Chapter by Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Last time it appeared that two supposed “Supermen” were flying around Metropolis. We followed one, for now dubbed “The Kryptonian”, but there’s also another one who thus far has only destroyed the plaque honoring Superman’s sacrifice against Doomsday. Also, one of these Supermen killed a rapist who showed up out of nowhere while Lois met up with the Kryptonian. He knows who Lois is and the name Clark Kent but states that he is only Superman now. So basically we have two Supermen who are nothing like Superman outside of some shared powers.
However, there are two more heroes to come out of this and we have yet to see them in action. Unless you count Bibbo dressing in Superman merchandise and running around helping others like superheroes in the real world. (Look up “real life superheroes” and discount the jerks making fun of people honestly trying to bring a bit of fun and joy to people’s lives.) What will befall Metropolis next and is Supergirl ready to share the skies with so many flying people?
Chapter 20: Reign Of The Supermen part 2
While the previous chapter seemed to focus primarily on The Kryptonian, the other three–Man Of Steel (or as we know him today, Steel), Superboy, and The Cyborg (this is the one that smashed the plaque) take the forefront. And I’ll say this now, the only one who isn’t claiming he’s Superman reborn is probably more like Superman than the other three. Heck, even Bibbo is. I’m actually considering referring to him as “Sooperman” (which is how he says Superman’s name in his accent) for the time being, but he’s not in this chapter and neither is The Kryptonian outside of a few references.
I’m going to save the Cyborg for last because this does require spoilers for the select few who aren’t aware of who he is, like with The Kryptonian. Man Of Steel and Superboy are just too obvious; one is a man in armor and one is a teenage clone. And all we see of Superboy is him being rescued by the Newsboy Legion before Westfield can put in the phrases that would turn him into a puppet. Before he flies off he does chastise one of the kids for calling him Superboy. This is still his 90s punk brat stage after all, not the more calmer stage that was used for Young Justice if that’s all you know him from. There’s a scene where the Guardian comes across the wreckage and the way Stern the novelist sets the scene up already sounds more interesting than 90s art could produce.
For Man Of Steel’s story some of the gang members take revenge for “Henry Johnson” turning one of them in and try to destroy the building, but he’s already created his Man Of Steel armor. I like how the prose version of a “suit up” sequence works. Coming from the shows I grew up with (everything from the Rambo cartoon…I was a kid, okay?…to shows like…does anybody else remember Mr. T’s other show, T And T, where he plays an investigator for the DA?…to all the other superheroes who either changed costumes or somehow transformed into their superhero forms) I love a good suit-up sequence. Stern does a good job explaining how the suit works, right down to a megaphone built into the helmet that operates with a “microswitch” he operates with his tongue. I kind of want to see how an Iron Man novel explains how his armor works. Do they still write those? It’s an attention to detail that makes it my favorite part of the chapter, but it could also be because Steel’s my favorite of the “Supermen” in this story arc.
But now we get to the Cyborg Superman, or just The Cyborg for convenience sake. He breaks into STAR Labs, steals Doomsday’s corpse, and chains it to an asteroid, and I have to wonder why? The notion that he could regenerate of sorts wouldn’t come until Hunter/Prey so it seems odd that he would do this. Then he meets up with Lois and claims to have amnesia. Not total amnesia. He knows who she is and that he’s Superman, but he doesn’t recognize Emil at first, the scientist Superman often went to for help and was testing him. So they run him through a computer to see if he’s Superman and he checks out. Of course The Cyborg (not to be confused with the Teen Titan of course) did tap into the computer and there’s a reason why. And here’s where we get to the spoiler side.
Avoid this section to avoid spoilers!
I find it interesting to look at The Cyborg, aka Hank Henshaw, and with the gift of hindsight explore how he pulls off his trick of coming off as Superman. I believe we learn his origin later so I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, but I wonder if anyone at the time caught on to how he obviously tapped into Emil’s computer and not only altered the results but looked into Emil’s notes to “suddenly remember” him and his love interest. (Which means Emil also has been writing in his diary about her and of course he keeps it on the computer.) It shows Henshaw is not just a superpowered cybernetic powerhouse but he’s also pretty smart.)
Now back to the chapter-only spoilers!
I kind of wonder about forcing all three remaining Supermen into the same chapter. I think Stern is subtly hinting that Cyborg Superman is messing with the test results, and we know both Man Of Steel and Superboy are not the real Superman. It seems to me that thus far Stern is really trying to push that The Kryptonian is Superman. I don’t know if the comics came the same way or if he really wanted him to be Superman or what was going on behind the scenes in the Superwriter discussions concerning this arc. What I do know is that it’s a heck of a stunt since neither of these guys are the real Superman, which is hard not to spoil in 2018 with the general public at this point. Was this a red herring or the author’s preference? And will it continue as our adventure does?
Next Time: Reign Of The Supermen part 3