Comic Book Review: "Superman: What Price Tomorrow?"
The adventures of the self-titled “Superman” in DC Comics New 52 begin in the 6-issue story arc, “What Price Tomorrow?” Written by George Perez with art by Jesus Merino, Nichola Scott and Trevor Scott, this story show the 21st century complications for an old school print journalist like Clark Kent who feels lost in the world of news conglomerate and moguls. This story begins with Superman returning to Metropolis after a hiatus as the failing Daily Planet is purchased and absorbed it into a conglomerate news media organization called Galaxy Communication. “What Price Tomorrow?” take a strong look at how media coverage (and spin) affect how we see the events around us and make split-second decisions about what we see and finally come to sudden (and at times, wrong) conclusions in a 24-hour media cycle. The changing times of the 21st century take an odd turn when Superman is confront with three alien forces that he must deal with while every step (and misstep) is caught on live news feed, with biased reporters bent on besmirching his Boy Scout persona.
Issue 1, “What Price Tomorrow”, begins at a huge media gala. Mayor Morrisroe gives a speech about the great history of the Daily Planet and its historic building as it is being demolished along with its large iconic globe after two centuries. Galaxy Communications is buying and merging the paper with The Globe Paper. CEO Morgan Edge promises to make the Daily Planet even better. He explains that with the merger the Globe Paper and the Daily Planet shall now be PGN (Planet Global Network). In the audience, Lois Lane and Perry White wonder how things will go from this point. Clark Kent is not there. Earlier he and Lois had an argument over the Globe buying the Planet. She said print media is dying and the merger makes sense. Clark argued that the Globe uses illegal practices: wiretapping, extortion, lying; they are unethical and have no integrity. She claims that all of that happened under Glenmorgan, not Edge. He has the best intentions to keep the Planet’s reputation intact. Edge makes Lois Lane the executive producer of nightly news and vice president of new media. Lois says that Clark was offered her old job, but he didn’t want it. She says that they can keep the integrity of the paper. Clark, in disgust, refused to attends the gala. At the demolition site, Superman hovers above the rubble, staring at the wreckage. Jimmy Olsen and Miko Ogawa spot him as he quickly flies off; they are glad he’s back in town. Across town at the new Astrodome, security guard, Myer, notices a small fire on the monitors. The other guard, Mack, goes to check it out and reports it as the “weirdest thing”, but he loses contact with Myer. Superman spots a stole tanker filled with dangerous chemicals and goes after it. At the gala word comes about it they scramble to get camera on it. Lois takes charge. Superman picks up the truck and flies off before the gunfire causes an explosion. At the Astrodome, the fire becomes an inferno. Superman tells the crooks they have three seconds to give up, but the truck exploded before he counted to three. The news thinks he caused it. But a fire monster rises out of the blaze at the Astrodome. It set fires to the surrounding buildings. Superman can understand some of its gibberish speech and the word “Krypton”. it shoots fire at the news media. Superman flies off to protect them. He uses a billboard, but the fire turns it into flames. Suddenly, the police helicopter explosion. Lois orders her news media copter to leave. The police decide to let Superman handle it, and concentrate on crowd control. Superman battles the fire monster. Edge yells at Lois for calling off the news copter. She tells him off. She tells Jimmy and Miko to hack the city surveillance cameras to get the shots of Superman fighting the fire monster. He uses the demolished Daily Planet globe to distract the fire monster long enough to grab it and fly into space and extinguish it in the vacuum of space. The news coverage and story is ratings gold for GPN and Clark Kent gets the credit. He goes to see Lois at her apartment to tell her she was right about still being able to get to truth in a story, and finds that she’s busy and intimate with Jonathan Carroll. Clark didn’t know and leave disheartened.
Issue 2, “Flying Blind”, begin as Superman is looking at a star map trying to figure out where the fire monster came from. General Lane arrives and gives him the Intel they have so far. He doesn’t think it was an alien menace but he’s still worried about the possible danger it could have cause. The two argue about Superman’s return to Metropolis; or earth, for that matter. Too many alien attacks. But, Superman says he can’t go back to Krypton; however, he secretly thinks Lane might be right that he’s a danger to the planet. At GPN, Lois is talking to Clark as she decorates her new office. She reminisces about the days when she and Clark were on the beat working stories together. She kind of misses it. Clark will have to find someone new to work with; maybe Heather Kelley. Catherine Grant tells Clark about a homeless story that he could cover. There’s a dissident holed up in the subway, halting needed construction; Clark tells her he’s busy. At the subway, the police arrive to remove the squatter. He runs deeper into the tunnels as his eyes glows. As Superman is flying over the city, something quickly hits him. He can’t hear it or see it, despite his super-hearing or x-ray vision. It knocks him into buildings. He tries to isolate it, but he can’t zone in on it. It throws him through a building. It picks him up and throws him at a blimp. As he goes through it, a GPN copter gets wind of it. The cameras can see the monster but Superman can’t. Superman tries to save the people in the blimp, but the creature attacks again. He realizes that he can’t see it, but everyone else can; although, he can see it in the large video screens all over downtown. He fights it looking at the screens. He knocks it back and saves the blimp. He uses other video screens to help him fight the monster. He grabs it and forces it into an electronics store filled with cameras and video screens so it’s easier for him to battle it. He defeats it, and before it disappears it say, “Krypton” in the same alien gibberish as the fire monster. Superman realizes the two creatures are connected and targeting after him. Clark gets a message from Lois telling him that she’s worried about him. He’s been very distracted and distance lately. She’s his friend and there to talk when he needs too. At the hospital where the one surviving astrodome security guard, Mack, is being treated. The homeless man with glowing eyes appears next to his bed. Mack opens his eyes; they are glowing too. He says, in the same alien gibberish, “Krypton”.
At the beginning of issue 3, “A Cold Day In Hell”, Billy McCoy, from Galaxy Communications, is presenting a story idea to the GPN staff (Lois, Perry and others) about running a story called, “Superman: Menace or Messiah?” He points to the past and most recent violence around the city: Braniac, Astrodome, fire-monster, the invisible creature, the collateral damage and lives lost. When they tried to interview Mack at the hospital he’s seen leaving with the homeless man. People seem scared. Superman seems to cause a just as much trouble as he solves. McCoy claims the story is fair and balanced. Perry and Lois aren’t convinced the piece isn’t a muck-racking story. McCoy is livid that they are just pro-Superman and biased. Perry still shoots done his story idea. He asks why he even wanted the Planet to run the story. McCoy wants Clark to review the hospital tape to see if he recognizes the homeless man. Perry calls Clark. He is at the Smallville cemetery visiting his parents when he gets it. He’s supposed to be in Metropolis doing a story assignment with Heather Kelley. He had forgotten and flies off to get there. Perry and Lois discuss Clark’s distance from everyone lately. He doesn’t seem to be easing into Galaxy buying The Planet. Maybe Lois can talk to him after work. Heather, Miko and Jimmy are waiting for Clark to show up at the City of Tomorrow renovation program site in Hob’s Bay area to do the story. It’s 84 degrees, but Heather is freezing. Suddenly, there a freezing cyclone appears in the area and Superman is caught in it. Similar to the fire monster, it is an ice monster after just Superman. It turns everything it touches to ice. Lois is trying to warn Heather, Jimmy and Miko to get out of the area as Superman battles the ice demon. Superman flies high above the city. Hoping the creature will follow him like the others did. Out of the ice cyclone appears an ice woman who looks like Heather. She speaks that same alien gibberish as another and says, “Krypton”. Supes uses his x-ray vision to see through the ice storm and sees that Jimmy and Miko are frozen, but doesn’t see Heather. The ice monster and encased her in an ice bubble. Superman uses his heat vision hoping to break Heather free, but the ice alien explodes from the heat and disappears. Everything is back to normal. The city saved, but Heather is gone. Superman fears he may have killed her. Somewhere across the city, the homeless man and Mack meet Heather on a rooftop. Her eyes are glowing are now glowing as well.
Issue 4, “Mind For The Taking,” begins with the police are interviewing Miko and Jimmy. They are trying to ascertain exactly what happened with ice monster, Superman and Heather Kelly. The police are frustrated. No one knows where she is, they fear she’s dead. They go back to talk to Superman. They blame him for Heather Kelly’s death. Suddenly, on the news, Heather is being interviewed by Billy McCoy. She says that she doesn’t remember much but superman using his heat vision to free her. The police still accuse Superman of being reckless. He could have killed her. Commissioner David Corporon bursts into the room. He tells the other cops that the mayor demands they stop interrogating Superman and let him go; Corporon apologies to him. Superman leaves. Clark gets a call from Lois. She knows he was in Smallville instead of Metropolis where he was supposed to be. Miko had G.P.S.ed his cell when he call heather and said he was in traffic. Lois tells Clark to shape up. He tells her she’s right. He was at the cemetery and forgot about the story. Now he’s on his way to see Heather at the studio and apologize. Lois is mad at Miko and Jimmy for tracking Clark’s phone. They leave to be interviewed on McCoy’s show. Lois goes to her computer and look is at a picture of superman flying away from Smallville cemetery. On “The Real McCoy” show Billy is interviewing Heather. The only thing she remembers is waking up in her office after the ice monster appeared. Jimmy and Miko come on and they all watch the file footage of Superman fighting the ice monster. McCoy questions Superman’s integrity. Clark is watching backstage. McCoy asks Heather where Clark was during the incident, the story was about his old building complex. He should have been there. Heather says that the story was completely her idea, not Clark. He was nowhere near it. At Clarks old building the homeless man and Mack create a huge electrical explosion. McCoy is arguing with Heather and Clark backstage. He thinks they are lying. They are hiding important information about the old building and the ice monster. Heather tells Clark they should leave; she needs to tell him something. Suddenly Clark is transported back to his old apartment surrounded by the three monsters (Fire, Ice and Invisible Aliens). He can understand the alien language; because they are reading each other’s minds. They are trying to rejoin as the creator planned. They need to recalibrate to achieve compatibility. He tells them he won’t let they destroy the city. Lois and Perry are sitting in the commissary watching McCoy show. He complains that guests have left because he caught them in a lie. Lois and Perry discuss Clark and Heather. Perry suddenly notices the explosion from Clark’s old building. Superman is using all his powers to defeat the three monsters but they seem to be able to defeat his attacks. They turn into insects and engulf him. They keep saying they need to purge, recalibrate, change, adapt, and make things whole. It what the creator planned. Superman demands to know who the creator is. They tell him the creator is “you”, as Superman is engulfed in darkness.
At the start of issue 5, “Menace” the police, the fire truck, and Jimmy, Miko and Ron Troup race to the site of the explosion. Billy McCoy is on a helicopter trying to get the story. He reports live that at Hob’s Bay a cyclone of fire and ice has erupted. Lois tells Dough, the helicopter camera man, to zoom in on the storm. She sees Superman catch in the center of it. He absorbs the fire-ice storm. Billy McCoy flies into get a sound bite from Superman. He speaks a few words in the alien language. Then, in English, he ask McCoy, “Messiah or Menace? You decide!” Superman dives into the wreckage and pulls out Mack, Heather and the Homeless. He tells the gathered crowd that he’s defeated the alien menace. He’s protected Metropolis just as he always has and always will (he seems a little possessed). He flies off saying he has a city to save. Later at the hospital, Lois, and Perry talk to the doctors. The three victims are still in comas. The homeless man’s name is Santiago Velasquez. He was a homeless man in an area that Clark was going to cover, but didn’t. Lois and Perry wonder what’s been going on with Clark lately. At Whaler Military Base Superman bursts through a wall and tells the armed guard that the giant Fleischer robots that he brought there for study must be destroyed. He says that “as long as the alien contagion exists the threat shall always remain”. He destroys the robots and leaves. At another lab, he breaks in and destroys the ape-mutant Titano and other mutants, declaring the infestation must be purged. At Sheldon Prison, the criminals known as the Sky Raiders are being transferred out the city for their own protection from Superman. He’s on a rampage against any and all threats to the city. Superman shows up and overturns the bus. Lois asks Jimmy to hack the computers and not ask questions. On the news, Billy McCoy is reporting Superman’s execution of the Sky Raiders. He accuses Superman of proclaiming himself above the law. He sees himself as judge jury and executioner. The mayor and police commissioner are both worried. General Lane wants to use K-Squadron against Superman, now that he is a true menace to the city order. Billy McCoy calls for all citizens of Metropolis must raise their voices against Superman; they must be heard. Suddenly, Superman crashes through the wall of the studio and grabs McCoy. He says he can hear everything. He flies to the top of the building and dangles McCoy over the city. He tells him that his dissenting voice is endangering the order he is there to maintain in the city and drops McCoy. Lois is trying to call Clark. As she screams his name into the phone, high above the Earth the real Superman awaken at the sound of Lois’ voice.
At the start of issue 6, “The Measure Of A Superman”, Supergirl (Kara Zor-El, Superman’s teenaged cousin) catches McCoy and demands to know what Superman thinks he’s doing . The fake Superman accesses it memories and recognizes her. He tells her she’s not meant to be in Metropolis yet and blasts her with his heat vision. The two of them begin fighting all over the city. Lois is screaming at the TV screen for superman to stop. She hears Clark’s voice on the phone just as the fake superman stops fighting Supergirl. The three aliens have created a robotic superman clone. There is a psychic link between Superman and the aliens. He uses that link to read their memories of the past. On their home world of Jazuur, These three aliens were actually nanotechnology (nanites) that the Collector of World (Braniac) took as a prize before destroying the planet. When Superman fought Braniac 5 years ago he broke the jar they were in. They transferred to his suit and he inadvertently brought them back to Earth. The nanites are trying to recreate their prefect world on earth by destroying anything that they see as a threat. Superman brakes free of the control of the nanites, so they try to possess Supergirl. Everyone in metropolis is watching on the news as the nanites Superman beats up Supergirl. The mayor is planning to flee the city. General Lane has called in an air strike to try and kill Superman. He calls Lois about it . She tells him he’s wrong about superman and hangs up on him. Just as fake superman is about to finish off Supergirl, the real Superman swoops in and grabs him. He tells the crowd below that they have all been deceived by the imposter. The air strike shows up to destroy the alien menace. Superman tells them he will deal with it and flies off. Lane calls back the planes. McCoy gives a report apologizing to Superman for not believing in him. Superman takes the alien to the Artic. He explains that their prime directive was to maintain the stasis quo of Jazuur; not Earth. The nanites had created entities based on Superman powers (fire/heat vision, ice/breath, and x-ray vision/invisibility), but they cause more harm in trying to “fix” thing. Superman beats the robot nanites into dust, defeating it and throws the remains into the sun. Supergirl arrives and asks for an explanation. He says in time he will, but for now everything is back to normal. Back in Metropolis, Clark is talking to Heather at the hospital. She’ll recover just fine. He feels guilty for what happened, but she tells him that she covered for him on McCoy’s show because she was interested in him; but she knows that Clark isn’t interested in her. She just hopes he find someone he is interested in. Lois is listening in just outside.
“What Price Tomorrow?” show how the 21st century media would work if a superhero was running around the city. It shows the overwhelming confusion that a media giant can cause even in a large city like Metropolis. Superman/Clark Kent is truly two personalities. He has a huge identity crisis. Not only does Superman have to deal with three aliens that he can’t properly fight, but he unknowing brought them to Earth. Clark, for his part, is lost in the new world of the biased 24 hours media circus and kabuki theater of TV reporting. Superman has ghosts from his past coming back to haunt him from 5 years earlier. He even questions, at times, if he should be a protector to Earth and Metropolis if he is the possible target. However, the most striking part of the story is the massive change of the classic world Superman was born in. In the 20th Century, The Daily Planet was a normal print media news organization; Clark Kent and Lois Lane when simple reporters running around town trying to get the scoop. Their world was simple and isolated to local events. They had a shutter camera and a notepad, looking for a payphone and dime to call in the story so it can get printed for the late edition of the newspaper. Now, in the 21st Century there is the internet, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, cell phone, camera in your phone, iPad, iPod; you can transmit information around the world in seconds. The world has changed in ways that even 10 years ago seem far-fetched. This story acknowledges that and takes it to its logical conclusion in the pages of “Superman”. News isn’t about truth, it’s about profit. Integrity is only worth the price of advertising. If the investor turns a profit, you’re a good reporter. The title says it all, “What Price Tomorrow?” Truth, Justice and the American Way, is now Spin, Profit, and the Bottom Dollar; and that’s the toughest adversary Superman will even have to face.
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