Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Classics - Superman #156

Picking up from last week's classic review, where we saw Superman die!

(In an Imaginary Story.)

So seven issues later, we once again see Superman (about to) die!

But this was no imaginary story. Here we see Superman encounter yet another in a long line of artifacts from Krypton - a box that Jimmy Olsen opens just before Superman translates the writing on it, which reveals it contains Virus X - a disease fatal to Kryptonians (but not humans, natch).

Superman is immediately stricken with pain - he realizes his time is short, so he quickly begins making preparations for projects he hoped to complete before his death, and arranging for others to carry on his work of protecting the world.

I have to tell you, when I read this issue as a kid in 1962, I absolutely loved it. It's jammed with guest stars, including the Legion of Super-Heroes, Krypto, Supergirl, Batman, Robin, Superman's supporting cast - Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Perry White, Lori Lemaris - and several other surprises.

Best of all, unlike far too many stories from that time, this one plays fair with the reader - there are no magical solutions or rabbits pulled out of hats to solve Superman's impending fate - instead, the writer (an uncredited Edmond Hamilton, I believe) manages a clever and convincing wrap-up.

The issue is also uncharacteristic of Superman stories in that it's dripping with emotion. Thanks to the (as always) amazing artwork by Curt Swan, we see the agony Superman goes through, both physical and emotional. He revisits his hometown and says a brief but heartfelt goodbye to his best friends - by the end of the issue, you're convinced that the end is at hand.

It's not unusual for superheroes to face death, of course - but it was very unusual for the reader to think that it might actually happen.

This story managed that, and does so with so much wit and heart that it remains, to this day, one of my all-time favorite Superman stories.

Next week, Superman dies again!

Grade: A


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