Review by Win Wiacek
This is the final paperback volume reprinting John Byrne’s later 1980s Superman stories, although DC began a new hardcover reprint series in 2020. Presuming the series lasts as long, this content will be found in Book Five. Amid this content is one of the most talked-about storylines of the entire run.
The fabulous fun begins with an exploration of multidimensional madness in ‘The Tiny Terror of Tinseltown’, courtesy of Byrne and Jerry Ordway, wherein 5th Dimensional sprite Mr. Mxyzptlk heads for Hollywood to wreak more prankish madcap mayhem. His animation of cartoon favourites is however, overshadowed by a remarkable event in Antarctica as a young girl staggers into a research station, immune to the cold and claiming amnesia. She is clad in a brief but fetching variation of Superman’s uniform.
Having tricked the mischievous mite into leaving our plane, the Man of Tomorrow faces an insidious assault by alien energy-leech Psi-phon, who gradually and systematically removes the hero’s abilities in ‘The Power that Failed!’. The story continues as ‘Power Play’ introduces the alien’s brutal partner Dreadnaught, resulting in a cataclysmic clash in Metropolis that eventually involves the Justice League of America. Elsewhere, that mystery girl has recovered a few memories and headed for Smallville, Kansas, zeroing in on the Kent family farm.
Paul Kupperberg and Erik Larsen initiate a Doom Patrol crossover when Robotman Cliff Steele painfully discovers his spare bodies and replacement parts have been stolen by mecha-monster Metallo. The ensuing battle for ‘The Soul of the Machine’ devastates Kansas City, drawing the Metropolis Marvel into the conflict ‘In the Heartland!’ As the united champions seemingly end the techno-tainted threat, back in Kansas a very confused Girl of Steel meets Ma and Pa Kent and Lana Lang: people she has known all her life but has never met before.
Meanwhile Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen investigate a hostage-taking in war-torn Qurac. Incredibly, their hunt for an American ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ (scripted by Ordway and illustrated by John Statema) leads them to a race of fantastic, paranoid and combative aliens hidden beneath the deserts sands since the time of the pharaohs.
Finally, the ongoing enigmas are addressed as the “Supergirl Saga” commences with ‘You Can’t Go Home Again’. After the Action Ace encounters the flying girl her memories return and she reveals her astounding secret. Of course, it’s not that simple.
As seen in ‘Parallel Lines Meet at Infinity…’ when “Superboy” vanished, his world (see Man of Steel Volume Four) was left to the mercies of three of his Kryptonian arch-enemies. Before long General Zod, Zaora and Quex-Ul reduced mankind to a desperate handful of survivors with super-genius Lex Luthor acting as technological saviour. The shocking tale culminates when Superman defeats his ruthless, sadistic and far more powerful fellow Kryptonians, but not without cost. With Byrne writing drawing and inking, ‘The Price’ sets the tone for the next phase of the Man of Tomorrow’s life as he takes drastic action altering his moral stance forever-after.
The adventure concludes with ‘The Cadmus Project’ (Roger Stern and Ron Frenz), adapting major elements of Jack Kirby’s breathtaking Jimmy Olsen material. Here clones of the 1940s Newsboy Legion escape the top-secret genetics project and hide in Metropolis. Magnets for trouble, the kids stumble into gang crime and are rescued by the revenant of their original Guardian – part-time costumed hero Jim Harper.
Supplementing the main event is all-Byrne ‘Private Lives’ sidebar story ‘Loves Labor’s…’, starring Captain Maggie Sawyer and Terrible Turpin of Metropolis’s Special Crimes Unit.
Byrne and associates again deliver thrills, excitement and innovation in another page-turning collection.