Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Retro Review: The Adventures of Superman #481 (1991) - "The Big Drain"

Writer: Jerry OrdwayArt: Tom Grummet, Doug Hazlewood, Glenn WhitmoreCover Price: $1
Release Date: August 1991
Review by: Joey Casco

Please go check out Joey's awesome site 

This is one of the last Superman comics I still have from my childhood. A survivor of the “sell your comics to buy Magic: The Gathering cards” phase. It’s pretty beat up because I read them over and over again, and I loved to draw so I would recreate a lot of the art. So even though this issue may not be a classic, it is to me.

The Daily Planet is no longer being run by Perry White but by Sam Foswell, who immediately went on a firing spree. One of those that were let go was Jimmy Olsen. This issue opens with Jimmy rushing to a job interview, only to miss his train because he stopped for a copy of the Daily Planet. He tosses his copy to the ground, proclaiming that the “stupid rag is still screwing up my life” (We’ve all been there, right?  The cat that kept coming back!) and he runs off to try and catch a bus. But unbeknownst to Jimmy, he’s going to be grateful that he missed... THE DEATH TRAIN! Spoooooooky!
The train continues to pull away from the subway station, and we see a man on the tracks wearing a trench coat as Jimmy’s tossed newspaper, taken by the air current of the train, wraps around his green boots. “Litterbugs— I hate litterbugs.”

He stomps on the third rail and electricity courses through his body and outward. The train stops ahead, the lights go out, and the passengers panic as the mysterious man continues to walk towards it.

We jump to newly-engaged Lois Lane and Clark Kent eating breakfast and talking about things going on in their world that aren’t relevant to this story. Their waiter walks up and tells them how glad he is that they still have their jobs at the planet and that it was a bonehead idea to fire all of those reporters, knowing full well that Sam Foswell was at the next table. Sam requests more coffee and the waiter gives him the few drops that are left in the carafe and walks away. I actually feel bad for Sam here, and even though he fired a bunch of people and it’s later shown that he's no Perry White, I get the feeling that he’s misunderstood.

Now we see Jimmy jumping off the bus because it got hit by a car. The kid just isn’t getting any breaks. Already late, he hoofs it to his interview only to see that he lost the job to the guy who was scheduled for an interview after him; Ronald Troupe, who also lost his job at the Planet. “Story of my life! Just my luck...”
Holy frijoles, everybody on that train is now a freakin’ skeleton! Henderson and Sawyer do some of the quarreling that you’d expect from them. However, they both agree that "this is a job for Superman", while across town Sam says that "this is a job for Clark Kent" and orders him to get the story done. “Death Train on the R Line” is the headline and he needs it by 2pm, damnit! Clark thinks to himself that the bullshit that Sam is pulling is turning the Planet into a tabloid, and he takes off as Superman.

Once he realizes how serious the situation was using his x-ray vision, he increases his flying speed to get there as soon as possible and gives a look of sheer horror upon his arrival. Blaming himself for letting this happen, he uses infrared sight to track down the killer.

The culprit absorbs energy to survive, and when it’s somebody with powers he absorbs their powers too. Memories of his victims even pop up, such as being concerned about his job at Big Belly Burger, only having a half an hour lunch break, and, after getting his hands on Superman, he brings up Lois.
The brawl banter is good, but the actual brawl does not go well for Superman as he loses energy and his foe gains his powers, even using heat vision against Supes. Support columns are weakened, the tunnel begins to collapse, and the bad guy makes his escape. Superman decides to stay to try and prevent it all from crumbling down rather than go after him, but does he have enough power left to do it all by himself? I ain't gonna spoil that!

In our final frames, Jimmy Olsen is writing an article called “I Escaped a Ride on the Death Train”, and Sawyer gets a call that reveals the identity of the murderer...

Next week I’ll be reviewing the conclusion of this two-parter, The Adventures of Superman #482, which I’ve never read so I’m looking forward to it. Then in December, I’ve got another 1991 arc that I thought was just the greatest thing ever as an 11-year-old.  Have a good week, guys!
Bits and Pieces:

I was listening to some classic Marylin Manson while reading this, so Parasite’s entrance came off as pretty intense and dramatic. I’ve never been that big on Parasite but I really liked the way he was portrayed here, almost like an agent of chaos. The sheer panic that Superman felt on his way to the scene and at his arrival is made clear very effectively and you can feel it yourself. There’s one subplot involving Lana that didn’t really belong which I didn’t mention but it wasn’t very long, and the Jimmy subplot fit right in with the main story. And everything involved from previous issues is explained in a natural way so you can read this without having any knowledge about what else was going on with everybody at that time. As far as the art was concerned, it was even better than a lot of Death of Superman, which wasn’t that far away from happening. I’m giving it an 8.5 and I’ll be the first to admit that some of that is probably nostalgia.


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