Comics Reviews: Superman 319, Action 479

Superman 319 coverSuperman #319 – “How to Make a Marshland Monster” – Martin Pasko/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with a recipe (of sorts) on the splash page, giving us a preview of what’s to come in the story. The story itself starts in a garbage bin behind the United Nations building. Something—or someone, rather—coalesces out of the refuse. He’s a bit fuzzy in the head, but craves ultimate power and knows the initials “L.D.S.” have something to do with obtaining it. Maybe he’s a Mormon? He heads for Metropolis, his identity still unclear … but if you’re a Superman fan, you probably recognize that particular shade of purple. Apurple people eater week later we see J. Jonah Jameson—I mean Morgan Edge—freaking out over a front page story in the Daily Planet about a “Swamp Monster”. He’s also wondering where the hell Clark Kent is and why he isn’t covering the Swamp Monster story for WGBS. We soon find out, as we see Superman arriving at an observatory (the same one that spotted the weird space-warp last issue) where a couple of Army generals are waiting to meet him. They tell him frogmen working for a “foreign power” are going to show up at a lighthouse on a nearby island and dig up some buried treasure and they want Superman to stop them. Supes points out how stupid that sounds, but they insist it’s a matter of national security. He says he might check it out, but doesn’t promise anything. After he leaves, the generals are certain his curiosity will compel him to go to the lighthouse and once he’s there, he’ll go into action when “that thing attacks”. We now see Lois Lane and Lana Lang stuck in traffic in a taxi. Lana quizzes Lois about her relationship Taxi rescuewith Clark, and Lois tells her about them dating, Clark’s proposal, and her ultimatum that she’d only marry him if he confessed to being Superman. She admits it was a shitty thing to do, and that she feels bad about how she always treats Clark like crap and gets away with it. Lana says all she has to do is apologize, but before Lois can react to that, their cab is lifted up by something—or someone—coming out of the sewer through a manhole. Superman’s heading for  WGBS and hears the ladies screaming, so he swoops down to save them. But the thing that climbs out of the sewers is pretty strong, so Supes has to use a little distraction to rescue the taxi. He soon figures out why his opponent is so tough … it’s Solomon Grundy. (Who were you expecting, the Parasite?) This isn’t the original Grundy from Earth-2 (whoSuperman punched out Superman marooned on the moon in Superman #301), but Supes can’t figure out how another Grundy could be created spontaneously on Earth-1 … especially since there’s no swamp anywhere near Metropolis. He fights the pissed off monster and kinda gets slapped around. By the time he gets back, Grundy has disappeared back into the sewers, but Supes has a meeting with Morgan Edge so he can’t go after Grundy now. At WGBS, Clark tells Edge he was incommunicado because he was covering the fight between Superman and Grundy. Edge wishes they had pictures (where’s that Parker kid when you need him?), but Lana comes in with a film reel and says she got a crew to film the whole thing. She and Clark make plans for dinner, which pisses Lois off immensely. She vows to be even more of an asshole than she was before; I can’t imagine why she’s still single. That night, Grundy is wandering around the sewers, thinking over his fight with Superman. When he grabbed Supes’s cape, it somehow made him “remember” the original Grundy. He finds clothes somewhere and Superman vs Grundyemerges from the sewers, where Superman is waiting for him. As they fight, Supes realizes this Grundy was created in the sewers after Superman’s fight with the original Grundy. During that fight, the first Grundy flooded Metropolis with swamp water and tried to infect people with some kind of disease. When the streets were cleared, the crud from the water got in the sewers and this new Grundy was formed … though the original Grundy needed sunlight to activate the process and Superman can’t figure out how sunlight got into the sewers. However this new Grundy formed, he’s gotten stronger since that morning and Superman’s having a tough time with him. Superman remembers the generals wanting him to go to the lighthouse, but he’s kinda busy at the moment, so he uses his telescopic vision to check things out. At the lighthouse, a weird mechanical octopus rises from the ocean to attack, but Supes can’t head out there because Grundy has him by the cape and is about to pound him. On a nearby rooftop, we see the architect of all this … yup, it’s the Parasite. He’s the one who caused Grundy’s “birth” in the sewers (by reflecting sunlight down through a crystal) and he’s been increasing Grundy’s strength. Parasite has also remembered what L.D. S. means (though we don’t find out) and says Superman has to be eliminated so Parasite can take control of it.last page Apparently, L.D.S. is some kind of super-weapon; my guess is it’s a mechanical octopus thingie, but we’ll have to wait for next issue to find out.

Noticeable Things:

  • Morgan Edge owns the Daily Planet as well as WGBS, so when he’s bitching about getting scooped by them on the Swamp Monster story, his secretary points out that he can’t really scoop himself.
  • The island the lighthouse is on is called Mooney Island … nice.
  • Lana’s still calling everyone “dear heart” and “luv”; I’m already sick of it.
  • In the first fight with Superman Grundy is naked, though we’re thankfully spared a look at his “Little Grundy”.
  • There’s another beef bourguignon mention.

Action 479 coverAction #479 – “The Giant From the Golden Atom” – Gerry Conway/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This issue picks up a day after last ish, with Superman cleaning up the mess left in Metropolis by the Lunarians’ storms and floods. Supes isn’t neglecting the rest of the world either, cleaning up from Africa to Mongolia and elsewhere. He gets back to WGBS in time to see the lights go out as the building’s electricity runs wild. But instead of going inside, Superman lands outside the front entrance and starts swinging at empty air! The air is apparently fighting back, as we see Supes get punched out. He goes inside for a meeting as Clark Kent, leaving onlookers bewildered at his strange one-sided fight. At the meeting, Clark hands out story assignments (and tries to temper Steve Lombard’s bragging about winning some sportscaster trophy), but his mind is on the fight he just had outside. He wasn’t swinging at thin air, there was aSuperman vs nobody weird-looking alien dude there, obviously the one who caused the overload at WGBS. Superman had to use all his senses in tandem (whatever that means) just to see his opponent properly, so he couldn’t fight effectively … or that’s his excuse, anyway. While he’s thinking, a news flash comes up about an overload at the Central Power Relay Station. Clark says he’ll cover that story himself, but Lombard insists on going with him, saying Morgan Edge told him to “babysit” Clark. Clark tricks Lombard into entering the equipment room, where he buries him under a falling shelf, then takes off as Superman to the Relay Station. Onlookers are again stunned to see Superman fighting thin air, but we see the golden weirdo, who’s draining power and overloading the entire station. Superman uses a cable to ground him to the water and the shock makes groundedtheir minds merge. We get the alien (Roga)’s origin story: he’s from a sub-microscopic world, he’s a studly athlete and a brainy scholar, he did some experiments that threw him into the normal world, and now he needs a huge dose of spectrum-isolated electricity to go back. Supes is sympathetic, but realizes Roga needs a shitload of energy to return home, and when he does he’ll cause enough feedback to overload every power system on Earth. Supes also knows Roga’s sub-atomic home world must exist on some object here on Earth, and it has to be where Roga first materialized—at WGBS. He heads back there and (as Clark) looks around until he finds the only object that’s relatively new … Lombard’s sportscaster trophy. The trophy is gold, Roga claimed to be from a world with 79 planets, and gold has 79 electrons, so it must hold Roga’s home world on one of its countless atoms. But Lombard comes in and takes the trophy away from Clark, telling him to win one of his own. Clark quickly sculpts a fake trophy from clay, paints it gold, and switches it with the real one. Superman takes the trophy to an upstate nuclear facility, which Roga is currently draining, and which will soon explode as a consequence. Supes gets slapped down again, but grabs Roga and … rubs him really hard. Seriously, that’s what it says; Superman rubs him hard enough to generate a shitload of static electricity.

super frottage
Happy ending, happy ending!

Thanks to the super-frottage, Roga shrinks and Superman sends him back down into Steve’s trophy, which he then flings into outer space. Rather belatedly, he realizes the faux trophy he made might not last long under the hot studio lights, and sure enough, he gets back just in time to see it melt on air. I gotta say, Clark doesn’t seem all that broken up about it. So, this issue was kind of fluff, but next ish … Amazo’s here! That should be a good fight.

Noticeable Things:

  • I’m assuming the title is taken from the short story by Ray Cummings, “The Girl in the Golden Atom”, though the actual story seems to have a few elements from Philip Wylie’s “Gladiator”, which was a major influence when Siegel and Shuster came up with Superman way back when.
  • The whole thing about Superman cleaning up all the damage around the world (supposedly in a few hours) is fine, and does make sense, given how his powers are usually depicted, but it also kinda makes him look like a douche. If his powers are good enough that he can do that, then why is he always  hanging around Metropolis? Shouldn’t he constantly be flying around the world, doing shit? It reminds me of Samaritan in that early Astro City issue, where he tries to be everywhere at once and feels guilty when he can’t. But Superman doesn’t even try.
  • I’m no civil engineer, but would you really build a power relay station right next to the water?
  • Clark says he can’t use his microscopic vision to scan the sub-atomic world for Roga’s home, but why not? Microscopic vision is passive, so how could it harm Roga’s world? I guess Gerry just wanted to show Clark’s reasoning power instead of having him use his super powers.
  • I’m not sure if Superman really had to toss Steve Lombard’s trophy into space … he was probably just sick of him bragging about it all the time.

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