Comics Reviews: Superman 321, Action 481, Black Lightning 7, Jonah Hex 10

Superman 321 coverSuperman #321 – “Too Strong to Survive” – Martin Pasko/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts right where last issue ended, with Superman about to be detained by the Army for illegally entering a top secret facility. We get a recap to bring us up to speed: the Army told Superman a lighthouse would be attacked by foreign spies in a mechanical octopus at a certain time; he was a bit late, thanks to a fight with Solomon Grundy, but when he showed up his powers were running out of control (thanks to the Parasite, but Superman doesn’t know that) and he smashed the mechanical octopus to pieces. Unfortunately, Parasite’s enhancement of Superman’s powers also enhanced his asshole side, so Supes is ready to rip the soldiers apart for daring to arrest him, especially since he’s still pissed off that the lighthouse was hiding a space-based Laser Defense System. Superman freaks and just misses pulping one of the soldiers with a punch. Outside,Superman mad Lois and Perry (who came to the island last issue to cover the story but ended up grounded when Superman’s enhanced powers crashed their chopper) are worried that Supes might kill someone in his agitated state. We see that the shock wave from Superman’s punch knocked out the soldiers inside the lighthouse, and Supes comes barreling out to grab the last soldier. Lois says he doesn’t know what he’s doing and that pisses him off even more. He says he’ll take care of her after he finishes the soldier. In Metropolis, we see Parasite dictating a ransom note (for a billion dollars) to the city of Metropolis. He puts on a disguise and heads off to complete his plan. Nearby, we see Solomon Grundy is still stuck in the sky tram where Superman left him last issue … in case you were wondering. Back at the lighthouse, Superman is about to Sensory overloadannihilate the last soldier when he has a sensory overload. Since all his powers were boosted, his super senses are now running wild, overwhelming his with information. Lois realizes what’s up and manages to get him to focus and bring it all under control. That seems to curb his prickish behaviour too and he’s filled with passion for Lois. Unfortunately, everything is running wild now and he accidentally impales her with his super hard-on. Actually, he just renders her breathless with a super kiss, but I was wondering for a minute there. Supes realizes he has to curb his powers somehow, but doesn’t trust himself to fly, so he walks off into the water. Next thing we see is Parasite ambushing Supes and slapping him around before teleporting him to a desert and making him grow to gigantic size. OfLois knocked out course, it’s just a dream and Supes wakes up in his apartment. He figures the desert in his dream represents the desire to rehabilitate himself, but isn’t quite sure how the Parasite fits in. He has an idea of how to curb his powers and heads for the Fortress of Solitude, which is a hell of a long walk. At Metropolis University, we see a disguised Parasite jump a physics professor and knock him out. At the Fortress of Solitude, Supes whips up some kind of chemical concoction. In his hideout, Parasite uses his power to drain the professor’s brain so he can figure out how to run the Laser Defense System. Superman shows up and starts pounding the shit out of Parasite, who’s surprised to see him there. Superman explains that when his super senses went crazy earlier, he saw and heard Parasite getting ready to blackmail the city by using the Laser Defense System. He couldn’t Superman pounds Parasiteprocess it at the time, but his dream made him realize he’d subconsciously absorbed the knowledge. Once Supes knew Parasite had used the sun’s rays to enhance his powers, he whipped up some super sunscreen to block out the sun’s yellow rays and let through the red ones, thus bringing his powers back to normal. Superman is startled to see Parasite flying and goes after him, as Parasite explains his plan—he got the knowledge of how to operate the Laser Defense system from the professor and he’s going to hijack the test tomorrow and obliterate Metropolis unless they pay him a billion dollars. As for the flying, Parasite has been draining Superman’s remaining powers the whole time they’ve been fighting, so he flies off to space to hijack the Laser Defense System, leaving a now-powerless Superman to fall and be impaled on a clock tower. Great Scott, not the clock tower! We’ll have to wait until next issue to see how Superman gets out of this one.

Noticeable Things:

  • When we first see Parasite, he’s got a towel over his head like he’s just gotten out of the shower. I don’t know why, but the idea of Parasite taking a shower just seems weird to me.
  • Judging by the sign as he leaves, he was at a place called Jensen’s gym. I’m assuming he owns it, since his real name was Jensen, but that’s not too smart, using his own name like that.
  • Solomon Grundy is strong enough to fight Superman, but he can’t bust out from between two tram cars?
  • Going by the holes in the Fortress walls, Superman decided to fly there after all.

Action 481 coverAction #481 – “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane … It’s Supermobile” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts right where last issue left off, with Superman and Professor Ivo stuck in melted pavement about to get pulped by Amazo. When Amazo swings, Supes and Ivo are obliterated—or so it seems. Actually, Superman teleported them to his Fortress of Solitude using a device he hid in his mouth. Ivo marvels at the technology, which Superman tells him is from Kandor. He puts Ivo in a safe place, then dictates his latest adventures, giving us a recap of last issue. Basically, a red star went supernova and the wave of radiation from it is currently passing over the Earth. That freed Amazo somehow, and took awaySupermobile revealed Superman’s powers. Luckily, he’s got another trick up his sleeve to fight Amazo, who soon shows up at the Fortress to finish Ivo. Superman sics a Titanian Flying Snake on him and runs for a door. Amazo makes short work of the snake, but is surprised when Superman busts through the door driving … the Supermobile! (Of course, we’re not surprised, since we saw it on the cover.) Supes takes Amazo on, using the Supermobile as a sort of prosthetic device to make up for his missing super powers. He’s equipped the Supermobile with duplicates of most of his abilities, including all his vision powers and a couple of super strong metal fists. He even has a few extras, like a yellow aura to protect against Amazo’s use of Green Amazo poundedLantern’s power. The JLA watch from their Satellite, which Amazo shunted to an interdimensional limbo last issue. Batman says the Supermobile must be made of the alloy Supermanium, which is practically indestructible; only Superman’s heat vision can affect it. Superman and Amazo fight to a draw and Amazo leaves to consider his options. Superman cruises Metropolis in the Supermobile, but can’t leave it since he’s basically powerless outside it. Amazo has figured that out and says he’ll kill one of Superman’s closest friends if Supes doesn’t give him Professor Ivo.

Noticeable Things:

  • The whole Supermobile thing is kinda goofy. Maybe it’s a swipe at Marvel’s Spider-Mobile (which didn’t last long in the comics anyway), or maybe it was just done to sell toys. I remember the Supermobile toy, although I never had one. I did have a Spider-Mobile, but it’s long gone, unfortunately.
  • There were two toy versions of the Supermobile: the little Corgi versionCorgi supermobileAnd the big Kenner version, which was made to fit the Super Powers figures (though I assume it was too small to fit the big Mego figures that I had)Kenner Supermobile
  • I know Professor Ivo is supposed to be reformed, but I don’t think it’s wise to be showing him around the Fortress of Solitude.
  • If Superman’s heat vision can affect the Supermobile, shouldn’t Amazo be able to use that? He has duplicates of Superman’s powers, after all.

Black Lightning 7 coverBlack Lightning #7 – “The Conscience of the Killer” – Tony Isabella/Trevor von Eeden/Vince Colletta

Last issue, while looking for his missing friend and mentor Peter Gambi, Black Lightning went after Tobias Whale’s henchmen and got jumped by a hired assassin named Syonide. Syonide managed to inject Lightning with one half of a  binary chemical, the other half of which Syonide took himself, allowing him to control Lightning’s actions. He captured Lightning and took him to Tobias Whale … oh, and he told Lightning that Gambi was the person who killed Lightning’s father. Lightning wakes up chained in Tobias Whale’s headquarters, along with Peter Gambi. Syonide brags to Whale about how he caught Lightning and shows him Lightning’s power belt, which he smashed. Whale says he’sLightning and Gambi going to gather all his criminal associates so Syonide can execute Lightning in front of them, but Syonide says he’s a hunter, not a killer. Whale points out the hypocrisy of hunting people down for others to kill and says if Syonide doesn’t waste Lightning, Whale will have Syonide killed instead. After Whale leaves, Gambi begs Syonide to help them escape, but he’s too scared of Whale to risk it. When they’re alone, Lightning asks Gambi if he really killed Lightning’s father and Gambi can’t deny it. At a run-down warehouse, Inspector Henderson and some other cops are looking for evidence against Tobias Whale, but the place is clean. Henderson knows somebody has been tipping Whale to where the cops are planning their raids. He tosses his (still smoldering!) pipe into a garbage can and leaves. Lightning fights henchmenAt Whale’s hideout, he tells the informer (who we know is Inspector Henderson’s son) that all his men are gathering for the execution. He also tells him that he doesn’t want Black Lightning unmasked because it would give the people of Suicide Slum a martyr; better for him to die anonymously. Below, Lightning’s friend (and stoolie) Two-Bits Tanner is looking for him, but gets caught by Whale’s asshole henchmen from last issue. They take Tanner to the holding room, but find Lightning and Gambi have escaped. Lightning surprises them and kicks the crap out of them. One of them takes off and Lightning tells Tanner to get Gambi out while he chases the hug. He catches him in the arena where Whale and all his criminal associates have gathered. Whale orders Syonide to kill Lightning and he blasts him with an energy rifle. Syonide collapses just asGambi's sacrifice he fires and Peter Gambi comes out of nowhere and takes the shot meant for Black Lightning. Whale orders everyone to blast Lightning, but his bullet-proof aura appears even though his power belt was destroyed earlier. Neither Whale nor Lightning know why his aura suddenly appeared, but Lightning takes advantage and pounds the crap out of the bad guys, including the masked informer. He caps it off by decking Whale himself, then he and Tanner mourn Peter Gambi. The cops show up and Tanner wonders what happened to Syonide. Lightning says Syonide rigged the rifle to kill himself as he fired it, maybe as a way to atone for his sins, or to balance the life he was taking. We see the cops taking everyone, including Whale, into custody. Henderson walks through the scene later and finds the informer’s mask and the pipe he left at the warehouse earlier. He seems to realize that his son is Whale’s informer. Maybe I’m pipe stuffdense, but I’m not sure I understand the business with the pipe. The informer (Henderson’s son) wasn’t shown with the pipe in his hand in any of the scenes I could find, but it’s sitting beside his leather mask when Henderson comes in. Does that mean he went to the warehouse after Henderson was there and picked it up? Why? And even if he did, how would Henderson make the connection that it was his son that picked it up when all he finds is a pipe and a discarded mask? And how did Henderson’s son get away when none of the other crooks did? We see Lightning throwing him out of the seats, so maybe he took the mask off and ran, but I still don’t see how the pipe fits in. Either I missed something, or Tony Isabella did. Maybe he’ll explain it next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • When the cops are looking around the warehouse, there’s a cop named Corrigan there with Inspector Henderson. I’m not sure if that’s meant to be Jim Corrigan, the Spectre’s alter ego, or not. It doesn’t really look like him.
  • When Two-Bits Tanner is sneaking around Whale’s hideout, there’s a close-up panel where his skin is coloured Caucasian, even though he’s depicted as African-American everywhere else (and always has been). It doesn’t even look that much like Tanner to me; it almost looks like a close-up of Henderson.
  • We don’t get an explanation for why Lightning had his aura even without his belt. I assume Isabella will get to that in upcoming issues. I know years later, in Black Lightning: Year One, the explanation was that Lightning is a meta-human and Gambi taught him how to suppress his natural powers when he was a kid. I’m not sure if that’s the case here, but it would make sense.

Jonah Hex 10 coverJonah Hex #10 – “Violence at Veracruz” – Michael Fleisher/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

Last issue, Jonah Hex was asked by a Mexican Colonel named Sanchez to take a contingent of soldiers and transport a vast hoard of gold once belonging to Empress Carlota from Veracruz to Mexico City. He agreed, but ran afoul of his old adversary, El Papagayo, the bandit leader. Papagayo had Hex staked out in the desert to be eaten by ants, but Hex escaped. One of Papagayo’s men is about to shoot Hex, but Papagayo stops him. Papagayo found the letter of introduction to the fort at Veracruz and wants to get his hands on all that gold. They follow Hex until he reunites with his troops, then the bandits massacre the soldiers and take their place. Papagayo tells Hex the plan isAmbush the same as before, just with his men in place of the real soldiers. Hex doesn’t have much choice, so he leads them to Veracruz where they meet the commandant and he shows them the gold. But one of Papagayo’s men is carrying a gold-plated pistol that he took off a dead soldier, and the soldier’s brother recognizes it since he has a matching pistol. The bandit gives away Papagayo’s identity and after a furious gunfight the bandits are captured. Hex tries to explain why he was with them, but gets conked out. He wakes up in a cell with Papagayo, who sent his parrot to get help. Estrellita shows up, disguised as an old woman, and knifes the guard. She frees Papagayo and his bandits and they come out blasting—literally, as Estrellita brought dynamite as well as other weapons and a wagon to transport the gold. The Escapebandits load up the wagon and shoot their way out of the fort. Hex is already considered an outlaw by the soldiers, so he has no choice but to fight alongside Papagayo. Papagayo has the escape route planned out and leads them to a canyon with a wooden bridge over it. But the bridge is half down, so Papagayo forces Hex to swing across and reattach it. He does, but points out the bridge will never support the fully laden wagon. Papagayo agrees and takes the gold out of the wagon, gets the wagon across the bridge, and orders his men to bring the gold piece by piece. When the wagon’s almost full again, Papagayo cuts the bridge loose, sending all his men (and the last few gold bars they’re carrying) into the canyon. He prepares to blow Hex away, but Estrellita knifes him in the back, fed up with him treating her like shit. She tells Hex the two of them can take the gold and have some fun, but Papagayo isn’t quite dead yet and he shoots her in the back before keelingbackstab over for good. So Hex is left alone with a wagon full of gold—except it starts raining and he discovers the “gold” was just lead bars with gold paint on them. Hex isn’t sure what the hell it was all about, but we see Colonel Sanchez in Mexico City with a wagon full of crates. He tells his superior that Hex’s whole mission was a bluff to attract Papagayo’s attention while the real gold was transferred by the Army by a different route. The general congratulates Sanchez on safely delivering the gold and says they should send Hex a note of thanks.

Noticeable Things:

  • I’m not sure if the parrot can talk or not. He’d almost have to, to get Estrellita to bring the wagon and dynamite.
  • You’d think if the gold paint was so shitty it could be washed off by some rain, that it would’ve rubbed off when the bandits were carrying it. Someone should’ve noticed it.
  • At the end, the general and Colonel Sanchez don’t seem overly concerned about their fellow soldiers who got massacred at the fort, or the ones who went with Hex and got blown away by Papagayo’s men.

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