Electric Bluegaloo, Act 13: Millennium Giants
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, the Millennium Giants finally attack after months of buildup, and Lois has had it up to here.
- Superman: The Man of Steel #78, by Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove, and Dennis Janke
- Superman #134, by Dan Jurgens, Ron Frenz, and Joe Rubenstein
- The Adventures of Superman #557, by Karl Kesel, Barbara Kesel, Val Semeiks, Denis Rodier, and Scott Koblish
- Action Comics #744, by Stuart Immonen, Anthony Williams, Scott Koblish, and Jose Marzan Jr.
Remember a few months ago, when I said that Genesis was the least-remembered event of the '90s? Well, I might've been mistaken about that. See, I forgot about the Millennium Giants, but in my defense, I imagine a whole lot of people have done the same thing.
To be fair, though, it's a story that had been bubbling under the surface for months at this point, going back to November 1997 and the first appearance of the strange, mystical artifacts known as the Dragon's Teeth.
With two battles against the Millennium Guard and the hints around the edges of the story that Superman's new powers might have served as the opening signal to some sort of global cataclysm, it's not the sort of forgettable story that came out of nowhere. And since it wasn't a proper line-wide event --- it ran through the Superman books, along with Superman Family titles like Supergirl, Steel, and Superboy, with a couple of truly inexplicable tie-ins cropping up in Teen Titans, Aquaman, and the short-lived Challengers of the Unknown --- it was able to have a tighter focus while still filling out pages with the requisite number of guest stars.
But even with all that going for it, and with massive stakes that involved the end of the world, where even the opening act resulted in the a death toll in the tens of thousands, it just sort of lays there on the page.
And it's flawed right from the start. The idea of the nine covers for the crossover forming one massive image with the Millennium Giants towering over everyone, forming a tableau that stretches from the bottom of the ocean all the way to the clouds, is a really great idea. In practice, though the image doesn't quite match up, and whenever the Supermen appear, they tend to be in the same X-shaped pose. I don't know if that's on purpose or not, but even with some very talented artists behind it, it just doesn't land. Even the timing seems weird, with the big end-of-the-millennium global catastrophe story hitting in early 1998, instead of a year later where it would've felt like it made a little more sense.
Taken all together --- or at least, taking the four Superman books that make up the bulk of the story, because even I don't have time to re-read the entire saga --- it's just a big bunch of nothin'. Which, considering that it's essentially the grand climax of the Electric Blue Era, is a pretty big letdown.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
When we last left off, the Millennium Guard had broken out of Cadmus and taken positions at three sites across the world: England, Egypt, and Mexico City --- the last of which just happens to be where Lois Lane went after becoming so friggin' sick of the Red/Blue storyline that she opted to leave the country rather than stay in Metropolis and deal with it. Because of that, she's on hand when the Guard, who have previously proven themselves to be more than a match for Superman, reveal that they're just the opening act for the real threat.
Behold! The Millennium Giants!
Left to right, we've got Sekhmet of Egypt, the Cerne Giant of England, and Cabraca of Mexico, and as you might've guessed, each one is drawn from local mythology. Unfortunately, "Hey, these are drawn from local mythology" is about the only explanation that we get for why they're showing up and getting ready to destroy the entire world. It's just a few pages each, and then they commence to stompin'.
The basic idea is that --- like the Genesis Wave before them --- they're something of a natural phenomenon that just shows up every now and then to destroy and remake the world. Despite the name, I think it's safe to say that this doesn't happen every thousand years, and it's never really explained if they're products of the local beliefs that they line up with, or if they're the ones who informed those beliefs, or what.
All that's really clear is that they hate Geo-Force just as much as I do.
Reset the clock, everybody. It has now been [ 0 ] days since you had think about Geo-Force.
After literally smashing Stonehenge to pebbles, the Cerne Giant heads to Markovia, and it turns out that Geo-Force is as bad at fighting apocalyptic titans as he is at everything else. Not only does the Giant trounce Markovia, it also causes an absolutely ridiculous amount of destruction in the process:
Back when I wrote about "The Death and Return of Superman," I mentioned that the one thing that really seems weird about that story in retrospect is the destruction of Coast City, which pushes the death toll of the saga into the millions. If you're not reading Green Lantern and don't have any connection to that series, it just seems like someone thought up a really big number and then wrote a story where that number of people die, the very definition of cheap drama.
What we have here is pretty similar, only without the benefit of having a connection there for Green Lantern fans. The text identifies this disaster, which happens over the course of a mere three pages, as being "the worst disaster in American naval history since Pearl Harbor." The thing is, it also says that twenty-five thousand people died, and the entire Pacific Fleet went down with them. If that's the case, then that's ten times the casualties of Pearl Harbor, making it the worst disaster not just in American naval history, but in the entire history of boats.
But three pages, that's it. No further mentions. It's just a big number someone thought up, and to make matters worse, it only serves as a failure for Superman.
Who, incidentally, is also failing twice over at being a husband:
The two Supermen's personalities have finally diverged enough that they no longer even want to reconcile, and the cold logic of Superman Blue and the impulsive hotheadedness of Superman Red eventually get to the point where they prove to be completely ineffective at stopping the Millennium Giants.
Eventually, thanks to some information from that weird late '90s incarnation of the Challengers of the Unknown, the good guys find out that the Millennium Giants are following Earth's ley lines, using them to siphon energy from the Earth's own field in order to fuel their destruction:
If only we had some superhero with the ability to control and absorb energy fields. If only we had a hero with exactly those abilities, as though this threat had been created specifically to be dealt with by him and him alone.
But what seems like a pretty neat solution is quickly dragged out by squabbling between the two Supermen over whether they should plan or act. It eventually gets to the point where they full-on turn on each other:
And then, we get a moment that should be awesome.
If you remember way back when we started, one of the first things that Superman did with his new powers was grow to giant-sized, looming over Metropolis as an electric blue giant so that he could save a passenger jet from crashing. Since then, though, I don't think that power --- to grow larger but less tangible as his energy field spreads out --- has been seen once.
On one level, that's a shame, because it makes for a pretty great visual, but there's another level where it feels like the kind of thing that they've been saving for just the right moment. And friends and neighbors, I can tell you right now that this is the moment.
All of the pieces are there. The power has been established, but it's been long enough that you've probably forgotten he can do that, and he's literally fighting giants. There's even a bit where they set it up where he absorbs a ton of energy, essentially powering himself up with the entire city of Metropolis, Dark Knight Returns style.
It should be the moment of the story, but instead, for some reason, it's an immediate failure. After punching out Blue and growing to giant-size, Red carts Cabraca off to space to sever his connection to Earth, and then instantly loses his own cohesion while Cabraca returns, none the worse for wear.
Oh well. Better luck next month, I guess.
- The Millennium Giants returned to destroy the world, conveniently shoving the Millennium Guard out of the story.
- Superman Red and Superman Blue announced their intention to stay as separate beings rather than reuniting, frustrating Lois to no end.
- That's it.
- No, seriously, nothing else happened. No other subplots were advanced, other than Lex Luthor revealing he has a space ship for evacuating the Earth in case of emergency, which I think we could've all assumed anyway.