General Lane announces to the world at a press conference that Superman is now a menace. He is backed up by one of Superman’s greatest champions, Lois Lane. But Lois is actually under the control of Brainiac, and is working to destroy Superman.
The Man of Steel has exiled himself to the most lifeless desert he can find. (Although I’m pretty sure Antarctica would have been a better choice). Steel tries to cheer him up and offer him a cure, although Superman isn’t hopeful. Suddenly they’re attacked by Atomic Skull and Metallo, both under orders from General Lane. Steel takes on Atomic Skull while Superman fight Metallo. At the urging of Brainiac-Lois, Metallo blows himself up, releasing a cloud of Kryptonite particles across the planet.
Metallo! It’s great to get one of Superman’s rogues back in a way that’s not simply pandering and actually has something to do with the character. The way Brainiac-Lois plays on Metallo’s feelings for Lois in order to manipulate him is both cruel and humanizing. It actually gets us to feel for the brute, which plays nicely into what happens to him at the end.
The fight between Metallo and Superman is also great. Instead of the standard “dodge the beams” scenario, Metallo now has Kryptonite in gaseous form. It’s good that they’re trying to find new ways to use the most lampshaded element of the Superman mythos. As Superman says “It’s always Kryptonite isn’t it?”
But what really elevates the fight is the twist that Metallo is on a suicide mission. Suddenly the battle becomes a struggle to save Metallo. It’s completely unexpected in a story about Superman falling into darkness and I love it. Metallo’s stoic acceptance of death adds a depth and poignancy to his character that it’s nearly never had.
The presence of so many Superman villains in one fight, either directly, indirectly or through a communicator is also great. I’m a sucker for rogues gallery showcases, but you’ve got to admit a fight that manages to tie in Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Doomsday, Metallo, Atomic Skull and General Lane is pretty cool. The exotic location of the fight (Atacama Desert, Chile) and the reason for it (It’s one of the deadest places on the planet, so Superman won’t be at much risk of hurting anyone. Awww.) was another nice touch. I wish more comics would take advantage of the fact that they have an unlimited location budget.
Poor John Corben. How many times has he died since the New 52? Superman even starts their fight by lamenting that the military has brought him to life yet again.
At the start of this issue, we see Superman (still with those awful beard spike arrrgghhh!) flying away from a burning rainforest and lamenting the destruction he’s just caused. When did this happen? In the last issue of this storyline (SUPERMAN #31) he was in the middle of a city. Did we miss an issue?
Once again, Greg Pak proves that he’s the best Superman writer working today. ACTION COMICS #32 is a treat.