The Never-Ending Battle: ACTION COMICS #691

Who is Superman’s “Secret Weapon?”
 Superman and Steel continue their assault on Engine City in Action Comics #691.
Cover of Action Comics #691
Triangle Number 1993 – 28
Writer: Roger Stern
Penciler: Jackson Guice
Inker: Denis Rodier
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley

Action Comics continues the blockbuster action movie set-pieces that started in Adventures. As Steel and the Man in Black continue their descent into the hell that was once Coast City, it begins to be hinted that there may be something else afoot. Letterer Bill Oakley is consistently changing the word balloons to have the dashed outlines that indicate whispers, and there also seem to be whispers coming from an unknown source as well.
One thing that I appreciate, is that even though he’s nearly powerless at this point, and utilizing alien weaponry to fight, the Man in Black continues to hold to his moral code and avoid killing. He only uses the guns against robots, choosing to fight with his fists against the living enemies. It would have been easy, especially in the darkness of the 1990s, to momentarily shrug that off, but the Superman team didn’t do that. The two times that Superman has killed, he has ceased being Superman, and that’s something the writers and art teams just understand.
The brief check-in to Metropolis reveals that the Kid got away from the missile just as it exploded, and while he’s still not one hundred percent, he is at least alive. His physical state does not matter at all to Lex Luthor, who is the one who finds the Kid in a landfill. He demands to know where Supergirl is, since she’s been missing since the Kid, Steel, and Man in Black all took off for Engine City. We’ll find out more about the Kid’s recovery in the Adventures of Superman Annual, but until then, we just know that he’s in no shape to get back to the action.
Villain team-ups usually go down the same path every time, villains are a notoriously in-fighty and back-stabby lot, and the Cyborg Superman and Mongul are no exception to those rules. Even as the Man of Steel and the Man in Black continue their approach, Mongul plots on how to use the Cyborg’s obsession with Superman against him.
Meanwhile, the Cyborg’s first victim is impatiently recovering from the brutal attacks of Superman #80. The Eradicator uses his connections to Fortress of Solitude’s technology to make himself whole, but not quite what he had been. He no longer looks like Superman, taking on an older appearance and discarding the cape and shield, but that does not stop his quest for vengeance as he flies towards Engine City.
As the two Supermen continue their siege, the Man in Black finally reveals his “secret weapon.” Supergirl has been with them all along, providing cover and lucky escapes, while keeping herself invisible to maintain the element of surprise. It’s a clever idea, and one that also nods at the Silver Age origins of the Supergirl character, as that version of Supergirl was also held for a number of years as Superman’s “secret weapon.” It’s also nice to see that Supergirl inherently trusts Lois Lane’s instincts and without hesitation accepted this new Superman to be the real deal.

Finally, as Mongul plots to get revenge on both the real Superman and the Cyborg, there is one final revelation to be had. As the Engines that stand where Coast City once did, are powered by none other than a giant Kryptonite meteor.
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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