Friday, June 21, 2013

Great Issues: The Adventures of Superman #546 (1997)

From The Adventures of Superman #546 (1997) written by Karl Kesel and art by Stuart Immonen.
"Great" is an often overused superlative, and as used in the post title above, requires a quick definition. A "Great Issue" to me is one that captures the spirit of the character in a manner that is entertaining. That's it.

Cover pencils by Stuart Immonen,
with inks by Jose Marzan.
With that in mind, another incredibly solid comic book featuring Superman, is The Adventures of Superman #546 (1997). This issue is a case of the "something old, something new" dynamic. As is evident from the cover, this issue is from the late Nineties when "Electric Blue Superman" was the short-term norm for our hero. Though eventually developed into an homage of sorts to the Golden Age Superman Red/Superman Blue story, at the time this power/costume change was quite a big deal.

While temporarily deprived of the solar energy needed to provide the energy his body required to give him powers, Superman had developed electricity-based abilities, which eventually forced him to adopt a blue and white containment suit to prevent the energy dispersing. While retaining most of his abilities, he could now also generate electric attacks rather than his original heat-vision. He also gained the ability to turn his powers "off," though this left him as vulnerable as a normal human, a plot point which plays an importnat part in hwo this partcular story resolves itself.

Ceritak updating
his look.
As the first super villain Superman faced in Superman #1 (2nd Series, 1987), the John Byrne led series that spun out of the legendary Man of Steel (1986) reboot, it only makes sense that this new iteration of Superman is sought out by Metallo who wishes to see what all this "new" business is about. In addition to the battle between the two super powered figures, this issue also features a staple of the Nineties Superman comic books: excellent character development, especially  among a growing supporting cast.

One of the benefits of the weekly issue strategy employed by DC during those years (each week another title starring Superman was released with numbered diamonds on the cover so they could be read in order as a single extensive storyline) was the ability of each of the books to develop many characters fully. While the traditional Daily Planet staff (Lois, Jimmy, Perry) still had many moments in the spotlight, new and interesting characters (such as Jerry Ordway-created Superman's #1 fan, Bibbo) were developed, too.

One such character featured in this issue (and one of my favorite of the new-er supporting cast) is Certitak, a prince of the bottle city of Kandor who became stranded in Metropolis. Inspired by his one-time nemesis Superman, and the symbolic value of the red and gold "S", in this issue Certitak continues his transition from heel to hero and, ultimately, a friend of Superman. In some ways, Certitak plays as an amalgam between Marvel Comics Hulk and Thing as he struggles with being accepted in a world i which he is physically a monster, yet finds the hero within himself through the (eventual) affection of a young blind woman, Ashby Armstrong. This is not to suggest that this trope doesn't still have some life in it.

Though sporting the dubious story title "Blood and Thunder," The Adventures of Superman #546 is an old-school sci-fi, action Superman tale, that works both as an individual issue and as part of the larger Electric Blue Superman story. The individual issue is available in many back issue bins for below cover price or as part of the larger story in the trade paperback Superman: Transformed!

Superman Red/Superman Blue Wikipedia Entry

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