Thursday, February 08, 2007


That's *my* Fortress of Solitude

Speaking of Superman's Fortress of Solitude (which I was), I was surprised to see it make an unexpected return this week, in the pages of Action Comics Annual #10.

Now, clearly, this cover is going for some old-time goodness. They're even rocking the black-and-white checkerboard border.

Alongside the return of the real Mon-El, which I hadn't expected, we got a glimpse of a
joint we haven't seen much of lately, the Fortress of Solitude. Now, that isn't to say that Supes hasn't been hanging out at some place called the Fortress the whole time. Just that it wasn't anywhere I recognized as such.

The current run of Action Comics is being cowritten by Geof Johns and Richard Donner (he of Superman the Movie fame). At first, it looked like the run was a fairly bald attempt to shoehorn in the continuity of the Donner film version, complete with funky crystalline "Fortress" and a trio of escaped Phantom Zone criminals (even named Zod, Ursa, and Non). The stories have been okay, but nothing to write home about, and nowhere near as good as Grant Morrison's All Star Superman (or even Kurt Busiek's contemporary Superman title, for that matter).

So imagine my surprise to discover that this annual is a wall-to-wall Silver Age Superman love-fest, but done in such a way that it brings all of these elements back in such a way that they slot in (more or less) with the current continuity (whatever that is). And right there in the middle, after a brief visit to the cube-shaped world of the Bizarros by some Thanagarian hawk-police (drawn by Joe Kubert!!), and right before a story that actually manages to explain why the escaped Phantom Zone criminal Non is a mute monster, when ever other Kryptonian is a super-genius, we get a two page spread of the Fortress of Solitude. Now, on the outside, it's all glass and crystal, straight out of Donner's flick. But on the inside? Pure Silver Age, baby. Check it out:

Okay, now that is the closest they've come to this since John Byrne dismantled the franchise after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Added in, though, are nice little grace notes that call back to the version more familiar to viewers of the film series (including the most recent installment), or to Smallville sufferers, for that matter (and speaking as one who suffered through the crap-fest that show has become far longer than I should have, only giving up in the middle of the current season, I know whereof I speak).

The stories on either side of that spread are not half bad, either. We get the reintroduction of Mon-El, Superboy's "older brother," in a tone that fits the current continuity but hews as close as possible to the original Silver Age version (and ties into the reappearance of the character in Mark Waid's Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes), we get the aforementioned "secret origin" of Non, Zod, and Ursa, and a few short pieces about Superman's rogues gallery, including bookends of Lex Luthor thinking about killing Superman, and thinking about Kryptonite, in all its many hues.

Clearly, the Superman titles have faired better than most in the "One Year Later" aftermath of Infinite Crisis. Arguably, the line has never been better, and between Busiek on Superman, Johns and Donner on Action, and Morrison on All Star Superman, it's actually difficult to imagine how it could be much better. Most of the rest of DC's current superhero output has left me decidedly cold, and I've dropped almost every title I was buying, both those I picked after the OYL stunt, and those I was buying back before the Infinite Crisis debacle even got rolling. If just this one little corner of the DC Universe can maintain this level of quality for a while, though, then maybe it was worth it, at least for me. And if we keep getting little infusions of the Silver Age as can be found in this annual, then I'll keep coming back.

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