Tuesday, November 29, 2016


"Beyond the Reach of Time"
WRITER: Louise Simonson
PENCILS: Bryan Hitch
INKS: James Sanders III, Joe Rubinstein, Barry Hitch, Ray McCarthy, Nick J. Napolitano, Jerry Acerno, Dick Giordano
COLORS:  Glenn Whitmore
LETTERS:  John Costanza

SYNOPSIS:  Superman flies through Metropolis, stopping criminals while an unseen Waverider tells the readers of his mission and reminds us that he has already checked Superman twice before, but someone this powerful could require another check, especially since Superman has remembered other things about his possible futures that caused him to affect the timestream.  Later at the Daily Planet, Clark and Lois tease each other a bit while Lois writes up a report on Superman's latest adventure.  Waverider takes the chance to make contact.

We begin to see a future in which Lois and Clark are married.  Superman laments being so alone and is happy to share his life with Lois.  Eventually, Lois becomes pregnant with Clark's child.  We see various scenes of the two living out their lives until we come to a specific point in Lois's pregnancy.  Clark is out as Superman stopping a crime while Lois begins experiencing pains.  Before Superman can manage to fly home and whisk Lois away to the hospital things take a turn for the worst.  As the two reach the emergency room we find out that Lois has died and the baby with her.  Human and Kryptonian genetics just did not mesh well.

Following Lois's funeral, Superman heads into space. He is seeking distance from Earth in order to properly grieve Lois and possibly find himself again.  Some time into his pilgrimage he comes across a ship that mistakes him for a native of Almerac.  The ship fires missiles at Superman who is so lost in thought that he doesn't notice them.  The missiles are powerful enough to knock him unconscious.  Just then, Maxima's space craft arrives and destroys the other alien ship.  She brings Kal-El aboard and orders him healed.

Soon enough Maxima and her handmaiden devise a plan that will trick Superman into loving Maxima. This plan goes awry when instead of using dummy weapons the attacking ship plans to actually destroy Maxima and he ship.  Superman makes quick work of the enemies.  Maxima, remembering the plan, feigns a bit of meekness and thanks Kal-El for his assistance.  She asks him to accompany her to Almerac and, having no other obligations, he agrees.

On Almerac we meet De'Cine, the cyborg that Maxima is to marry for political reasons. His monstrous insectoid body is matched only by his monstrous disposition.  He and Superman have words, but nothing comes of this.  Later, Maxima takes out her wrath on those who would have killed her.  Superman stops her and instead becomes the target of her rage.  Their battle causes her to become buried in rubble.  Superman, geniunely concerned, digs her out.  His care touches Maxima and she dismisses the prisoners.  Retiring to her personal chambers, Maxima begins to ponder if instead of tricking Superman into caring for her that he might actually be bringing out something in her.

That night, Maxima's handmaiden alters the plan and secretly meets with De'Cine.  She tells him to destroy Earth.  If he does, Superman might lose face in Maxima's eyes.  Really she wishes for Superman to remain and without a home to return to he will have no choice but to stay with Maxima.  If Maxima and Superman marry, the unwanted political union with De'Cine can't happen.

Superman and Maxima walk in the gardens of Almerac as the two make a wager.  If Maxima uses kindness on her subjects and gets better responses, Superman poses, he wins. If not, then Maxima does.  If Maxima wins, she gets a kiss. If Superman wins, he gets a ship to take him home.  Maxima asks a gardener to please bring her a fresh sweet fruit.  The gardener is so overjoyed that his queen has seen fit to bestow her good graces upon him that he seeks out what he considers the best fruit in the garden.  It proves to be the best Maxima has ever tasted, and despite Superman winning the wager he kisses her anyway.  He has developed an attraction to Maxima and seeing her evolve as a person has moved him.  However, Maxima agrees to her wager and grants him a ship to do with as he pleases.

That night, Superman chooses to return to Earth in order to discuss his situation with Ma and Pa Kent.  Upon learning that Superman has left, Maxima's handmaiden tells of her subterfuge and Maxima rushes off to help Superman in what is sure to be a battle with De'Cine.

Upon reaching Earth, Superman discovers De'Cine getting ready to assault the planet.  The two do indeed battle back and forth, but it is only due to Maxima's help that the two can defeat De'Cine and prevent the ship from crashing into the planet below.  The two admit their mutual attraction and what they wish from the other for the future.  Superman decides to look to the stars, not just Earth, for his future.  He and Maxima embrace, leaving the reader to think that the two will continue their romance back on Almerac.

Back in 1991 we see Clark and Lois again.  Clark seems as if he has zoned out for a moment.  Waverider informs us that he need not examine Superman any further, and flies off to continue his search.

MY THOUGHTS:  To be this is probably the closest of the three Superman stories to a more traditional Supes tale of the time.  It's got everything you could ask for--Superman dealing with threats both external and internal, a potential alien crisis, and Superman doing stuff in space with Maxima.  How can you disapprove?

The story is entertaining, with a few exceptions.  We get the usual plot thread of Lois dying and Clark being unable to cope with the situation.  I'm not trying to belittle the loss of a loved one.  I am, however, pointing out that this has gotten old, tired, and quite frankly played out.  Every time somebody wants to show Superman as vulnerable and put him in a position to check out from humanity they kill Lois.  I kind of wonder what Gail Simone would say about this recurring theme.

The art is quite wonderful.  I honestly never noticed there were multiple inkers on this project.  Everybody stayed pretty much within reason of each other.  We get a few cheescake shots of both Lois and Maxima in this tale.  While still relatively tasteful, they seem somewhat out of place with the rest of the story.

I really liked the point in the story where Clark has the opportunity to become Monarch.  It felt natural to the story.  But also it is a point where Maxima, too, could have become Monarch.  I consider that a nice twist in the story structure to date.

Over all this one isn't too shabby.  It's easily as good as the one where Superman is elected President.

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