The Never-Ending Battle: ACTION COMICS #688

A slugfest for the ages as the Kryptonian fights Guy Gardner in Action Comics #688.

Action Comics #688

Triangle Number 1993 – 16

Writer: Roger Stern
Penciler: Jackson Guice
Inker: Denis Rodier
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley

Now if you’d been following the Dan Jurgens Justice League America run, you’d know that there was no love lost between Superman and Guy Gardner, as they nearly came to blows over their very different heroing styles. But during the Doomsday battle, Gardner gained respect for Superman, so upon finding out that there are now four people claiming to be Superman, he decides to bust some heads and beat the claims out of all of them.

Speaking of busting heads, that’s just what the Kryptonian is doing. He stops a man from breaking into a safe, and as the terrified criminal begs him not to murder him, he instead broke every bone in the man’s hands and arms. As a kid, and holding true to today, the Kryptonian was my least favorite of the four Supermen, in particular, because he was so violent. However, this was an intentional play on popular characters of the time and a demonstration of why that approach to Superman doesn’t work. If you take away the kindness and compassion of Superman and replace it with brutality, it’s no longer Superman.

As Lois investigates the hospitalization of this criminal, she discusses with Cat Grant how different all these new Supermen are from the one that she knew so well. It’s also the first time we see another artist trying to draw the Kid, and while not as bad as some of the depictions we’ll see, Butch Guice’s version still looks about five years older than Tom Grummett’s does. In Superman #78 the trend of Lois being subtly reminded of Clark started, and it continued both in Adventures of Superman #501 (when the Kid put on round sunglasses and slicked back his hair looking almost like Clark Kent in his glasses), and in this issue when she sees a silhouette of a man in a fedora, and immediately thinks he’s Clark. This is a great way to showcase Lois dealing with both the stress of these Supermen showing up and the grief over her lost love.

Lois is not the only one investigating the four Supermen though, so is the Metropolis PD, led by newly promoted Inspector Maggie Sawyer. She’s also charged with trying to rein in the Superman cultists who are now schisming with the four different versions of their “Messiah” showing up.

Also in town to investigate the Supermen is Guy Gardner, who sets a trap for any of them that fall for the bait, which just happens to be the Kryptonian. While Superman never fought back the previous times Gardner came at him, the Kryptonian does not hesitate to, as he beats Gardner across the city and through an abandoned warehouse where a gun deal is going down. As he brutalizes the criminals in the warehouse, he gains Guy’s respect and confidence that he is the one true Superman.

The issue ends with the Kryptonian reflecting in the Fortress of Solitude on the problem of too many people representing his symbol, and how that may result in a perversion of everything the “S” stands for. That thought and the public support of Guy Gardner make the Kryptonian start to reconsider the brutality of his approach, hoping that he can possibly find a better way.

Miss any previous entries in The Never-Ending Battle? The early entries can be found at Comfort Food Comics, while more recent ones can be found here at The Beat.

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Guy Gardner wants a piece of Superman and he doesn’t care which one.
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