Comics Review: Superman 311, Action 471, Black Lightning 2

Superman 311 coverSuperman #311 – “Plague of the Antibiotic Man” – Martin Pasko/Curt Swan/Frank Springer

This one starts with my least favourite trope, the old “let’s start the story in the middle then do an extended flashback to catch people up” trick. So we start with a freaky-looking horned dude beating the shit out of Superman and Flash. From the dialogue, we learn that the one-horned purple people eater is named Nam-Ek, he’s from Krypton, and Supes thinks he’s responsible for a plague that’s been ravaging Central City (though Nam-Ek denies it). Flash gets punched right into orbit and then the flashbacks begin. We go back 36 hours to see Clark, Lois, and Steve Lombard on a train for Central City, heading for the World News Conference. Steve has his nephew, Jamie, with him, who watches closely as Steve hits on Lois and gets shot down. Jamie is excited to meet Clark Kent until Steve shows him that Clark’s a wimp. At the hotel, Jamie shows Clark a stray dog he just found (remember that, it’ll be significant later) and a weird guy in a trench coat flies down and lands on the hotel roof. Nearby, a couple of guys fall off a ski-lift, but Superman catches them before they hit the ground. Flash shows up and makes himself useful by catching their ski poles. TheIris vs Lois two guys are already unconscious and have weird blotches all over their faces. Supes says he saw someone on the roof and goes to check it out. As the two victims are loaded in the ambulance, Lois tells Flash she’s moving to Central City to work. Iris shows up and acts really jealous (and basically calls Lois a slut) and Flash thinks to himself that Iris is “in for it” when they get home. I’m not sure I want to know what that means. A bunch more people in the hotel start keeling over and all have the same blotches on their faces. On the roof, Superman reveals the lurker and it’s Nam-Ek, who Supes assumes is responsible for the weird sickness. They fight and that pretty much takes us up to where the issue started. Superman vs Nam-EkSuperman recalls Nam-Ek’s origin (he hunted a Rondor on Krypton to get its horn and turned into a humanoid Rondor himself; the horn can heal anything, so Nam-Ek survived the explosion of Krypton and drifted in space) Supes wonders why Nam-Ek is causing a plague when his horn is supposed to heal everything. He takes Nam-Ek to the West Indies and tosses a volcano at him, but the volcano has kryptonite in it, so Nam-Ek disintegrates. Supes feels shitty about killing someone, but when he gets back to Central City, he feels even worse. Killing Nam-Ek did nothing to stop the plague, and now Lois has it too. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see if she makes it.Lois dying

Noticeable Things:

  • The woman on the train that gets soaked by Clark (thanks to Steve) says her suit is ruined, but it looks like most of the milk hits her in the face.Clark clumsy
  • There are several instances of Super-Dickery in this issue; the first is Clark using his heat vision to burn the dog’s tail as a distraction so he can change to Superman.
  • The caption says Clark heard the guys on the ski lift yell as they were falling … does that mean his super-hearing is always “on”? Wouldn’t that drive him nuts?
  • Superman and Nam-Ek recognize each other on sight; I guess Supes could’ve learned about Nam-Ek from Kryptonian archives or whatever, but how does Nam-Ek know him? Supes left Krypton as a baby. Nam-Ek even calls him Kal-El.
  • More Super-Dickery: Supes gets Steve back by making him spill his drink on the same woman from the train.
  • In case you’re wondering, Flash was rescued from space by Green Lantern and taken to te JLA Satellite. His super-speed aura kept him from suffocating in space … apparently, it works even when he’s unconscious.Flash punched into orbit
  • I know Pasko’s trying to make the cause of the plague a mystery, but he keeps bringing up Jamie and his dog, so the solution’s kinda obvious.
  • Lois hasn’t told Clark that she’s leaving WGBS and moving to Central City; that’ll be addressed in subsequent issues.

Action 471 coverAction #471 – “One of Our Phantoms is Missing” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Tex Blaisdell

This issue starts with Superman returning home to his apartment to find a burglar there. He goes back out the window (with the burglar completely oblivious), changes to Clark Kent, and enters the apartment. The burglar turns out to be some old guy (maybe it’s the Black Fox?) and Clark smashes a vase on the guy’s head, knocking him out. He goes to get some smelling salts and a weird apparition appears beside the burglar. He wakes up thinking his wife is there, but it’s just Clark. The old guy says his name is Jackson Porter and he’s Clark’s newGhost wife neighbour. He wanted to borrow a hammer and the door was open, so he let himself in. Clark confirms the locks weren’t tampered with, so he lets Jackson go (after lending him the hammer). Jackson thanks him, saying his wife is a big Clark Kent fan. Next day, the same weird apparition appears outside Clark’s building and smashes up the street. Morgan Edge is pissed off that Clark didn’t get any footage (maybe he’s related to J. Jonah Jameson) and tells Clark to stay out of his sight for a week. Back home, Clark learns his new neighbour has been a widower for fifteen years and asks him about his “wife”. Jackson says his wife appears to him in spirit form and gives him advice. The apparition appears outside again, wreaking havoc, and Clark changes to Superman and confronts it.Superman vs Faora He’s surprised at how it can take a punch, and even more surprised when it turns out to be a woman. He recognizes her as one of the Phantom Zone prisoners, but can’t figure out how she got to Earth. We soon learn the truth though … the Phantom Zone fugitive and Jackson’s dead wife are one and the same.Jackson's wife

Noticeable Things:

  • Funny it never occurs to Superman that there might be a connection between the Phantom Zone “apparition” and Jackson’s wife’s ghost.
  • This Phantom Zone villain is Faora, although her name isn’t mentioned in this issue.
  • The backup story is a “Private Life of Clark Kent” thing where he tracks down a missing heir and convinces him to return to the rat race.

Black Lightning 2 coverBlack Lightning #2 – “Merlyn Means Murder” – Tony Isabella/Trevor von Eeden/Frank Springer

This one has a couple of guest stars who might be familiar to Batman or Green Arrow fans. One of the guest stars is on the first page, talking to Black Lightning’s friend, Peter Gambi, but it’s hard to tell exactly who she is right away. On the second page, the action gets going as Black Lightning invades the school gym where we saw a bunch of guys waiting to ambush him at the end of last issue. He pounds them all quite easily, but gets taken down by a couple of trick arrows from the assassin known as Merlyn. Black Lightning taken outAt Peter’s shop, his mysterious visitor reviews Black Lightning/Jefferson Pierce’s origin (Olympic star, teacher, blah blah blah) and Peter sums upTalia last issue (new teacher tries to stop drug trade by the 100, student gets killed, Black Lightning wants justice). The visitor says Merlyn joined the 100 for protection from the League of Assassins after failing to kill Batman (in JLA #94); she then reveals herself (and how!) as Talia. Black Lightning wakes up tied to a chair and surrounded by goons. The pusher from last issue (whose name is Joey Toledo), threatens him, but Merlyn reveals that thir boss has decided Joey is a liability. He tells the goons to grab Joey and unties Black Lightning, saying he’ll give him a five minute head start before coming all hell breaks looseafter him. Avoiding that cliché for once, Lightning just starts pounding Merlyn. The goons try to shoot Lightning, but are all shot down by a mysterious benefactor (I wonder who that is?). Joey tries to run, but Lightning grabs him. Before he can do anything, Merlyn tries to kill both of them. Lightning manages to stop one of his arrows, but Merlyn keeps shooting. Talia shows up, wounding Merlyn whose shot hits Joey. Black Lightning stops Talia from killing a fleeing Merlyn. Talia says the thugs were shot with a knockout drug that’ll also wipe their memories of Black Lightning’s secret ID (more plot convenience) and tells him to keep up the fight—though she also warns him not to lose himself in it.Talia's warning

Noticeable Things:

  • The Merlyn on TV’s Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow is loosely based on the Merlyn here, but this guy looks nothing like John Barrowman.
  • With Talia recently appearing on Arrow, that’s another connection between this issue and the DC TV universe; I really hope Black Lightning shows up on one of the DC TV shows … the sooner the better!
  • When Merlyn shoots Black Lightning in the neck with his sonic arrow, wouldn’t it have made more sense to just use a regular arrow and kill him right then and there?
  • I like Trevor von Eeden’s art, though it seems to change a bit from page to page; he does a great Talia, even with her impossibly tiny waist.

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