousness is still out there and can inevitably find a machine body to host it.
- 1st post-crisis appearance and revised origin for Brainiac. Was pnce a great and selfless scientist who lost his body due to a freak scientific accident. Now trying to inhabit a human mentalist's mind.
- Brainiac somehow affects Superman like Kryptonite
- 3 issues ago, Cat Grant was leaving Metropolis "tomorrow." Nine adventures later, there's no indication that she has any intention of moving to New York anymore. I inferred at the time that Wolfman was trying to take the character away from Byrne just as he was preparing to leave the Superman office (there's plenty of reason to assume the two were often battling over the usage of the characters Wolfman created and/or reinvisioned). The fact that Byrne is completely ignoring the idea that Cat Grant was going to move seems to confirm my assumption.
- Ordway and Beatty did one heck of a job on page 8. For a moment, I thought I was reading an entirely different story due to how striking the images suddenly were for the funeral scene.
Clark, Jimmy, Cat and her son are going to the circus, Superman stops a stampeding elephant and quickly learns its been badly abused, he and Cat get the trainer fired but suspect more is going on (for some entirely unclear reason), Lois visits the funeral of the boy who had been Combattor and was killed by Gangbuster, and she is amazed to discover the family still reveres Luthor as the hero who tried to save the boy's life, the boy's brother slips Lois a note that we don't get to see, we meet "Brainiac," a circus mentalist who is involuntarily channeling the consciousness of Vril Dox, he provides Dox's origin, Dox takes over his mind and starts attacking people, he adopts the name "Brainiac" since that's what the mentalist called himself, the mentalist's wife hits him over the head with a bottle, knocking him out, and the mentalist is locked up, warning that Vril Dox will come again.
Foiled again! I just read Superman #18 and came to see if you had read it yet. Last time with Batman it was a book a little earlier than the point you started from and this time I'm a few issues ahead. Oh well, it's something to look forward to at least.