Superman #654–658 by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco
Busiek and Pacheco are a good team (see Avengers Forever or Arrowsmith), so I was keen to see what they would do with the big blue boy scout. The accepted aspect is the lovely art – if you have a first page where Lois is in skimpy knickers and a t-shirt and it doesn’t look cheesy but actually sexy (because Pacheco does classy European scantily clad women), you know you are in good hands. Everyone looks good in a Pacheco book, even the ugly people. Oh, and Lois at the end of the first issue in negligee and high heels? Ahem. He also does the other stuff well: Superman fighting or Clark Kent in the Daily Planet office, it’s all under control.
The first issue is a nicely packaged story – a typical Superman day, mixing journalism with crimefighting (showcasing all the strange villains in Metropolis). The second issue has a cover of the first issue from the Back In Action storyline in Action Comics, which is a cute touch. There are several nice touches, such as Superman reading science textbooks in microdots hidden in trashy novels because his memory capability has improved. Clark is off to Kazakhstan to see Dr Callie Llewellyn, an old friend, where he meets Subjekt 17, an alien who had been imprisoned there for a long time. Naturally, he and Superman fight. Subjekt 17 was a baby of an alien who crash-landed, and he was experimented on by the Russians, so he was bound to be angry. The fight is stopped by the arrival of Arion of Atlantis with a warning of the future from the past.
The next issue is the future – a destroyed Metropolis with Lois and Jimmy Olsen still alive with the help of a hero called Sirocco (who? What is it with all of these DC heroes I’ve never heard of?), Lex Luthor and Rudy, a purple-skinned alien. Arion is showing Superman the danger that lies ahead – a villain called Khyber, who makes alliances with villains to destabilize the powerful nations of the world, causing the world to erupt into war. Superman fights him but Khyber wins and throws him at the Earth from space, causing the world to shatter as if hit by an asteroid – tsunamis, earthquakes and a nuclear winter. The villains fight over the remaining places (except for Metropolis, which is defended by Lex) but they all fall to Khyber. Survivors gather at Luthor Mountain, including old man Wally West and Hal Jordan’s daughter as a Green Lantern, for The Last Battle. In which Superman comes back from the dead (who says there is any Jesus connection to the Superman mythos?) but he can’t kill Khyber – that falls to Sirocco. But the Earth still dies – all because of Superman. So Arion tells him: ‘You must let civilization fall.’ Which is a good way to end a story to ensure the reader comes back for the rest of the story – even if they don’t mention it anywhere until the end. Even though I am a sucker for dystopian futures (it comes from reading the X-Men when I was younger), this is still good comics – Busiek does a great job with all aspects of the story and Pacheco matches with superlative art.