Superman: Distant Fires
by Howard Chaykin, Gil Kane, Kevin Nowlan (DC Comics, 1998)

When nuclear war tears the Earth apart, Superman -- stripped of his powers by the holocaust -- believes he is the last survivor on the planet. But soon, he discovers a colony of other survivors, all of whom had powers before the missiles flew and have none now.

So they rebuild their world, making a new city and creating new hopes. Superman and Wonder Woman marry. The Martian Manhunter leads. Captain Marvel stews in resentment. And mutants prepare for war.

Distant Fires falls short of being a great Elseworlds tale because it feels rushed -- not only because 64 pages is insufficient to tell the story, but also because the writers failed to think things through. For instance -- if only superpowered people survived, why is the Joker still kicking around? Why did the Manhunter retain a nearly human appearance, when without his powers he should have reverted to his Martian form? How did Billy Batson, Captain Marvel's youthful alter-ego, suddenly become an adult? How did rats and cats mutate into horse-sized monsters less than a month after the holocaust? Why did surviving humans turn instantly into cavemen?

You get the idea. I just wish someone had collared writer Howard Chaykin before this book went to print and said, "Hey, wait...."

review by
Tom Knapp

2 June 2007

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