Of all the strange transformations Superman has undergone in his 78-year history, none has been quite so derided as the year where his familiar costume and powers were replaced with a blue and white "containment suit" and a tenuous relationship with electricity. But that raises the question, was it really all that bad? Two decades later, we want to find out, so ComicsAlliance is taking a look back at the Electric Blue Era of Superman to find out not just what worked, but if anything worked. This is... Electric Bluegaloo.

This week, it's the finale of the Millennium Giants saga, and the end of the Electric Blue Era begins!

 

 

May, 1998:

As I've been going through Superman's Electric Blue Year over the past few months, I've been doing my best to avoid reading too far ahead. Even though these comics are almost 20 years old --- and even though I'm going through them a little faster than "real-time" --- I wanted to do my best to recreate the sense of reading them as they were coming out, and reacting to them as I went. With "The Millennium Giants," however, I was sorely tempted.

With as disappointing and counterintuitive as the bulk of the crossover was, I was still holding out hope that the Superman creators could pull out something that would make it all seem worth it in these last two issues before the whole thing ends. And, well... they come pretty close, at least, even if it's not quite the story that it should've been.

I honestly think the most impressive thing about it is how much it ties together from the previous six months of Superman comics. The Dragon's Teeth and the Millennium Guard have been hovering around for a few months, of course, but these issues also get to the Medallion of the Damned, which was introduced as almost a throwaway McGuffin for Jimmy Olsen in an annual that was otherwise pretty easy to skip. Building on things and connecting them together is the one thing that the '90s Superman books did really well, even if the end results were, like this story, a little bit underwhelming.

Of course, trying not to spoil the surprise starts to feel pretty pointless when you start running across house ads like this...

 

 

... But we'll get to all that later.

 

Click for full size

 

When we left off, Superman Red had embarked on a disastrously anticlimactic attempt to destroy Cabraca, one of the Millennium Giants, by dragging him out into orbit and severing his connection to Earth. It's a solid idea, but Cabraca just ended up reforming himself, while Red's containment suit was overloaded, leaving him in danger of evaporating into space. It's a dire situation, but not so dire that Red and Blue can't spend a few pages arguing about logic vs. emotion.

Given how great that double-page spread is, though, now seems like a pretty good time to once again highlight Jon Bogdanove. One of the biggest disappointments of the year was that Bogdanove, whose high-energy, Walt Simonson-esque style seems perfectly suited for Electric Superman, was only on the books about half the time. He's great, and given how awesome he was both here and on his issues of "The Death and Return of Superman" from a few years prior, I really wish we'd gotten to see him as the driving artistic force of a long run. With as much Kirby influence as some of the other creators were bringing in, Bogdanove could've done something amazing with Electric Blue Superman vs. Darkseid.

So, you know, if anyone at DC's out there looking to do a "lost" story from the Era, that's my suggestion.

 

 

Eventually, Superman Blue convinces Red to share his own circuitry, and for the rest of the issue, we get a pretty fantastic visual --- one that's surprisingly not highlighted all that much in the dialogue. Since they're essentially two energy beings sharing the same containment suit, the two Superman are now literally joined at the shoulder:

 

 

Armed with a super-weapon cooked up by Steel, the conjoined Supermen drill their way into Cabraca with designs on detonating him from the inside, but once they're in there, they find something unexpected --- both for them and the readers:

 

 

Remember how I said that the one thing these books are really good at is tying things together? Well, the one thing they're really bad about is just sort of dropping new things into what should be the climax of the story, painting themselves into a corner, and then throwing in some weird new twist to keep things moving. It keeps things from forming a satisfying arc, and --- like those giant tuning forks in Crisis On Infinite Earths --- ends up giving you a bunch of plot devices that ultimately don't matter.

The new element in this case is the Keeper of the Flame, who essentially tells the Supermen that if they want to stop the Millennium Giants, they're going to need to sacrifice their own lives to snuff out an eternal flame that burns at the (magical, not geological) Heart of the Earth. They do --- conveniently not sacrificing their lives, for what it's worth --- and sure enough, it shatters the Millennium Giants where they stand, ending their threat for good.

There is, however, a problem.

 

 

Turns out the Keeper of the Flame wasn't exactly on the up-and-up with this whole "extinguish this magical fire for a consequence-free victory" thing.

The key to stopping the world from exploding like Krypton --- which would've been a really good time to revisit the fact that Lex Luthor has an escape rocket to take his child to safety from a dying world, which is amazingly never mentioned in this issue --- is the Medallion of the Damned. The problem is that it's been lost inside Cabraca's body, but eventually, the two Supermen find it.

Except that it has now inexplicably turned into the Midgard Serpent from Thor #380.

 

 

And not only can the dragon talk, but it's actually quite chatty. Between their conversation here and the information provided by the shaman who's been tagging along --- and who turns out to be the disguised Keeper of the Flame --- the Supermen quickly figure out what they have to do. And this time, their destruction is pretty much guaranteed.

 

 

And that's exactly what they do, complete with the overwrought narration about how someday, people will tell their grandchildren about the time that two Superman turned the skies red and blue in order to restore power to the Earth's mystical ley lines. Which, okay, if I lived in that world, I'd probably be talking about it all the time --- I'm talking about it now, in this world, and it's way less consequential here --- but even the most boring grandpa would probably spend a little more time talking about that time Superman and a bone monster punched each other to death.

Anyway, both Supermen are dead now, so despite that house ad's promise that the story will continue in the Superman Forever one-shot, I guess there's no column next week. Woo, day off!

What Changed:

  • The Millennium Giants were finally defeated, making Geo-Force's home country of Markovia the only real casualty of their apocalyptic attack. In other words, nothing of value was lost.
  • Superman Red and Superman Blue both expended the entirety of their energy, and --- according to the Martian Manhunter --- that means they are... no more.
  • The Medallion of the Damned was revealed to be an artifact tied to the Millennium Giants that would allow someone to be whisked directly to the afterlife rather than dying when they showed up to destroy the world, which... I mean... if there's an afterlife, wouldn't dying just take you there anyway?
  • There was also a dragon?
  • Seriously, no other subplots were advanced. Lex Luthors' been sitting in his basement with a sleepy baby for like three straight issues.