Today’s Super Comics — Superman #423 & Action Comics #583 (1986)

There’s no such thing as a final Superman story.

But Superman #423 and Action Comics #584 pretended there was, and it’s a fitting conclusion to the never-ending battle.

DC Comics was saying good-bye to its Silver Age continuity and rebooting Superman for the modern era, but they gave the old-school Man of Steel one last hurrah in a two-parter called “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” The story featured top talent that bridged the gap between eras: writer Alan Moore, who had been bringing a new maturity to the medium, and classic Superman artist Curt Swan.

A sense of foreboding permeates these issues. Old foes are returning more dangerous than ever, with former pests turning into killers while the worst of the worst are waiting in the wings. An unknown menace is striking at Superman through his friends, so he gathers them in the Fortress of Solitude—Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lana Lang, and Perry White and wife Alice…the whole classic gang. Even Krypto the Super-Dog returns after a long absence.

In the story’s most touching scene, Superman unexpectedly comes face-to-face with his dead cousin. The Legion of Superheroes visits from the 30th century (which Superman and Supergirl were frequent visitors to), and they bring along a very young, very optimistic Supergirl who has no idea how short her life is going to be. It’s both sad and ominous in just a few pages.

But where the book achieves perfection is in the climax. At what point does Superman stop being Superman?

The answer presented here is exactly right.

Writer: Alan Moore

Penciler: Curt Swan

Inkers: George Perez and Kurt Schaffenberger

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Legion of Super-Heroes #1 (2005)

The Legion of Super-Heroes is one of those franchises I sampled a few times but just couldn’t get into. It probably had to do with the incredibly large cast—there were so many colorful characters, but no real focal point to latch onto (in the random issues I read, anyway). I could never find my way in. Until the 2005 reboot, that is.

The top-notch talent of writer Mark Waid and artist Barry Kitson gave us a 31st century for the 21st. In this version of the future, Earth is a utopia…and the youth are bored out of their minds. The rebellious young Legionnaires crave independence and seek to recapture the spirit of the heroic age from the distant past (our present). In the case of issue #1, that means everything from stopping a malfunctioning giant robot to aiding rebel forces on a war-torn alien planet.

The Legion isn’t just a superhero team; it’s a community and a way of life for these young people. And that community angle allows the book to turn its abundant cast into a strength.

The series takes its time introducing the cast and allows different characters to come into focus in different issues. The first issue has a bit more work to do, and we see several Legionnaires in action, but two characters in particular provide focal points.

The Invisible Kid is the new recruit who allows us to see the Legion through fresh eyes—a standard but effective issue-one strategy. More interesting is the leader, Cosmic Boy, who’s trying to play nice with the United Planets council, in defiance of his own individualistic streak. It’s a superb inner conflict that sets the tone for the series.

So yes, that one time I got into the Legion of Super-Heroes…it started right here.

Writer: Mark Waid

Penciler: Barry Kitson

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; included in Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 1: Teenage Revolution (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up