Infinite Crisis: This Is Your Life, Superman!
Spans: Superman #226, Action Comics #836 and Adventures of Superman #649
Writer: Joe Kelly
By Drew Grgich
24 February 2006 — Sometimes, confusion is an embarrassment of riches:
— You're in an ice cream shop and you're confused because you want the butterscotch sundae and you want the hot fudge, but don't know which to pick.
— You have an opportunity to go out with that cute chick Chloe or that cheerleader Lana, and you don't know which to pick.
— You have to decide whether you want the blue Mustang or the red Charger, and you don't know...
You get the idea. It is rare, but every once in awhile confusion over what to pick means you're a lucky S.O.B. with too much good stuff in your life.
Unfortunately, the recent issues of Superman and Action Comics provide the more common form of confusion. This is the kind that is not good, and tends to make people feel like throwing heavy and / or loose items about the room. This is not to say that these comics are bad. Actually, there is gold to be mined within these pages, but like those old forty-niners — look up the reference... it's history — you have to work pretty damn hard to get to the nuggets.
These two issues are parts one and two of a three-part tale that seems to be the last pre-Infinite Crisis Superman storyline. Although we don't see it, these issues seem to be taking place between a battle of "our" Superman and the much older Superman of Earth-2 — a battle which has already been revealed by the cover of the upcoming Infinite Crisis #5. As such, since that book doesn't come out until next week, we're only getting part of the picture.
However, this part of the picture is not very satisfying. Superman #226 seems to retell part of the origin of the Superman of Earth-2. This Superman got his start in the early 1940s, and, as such, we get flashbacks to World War II and the anti-communist House Committee on Un-American Activities hearings. There's a twist though; it seems that the battle of the Supermen — along with the events of Infinite Crisis #4 and perhaps #5 — are causing the Superman of Earth-2 to relive part of his early life. He has awareness of what Hitler was up to in those six Polish villages. He knows what he has to do when called before Congress to testify during the witch hunts of the 1950s. Huh? What?
It gets better; that is to say, it gets more confusing. In Action Comics #836, we get Superman of Earth-2 living the events of the life of our Superman. We see how he would have handled that shuttle rescue that reintroduced us to Superman back in 1986. There's his first meeting with Batman and his epic battle with Doomsday; each event is handled differently than we recall and could serve to nudge the history of the DCU in a more positive direction — instead of the dark and dreary stories of the past few years.
Of the two, the second part is better. Part one seems to be boring exposition; worse yet, it is unclear precisely what this exposition is all about. We're never told what is going on. And while I expect issue #5 of IC will clear this up somewhat, it still allows this story to have too many confusing threads. Part two is like a cool Elseworlds-style look back at the life of the modern Superman. See him with Batman in a replay of their "currently in continuity" first meeting, but this time with a twist — this is cool. I can understand what the writers are hinting at, and it both excites and worries me about the post-Infinite Crisis direction of Superman. These usually aren't good feelings to have when considering the level of enjoyment a book gives you.
On the bright side — perhaps the 75-watt bright side and not the shiny fluorescent side — those of you with an appreciation for Superman history will remember that Alan Moore wrote the now classic Superman tale "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" as the final story prior to John Bryne's post-Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot. This story has some of that epic "we're wrapping up one thing and moving to another thing" feel. This is like a flavoring for the overall meal, and while it does improve the experience somewhat, the rest of the meal has a strong fishy taste that is not so good — or is that a cheesy taste? I get so confused some times...
Drew Grgich is one of the Sci-Fi Scoundrels, a group of n'er-do-wells who curse and foul-mouth their way through a podcast about science ficition in films and on TV. You can see more of his work at SciFiScoundrels.com.