Action Comics #669-670; Superman: The Man of Steel #4-5; Superman #60-61; Adventures of Superman #483; Triangle Numbers 1991 – 30-36
Writers: Roger Stern, Louise Simonson, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway; Pencillers: Bob McLeod, Jon Bogdanove, Dan Jurgens, Jim Fern, Curt Swan; Inkers: Denis Rodier, Dennis Janke, Eduardo Barreto, Doug Hazlewood, Brett Breeding; Colorist: Glenne Whitmore; Letterers: Bill Oakely, John Costanza, Albert De Guzman
The second batch of stand-alone issues that lead to the next proper arc focuses fairly heavily on the ongoing strike of the Daily Planet tradesmen. Specifically the plot in Action Comics #669 revolves around how Intergang plans to sow further discord between the management and the striking workers. Action Comics #669 also reintroduces the vigilante Thorn to the Metropolis landscape. More importantly though, this issue sets up the next mini-arc with Superman’s focus on taking down Intergang once and for all. This issue also marks the first time the Kents and the Lanes meet, which can be a recipe for disaster since the Kents are usually depicted as more progressive, while Sam Lane is frequently a conservative blowhard. It also marks Perry White’s return to Metropolis, and his anger at the Planet’s management is clearly on display from the start.
Sam Lane continues to play an important part in Superman: The Man of Steel #4. In another stand-alone issue that pulls a driving force from previous issues, this time being the recently captured Parasite, Sam Lane is tracked down (via phone book for that full nineties experience) by a soldier who had been turned into a monster by the army in a project that Lane had told him to volunteer for. This plot does lead to more nuanced character development for Sam Lane, in that he is shown to love and support his daughter, despite how much he may disagree with her politically. And because we can’t have nice things all the time, this issue also introduces Jeb Friedman, political and union organizer and slimy past love interest of Lois Lane. The Superman/Lois/Clark triangle is dead now, so time to insert a new angle for romantic strife! Sorry but Jeb Friedman is absolutely one of my least favorite characters from this era of comics. Meanwhile, as part of the ongoing Intergang plotline, Lois challenges Clark to get a scoop without her powers, and he accepts this challenge, the result of which will take place in Superman #60.
It is in fact without his powers that Clark Kent takes down the last remnants of Intergang, though it’s hard to imagine that his passive powers like invulnerability didn’t come into play no matter how much he tried to avoid using them. That said, for his secret identity to remain intact, Clark has to rely on a save from a mysterious new masked man. Clad in a gold cowl, jetpack and patriotic colors, Agent Liberty has arrived. There’s not a lot to him in this first appearance, but over the next year or so of Jurgens’ Superman he’d be a fairly big player. In the end it’s Clark’s article that takes down the majority of Intergang, while Superman takes down Manheim himself. By delivering the article through Collin Thornton’s newspaper, he also helps the subplot of Thornton’s bid for mayor.
Like any story where a big criminal empire goes down, there are always a few stragglers that just refuse to go down. Such is the case with Intergang, as this issue is a mostly comical plot about former Intergang henchman Blindspot and his vendettas against Jose Delgado and Detective Slam Bradley. Guest artist Jim Fern does a great job of playing with comedic timing in an issue that is anything but serious.
Action Comics #670 is another tie-in to a big event, this time Armageddon 2001, the event that permeated the DC annuals of 1991. In those annuals, and the two issue mini-series that bookended that story, a mysterious time traveller named Waverider is trying to figure out the identity of the villainous Monarch. This issue of Action takes place with the events of Armageddon 2001 #2 happening right in the middle of it’s story. In that issue STAR Labs was destroyed, and so a chunk of this issue is heroes clearing the rubble and saving the people that were in the building when it was destroyed. In the meantime, Lois is hosting several displaced Daily Planet writers so they can have a sense of comradery while supporting the strikes. It’s nice to check in with the supporting cast of the Daily Planet when they haven’t been able to feature during this arc. The Planet staff is absolutely one of the most enduring things of this era, so the check-in was very welcome. Also welcome was the first glimpse of Perry White standing up for the rights of his employees to Daily Planet management. This issue also marks the introduction, on page, of the illusive Luthor heir. Taking after his father, he has red hair and beard, but is tall and handsome unlike dear old dad.
One of the survivors of the Star Labs destruction was Joseph Martin, who at the end of Action Comics #670 was assaulted by men stealing his bike, just as his metahuman powers triggered. Superman: The Man of Steel #5 opens where that issue had ended, with Superman confronting Martin, now calling himself the Atomic Skull in a movie theater playing a serial featuring a character of the same name. This issue is an incredibly unique one for two reasons. The first is that it was meant to be read sideways. All the interior pages were presented as landscape spreads. This facilitated the second unique thing about the issue, which was that on the left side of the page was a black and white scene from the aforementioned serial, illustrated by Curt Swan; while the right was the current action of the issue illustrated by Jon Bogdanove. The two plots worked in concert together to tell the story of the issue, and a man who had lost his grip on reality. In subplot news, Jimmy gets fired again, this time from the Daily Star where he was working as a janitor to get an undercover story on the bad working conditions there.
Rounding out this set of issues before the next big arc begins is Superman #61. This issue serves to tie up several things from earlier in the year, starting with STAR Labs destruction. More importantly though, Superman #61 brings light to the Linear Men, the shadowy group of people dedicated to protecting the time stream who Superman first encountered during “Time and Time Again”. The Linear Men, led by Rip Hunter, were responsible for removing paradoxes from the time stream, though sometimes they would interfere for their own reasons as well. Liri Lee had been the one that had given Clark and Lois their moment out of time in Superman #59, for example. Again, playing with science-fiction concepts like space and time travel would be a hallmark of Jurgens’ run on the book, and this is just another example of him introducing things of this nature. Also making his reappearance in this issue is Mr. Z. I’m sure that will cause no problems at all.