In a far galaxy exists a world called Krypton that is on the brink of destruction. The planet is highly unstable and is set to explode in hours. A scientist by the name of Jor-El understands that his doom is near. He decides to put his son Kal-El in a rocket ship and plot a course for the planet called Earth. Years later, Kal-El, who is now named Clark Kent grows up to be an extraordinary talented teen, with gifts that sets him apart from everyone else. After being told his origin from his new parents, he decides to put his gifts to use by helping those in need around the world as Superman.
In Metropolis, the Diamond Exchange building is being attacked and robbed by who appears to be Superman. The real Superman springs into action and the altercation reveals that the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker is involved. Superman must weave through the cunning villains deceptions and save the lives of his friends who were kidnapped by the madman. -summary
Continuing John Byrne and Marv Wolfman's run of the character, Superman - Man of Steel Volume 5 features several stand alone stories that really don't require much prior knowledge. It may also be the easiest to get through since the second volume, as it features some entertaining stand alone stories and one saga. Lex Luthor receives some focus here as he becomes an even bigger menace in Superman's life, however, he's not exactly the show-stealer here as far as bad guys are concerned. Not only does John Byrne invade the Dark Knight's rogues gallery, but he also re-introduces the troubling imp from the 5th Dimension Mr. Mxyzptlk. This book collects Superman 9 - 11, Action Comics 592 - 593, and Adventures of Superman 432 - 435.
Ignoring the very cheesy way how the stories can sometimes begin, such as something going on in Metropolis and Superman springing into action after getting wind of it through his super-hearing, there's rarely a dull moment. The first story with the Joker is quick and entertaining for what it's worth, as he attempts to put Superman's detective skills to the test, and even admitting that this battle with the Man of Steel is like a vacation from Batman. Byrne does a great job distinguishing Supes from Bats in regards to the steps they would take. Where the latter would have no choice but to use detective skills to figure out Joker's scheme, Superman simply relied on his amazing powers and quickly saw through his game (no pun intended). Byrne also managed to retain the motivation behind Joker's unpredictable attacks, by him basically stating he picked Metropolis just because. Although this confrontation doesn't rank high in the battles with the psychotic clown, it's still an interesting read.
The stand alone stories continue to excel when Superman battles against Mr. Mxyzptlk's trippy magical abilities. For those who may not know, their rivalry is nothing more than a game, where the imp appears to our dimension after every several months and challenges Superman to either get him to read, say, or write his own name backwards. If Superman does this, then Mxyzptlk disappears losing the game. He uses his magic to do crazy things such as make women fall in love with him, give life to inanimate objects that burst out with child-like tantrums, there just seems to be no limit to what he can do. Sometimes he can be very hilarious.
Superman is constantly being developed in some way, and we never forget not only how powerful he is, but also his selfless service to man. We get to see him face the harsh reality that for all his power, there's still things out there a superman can't do. The story arc Gang War in different ways examine this, as he attempts to clean up the streets that is being used as a battle ground for armed teenagers with a mysterious benefactor. This story also introduces the vigilante Gangbuster who is very interesting in his own right.
I feel the stories are well written and it combines action, comedy, and its moral messages effortlessly. However, the action has moments where it's just not that great. I think it just has something to do with how powerful Superman is, and there just aren't too many heavy hitters out there who can stand against him. If the story doesn't feature Metallo, Darkseid, Lobo, Bizarro, or even Mongul, you just can't really expect over the top action. Thankfully, Byrne and Wolfman were talented enough writers to make his stories interesting in other areas and even taking risk, such as putting him in a position where he almost made a smut movie together with the sexy Big Barda.
I have to mention that I do have an issue with the presentation of the stories. DC decided to format these stories in accordance with their individual monthly issue releases. The problem here is that the pacing is an issue going across these three titles. For example, Gang War is the only consistent story arc, so if the reader is heavily into the dilemma surrounding the son of Daily Planet editor in chief Perry White; then the pacing is thrown off because you have to go through two different stories before you get to the continuation. This can make it a little hard to follow for some, thankfully though, the story arc really isn't complex at all. DC attempting to stay in chronological order across three titles for some type of continuity is really no excuse, because volume four featured the Legion of Superheroes story arc straight through.
Once again, the artwork by Byrne and Ordway is above average. The action is drawn well and easy to follow, there aren't many shortcuts in the backgrounds, and the character designs have some good moments, with Big Barda being drawn very sexy at times. My only gripe would probably be the appearance of the Joker, he's skinnier than usual to the point of appearing malnourished.
Overall, volume 5 is still a very good read, but I can't honestly say pure action fans will be completely impressed. However, if you enjoy good storytelling and if you're a fan of Superman, then this is a must buy.
Pros: -Very good stand alone stories and story arc
Cons: -Pacing issues, none of the action truly stands out
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