Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Action Comics #591

Action Comics #591 (August, 1987)
title: "Past Imperfect"
writer: John Byrne
art: John Byrne
background inker: Keith Williams
lettering: John Costanza
colorist: Tom Ziuko 
editor: Michael Carlin & Andy Helfer 
cover: John Byrne
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superman, Superboy; cameos by Brainiac 5, Invisible Kid, Blok, Sun Boy

Krypto, Pete Ross, Ma & Pa Kent

The Time Trapper

In post-Crisis 1987, Superboy shows up and blasts Superman and the four Legionnaires with his stasis ray. He grabs the Legionnaires and tosses them into the Time Bubble, leaving Superman alone.

As soon as Superboy flies off, Superman realizes that he is free from the stasis field. He flies off after them, catching Superboy's leg as they break into the time stream. Superman manages to hold on until they re-appear in Smallville, where Superman loses his grip and falls into a corn field outside of town.

Pete Ross, who just moments ago warned the Legionnaires that Superboy was after them, is surprised to see who he thinks is Superboy suddenly re-appear. He goes to check on his friend, surprised to find SuperMAN. Pete thinks red kryptonite has somehow aged Superboy, so helps the out-of-breath Superman to the Kents' Smallville home.
Superman is silently taking in this whole parallel universe where Pete Ross is slightly different and the Kents are "the same stock" as the people who raised him. Before he can figure out his next move, however, Superboy returns, having ditched the kidnapped Legionnaires. He begins to fight Superman.

Out in space, Krypto the Super-Dog suddenly senses that his master needs him, so he heads back to Earth.
The Time Trapper, in his lair at the end of time, is watching the battle with glee. He remembers how he created a "pocket universe" that he steered the Legion to every time they wanted to visit their hero in the past. They were never actually going to their actual past.
Superboy is fighting Superman while the Kents and Pete are flabbergasted. Krypto joins the fray, but when he realizes that Superman really is another Kryptonian, he decides that the only way to save his master is to take away Superman's powers. He sacrifices his own powers to get Gold Kryptonite from the storage closet in the basement of the Kent home. Pa Kent hears Krypto barking and realizes what the dog was thinking. He grabs up all of the Kryptonite they have and rushes off to irradiate Superman.
However, Superman is impervious to this parallel world's Kryptonite, and when given the chance to take away Superboy's powers, he decides to stop the fight and talk. He realizes that Superboy wanted him (Man) to win so that he (Boy) would no longer be indebted to the Time Trapper. Superboy admits that that was his plan, and together they free the four Legionnaires.
Superman wants to join them as they plan to face the Time Trapper, but the Legion warns him that he can't risk begin injured or killed and then not doing all the super things he is destined to do. Reluctantly, Superman stays behind to team up with Big Barda as the others head back to Smallville.

There is so much wrong with this story, let's start with the good things. Gosh, the art is pretty. Superman and Superboy are drawn well by Byrne, and you can usually tell who is who, even though they are essentially the same character.

It's also great to see Ma & Pa Kent, Pete Ross, and Krypto one last time post-Crisis. I only wish we could have seen Lana Lang in a stronger role.

As for the rest....well, as written, this is a great Silver Age Superman story. Unfortunately, it aint' the Silver Age any more. The long-winded explanation that Superman gives us to explain how he figured out what was going on takes up a whole page (seriously!). Couldn't it have been handled a bit better than that? Also, the idea that Superman could have beaten Superboy is, I'm sorry, ludicrous. (see panel above) Superboy by this time had been an active super-hero for nearly ten years, while Superman had barely just gotten started. Experience!?! I think the panel where Superman is talking about his experience being able to win out is just wishful thinking; either that or it's an adult being a jerk to a teen-ager.

Speaking of being a jerk, could somebody please tell me what exactly the Time Trapper's plan IS? He went to SO much trouble to create a pocket universe, and to nudge the Legion into it EVERY TIME THEY TRAVELED BACK TO SMALLVILLE, so that he could...uh....what exactly? If you have that much power, what the hell are you doing wasting time with Glorith and turning the Legionnaires into babies? And I hate to say this, but....what about Supergirl? Where does she fall in this whole Time Trapper mess plot? This is just silly.
However, the majority of my disdain is directed at whoever decided that Krypto had to be depowered. Krypto was arguably the strongest representation of "Superboy" stories (besides SuperBOY himself) and to have the Canine Crusader give up his abilities like this....and to not even be given any credit for his actions!?! It was a noble end, but the way it was handled....I'm sorry, but this ranks right up there with the murder of Supergirl and the shooting of Barbara Gordon. It was another major editorial mistake by DC. I'm sure it will be the last one, though, so....wait, what? WHAT happens next issue?

Science Police Notes:  
  • This story continues from Superman (v2) #8
  • This story continues in Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #38
  • While walking through Smallville you can clearly see "Forte Apartments" and "Papp's Hardware." These are homages to John Forte and George Papp, classic Legion and Superboy artists. 
  • The splash page in the original story gives creator credit for Superman AND to Superboy to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  
This story has been reprinted in Superman: The Man of Steel vol 4 TPB  

This is the last ever appearance by Krypto, the Super-Dog in Legion continuity. He had made his debut in Adventure Comics #210 (March 1955), making him an "older" character than the Legion itself by more than four years.  


  1. This was such a pinful book. Krypto makes the ultimate sacrifice and gets brushed off with 'huh, the dumb mutt cioincidentally did something useful'.

    This was probably the moment I started loathing anything 'written' by Byrne.

  2. "This was such a pinful book. Krypto makes the ultimate sacrifice and gets brushed off with 'huh, the dumb mutt cioincidentally did something useful'.

    This was probably the moment I started loathing anything 'written' by Byrne."

    He hated/disliked Superboy, Supergirl and the Legion, hated Krypton's developed backstory, thought the Fortress of the Solitude and Krypto were too kiddy, wanted to write Lois off and replace her with Lana as Superman's true love (although he didn't dare to), claimed he was bringing Superman back to his Golden Age roots (lies) and respecting Siegel's intent (except when Siegel introduced elements Byrne disliked such like Lex and Superboy's friendship)...

    If you hear him to talk, you'd think the Legion of Super-Pets, stalker-with-a-crush Lois Lane, new-powers-every-issue Jimmy Olsen and the like hadn't largely faded or become underplayed LONG before the 80's, and ALL Superman writers thought Clark Kent was non-existent and Kal-El/Superman the real personality, and wrote their tales accordingly.

    He claims to like Superman. I'm sure he means it. Still it doesn't mean much. He also claims to respect the characters and wrote the infamous porn star Superman issue. And I have a hard time believing he likes Superman since he hated and removed so many elements of the mythos, making such a mess that DC spent decades trying to fix it and undo the damage.