Review by Win Wiacek
Man of Steel’s introductory volume featured John Byrne’s hugely successful 1985 reconstitution of Superman for the modern era. Volume Two begins a more or less (narrative permitting) chronological representation of the subsequent three regular monthly titles, with this outing covering January to March 1987.
Following co-author Marv Wolfman’s introductory reminisces and commentary in ‘Reinventing the Wheel’, the never-ending battle recommences with Byrne revealing a ‘Heart of Stone’: offering a new origin for Metallo, the Terminator-style cyborg with a human brain and a kryptonite heart. It culminates in a deadly battle and baffling mystery portending big troubles to come. The focus then shifts to ‘Squatter!’ by Byrne, as a body-snatching mental force suborns the Metropolis Marvel and necessitates a team-up with the Teen Titans. The accent is predominantly on breakneck pace and all-out costumed conflict here. Byrne then describes ‘The Secret Revealed’, as modern-day robber baron Lex Luthor makes the biggest mistake of his life after kidnapping and torturing Clark Kent’s first girlfriend Lana Lang.
Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway’s ‘Man O’ War’ and ‘Going the Gauntlet,’ are a two-parter introducing the tragic Dr. Emil Hamilton and rival Daily Planet reporter Cat Grant to the mythology. Here the Action Ace battles high-tech terrorists sponsored by rogue state Qurac and proves to be no respecter of international boundaries. These politically and socially aware dramas would become a truer and more lasting template for the modern Man of Tomorrow after Byrne’s eventual retirement from the character.
The Phantom Stranger guests in a battle against a deadly manifestation of unquiet spirits in Byrne’s ‘And the Graves Give Up Their Dead’ before the last three chapters are given over to the Superman segment of multi-part crossover event Legends.
‘Legends of the Darkside’ has Clark Kent abducted to Apokolips by its evil master Darkseid. He escapes to become a rebel leader of the lowly Hunger Dogs via Wolfman and Ordway’s amnesiac Superman on Apokolips in ‘From the Dregs’, before the rousing yarn concludes with ‘The Champion’, as Byrne reintroduces Jack Kirby’s legendary New Gods Orion and Lightray just in time for a blistering battle royale between the Man of Steel and Darkseid.
Closing this collection is a full cover gallery and information pages on reimagined and post-Crisis icons Lois Lane, Amazing Grace, Krypton and Kryptonite, and Metallo.
A major problem most non-fans have with superhero comics are the insane permutations and convolutions demanded by in-house continuity. This All-Readers-Start-Here opportunity to show doubters how good the genre can be was one all comics missionaries could exploit to the fullest, and these tales are as accessible and enjoyable now that they ever were. Thrill-starved Newbies start here, and bring your significant others/mothers/dads/kids and all your super-friends too! Volume Three continues the magic.
In 2020 DC began reissuing Byrne’s Superman reboot in hardcover editions, and this content was combined with Volume One.