Casey, Aucoin, Marzan and John Stanisci bring back the Funky Flashman for a really fun story the features Lois Lane, in Adventures of Superman 613 (April 2003).
The Major Victory storyline gets touched on right at the start, as Lois Lane gets the scoop on what little is known about the condition that has rendered him comatose.
The Funky Flashman, late of Mr. Miracle, has come to Metropolis to open a store selling Superman merchandise. The Superman symbol is in public domain, so the hero can do nothing about this, and Lois is just repulsed by what a shady operator Flashman is.
This is a Valentine’s Day story, so there is some really beautifully rendered romance between Superman and Lois.
And she’s the one to triumph over Flashman as well. She meets with him a second time, and plants the seed in his mind to branch out into super-villain merchandise. He loves the idea, claims its his own, and very publicly promotes his new line.
And just as Lois had counted on, the villains are not as tolerant of this as Superman was, and Captain Cold shuts Flashman down.
Casey, Woods and Marzan conclude the introduction of the Persuader in Adventures of Superman 602 (May 2002).
Not only does the new Persuader have his atomic axe, capable of cutting through anything, but he also has his followers, garbed and armed with knock-offs, but still a force for Superman to reckon with, through sheer numbers.
The Persuader does get distracted from his intention to destroy the Daily Planet, finding Superman a much better target. The properties of his axe amaze Superman, especially when it appears to cut through the borders of reality, and seemingly opens a gateway to Krypton.
It’s not Superman who defeats the Persuader in this story. Rather, it is the mystery man who is manipulating all of this. Wouldn’t it be nice to know why he is doing this? Tough luck. It won’t be. He somehow creates a vortex that draws the Persuader away. To the Krypton that we saw? Maybe.
At least Lois returns at the end of the story, making Clark happy. Too long a departure would have just been too soap opera-y, but two issues to cope with her father’s death feels real.
The new Persuader gets his atomic axe in Adventures of Superman 601 (April 2002), thanks to Casey, Pete Woods and Marzan.
Lois Lane is still grieving over the death of her father, and leaves Clark a message explaining that she needs to be alone for a while.
That’s ok, she really isn’t needed in this story. Cole Parker is the at the centre of this tale, still in prison after leading the Persuader revolt a few issues ago. In the one element of the story that I really do not care for, a mysterious man is his cellmate, and uses some apparently magical powers to transform Cole, and turn an ordinary axe into the Persuader’s deadly atomic axe.
Who is this man? What is his plan? Beats me. Unless it’s explained in a story I haven’t come across, this character, whose actions are so vital to this tale, is never really identified or explained.
Aside from that element, the story works well. Cole looks very creepy as he escapes prison with his new friend, and rallies his disenfranchised comrades.
As the issue ends, the Persuader once again attacks the Daily Planet.
The story concludes in the next issue.
Casey, Wieringo and Marzan pull off an impressive story in Adventures of Superman 600 (March 2002), although I really hate that cover.
Pete Ross has to step into the presidency yet again when Luthor goes missing. He calls Superman onto the case. The only lead they have connects his disappearance to Carloss, the organization of the disgruntled residents of Suicide Slum.
They have a new leader, a brilliant terrorist and rousing public speaker, who unites them in the cause of the common man, while blowing up train tracks and such.
Although it is ridiculously obvious as soon as the big reveal takes place, this is Luthor himself, although he is unaware of it. I’m amazed I didn’t see it coming the first time I read this. Talia Al Ghul brings the alien-free baby Lena to Lex, and he begins to regain his memory and personality, as she pulls off his wig. A really interesting and well executed tale.
The issue also contains three supposed newspaper strips, one a Jimmy Olsen based series, one that has Superman as a science fantasy adventure, and a Bizarro cartoon.
There is another “story” of sorts at the end. The Superman mythos is told in iconic phrasing, with beautiful full page panels by a variety of artists.
I really prefer this to the random galleries that often conclude these anniversary issues.
The roundabout route to creating a present-day Persuader continues in the Casey, Wieringo, Alain Jansen and Marzan story in Adventures of Superman 598 (Jan. 02).
For reasons Superman can only theorize at, a broadcast of him fighting the solid light constructs of the future Fatal Five, which occurred during Our Worlds at War, gets broadcast across the Earth. One man in particular is struck by the imagery of the Persuader.
He is one of the workers from Suicide Slum, an area largely bereft of B13 tech, and feeling left out of the new Metropolis. He rallies his men behind the armor and imagery of the Persuader.
Perry White has been editorializing against the spread of B13 tech, arguing against it’s unknown and dangerous properties, and the men consider him and the Planet their enemies. They kidnap him, and force him to watch as they destroy the Daily Planet’s press room. But they are no match at all for Superman when he arrives.
The wanna-be Persuader gets tossed in prison, but will return in a couple of months.
Adventures of Superman 596 (Nov. 01) went on sale September 12th of that year, and one cannot assume that Casey, Wieringo and Marzan had any precognitive powers when crafting this epilogue to Our Worlds at War.
And yet, just as the story begins, we see the two towers of Lexcorp partly destroyed, an image that could only make one think of the World Trade Centre.
The story itself deals with the Justice League members Flash and Green Lantern helping in the rebuilding after the war, in locations around the Earth. The Martian Manhunter and Plastic Man are co-ordinating the efforts, and wonder why Superman is not taking part.
Superman does investigate anomalous activity in Antarctica, which turns out to be the result of the Weather Wizard, creating a tape he intends to use in the Flash to get his son back.
Luthor heads to a site in Metropolis that is being rebuilt, and tries to publicly shame Superman for not helping out. Superman defends his insistence that he cannot do everything for everyone, and is there to help in extreme circumstances, but not in everyday stuff. Sounds a bit like an argument for not tipping.
But the workers share his views, leaving Luthor looking like the jerk in the situation.
Still, those towers at the beginning, and the actual events of September 11th, give this entire story a really weird vibe.
Lots of plot twists as Our Worlds at War nears its conclusion in Adventures of Superman 595 (Oct. 01), by Casey, Wieringo, Marzan and Bill Sienkiewicz.
Apokolips and Warwold are both now in orbit near Earth, and Darkseid and his son plot their vengeance on Earth, after it launches an attack on them.
We learn that Superman survived the explosion at the end of the previous issue of Superman thanks to the sacrifice of Strange Visitor.
Luthor discovers that Lena has been working with Brainiac 13 all along, playing on his fatherly impulses, and now turning against him and teleporting away.
Warworld then launches an unexpected attack on Apokolips. This was arranged by Grayven, who has been plotting to overthrow Darkseid and rule in his stead.
As the attack courses across Apokolips, there is a cameo by Young Justice members Robin, Lobo and the Secret.
Darkseid stomps on Grayven’s attempted coup, using his Omega beams to exile him. Superman decides that he has to kill Brainiac 13.
The story continues in Superman – The Man of Steel.