Lois has been poisoned by a doll given to her by the Joker. Superman then rushes to Batman to find the Joker, who is locked up in Arkham Asylum. Joker has the antedote for Lois but if Superman uses it, the Joker will die. Superman is willing to let that happen and it's up to Batman to pull Superman back from the brink.
This story is really well executed and really makes sense. Superman sees it as two problems solved: Lois lives and the Joker, a psychotic murderer, dies. Batman says that it is not an equal trade and in the end, Batman is right. Lois is not given the antidote and lives. The story is a pseudo-continuation of Action #714 and a good prelude to Action #720 where Lois and Clark break off their engagement. Between #713 and #721, Kieron Dwyer was the artist and his art is decent, not great and whether his unique Superman-style is the reason for his short run or he just wanted to leave, I don't know.
This issue had the potential to be of the same caliber as Action #775 ("What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way") had it been written by a regular writer (for some reason all the Superbooks during the last half of 1999 were awful which is the main reason all new writers and artists were introduced in late 1999). The Doomslayers are making their way across the country killing superheroes such as Emerald Don and Superman is on their trail. Meanwhile, an old supervillain named Diode the Invincible decides to make a comeback and goes after Superman and inadvertantly winds up helping Superman defeat the Doomslayers.
The reason I say this issue could've been better is that the Doomslayers are just randomly killing people and killing heroes for the fun of it. Instead of Emerald Don, if the Doomslayers went around severely injuring or even killing known DC characters, there would've been more at stake for Superman. The villains are tough but badly named and not notable, the hero they kill is clearly just made for this issue to be killed off and you don't really worry about Superman because you know this is just one issue, written and drawn by guests. So why is this issue on this list? Because, despite all of its faults, it is still a good story.
Superman is dying of Kryptonite poisoning. Lois is missing. Unable to find her on his own, Superman enlists the help of Batman who just wants Superman to sit back and let him handle this.
Supes and Batman find Lois just in time and then Superman collapses in her arms. What really makes the issue stand out--besides the dynamic of Superman and Batman and Superman's love for Lois, is a scene in a biker bar. Batman tells Superman to wait in the Batmobile while he questions the bikers. The bikers don't want anything to do with Batman but Superman staggers in, glowing green, weaker than a baby and the bikers stumble over themselves to help him. Whether it's because of respect or because he's <i>Super</i>man and not a regular man like Batman, it's never said but this issue shows just how perfect the Superman/Batman team is.
Clark Kent befriends a man on a street corner who sells him his daily paper. Valentin is there every day, no matter what, and Clark considers him a friend. One morning, Valentin is not there. And he never comes back. Concerned, Clark decides to find him. Lois and Clark talk with Valentin's daughter, who is expecting her first child. She knew something was wrong when he missed her birthday...and she just wants to bury her father.
They learn that Valentin was gambling in order to make money. Lois and Clark go to his bookie who says that Valentin went back to his country. Clark, using his powers, knows the bookie is lying but can't do anything about it because he has no proof. So using Superman, Clark follows the bookie everywhere he goes. He's a Superman magnet. No one will speak to him, no one will look at him. Valentin won. And the bookie couldn't cover the bet. "He was justa guy working a newspaper shack. Who would miss him? Who would care?"
It's these "human touch" stories in Superman comics that makes those comics stand out. Clark couldn't use his powers to punch or heat vision the truth out of the guy but he was still able to intimidate and ultimately avenge Valentin's death. "Because not a single one of us is background noise. Because when one of us disappears...Someone should notice. Every person is a star. A Life. A Heart. A Voice. And when a voice is silenced by darkness...Another must rise to see that justice is done."