Symmetry...The Strand has copies of Superman: Krisis of The Krimson Kyrptonite for $17.50. It's moments like that where I'm glad I found a nice copy of an old book for a better deal. In this case, it was a well-preserved copy for 5 bucks.
This book is the long middle chapter in a trilogy of sorts - 3 stories in which Mr. Mxyzptlk gets Lex Luthor into his "Mx". Here, we see him create/offer Red Kyrptonite to Lex as a kind of magic lamp - wish a fate upon Superman, and that wish is granted. Lex wishes Superman was his equal. The rock takes away Superman's powers. Unlike Mr. Ebert, I will spoil it for you: the wish is valid on one condition - Lex cannot tell Superman where the rock came from. Lex brags about it to Clark Kent, instead, and Superman gets his powers back.
That sounds awfully simple, right? Cute, right? Good enough to have been adapted into an episode of Superman: The Animated Series, yes? Of Course! Why didn't they do that?
That outline I just described was used as a kind of sandwich for 5 issues of a powerless Superman/Clark Kent riddled with doubt about his fate as a superhero. Aside from Lex and Mxy, we meet a lot of "run-of-the-mill" (quote lifted directly from the script!) villains who are not even 3rd string, and some soap opera about Clark proposing to Lois Lane (she said yes, but it seems the pros wanted her to say no - check the current Superman comics and see for yourself). There's a lot of late-80's continuity abound, but not enough to make you want to go back and check out those issues - it's really like looking at a moment in time - with one exception: Roger Stern's Starman seems likeable enough, and it was nice seeing a seemingly angst-free superhero guest star - his costume could use a redesign, though. Maybe give it the Starman costume Batman wore in that zany story that was reprinted in Batman: The Black Casebook? Just a thought...Oh, and Gangbuster seemed O.K., even though his bailiwick wound-up handed over to Steel in the 90's.
In the end, what works is the iconic stuff: Superman vs. Lex and Mxyzptlk, Round 2. I recall the 1st round had Lex tackle Mxy alone while Superman was in space for the Exile storyline. Round 3 was a story by my favorite Superman team, Jerry Ordway and Tom Grummett, which concluded the trilogy with a play on that familiar logic puzzle involving a choice between three levers and who's telling the truth about picking the right lever. Maybe someday they'll put all three stories together - or all the Modern Age Mxyzptlk stories from the 80's and 90's into one trade. They're very good.
This book has been out-of-print for years but is not too hard to find - I think the final fight between Mxy and Superman loosely inspired the chase sequence in the episode of the animated series that featured Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of Mxyzptlk. The idea of having the imp re-introduce old concepts in modern continuity, as well as offering power to other DC villains pretty likely inspired the Emperor Joker storyline as well. There's also one of the best inside jokes I've ever read in a superhero comic, courtesy of John Byrne.
In the past few weeks, I've reviewed two books collecting stories that featured Kryptonite. Both were very mixed, or "Mxyd" bags. Did DC get around to trying "Best 1 Out of 3"? Yes, Yes, they did...