First story: “The Many Deaths of Superman”
A very clever recap of the many ways that have been found to destroy the supposedly invulnerable Man of Steel. Art by Art Adams is beautiful as always. But what’s with his rendition of Mr. Mxyzptlk? VERY GOOD.
Second Story: “Who is Clark Kent’s Big Brother?”
I had a mixed reaction to this story. On the one hand, it provides a very clean explanation for the origin of the legend of Superboy, the fact that Lar Gand has also been known as Mon-El and as Valor, and the imprisonment of Lar Gand in the phantom zone. It wraps everything up in a nice little bow for current and future writers to take advantage of without the difficulties posed by convoluted backstory. However…it completely eradicates the post-Crisis origin of Lar Gand as following the Invasion! event, and puts the Eclipso: The Darkness Within event into serious continuity limbo as well. Not only that, but Lar Gand’s entire legacy, that of his having seeded the worlds which would one day become the United Planets, is nullified as well. So, unless this is to be the new status quo in the NEW DCU, I can’t help but find fault with this story. It’s well written, and the art by Eric Wight is reminiscent of Stuart Immonen’s work on Secret Identity, but that only redeems it so much. OKAY. And Lar Gand’s cries from his sleep translate as “I don’t belong here”.
Third Story: “Mystery Under the Blue Sun”
Wow! Nearly full art by the incomparable Joe Kubert. My mouth hangs slack-jawed. Once again he draws Hawkmen, and even some Bizarros for good measure. But seriously, is this a joke? God, I hope so. Because I laughed at it. EXCELLENT. But it’s a shame the master couldn’t spare himself for more than two pages.
First Special Feature: “Secrets of the Fortress of Solitude”
Most notable is the new status quo for the bottle city of Kandor: “Named after the fabled Kryptonian city of Kandor, this diverse metropolis of extra-terrestrial races was shrunken down using Coluan science and kept by the wizard Tolos until Superman rescued it.” It’s official: Brainiac did NOT create the bottle city of Kandor in the new DCU. However, it was Coluan science that shrunk it, so it’s possible that he may have had something to do with it. The new origin of Kandor was explored in December ’95′s Superman #107. But it is NOT the original Kandor. So it could have a cork. EH.
Fourth Story: “The Criminals of Krypton”
Notable for lumping the destruction of the original Kryptonian city of Kandor into the tragedy caused by Jax-Ur when he destroyed one of Krypton’s moons. This story is definitely Donner’s. It constitutes his official origin for General Zod and his cohorts, which, now, due to the restructuring of the DCU, can be identical with that of the original movies. Interesting, but not a particularly good story. EH.
Second Special Feature: “Superman’s Top 10 Most Wanted”
Toyman is one of Superman’s top ten villains? Huh? Whatever. The shoddiness of this piece makes this issue poorer for its inclusion. CRAP.
Fifth Story: “The Deadliest Forms of Kryptonite”
This is a very poor story decision. Poor editorial decision as well. The inclusion of gold kryptonite into the new DCU is stupid. Since gold kryptonite removes Superman’s powers permanently, it is not useful as a story device except in imaginary stories. Because once it’s used, there’s no point to anything else, ever again. Stoooopid. And why would blue kryptonite be useful for Lex to put into John Corben’s chest cavity? And how is red kryptonite deadly? ASS.
This annual started out promisingly, but as the pages turned it just got worse and worse. I have to give it two grades overall: VERY GOOD, and ASS.