A fifth Superman arrives in Metropolis in The Man of Steel #25.
Action Comics #690
Superman: The Man of Steel #25
Triangle Numbers 1993 – 24-25
Writers: Roger Stern and Louise Simonson
Pencilers: Jackson Guice and Jon Bogdanove
Inkers: Denis Rodier and Dennis Janke
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley
I really do love that Roger Stern pulled the Superman cult that he introduced during the Action Comics Weekly run into the funeral and return storylines. It makes all the sense in the world for the cult to resurface during this story, and seeing it schism into competing sects worshipping different versions of their idol is extremely interesting. The fact that such a gathering erupts into violence seems all too prescient even thirty years later.
There’s a lot of exposition and recapping in the front half of Action Comics #690, which really makes reading it a bit of a slog, especially since Guice’s pencils don’t really lend themselves to that kind of storytelling. On top of that, Guice’s Kid really, really does not look like a teenager. The Cyborg has learned from his battle with the Kryptonian though, in wanting to keep the Kid alive long enough to properly dissect him, in a way.
Speaking of the Kryptonian, while the Cyborg thinks that he has been properly executed as a scapegoat for the destruction of Coast City, he finally makes it back to the Fortress where he is once able to become corporeal. This is where it becomes very clear that the man who broke free from the pod in the last issue was not the Kryptonian Superman, but someone else entirely and is the one that we last saw in the Kryptonian Battle Armor. Said Battle Armor is making its way across the bottom of the ocean as it heads North.
The Cyborg takes care of the threat of the Justice League by feeding them misinformation and sending them off-planet to hunt for the renegade Kryptonian, while he then monologues his plans to turn Metropolis into a second Engine City to tear Earth from its orbit as a new Warworld.
As the story shifts back to the Fortress, the Kelex robots reveal the true origin of the Kryptonian. He is actually the Eradicator, that Kryptonian artifact turned humanoid that we last saw when Man of Steel launched. For the duration of “Reign of the Supermen” he’s been utilizing Superman’s body within the Regeneration Matrix as an energy source, but now is left without that to recharge, as the real Superman has returned and is marching relentlessly towards Metropolis.
Man of Steel #25 works as an extension of Action Comics #690, and again is where I returned to the story as a kid, as it seems that it was more difficult for me to track down issues of Action than any of the other three series.
The scenes shift rapidly in the opening pages of this issue, going from the Kid’s prison, to Luthor’s office, to the Man of Steel on the streets of Metropolis, but the rapidly shifting settings all have one thing in common, a quick recap of what’s recently occurred, including the destruction of Coast City, and a fast-moving bogey heading straight towards Metropolis from the south along the ocean floor.
As the Kid breaks free from his bonds and flees Engine City, the Cyborg broadcasts more disinformation to the public, accusing the Kid of also turning on the world. But once more he overplays his hand in referencing using his powers at the Kid’s age, and Lois’s suspicions are further raised. Lois kisses Jeb goodnight, and immediately regrets it, her guilty conscience jumping out as there’s rapping at her window. Alas, it’s just a bird. The next morning though, she immediately gets into a shouting match with Perry about letting her go to Coast City, and it’s a nice glimpse of the Lois that we haven’t seen in quite some time.
As the Kryptonian Battle Armor continues its approach, Lex begins to get paranoid that it may be another Doomsday monster. His submarine is unable to stop it but does give him the excuse he needed to keep Supergirl in Metropolis. For a little while longer at least.
All plots converge on the airport as Lois and the Man of Steel both seek rides to Coast City, Supergirl and Lex arrive to stop the Battle Armor, and the Kid gets back from Coast City at the same time. There’s an incredibly dynamic fight scene drawn by Bogdanove, before the Kid reveals the Cyborg’s master plan and Superman with a black suit and long hair (sometimes drawn as a mullet) drops out of the armor. Finally, the real Superman is back.