This one continues from last issue, showing us what’s happening after the plague ended in Central City. Superman and Supergirl go to the Fortress of Solitude and send Nam-Ek into the Phantom Zone. Supergirl takes off, leaving Supes to relax. But his downtime is interrupted when an alarm goes off warning him that SKULL is making a move. They’re messing around at a volcano in the West Indies—and not just any volcano, the same kryptonite-spewing one where Superman fought Nam-Ek. When Supes gets there, the SKULL agents are harvesting the kryptonite, but Supes melts their lead-covered ship to contain the green K and rounds up the bad guys. But when he gets back to Metropolis, he’s attacked by Blackrock. This isn’t the original Blackrock (Samuel Tanner), who Superman confirms is at work, but this guy’s just as crazy as Tanner. They fight and Superman tries to use his x-ray vision to see who’s behind the mask. But his x-ray vision reacts with Blackrock’s “power stone” and Superman takes a nose dive. Blackrock grabs the SKULL guys and goes to turn them in so he can be a hero. Later, we see Clark Kent babysitting Pete Ross’s nephew Jon (who knows Clark is Superman) and we learn Supes was unconscious in Metropolis Bay for 22 hours (!). Morgan Edge tells Clark he’s getting a female co-anchor (inspired by Barbara Walters and Harry Reasoner), then the action shifts to WGBS rival, UBC. We get a recap of Blackrock’s origin (Samuel Tanner, head of UBC, was convinced GBS “owned” Superman, so he got his resident inventor, Peter Silverstone, to turn him into a superhero). By the sound of it, the new Blackrock is Tanner’s nephew, but he doesn’t know that, and Silverstone sure as hell doesn’t want to tell him. Tanner’s nephew (named Les Vegas) is some kind of comedian but when he goes out to do his show, he puts on a rubber Clark Kent mask and acts just like Clark, delivering the news in a serious manner. Meanwhile, Clark acts like a total goofball watching Vegas’s show at home. Apparently, they switched personalities when Superman’s x-rays interacted with Blackrock’s crystal. Jon figures it out when Les Vegas tries to change to Superman on the air. Jon rips Clark’s shirt open, but Clark thinks his secret identity is Blackrock. Jon tells him his enemy “Superman” is at the TV studio, so he zips across town in a split second and grabs Blackrock before he can take his glasses off and show how alike Clark and Superman really are. Superman is confused (join the club) at seeing someone else in his costume and realizes if he’s the real Superman, then the other dude must be Blackrock. He uses his heat vision to reveal Blackrock’s costume, which triggers the villain’s memory and he blasts Supes with his power stone. Supes gives some convoluted explanation of how their personalities switched, then crushes the power stone (which he probably should’ve done right away). Superman decides there won’t be any charges, since it was sort of an accident and nothing really criminal happened—remember when Supes was a big softie? Later, at STAR Labs, Jenet Klyburn tells Superman the SKULL agents Blackrock dropped off died almost immediately. When she examined them, she found they had no hearts, only lumps of kryptonite. We’ll have to wait for next issue to see what’s up with that.
- When Superman is attacked by Blackrock, he throws the SKULL agents (who were wrapped up in his cape) up into the air and catches them a couple minutes later when they come down.
- UBC has a talk show host named Lola Barnett. I’m assuming that’s a reference to Rona Barrett.
- Tanner’s nephew, Les Vegas, seems to be based on Chevy Chase, though he doesn’t look much like him to me.
Okay, hold on to your hats, ’cause this one’s weird. We start out with a bunch of gangsters straight out of the 30s robbing the Jetsons (or a reasonable facsimile) only to be saved by that lovable hero, Vartox. Yeah, this is a Vartox story—deal with it. Vartox catches the crooks and takes off, but he’s having a little trouble catching his breath. Seems Varty’s feeling his age and can’t mix it up like he used to. He checks out Earth to see if Superman is still going strong and watches as Supes saves a construction worker from a runaway wrecking ball. The worker is a guy named Andrew Meda, who’s actually an alien named Karb-Brak from the Andromeda Galaxy who fought Superman once before. Apparently, he had some weird allergy where, if he so much as touches anyone with super powers, he freaks out and goes on a rampage or something. Superman cured him, and seeing as how he doesn’t lose his shit when they shake hands, I guess the cure worked. Superman leaves, but we see Vartox studying Meda with intense interest. At WGBS, Clark reads a news report about weird shit happening downtown and goes to investigate while Steve Lombard’s doing the sports. Superman finds a superheated phone booth and of course, it turns out to be Karb-Brak in the middle of another freak-out. Superman figures he didn’t cause it, since he just got there. They fight and Supes kinda gets his ass kicked before Karb-Brak takes off. Supes has to go finish the news, so he can’t search for the alien right then. But just as Clark starts doing his news report again, Karb-Brak busts through the wall and attacks him, live on the air. Outside, Vartox laments having caused Karb-Brak’s relapse, and hopes Superman will forgive him. If he’s still alive and still has a secret identity, he might, Varty! We’ll have to wait till next issue to see how that all works out.
- Vartox seems to be undergoing some kind of mid-life crisis in this issue.
- The backup story is about Lori Lemaris being caught by some Russians who are stealing Manganese and silicon from U.S. Territorial waters. She uses her telepathy to make them turn on each other, then calls various sea creatures (including Topo!) to rescue her and hold the crooks. She also somehow uses her telepathy to make a distress call over the radio, despite being nowhere near it at the time.