Superman #144 (May 1999)
Writer – Dan Jurgens
Artist – Steve Epting
My friend Jody travels to Gallipolis, Ohio to visit family once or twice a year. She visits an antique shop while in town and usually looks through the comics and brings a few back home for me. I have been putting them in a pile to read and review and I decided to attack the stack. I passed on an issue of Supergirl to read Superman #144. (Don’t fret, I’ll be circling back around to Kara Zor-El soon).
The United Nations is under attack by Superman robots in retaliation for the group’s decision to attack the Fortress of Solitude. The world is at peace thanks to Superman eradicating the nuclear weapon arsenal across the globe. The Supermen of America try to maintain the rule of the Man of Steel at all costs. The only ones to stop the madness is Lex Luthor and Outburst!? Not a dream! Not an imaginary story! This was a storyline in the Superman comics in the late 1990s.
During my tenure in high school from 1996 to 2000, I really tried to put a curb on my comic buying. I would only purchase a comic book from Waldenbooks, CVS, or Turkey Hill if the cover caught my eye and I actually wanted to read the comic book as soon as I got home. After reading this issue, I made the sensible decision and Teenage Steven would have been proud of himself.
Dominus has Superman under his thrall and is using visions of Lois, Ma and Pa Kent, and Batman to further his agenda for world domination. Lex Luthor is secure in the knowledge that he was right all along and that the alien hero should have never been trusted since he made his first appearance in Metropolis. Outburst comes off as an annoyance, instead of a conquering hero, after aligning himself with Luthor to save the world.
There are some bright spots in this issue.I was unaware that Epting had a stint at DC Comics, as he was well known for his run on Marvel Comics’ Captain America. The cover is an eye-popper and he does a great job drawing Superman’s strong jawline. The Superman robots are brought to bone-chilling life and have that soulless, creepy feeling we have seen before with other metallic monsters like Ultron and the T-800. The way Luthor and Outburst launch their attack on Superman and his Fortress seems so dumb, you wouldn’t expect it from a genius like Lex, but the final panel is such a shocker, that I just might have to track down the next issue to see what happens next. Dollar Bin don’t fail me now! Luthor’s plan reminds me of Michael Bay’s Armageddon. The science doesn’t quite check out and the suspension of disbelief makes your head spin. Stevie head hurt just a bit.
I give this issue two stars out of five. I don’t mind an evil Superman story from time to time and this predates Injustice: Gods Among Us by almost a decade and a half. It’s a nice preview of how ruthless the Man of Steel can be if left unchecked. I would never turn down a free comic, especially if it was a gift from a close friend. We will have to see how the rest of the comic book stack shakes out. This was just before Superman’s relaunch in the early 2000s that I recall fondly. This isn’t Jurgens’ best work but it’s not his worst work either. Just a hair under average.