Review by Win Wiacek
With John Byrne’s controversial 1985 reboot now a solid hit, the collaborative teams tasked with ensuring his continued success really hit their stride with the tales collected in this third volume covering April to June 1987.
The wonderment is preceded by an introduction from artist and subsequent writer Jerry Ordway before the drama kicks off with an all-out battle against a new foe, the deranged gunman ‘Bloodsport!’ courtesy of Byrne. The merciless shooter is more than just crazy, however, since some hidden genius has given him the ability to manifest wonder weapons from nothing and he never runs out of ammo.
Marv Wolfman and Ordway concentrate on longer, more suspenseful tales and their two-parter takes the Man of Tomorrow on a punishing visit to the rogue state of Qurac and an encounter with a hidden race of alien telepaths called the Circle, in a visceral and beautiful tale of un-realpolitik. ‘Mind Games’ and ‘Personal Best’ combine a much more relevant, realistic slant with character subplots featuring assorted Daily Planet staff and their families. Thereafter Byrne manufactures spectacle, thrills and instant gratification reader appeal with ‘Cityscape!’ It teams the Metropolis Marvel with Jack Kirby’s Etrigan the Demon as sorceress Morgaine Le Fay attempts to gain immortality by warping time itself.
Byrne’s ‘The Mummy Strikes’ and ‘The Last Five Hundred’ then introduce the first hint of potential romance between the Man of Steel and Wonder Woman. It precedes Lois Lane and Clark Kent embroiled in an extraterrestrial invasion drama that started half a million years ago and features rogue robots and antediluvian bodysnatchers.
In ‘Old Ties’ Wolfman and Ordway reveal the catastrophic results of the Circle transferring their expansionist attentions to Metropolis, before this collection concludes with a cosmic saga from Byrne. He teams the Caped Kryptonian with Hawkman and Hawkwoman in ‘All Wars Must End’, an epic battle against malign Thanagarian invaders, permitting Arisia, Salaak, Kilowog, Katma Tui and other luminaries of the Green Lantern Corps to meet and rescue the star-lost Superman in ‘Green on Green’ before uniting to eliminate an unstoppable planet-eating beast.
The back-to-basics approach lured many readers to – and back to – the Superman franchise, but the sheer quality of the stories and art are what convinced them to stay. Such cracking, clear-cut superhero exploits are a high point in the Action Ace’s decades-long career, and these chronological release collections are certainly the easiest way to enjoy one of the most impressive reinventions of the ultimate comic-book icon.
In 2020 DC combined the previously issued paperbacks in hardcover, so this content is matched with Volume Four.