The Price of Liberty
Action Comics #676-677; Superman: The Man of Steel #11-12; Superman #67-68; Adventures of Superman #490-491; Triangle Numbers 1992 – 16-23
Writers: Roger Stern, Louise Simonson, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway; Pencillers: Jackson Guice, Jon Bogdanove, Dan Jurgens, Tom Grummett; Inkers: Denis Rodier, Dennis Janke, Brett Breeding, Doug Hazlewood, Trevor Scott, Hilary Barta; Colorist: Glenn Whitmore; Letterers: Bill Oakley, John Costanza, Albert De Guzman
With the previous two arcs firmly cementing his status as a hero to the people of Metropolis, Lex Luthor the Second prepares to throw a lavish party on his ocean liner. Meanwhile, Hellgrammite takes this opportunity to make his move and attempt the assassination he was hired to do. While Superman foils his attempt on Luthor’s life, the monster gets away to try again another day. Lamenting that he is still unable to buy Superman, Lex rejoices when his scientists discover Supergirl’s rocket allowing him to be the first to welcome her back to Earth. This issue marks the first one penciled by new regular Action Comics penciler Jackson Guice, who would be the penciller on the title for the next three years. While Guice’s faces are sometimes a little off, he provides a consistent look for some of the most important arcs in Superman’s history.
Husque once again switched places with someone from the Earth like he did back in Superman #38-39. This time he switched places with Emil Hamilton back at the end of Adventures of Superman #489, scaring the life out of poor Mildred. The only bit of this plot that was shown in Action Comics #676 was a brief encounter between Husque and Team Luthor, leaving the majority of that plot to fall in Superman: The Man of Steel #11. Husque almost immediately tries to return Professor Hamilton, but instead switches places with another Exile World denizen, the living furnace Flashpoint. Between the scenes set in Exile World with Husque and Hamilton and various weird looking monsters and Flashpoint’s antics on Earth, this felt an awful lot like the Inferno storyline that both Simonson and Bogdanove were part of during their Marvel days. For a quick one-off issue, this story was a lot of fun, and ended with both Husque and Hamilton back on Earth to set up the next issue of Adventures of Superman.
But first, Brainiac had one final ace up his sleeve in his quest to ruin Superman. That last weapon he launched in Superman #66 just happens to be a cloud of flesh eating super destructive organisms that wipe a planet down to just the earth for fresh terraforming. This time it is fully Lex Luthor the Second who saves the day, leaving Superman feeling disheartened. This issue also introduces a subplot of displaced Warworlders who have made their home in the sewers, something I’m sure won’t cause any problems for Superman in the future. Meanwhile over in Washington, new Senator Pete Ross is being pressured into voting down a gun control bill authored by his predecessor by the Liberty Rifle Association. Gosh, remember when comics weren’t political? Anyway Pete, if your predecessor got literally blown up, and one of the very first things to happen in your term is that you get pressured by a gun rights group to vote down a bill the predecessor authored? You might want to report that. Just sayin’.
This subplot would carry right into Adventures of Superman #490, as despite Lana being given a job by Judge Kramer, Pete Ross voted for the gun control bill. Both the man who came to talk to Ross and the Judge are members of the Sons of Liberty, a group of ultra-”patriotic” radicals that were first introduced in Superman #53 at the very start of the Triangle Era. While they’re pressuring Ross, Superman was also dealing with a cell of the organization holed up in Qurac. One other subplot while focusing on events in America is that the reader is shown Newstime intern Ron Troupe’s private life, in which we learn that his sister Roberta is part of a group that pickets for better workplace diversity hiring practices. The rest of the issue revolves around the plot of reuniting Husque and his sister Tehra. I will say that seeing Tom Grummett teamed with an inker other than Doug Hazlewood for an issue was a little jarring, as Trevor Scott’s inks are a bit rougher than Hazlewood’s.
Action Comics #677 features the full-time return of Matrix to the books and specifically to this title where she’d be a key player for the next few years. Enamored with a Lex Luthor that looked like a spitting image of the one that she was created by, she chooses to live with him and joins Team Luthor much to Superman’s chagrin, and likely for good reason, as Luthor’s ulterior motives are hinted at once again. Over in subplots, Ron’s sister is now picketing the Daily Planet, and Perry White both gets and gives an earful. The only other notable thing about this issue, is that it may in fact be the horniest Superman comic ever produced. From Clark nibbling on Lois’s ear to Supergirl’s shapeshifting fashion show for Lex Luthor. This issue’s horny dial was turned to 11.
In another callback to their Marvel days, Superman: The Man of Steel #12 sess Simonson and Bogdanove introduce the Underworlders, a group of sewer dwelling misfits not entirely unlike the X-Men’s Morlocks. This issue is also the return of the stranded Warwolrders from Superman #66. The Warworlders are trying their best to cause more destruction, and it’s only by the grace of a giant mutant worm eating their bomb that they don’t destroy a good chunk of Metropolis. RIP giant mutant worm. There’s also a subplot about a doctor who people are feeling weak after seeing, that is quite obviously a vampire. Oh and Foswell got canned. That technically happened in Action, but it gets expanded on here.
Just two months removed from helping Superman save the world in “Panic in the Sky” and Deathstroke is predictably already a fugitive from justice, which again, makes one question why Superman would have gone to him in the first place. While Metropolis SCU (Special Crimes Unit) tries to take him down, Lois’s kid sister Lucy gets caught in the crossfire. As Slade learns the name of the unintended victim of his actions, he has flashbacks to wartime, serving with Sam Lane. The flashback is short, but the tricks that Whitmore uses to make it stand out shine. The entire flashback is tints of red, giving a deep dramatic feel to the sequence. Touching both the Ron Troupe and Foswell subplots, Newstime is now having the financial woes that the Planet had been earlier in the year and Thornton has to let Ron go. At the same time he brushes off Foswell looking for new work. A dejected Foswell gets on the elevator down, dramatically foreshadowing what’s coming next for him. Over in Washington, the Sons of Liberty continue to plot against Senator Ross, pressuring him about the hearing of one of their own. Superman captures Deathstroke, and takes him to the hospital to see Lucy and Sam Lane. He doesn’t tell Sam how they know each other, because he selfishly doesn’t want Sam to know what he’s become.
When Metallo was reintroduced by John Byrne back in 1986’s Superman #1, it was immediately clear that Byrne had just watched Terminator, and took massive inspiration from Arnold’s killer cyborg. Which makes it hilarious that Adventures of Superman #491 opens with Jose Delgado, Cat Grant and her son Adam attending what is clearly the DC Universe’s version of Terminator 2, as Metallo bursts through the screen in a new and improved body. Back in Man of Steel #12, a winged cyborg that looked like a cross between Archangel and Cameron Hodge stole Metallo’s head from a Cadmus transport, which makes it clear now that that’s how he got this new body. And in fact, during his slugfest with Superman, he accidentally reveals that Cerberus gave him his new body. SCU deploys a new tool to prevent the remote shutdown they’ve seen in other Cerberus agents, and Superman flies off to use an incinerator to clean his costume from the resulting goo. The issue ends with the recently laid off Ron Troupe waiting for an interview with Perry White. Jimmy jokes with him about the time Ron got the job that Jimmy was late interviewing for, but also escorts Ron to Perry to put in a good word for him.