Superman: Space Age #3 is out and is an amazing finale to this three part series. Finishing on the heels of Dark Crisis and playing on the events from the original Crisis on Infinite Earths suggests this may not be the last we see Earth 832654-Z, but this story definitely ends.
Before we get into more detail, let’s take a look at the great cover art this issue has to offer. Michael and Laura Allred pay homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths with their standard cover. A defeated Justice League floats aimlessly through space as the visage of the Anti-Monitor gobbles up the energies of this particular universe. The Allreds really capture the devastation of the Crisis Event well. Using the classic comic book dots for shading really adds to the retro feel of this time period yet it’s subtle enough not to distract from the overall art. Having Superman being the last hero standing also plays a bit of foreshadowing to the outcome of this issue.
The variant by Joe Quinones is a Norman Rockwell-esque take of the changing scene from the opening of Superman III. Needing the nearest available place to switch to Superman, Clark ducks into a photo booth which comically captures the transformation on film. He quickly realises what’s happened as a young child innocently grabs the printed photos. Quick to remedy the unwittingly reveal of his secret identity, Clark rips off the incriminating sections and hands the child the rest. A fun and whimsical moment perfectly recreated for this cover.
Nick Derington’s variant is absolutely stunning. It’s a close up of Superman “holding” and Information Crystal and the light energy it’s emanating. Derington’s rendition of Clark’s face is full of honest kindness that easily makes you feel safe and secure. The drastic contrasts of light and shadow make the colours of Superman’s outfit vibrant without making it cartoonish. There’s even a rawness to the entire piece with how subtle the ink work is compared to the pencils. This is one cover that deserves to be framed.
Artist Michael “Spike” Allred and his colorist partner Laura Allred deliver some fantastic interior art. Their detailed illustrations accentuate the emotional context of the story. The realistic approach to their art marries well with Mark Russell’s take of a true-to-life superhero story. The costume designs alone add to the believability of these character’s existence in a real world setting. Their attention to period fashion and style constantly reinforces when this story takes place and adds to the relevance of it all. I’m convinced this story wouldn’t have carried as much weight without Michael and Laura Allred on the interiors.
Writer Mark Russell, lettered by Dave Sharpe, masterfully crafts a story of Superman’s tenacity in Superman: Space Age #3. We’ve entered into the early eighties and the time of Crisis is quickly approaching. Unwilling to accept the no-win fate Pariah foretells, Clark decides to do whatever he can to save his reality. Learning about a pocket dimension the council of Brainiacs have in order to survive the Anti-Monitor and believing Pariah’s warnings, Clark devises a plan akin to Jor-El’s attempt to save Krypton.
Without revealing too much, it’s one of the more Silver Aged moments of the story but Mark Russell manages to ground it in such a convincingly practical way. Russell also does a fantastic job reinventing Luthor’s methods and motivations to defeat Superman without resorting to the typical villainous tropes associated with him. His plans feel like something today’s competitive business world would come up with while maintaining the self-centered nature of Luthor’s pride and ego. Batman’s involvement also feels poignant. Faced with a Joker that wants to burn down the systems by which the world lives, Bruce is forced into a scenario the Joker thinks he controls. Not willing to let Joker get away with his plans, Bruce makes the most Batman decision available with consequential results.
Knowing this isn’t the reality that survives the Crisis on Infinite Earths could have made this issue one of desperation and despair, but Russell’s understanding of Superman’s character continually frames the narrative to one of hope. The uncertainty of Clark’s plan never sways his need to at least try and, in the end, that’s enough. The ending kind of retcons the overall outcome of Crisis but is necessary to satisfactorily finish this story. Besides, Dark Crisis has reinstated a true Infinite Earths DC Multiverse and continuity, so perhaps the ending doesn’t retcon anything after all and leaves revisiting this Earth a possibility.