Monday, July 4, 2016
PART 8: ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #3
WRITER: Roger Stern
PENCILS: Tom Grummet
INKS: Phil Rodier, Doug Hazlewood, Carlos Garzon, Brad Vancata
COLORS: Glenn Whitmore, Matt Hollingsworth
LETTERS: Bill Oakley
SUMMARY: We open with a shot of Superman busting up a group of Parademons.
They have been funneling energy into what appears to be a stone coffin. As Superman shrugs off the Parademons' assaults the resurrection process has completed. Bursting forth from the crypt is Kalibak! Superman has never encountered Kalibak before, but recognizes him from Special Crimes Unit mug shots. He decides that this situation needs to be ended before it begins and lands the first punch--a punch that Kalibak all but shrugs off.
The two titanic titans trade blows while frightened Parademons look on. Suddenly a boom tube appears and transports the Parademons back to Apokalips. Meanwhile Kalibak' assault is relentless, until Superman destroy's Kalibak's beta club, causing an explosion of force that knocks the two fighters back. Before the battle can continue, another boom tub appears that sends Kalibak away as well.
The boom tubes have not been sent by Darkseid, but by Metron. The master of the Mobius Chair appears and explains the situation to Superman, then promptly departs as is his wont. Superman does not like feeling manipulated.
Switch to Waverider, gliding throughout the timestream as he normally does. He once again explains his mission to discover who Monarch is and prevent him (or her) from becoming the despot that rules the future. The main difference here is that Waverider also clearly acknowledges that he already examined Superman once before, briefly showing us the future provided in the earlier encounter, as well as explaining that said encounter prompted him to investigate Batman. However, Waverider has decided to once again check on Superman.
Back in Metropolis, Lois is chiding Superman about not getting ready for their date while he stands around complaining about people playing mind games. Lois convinces Clark to get dressed and they leave the apartment, just in time for Waverider to touch Clark and peer into his future.
In the very near future, Lois and Clark have a wonderful date full of romance. They return home to a voice message from Ma Kent, saying that Jonathan has had an accident involving the tractor. As Clark and Lois arrive at the hospital, they attempt to comfort a sobbing Martha just in time for the doctors to inform them that Pa Kent has died.
In the weeks and months that follow, Pa is buried, the family farm sold, Lois and Clark get married and move Martha Metropolis with them.
Then comes once again the fateful day that Intergang attempts to use high end weaponry, just as it was in the previous future timeline. However, this time Superman manages to stop them before the bomb goes off. Somehow Superman has managed to retain a sense of deja vu about the previous encounter with Waverider which has allowed him to be able to stop the explosion.
Later, at the home of Lana and Pete Ross, Lois and Clark discuss a few things with their friends. Pete, who has been involved in politics for quite some time, has an announcement. He has decided to run for President of the United States and wants Clark and Lois to manage his campaign. Said campaign moves along rather smoothly and quite favorably for Pete. One night at a rally, though, a gunman opens fire. Clark does not react swiftly enough to stop all the bullets, and Pete is shot. The remaining bullets shred Clark's suit to reveal Superman beneath. Superman stops the shooter, but his identity has been revealed to the world.
Days later, Pete Ross drops out of the race, saying it will take nearly two years to recover. He encourages Clark to pick up where he left off and run for President. Clark mulls this over before finally deciding to take Pete's suggestion. This leads into a long legal discussion on whether or not Clark can run, as only natural born citizens can become President. It is determined, though, that Superman did not arrive in a ship but a birthing matrix--essentially an artificial womb--saying he was not technically "born" until Ma Kent pulled him out in Smallville, Kansas. In a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court, Superman is allowed to run for President.
Over the course of the year, through many powerful speeches and a strong campaign, Clark Kent is indeed elected President. While in its infancy, this presidency is quickly challenged by Lex Luthor II. The challenge is not present long.
As President, Superman aids in many world affairs. He helps to fix the economy and spearheads many green initiatives, including solar power for the United States. He even leads worldwide disarmament, recruiting other heroes to help--teams like the New Titans, the Doom Patrol and the Justice League. Many of the heroes are moved by Superman's words and plans. However, there always has to be that one person who has to go against the flow. This time, it's Guy Gardner.
Gardner calls out Superman, spouting a lot of gibberish about how peace will emasculate American and turn the country into a nation of wimps. Guy blasts Superman with his power ring, knocking the Man of Steel away. Flash and Wonder Woman attempt to subdue Guy, but Martian Manhunter tells all the heroes that Superman appears to want to handle things personally. Superman walks forward, steadily and confidently, pushing his way through Guy's blasts. He places his hand over Guy's power ring, and through an effort of sheer willpower, transfers the ring to his own hand!
Guy, in a fit of rage, tries to punch Superman, breaking his hands in the process. Hal Jordan and John Stewart arrive on behalf of the Green Lantern Corps. Guy asks to borrow a ring to continue the fight, but instead Hal and John arrest Guy and return him to Oa. They inform Superman that they will return to deal with him after the Guardians have had a chance to discuss the matter.
Superman takes time to reflect on the matter himself. That night, Hal Jordan appears before Superman in the Oval Office. The Guardians have instructed him to offer Superman a power battery and service in the GLC. Superman says that the offer is indeed tempting and that he could accomplish so much with such a powerful weapon, but in the end decides that he is already incredibly powerful and that that much added power might corrupt him into a despot rather than a hero. Instead he tells Hal to seek out somebody worthy and put the ring to good use.
President Kent's initiatives are passed through and the world becomes a much more peaceful place. One night while watching tv, Martha reflects on things, saying that Pa would have been proud of all that Clark has achieved.
Back in the present, Waverider has finished his examination of Clark's future. Clark, instead of heading out with Lois, decides to fly out to Smallville and check on his parents really quickly, arriving just in time to save Pa from the tractor falling over on him.
MY THOUGHTS: Vote Kent! Instead of choosing a lesser evil, let's pick a hero!
OK, so this story pretty much helps set up what readers will see in the three to four years following this crossover--the relationship between Superman and Waverider. Spoiler alert, but after all this is said and done Waverider interacts with Superman about a million times more often than any other characters in the DCU, and that includes stories like Armageddon: Inferno and Zero Hour, but more on those in later months. Suffice it to say, Waverider might as well be called one of Superman's supporting characters.
I find it interesting that Stern uses this story to bring Kalibak and Superman together. What could have easily been a full issue of fighting gets reduced to just a few pages and sets up Superman's dealing with the New Gods later on. Cosmic Odyssey is referenced, but generally the New Gods at this time were mostly their own thing separate from the mainstream DC heroes.
As for the story itself, I really like this one. It's nice to be able to go back to Armageddon 2001 stories dealing with the possibility of becoming Monarch, not just telling a cute future Elseworlds story (although those are fun, too). The writers seem to have a fondness for killing off one or both of the Kent folks in Superman's dark futures, so that wasn't too much of a surprise. However, the idea of Pete Ross and then Clark Kent running for President is a relative unique story (and considering Lex Luthor got to be President with Pete as part of his Cabinet ten years after this story was written the concept was obviously not forgotten).
The fact that the world's heroes are working with Superman this time around instead of trying to bring him in is a wonderful contrast to the earlier annual.
Truly the highlight moment of this story is when Superman and Guy Gardner throw down. Guy at that time was still the brash loudmouth of the JLI and I am certain it thrilled many readers to see him get his due. At this point it had been a few years since the "Just one punch" moment with Batman, so this was like a reminder that turns up the intensity.
The art is pretty much DC standard, but that is never a bad thing from this time. Every character is on model and perfectly amazing to behold. The splash page of the assembled heroes is downright beautiful. Everything in this issue is a blast to behold.
We still have one more Superman story to examine later on, but Waverider has a few more heroes to look after before then.