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Old 02-01-2019, 04:46 AM   #3
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- "The Red Glass Trilogy": Superman #56, Adventures of Superman #479, and Action Comics #666 (1991)

I don't even know where to begin, because this story is just SO COOL. Keep in mind, although the DCU has been a "dark", PG-13/R-rated universe since the mid-80s, it was still rare for the flagship super-hero books like Superman or Batman to delve into straight-up horror-type stories at the time. If you were an unsuspecting kid who just happened to pick these issues up off the spinner rack, like me, this story blew your face off about five pages in and didn't let up until the very end. And it was impossible to put down, because... these things weren't actually HAPPENING, right? These bizarre, horrifying things surely weren't REAL, were they? You had to keep reading, just to see what the hell was going on!

I won't be able to explain it in an adequate fashion, but I'll try. People are suddenly terrified of Superman. Confused, he starts accidentally killing them while trying to save them. He finds himself faced with a museum full of murdered villains, all dead by his own hand, although he has no memory of it... nor of crippling Lois, who he accidentally kills next when confronted. As things escalate, Superman confusedly tries to make sense of what's happening, while accidentally lashing out and killing everyone in his way, starting with the Justice League and eventually wiping out most of the life on Earth. All the while, Superman is horrified, confused, and genuinely afraid as the bodies pile up, despite his constant insistence that he couldn't possibly have done, or be doing, any of this.

THANKFULLY, it's ultimately revealed that it was all an elaborate hallucination. The government had sent Superman to the moon to investigate a strange object that had been causing radio interference or something like that; what he found was a gigantic, red, crystalline alien being (the "Red Glass" from the title) which had become trapped deep in the soil. In telepathically reaching out to Superman for help, their minds became linked, but their lack of a common language led to confusion, and a kind of extreme sensory feedback; Superman was in this state mistakenly led to believe he was living out his greatest nightmare - a complete and total loss of control. Relieved, he finally frees the alien, but is shaken to the core by the experience.

See, we get these kinds of stories all the time nowadays - possibly Too Often - but stories like this were extremely rare in 1991, and furthermore, the execution was more on the cerebral angle of the affair moreso than being graphically violent. There are a lot of disturbing images, but they stop short of being excessive and are entirely befitting the story. But the writing is really where it shines; you completely feel Superman's confusion, fear, pain and sorrow as things just keep getting worse with each passing moment, and his overwhelming relief upon realizing that it wasn't real. And instead of being a throwaway "imaginary story" with no repercussions or actual meaning, it had the benefit of being in-continuity and presenting a rare exploration of Superman's greatest fears and insecurities. Superman's biggest fear isn't Kryptonite, it's losing control, hurting people, betraying himself... this was one of the very first times we were ever shown what the Worst-Case Scenario would look like, and it was deeply affecting. His resolve to never, ever let anything like that actually come to pass is what ultimately makes the story an uplifting one.

Dark? You bet'cha. But it's very, VERY good. Better than any of its modern "copycat" stories, I'd wager. If you're not put off by the idea of Superman starring in a psychological horror story, it's definitely worth a read.

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I laid them out in stone, in case they need to last forever..."

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