Superman: Critical Condition

Superman: Critical Condition
Superman Critical Condition review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: DC - 1-5638-9949-3
  • Release date: 2003
  • UPC: 9781563899492
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

Metropolis has problems, but the Man of Steel is coping with far weightier issues. As seen in ‘Til Death Us Do Part, Superman can’t locate his missing wife. With his one true love lost and maybe dead, he also had to admit that something was killing him from the inside. The focus here, then, is Superman’s fading health and the search for Lois, individual chapters conceived by various creators, yet tightly meshing.

‘Pranked!’ by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike McKone opens proceedings as Superman scours the city, convinced Lex Luthor knows something about Lois’ disappearance. He’s distracted when the maniacal Prankster strikes again. Angry concern and overconfidence only lead Superman into a Kryptonite trap.

The saga continues in ‘All Fall Down’ by Mark Schultz and Pablo Raimondi as the rapidly expiring Metropolis Marvel crashes into the technological wonderland built by John Henry Irons, AKA Steel. With the inventor Superman devises a means of boosting his depleted solar energy reserves, but rather than rest and recuperate, the weary hero again attempts to broach Luthor’s Lair. Irons then makes a chilling discovery regarding Superman’s condition.

‘Metropolica’ by Joe Kelly and Pascual Ferry is the strange diversion of Luthor setting his formidable bodyguards Hope and Mercy the task of finding the missing Lois Lane. For once innocent of mischief, the Machiavellian multi-billionaire needs to know who is acting against his interests in his own domain. Although the mission exposes a lot of secrets about the City of Tomorrow, Lois’ whereabouts is not one of them.

The hunt concludes as Batman steps in – over the increasingly feeble protestations of the clearly-dying Man of Steel – in ‘D.O.A.’ by Kelly and Cary Nord. The Dark Knight’s methodology and attitudes might be unwelcome, but as Superman follows him through the most sordid and squalid regions of the city he cannot fault their efficacy; especially when, against all hope, they find Lois alive. With his wife at last returned Superman’s energy finally fades.

The title tale then begins with ‘Little Big Man’ by Jeph Loeb and Duncan Rouleau. A desperate band of scientists try and save Superman from a poison or infection which is destroying him by making his powers go wild. Among them is Ray Palmer, the Atom. who undertakes a ‘Fantastic Voyage’ inside Superman, accompanied by Steel, Supergirl and Superboy, but as the Atom shrinks his emergency team into the patient’s boiling hot bloodstream he has no idea that more than one of his party is concealing a deadly secret.

In ‘Green Universe’ DeMatteis and Carlo Barberi show Supergirl – currently the earthly abode of a fallen angel – attacked by antibodies shaped like memories even as Superboy and Steel locate a Kryptonite tumour that suddenly attacks them.

In the outer universe Lois searches for sorceress and petty criminal La Encantadora who has horrifying details about what is wrong with the Man of Steel. DeMatteis ends with a terrifying revelation.

With the patient alternately flatlining and nearly exploding, ‘Inside Superman’ by Shultz and Doug Mahnke requires a newcomer to warn the unwary Super-Squad of danger. The revelations come thick and fast amid the dangerous presence of assassin Deathstroke.

Everything comes to a compulsive and catastrophic climax in ‘Death’s Door’ courtesy of Kelly and Kano reveal the mystery poisoner. is revealed, Terminator thwarted and the Super-Squad triumphantly restores Superman to full health, ready for Emperor Joker.

Lovers of superhero action surely won’t resist a compelling soap opera super-melodrama that remains a high point of the canon.