This one starts with some drama (or melodrama, as the case may be); we see a weirdo named Atomic Skull freaking out and using his powerful eye-beams to demolish a statue of Superman. Seems Atomic Skull is dying (painfully) and the only people who might have cured him were thrown in jail by the Man of Steel. Yup, we’re finally getting back to the SKULL storyline from last year. On that note, we see Superman in a lead space-suit, flying away from Earth to find the source of the kryptonite that SKULL were bringing through their “kryptonite pipeline” and stockpiling. He finds a bunch of green kryptonite floating in orbit and surmises that the artificial planet (Krypton 2) he created back in Superman #255 has exploded, strewing kryptonite all over. SKULL somehow found out and started collecting it. Supes returns to Earth to do a newscast at WGBS. The feature story is a live remote from STAR Labs, where the science reporter, Oscar Asherman, is interviewing Jenet Klyburn. But just as the interview starts, the lab is attacked by a skull-shaped ship. I wonder who that could be? Clark sees what’s happening with his telescopic vision and uses his super speed to put makeup on so he’ll look sick. The director tells him to go lie down and he changes to Superman and zips over to STAR Labs just in time to save some civilians from getting crushed. Dr. Klyburn is drawn into the ship, but when Superman tries to go after her he gets blasted by an energy bolt that whacks out his nervous system long enough for the ship to escape. Oscar tells Superman the ship’s rays left radiation behind and Superman starts tracking it with his x-ray vision. On the SKULL ship, Dr. Klyburn meets the Atomic Skull, who’s hooked up to a bunch of machines so his brain energy can power the ship. A SKULL agent removes Atomic Skull’s mask and it turns out to be former director of STAR Labs, Albert Michaels. Superman tracks the ship to Cape Edmonton, a facility where STAR tests spacecraft and satellite components. Supes busts in, but gets knocked out by some weird green beams. We don’t see who it is (except for a shadow), but Superman is shocked since he thinks he left this mysterious guy stranded on another planet. Don’t worry if you don’t know who it is, we find out at the end of the story. Superman wakes up in another part of the complex and Atomic Skull (who Superman recognizes as Michaels) comes in and shows him Jenet Klyburn. She’s tied in a rather sexualized pose between four walls; Michaels says if Superman can’t get to her in time, she’ll be pulled apart. He teleports away, leaving Supes to start searching the complex. Superman runs into several obstacles along the way: a brick wall, which he punches through (inadvertently sending a lead-lined capsule flying along a cable); a SKULL agent freezing to death in a glass cubicle, who he saves with his heat vision (which vapourizes some liquid in the nearby pipes); and some sticky crap infused with kryptonite that drops onto him, which he freezes and gets rid of by running at super speed. He finds Klyburn and cuts the cables pulling the walls apart, then whisks her out just before the walls slam together. He hears a rocket taking off and Atomic Skull shows up and blasts him. Skull tells Superman his mental blasts are erratic because they only occur when he has a seizure. He says he has a short-circuit in his brain and SKULL promised to cure him if he helped with their kryptonite pipeline project. They implanted a “neural pacemaker” to control the seizures, but it malfunctioned, causing the seizures to trigger the energy blasts. But the disease is getting progressively worse and Superman put the SKULL scientists n jail, so Michaels wants Supes dead now. He reveals the rest of his diabolical plan: the rocket that just launched is full of the kryptonite SKULL has been stockpiling and it’s going to detonate over Earth, saturating the atmosphere with green K. Superman will be affected if he remains on Earth,but he won’t be able to leave because of all the kryptonite in the atmosphere. Skull reveals that Superman helped launch the rocket while going through the “obstacle course”. Skull has another seizure and blasts Superman with his brain energy, knocking him out. Skull then brings in the big gun … Titano the Super Ape! Yup, it’s Super Ape vs Superman next issue. Don’t miss it.
- Superman says the reason Krypton 2 exploded was because it was a copy of the original Krypton, right down to the unstable core. You’d think that might’ve occurred to him when he was constructing it … or at some point since.
- When Superman returns to Earth, he pulls a Steve Reeves, busting out of his lead space-suit.
- Science reporter Oscar Asherman looks like a cross between Tony Stark and Ron Burgundy.
You may remember that for the past few issues, Earth has been passing through a wave of red sun radiation from a distant supernova explosion. Superman lost his powers and built a Supermobile to duplicate them, Amazo woke up and went after Professor Ivo (who’s a good guy now), and the JLA were shunted to some kind of interdimensional limbo—also Amazo’s work. During their fight, Amazo knocked Superman, Lois, and Ivo five days forward in time, when the red sun energy hd passed. So Superman pounded Amazo into an asteroid and they headed home. But Amazo’s not done yet, and things aren’t all hunky dory back on Earth. We see a wrecked-looking Lana Lang reporting on an epidemic of sleeplessness that’s plagued Earth for the past five days. At first, it seemed like a blessing, with people more productive since they didn’t have to sleep. But it soon caught up with them and now everyone is walking around like zombies, utterly exhausted but unable to do anything about it. Lana signs off, wondering where all the superheroes went. We see Superman bringing Lois and Ivo back to Earth in the Supermobile and the trapped JLA in limbo. Batman speculates about the threat to humanity posed by the sleeplessness plague, then he notices Green Lantern’s ring glowing. Superman and the others land at WGBS and Lois tells Jimmy and Lana about their five-day time skip. Superman takes off and sees a plane about to crash because the pilot is exhausted. He tries to help, but Amazo kicks him out of the way and saves the plane himself. The kick puts Supes in a perfect position to keep a nitro truck from blowing up. Superman is surprised that Amazo saved the people, but Amazo says his decision was logical, not emotional. Well, if the ears fit … Anyway, Superman tells Amazo about the red sun radiation that woke him and is screwing everyone up. Supes says there are weird particles in the atmosphere and if Amazo helps him figure out what’s going on, the android can go back to the “dreamless sleep” that he loves so much. Hours later, Clark shows up at WGBS looking like shit warmed over. He says he couldn’t complete the desert biosphere assignment because all the equipment malfunctioned, and he couldn’t go for his physical because the sleeplessness has fucked up all his vital signs. So that’s that sub-plot dealt with. Science reporter Oscar Asherman does a story (provided as an exclusive by Superman to Clark Kent) about how the red sun radiation screwed up the photosynthesis of Earth’s plants, causing them to emit an invisible gas that’s saturated the atmosphere. That’s what’s keeping everyone from sleeping. Superman finds Amazo, but the android says he wasn’t able to retrieve the JLA from limbo because his powers have faded. Superman freaks out and punches a hole right through Amazo, which startles the android. Before he can react, the JLA shows up and they all start pounding the shit out of him. As Amazo fights back, his energy is drained and he conks out, re-entering his comatose state. Batman explains that time passed differently in limbo, so GL’s ring still had its charge and they all combined will powers to bust out. Superman says his betrayal of Amazo was to confuse his logic circuits, which would help drain his resources when they were all wailing on him. They equivocate Superman’s double-cross by saying they were just trying to get Amazo back to his dreamless sleep, which is what he wanted all along. They send Amazo’s comatose body into orbit, where he absorbs all the gas that’s causing the sleeplessness. Clark tells Lana Professor Ivo got a full pardon (I’m sure that won’t come back to haunt them) and she tells him he’s a boring sack of shit. So, everything’s back to normal.
- When Superman saves the nitro truck, the caption says he’s blocking the blasts with his body, but the art shows him sucking up the nitro and blowing it into the air afterwards.
- So Basically Superman pulled a Star Trek move on Amazo, giving him an insoluble logic problem to fuck up his functions. I guess I can kinda see it, but it still seems like a shitty way to go about it.
- I’m not sure if the Supermobile ever appears again. Maybe they’ll drop it in the Hudson River next to the Spider-Mobile.