Kurt Busiek delivers the last stories of his Superman run, before moving to the weekly Trinity series, in Superman: Shadows Linger. I've enjoyed Busiek's run on Superman even as I haven't been able to shake the feeling of disparity between the heft, for lack of a better word, between Busiek and Geoff John's simultaneous run on Action Comics. Shadows Linger, I think, provides some good examples of where Busiek's run succeeded for me, where it didn't quite work, and how it was ill-served, if not by DC Comics, than at least by the circumstances themselves.
Since Busiek and Johns re-introduced Superman's super-intelligence in Superman: Up, Up, and Away, Busiek has continued to impress me with his use of it. Busiek's Superman, whom we posit fights three evil geniuses and an alien invasion before breakfast, seems especially good at his job, with all the requisite knowledge--of chemistry and physics, especially--such a job might take. To this end, Superman's able to identify specific moon dust on sight in Shadows Linger's first story, and trace the trajectory of a baseball hit toward the moon a week earlier in such a way as to make it perfectly bean an errant bad guy; in all of it, Busiek finds a way to make Superman not standoffish or more alien, but more likable and fun because of his knowledge. That the second story ends with Superman creating a stalwart library of Earth's knowledge is a fitting coda to Busiek's run.
At the center of Shadows Linger is Busiek's reintroduction of two classic Superman villains, Insect Queen and the Galactic Golem. Of the two, I liked Busiek's reinterpretation of the Insect Queen better because he stuck largely to the original mythos, connecting Lana Lang to the queen (though not, unfortunately, tying this Insect Queen to the one Lex Luthor worked with in JLA: World War III). I found the ins-and-outs of the Galactic Golem in the second story too hard to understand for the creature to really resonate with me, but I did like Busiek's demonstration of how Superman's self-sacrifice turned the heart of the villain Paragon.
Unfortunately, both these stories felt fairly light to me. Possibly it's because Busiek is leaving Superman, and as such it's unlikely we'll see Insect Queen or the Galactic Golem again soon; possibly it's because, as this story's being told in the weird space between the pages of Superman: Last Son, we already know for the most part what's going to happen to all these characters around the corner. But also, I can't help compare this story to the big shiny return of the Legion of Super-Heroes in Action Comics, which had Gary Frank on art, ran six issues, lead into Final Crisis, and received a hardcover collection. It has no bearing on Busiek, but one can't help but see his Superman as one to be flipped through before the main event.
Alternatively, DC has given new Superman writer James Robinson's first solo arc on Superman, The Coming of Atlas, hardcover status. They started Busiek in hardcovers, too, before going to paperback, while Robison's solo stories are quickly folded in to the ongoing New Krypton storyline with the next volume. Will Robinson's stories feel off-sided as well, and will Robinson handle the super-intelligence as well as Busiek? I'll be curious to see next time around.
[Contains full covers.]
Thanks to Kurt Busiek for some entertaining Superman stories; I'll also be eager to see how some of the plotlines he began in Superman reach over into Trinity.
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