DCAU #149: Men of Steel

IN THIS ONE... Luthor uses a Superman robot to attack the Kaznian Embassy and fight the real Man of Steel.

CREDITS: Written by Paul Dini; art by Rick Burchett and Terry Austin.

REVIEW: Angela Chen is on staff at the Planet and also works for TV?! If Paul Dini weren't writing it, I'd call shenanigans. Well, I'll call shenanigans anyway. The Superman Adventures comic premiered in September of 1996, a day before the first episode aired. It's possible Angela was planned as more of a Cat Grant substitute, and that those plans changed before the comic went into production. The comic strongly ties into the series otherwise, taking place in the wake of Superman's fight with the "stolen" LexCorp armor driven by future-Metallo John Corben, but keep a television show and a comic in perfect sync is difficult to accomplish. For example, while I was planning to review the 11 issues of the series that ran during the first season and the wait for the second, for whatever reason, the comic accidentally premiered several villains (Livewire, the Phantom Zone villains, Mr. Mzyxptlk) before their actual first stories aired on the show! Like a full year before! The same thing happens with the S.C.U. in this issue, who would only show up on the show in February of 1997. So I'll be stopping short of Livewire's comics sequel in issue 5, run through a chunk of Season 2, then come back to finish the year in comics. Yeah, I'm confused too.

This story itself is a good ol' match-up between Superman and Lex, with the latter building a Superman robot that's meant to be stronger than the real thing. As we find out, it's way too early to have tested and seen all of Superman's limits, and that cockiness sinks his enterprise. Not a bad fight though, and I like the look of the android, just distinct enough. However, I'm not all that impressed by Lex's masterminding in this issue. Though I'm sure he can get out of anything, legally speaking, a Superman robot with his voice coming out of it at first framing Superman for an attack on another country's sovereign soil, but quick to make to take the fight where the police can plainly see the fake fighting the real McCoy, puts Lex at risk. It feels at the end like Superman is doing all the cover-up work for him without really needing to, just so he can drop an intimidating line on him. Meh.

As this is the first issue of a TV series launching at the same time, the comic give the supporting staff some face time. Lois' curiosity about Superman verges on mistrust at this early juncture. The Daily Planet staff is all in the same meeting, contrasting their attitudes and approaches. Ma Kent works on her scrapbook and Pa doles out advice. Mercy is by Lex's side. And the S.C.U. puts in an appearance. In effect, since some of these characters would premiere later than the pilot, it introduces more of the cast in one go, if perhaps not with the same caliber of scenes.
IN THE MAINSTREAM COMICS: Suicide Slum, the poorer part of Metropolis rates a mention it probably couldn't get on the show (on account of the word "suicide"). In the comics, it was home to the hero Black Lightning. Superman robots have a long history, of course, though these were normally built by Superman himself in the Silver Age as helpers and decoys. The Kents have an orange cat that evokes Streaky.

REREADABILITY: Medium - A pretty good first issue, though not as good as the TV series' introductory episodes.


JeffJedi said...

I think I had all the Batman Comics but I know i don't have this one.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

They premiered the cat here, too, then, because it shows up again (to briefly fly like Streaky) in the first Mxysptlk episode.

Siskoid said...

Jeff: I think Superman Adventures were the first DCAU book I collected assiduously. I was always more of a Superman than Batman fan.

Andrew: Noted.


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