Adventures of Superman #481 (August 1991)
Writer – Jerry Ordway
Artist – Tom Grummett
“The Big Drain”
I had to run to Eide’s Entertainment last week to pick up my weekly copy of Detective Comics and I decided to peruse the dollar bin while I was there. I like to look for old Superman comics that I haven’t read before and I like the early 1990s era since that’s when I started getting interested in comics. I came across this issue of Adventures of Superman and bought itthanks to the creepy cover.
Jimmy Olsen is running late for a job interview with Newstime magazine and just misses the subway train he needed to get there on time. What he doesn’t know is that his bad luck worked in his favor because he just avoided “the death train.” Superman investigates the crime scene later that day and finds 6 cars full of skeletons. He uses his infra-red vision and sees an outline of the mysterious figure that perpetrated this heinous crime. Superman flies around the subway system and comes face to face with the villain. You can probably guess the identity of the bad guy/girl by the title of this story, but I won’t give it away here.
When writing down the information for this review, I was shocked to learn that Jerry Ordway wrote this issue. I was unaware that he wrote comics! I know him mostly from his art on other DC Comics like Power of Shazam!
This era of Superman is one of my favorites because everyone linked to the Man of Steel gets included in the plot of these stories. In this issue alone, we see Jimmy Olsen’s string of bad luck after getting let go from the Daily Planet, Pete Ross and Lana Lang’s budding relationship, and a mention of the Kents and Whites on vacation together. One of the biggest problems in comics today is the supporting cast not getting their time to shine alongside the main characters. Late 80s/early 90s comics took the tried-and-true formula from popular sitcoms like Cheers and Night Court and made all the characters important to the plot, not matter how big or small. We need to see that formula applied to comics today in some fashion to keep things a bit more interesting. The closest we have seen it in recent years is in Hickman’s X-Men run.
Adventures of Superman #481 gets three S shields out of 5. This issue was solid from start to finish. We see the reintroduction of a Superman villain from his past, updated for the 1990s. They could be described as a legacy character, like Batman’s villain Clayface and the many men and women using that moniker. The cover alone was worth adding this comic to my collection. Superman vs the villain of the week is a tussle for the ages, so much so, they would get a round two in next month’s issue of Adventures of Superman with the shocking reveal of the mysterious figure’s identity.