WRITER: DAN JURGENS, STUART IMMONEN, KARL KESSEL, LOUISE SIMONSON
PENCILS: STUART IMMONEN, RON FRENZ, TOM GRUMMETT, PAUL RYAN, JON BOGDANOVE
INKS: JOSE MARZAN, JR., JOE RUBENSTEIN, DENIS RODIER, BRETT BREEDING, DENNIS JANKE
COLORS: GLENN WHITMORE
LETTERS: ALBERT DEGUZMAN
SUMMARY: Superman, in his recently acquired "electric blue" form, races toward Stryker's Island prison.
He has gotten word that Winslow Schott, the Toyman, hasn't moved for nearly a day and may be dead. As he arrives to investigate, Superman discovers it is actually a dummy and a trap left for Superman himself. Superman easily escapes the trap, which he says was left only as a message of control by Toyman. With Christmas nearing, Superman realizes that Toyman is potentially more dangerous than normal.
In the Armstrong home, Dirk and his daughter Ashbury sit and talk over breakfast about the current events in her life. Ashbury is blind and Dirk worries about his daughter as father's do. A knock on the door causes Ashbury to believe that is may be her friend/possibly love interest Scorn. Instead it is a man dressed as Santa Claus who happens to be going door to door to collect toys for the needy. Ashbury loves the idea and runs off to collect some of her old toys. As she donates them and Santa leaves, she again worries about what might be keeping Scorn, as he was supposed to come over for a visit.
On the streets of Metropolis, Scorn gets off the bus and walks along the sidewalk. He is easy to spot with his blue skin and protruding horns. He attempts to help some local kids with their snowman but they all run away in fear. Just then he is assaulted by three mean referring to themselves and Blue, Red and Yellow. They shoot him with lasers until he is rendered unconscious and taken away. We also see Ashbury now standing on the street trying to figure out where Scorn might be.
At the Galaxy Broadcasting building, Jimmy Olsen informs Cat Grant that he will be taking a personal leave for a while so he can basically travel the world and find himself. Misa, the bubbly blonde that with Jimmy, is bored so they book it. Swinging by Jimmy's apartment for the last little necessities they discover it has been ransacked. Somebody was definitely looking for something--a talisman that Jimmy had the forethought to hide in the bottom of a tub of ice cream. Misa recognizes it as the Medallion of the Damned and cowers away from it in fear.
We see that Santa from earlier was in fact Toyman in disguise. He is late for work at the local vintage toy store. While in the back room of the store, Toyman speaks to himself (and what he believe to hbe his mother) about how much he despises Superman. He removes a small cyborg toy from his bag. In a flash of light this toy assembles other toys together into the shape of a person. It is none other than the Cyborg Superman, brought out of hibernation upon hearing Schott's words of hatred. The Cyborg melts the toys and molds them into a shape he is more comfortable with, much to Toyman's chagrin. The two discuss how they will "play" together to defeat Superman. Toyman's boss interrupts them, but the Cyborg kills him quickly.
As Jimmy and Misa are preparing to load up for their journey, she informs him that the Medallion is supposed to herald the end of the world. Ashbury calls Jimmy in hopes of finding Scorn. As Misa and Jimmy ride off, a foreign man speaks as much to himself as anybody that Jimmy's time is limited.
In a lab disguised as an innocent barn, the men bring Scorn in and secure him to an examination table. A probe is being used to find out exactly what he is, what his abilities and limitations are, and how they can be put to use. As it turns out, this is all being done remotely by none other than Lex Luthor. Lex also takes a chance to look in on baby Lena. He takes the opportunity to hold her and feed her, all the while being reminded that Christmas is coming up soon.
Lois has finally convinced Clark to go ice skating. Turns out that he has no need to fake being clumsy because he actually can't ice skate. And without his standard Kryptonian powers, Clark is the same as any other human when not in his energy form. As Lois helps Clark across the ice, the peaceful afternoon turns to trouble.
Hanks Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman, is attacking just a few blocks away. Clark dashes behind a dumpster and transforms before rushing off to stop this menace. Lois, meanwhile, rushes to a rooftop in order to get a good view of the story for the Daily Planet. She just so happens to come across Toyman, who wastes no time in spraying her with his own super string, tying her up rather neatly. However, he refuses to kill her because he associates her ice skates with an enjoyment of play. Instead, he will make her his "good friend."
Dirk Armstrong discusses with Mayor Sackett the plans for "upgrades" to Metropolis in an attempt to truly make it the City of Tomorrow. However, their meeting is quickly interrupted by the commotion outside caused by the battle between Superman and the Cyborg.
Outside, the battle continues. As the Cyborg taunts him, Superman encases Henshaw in an energy sphere. The energy is quickly dispersed by Henshaw's ion disruptor. Henshaw also taunts that he has locked on to Superman's bio-frequency, meaning all his attacks can now hurt the energy Superman, provided they make contact. However, to make matters worse, Henshaw fires a blast at the base of a skyscraper. Superman rushes to construct an energy shield to keep the building upright, but Henshaw takes advantage of the situation and blasts Superman with heat vision. Superman, taking a severe pounding from the blasts makes the only choice available to him. He dodges a near-fatal blast of heat vision which actually fuses the base of the building back together, at least long enough for the people to escape.
Henshaw is not swayed in his endeavors. Instead, he takes the opportunity to reveal that he has taken on an assistant. A giant gift box opens to reveal a life-sized version of a robot from the toy shop. It flies toward Superman, pointing its ray gun and repeating "Destroy! Destroy!" Turns out the ray gun is actually a tractor beam of sorts, pulling Superman's energy form into storage. The two have captured the Last Son of Krypton.
Jimmy and Misa detect that Scorn has been at the park earlier in the day, but can't find any trace of him afterward. As they drive off, Jimmy says they don't need any more surprises as we are shown a small, furry, blue creature riding on their vehicle. Elsewhere, the lab is still working on Scorn. They probed him for over an hour with little result. Apparently the goal is to find out about Kandor, but Scorn refuses to tell them anything. Luthor, via disguised hologram, orders the intensity turned up and the procedure conducted again.
Superman, released from the gun, awakens in some sort of containment apparatus while Henshaw looks on. The goal is to siphon off Superman's energy until he disappears and ceases to exist. Henshaw and Toyman threaten Lois, just in case Superman tries anything clever.
In his strong desire to escape and help Lois, Superman begins dashing against the sides of the container as Henshaw activates the machine. The machine is taking longer than expected, but seems to be working well. Meanwhile, Toyman takes Lois to go play with toys before having a small episode with his "mother." Henshaw watches closely as Superman's energy is drawn away, bit by bit, until finally he is GONE!
Henshaw examines things closely--no leaks in the cables and the containment jars are full. Should be no way Superman can reform, so naturally Henshaw goes about his business. Just as the Cyborg leaves, there are suddenly two bright sparks--one red, one blue. The sparks begin to attract more and more energy of the same types, spinning and swirling, growing larger and larger until they cause the container to burst. The red burst of energy goes flying skyward while the blue one blasts through a door into another room.
Superman, in all his blue glowing glory, appears in front of Toyman. Superman pulls him up from the floor, Kal-El does his scariest bit of threatening to Toyman before tossing him across the room. At this point Superman rescues Lois and says that all he really had to do to save himself was to pull himself together.
Atop the Galaxy Broadcasting building, Henshaw is taking advantage of all the buildings wondrous technology. He is reshaping it into an antenna that shall broadcast Superman's energy across the universe. As he nears completion, a thunderous sound interrupts Henshaw. It is Superman, glowing red as the Kryptonian sun, tearing the antenna to pieces. Henshaw is surprised by the Superman's appearance (in both location and color), but Superman quickly dismisses the color change as a result of pulling himself back together after the ordeal with the machine.
Superman races with Henshaw into space, hurtling the Cyborg into the sun...or so he wants Henshaw to believe. He instead convinces Henshaw to bean his consciousness into the antenna he is carrying.
Back on Earth, the blue Superman returns Toyman to prison, but he finds it odd that there is no trace of the Cyborg anywhere. Meanwhile, the red Superman has convinced Cadmus to keep an eye on the Cyborg, while pondering what might have happened to Toyman.
Both versions race toward the Daily Planet building and transform into Clark Kent, one entering the building from the ground floor and the other from the roof, both thinking that nothing can top the bizarre events of today.
MY THOUGHTS: Is it fair to say that I am a little conflicted? Reading this stories all these years after its publication I have a bit of a newer appreciation for it. However, there are parts of it that are still a little...shall we say annoying?...to me.
First off, I have to acknowledge that this was probably a large undertaking by the Superman creative staff. This was in the days of triangle numbers, meaning all the Superman titles were telling interlocking stories. This story was made to be the launching point for the next major story arc. This aspect works very well.
The actual Superman story involving Clark, Lois, and the villains is great. It has all the action and adventure I have come to expect from Superman stories. Not to mention the villains. The Cyborg had become a high mark for powerful Superman villains in the 90's thanks to stories like "Reign of the Supermen."
This particular depiction of Toyman--the manchild who constantly hears his mother's voice a la Norman Bates--is perfect. Why does this take not ever get adapted into other media? We don't need the pedophile murderer who is into collecting toys. We need more of this Toyman, a character who spares Lois (at least temporarily) just because he wants a playmate.
As much as I love the main plotline, the subplots fall a little flat. If you haven't been keeping up with the books all the stuff with Jimmy, Misa, Ashbury, Scorn, etc. is basically gibberish. I have absolutely zero clue who Misa, Scorn and Ashbury are outside of this story. Not to mention, Misa seems pretty inconsistent on whether she is supposed to be a genius outsider or a ditzy savant. And then there's Ashbury, the blind girl who apparently never needs anything like a cane to help her navigate through the world.
And then there's the art...
|Can he look more 90's? Please don't answer.|
With this many art teams there are bound to the some hits and misses. Even a guy like me can get that the art is inconsistent, at best. There are times when it's really good (relatively speaking for the era) and then there are times when it is really really...exaggerated. OK, that's a little too nice. Sometimes it's just damn bad. Most any time Misa is there she is drawn way too over the top. And some of that stuff after the two Superman versions appear...ugh!
Alright, so I guess this is definitely one for the ages. Not necessarily one the ages will remember fondly all the time, though. It's an interesting story. This is certainly one that would make a decent enough season opener on a TV series. I'm drawn in and kept entertained, even with the annoying aspects of the art. However, this is still an example of 90's stories. The electric blue era of Superman is not remembered overly fondly and this is sometimes seen as just another way to milk that story before returning to status quo.
My final verdict? Read it if it sounds interesting. It can be fun. But please don't expect something too amazing.