CREDITS: Written by Mark Evanier (a great friend of Jack Kirby's and his chief archivist, he also created Scrappy Doo, scripted Groo the Wanderer and wrote the 80s iteration of the Blackhawks for DC); directed by Curt Geda.
REVIEW: Introducing the Fourth World into the series is, I can't hide it, pretty damn exciting. And they've done it as a love letter to Jack Kirby, which is even greater, even going so far as to get Kirby protégé and friend Mark Evanier to write the episode. Not only are Fourth World characters introduced to toy with Intergang just like in Kirby's Jimmy Olsen comics (alas, Jimmy never becomes a rock'em-sock'em Kirby action hero, nor ever meets Don Rickles in superhero drag), but the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit is also introduced to the series, including one Dan "Terrible" Turpin, who used to be Brooklyn of Simon & Kirby's Boy Commandos, and who's drawn as... Jack Kirby himself, bushy eyebrows and all. It's a wonderful homage. And yeah, perhaps Kanto isn't the most memorable of New Gods, but the peek at Darkseid at the end, on Apokolips played as Bruno Mannheim's personal hell, that just made me squeeeeeeeeeee!
At its core, Tools of the Trade is about an arms race. Intergang can't get anything done because of Superman, until Apokolips sells them hi-tech weapons. And just as Metropolis' criminals get a boost from aliens, so does the police department via the Man of Steel. So is Turpin a little right in rejecting Superman's help? Would this game of one-upmanship have started without him as Metropolis' guardian? Well, the S.C.U is already dealing with "special crimes", so I'd say Luthor started it with his injection of advanced tech in the city's habitat. However it all started, the S.C.U. and Superman need each other now, and just as various humans (Lois, Jimmy) have saved Superman in past episodes, it's Turpin's turn, which dispels the latter's fear of being replaced. He's a prideful man, and Superman gives him his due. One of the best things about the episode is the relationship between rash Turpin and level-headed Maggie Sawyer; when their frustrations come to a head and Dan leaves, you actually feel like something is lost (of course, Maggie takes the sting out of it later when she says he throws just such a tantrum on a regular basis).
The action is pretty cool. The fight with the tank. The train derailment. The "armature" and how a guy gets his fingers broken using it. However, my favorite bit is Lois fiercely punching an elevator button to keep Clark Kent from getting her story, and him just taking a step backward into an open shaft and getting there well ahead (as Superman). The episode also features some of the best lighting yet sees on this series, with characters allowed to be in shadow in the normally sun-drenched Metropolis, including Superman intimidating his foes with glowing red eyes. But please, PLEASE, stop putting Clark Kent at the wheel of a car. I find it upsetting.
IN THE COMICS: The Fourth World actually debuted in Superman comics, specifically Jimmy Olsen #133 (1970), which also premiered Intergang, a super-mob that was getting tech from Apokolips and orders from Darkseid (or DeSaad posing as Darkseid in post-Crisis continuity). Kanto was never their contact, but as Darkseid's personal assassin (first appearance in Mister Miracle #7, 1972), he makes a fair weapons dealer. Darkseid himself first appeared in Jimmy Olsen #134, while Apokolips waited for New Gods #1 (1971). We'll see a lot more of the Fourth World before we're done with the DCAU! As for the Special Crimes Unit, it is a much more recent development, appearing along with Maggie Sawyer in Superman #4 (1987), although Dan Turpin was created by Kirby as one of the few humans who knew about the secret war waged on Earth by the New Gods, back in New Gods #5. It has been revealed that he is a grown-up version of Brooklyn from the Boy Commandos, so his actual first appearance is really Detective Comics #64 (1942). One final note: Superman's "red eyes" is cool and all, but it's become a wretched cliché in the comics, which seem intent on making him look dangerous, out of control and inhuman.
SOUNDS LIKE: For Maggie Sawyer, they got Joanna Cassidy (Zhora in Blade Runner). For Dan Turpin, Joseph Bologna (Mr. Start in Ice Age: The Meltdown). Apokolips-side, Kanto is voiced by Michael York of Logan's Run fame, while Darkseid is played by Michael Ironside (Scanners, Top Gun, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, and many, many others).
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Some great introductions in what is essentially a big ol' tribute to the King of Comics himself.