Comics Reviews: Superman 329, Action 489, DC Presents 3

Superman 329 coverSuperman #329 – “I Have Met the Enemy—And It Is Me” – Martin Pasko/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts pretty much where last issue left off, with Superman wrapped up by a lamp-post. We get a recap of what led to this moment: years ago on Krypton, Superman’s father helped create some nanobots to aid people with disabilities, but the nanobots gained sentience and started taking over the people they were in contact with. The nanobots were frozen and shot into space (which seemed to be Krypton’s solution to everything) and ended up on Earth, where they thawed out and merged with a Superman robot. The robot was being used at the top-secret facility on Mooney Island by General Derwent, who hates Superman because he blames the Man of Steel for causing him to lose his arm. The nano-infected Superman robot fused with the General into a Kryptonoid, whichSuperman escapes attacked Superman and tangled him up in the lamp-post. See what you missed? The General’s personality (and voice) are still distinct parts of the Kryptonoid, and it starts arguing with itself. The Kryptonian part thinks Superman is his father, Jor-El, but the General explains that this is Jor-El’s son. Supes figures out the Kryptonoid can control metal with the nanobots, so he freezes the Kryptonoid, then douses the lamp post in cold water to neutralize the nanobots. The Kryptonoid changes into a giant manta ray for some reason and uses heat vision to cancel out Superman’s freezing breath. Supes fools the Kryptonoid by wrapping his cape around it (to avoid being assimilated himself) and pounding it. In the resulting explosion, Superman abandons his costume and zips back to the phone booth where Clark Kent was last seen. Clark pops up—naked, since Superman’s costume is floating to the ground naked Clarkoutside—and scares the hell out of Lana, who’s been freaking out thinking Clark is dead. Lana gets suspicious again, but Clark deflects her by asking for something to wear. When she goes to get it, Clark goes outside at super speed—still naked—to get his costume back. Lana brings him a flasher raincoat and Clark goes to wardrobe to find a new suit. Of course, he actually changes back to Superman and flies off, stopping by a chemical factory to pick up a big vat full of … something; we’re not told what’s in the vat just yet. Supes flies out to Mooney Island to wait for the Kryptonoid’s return, having recognized the General’s voice. He also thinks the Kryptonoid’s body looks vaguely familiar. When the Kryptonoid gets back to the island, Superman attacks it with shards of glass, since it can’t assimilate glass. He also encases himself in glass armour, which seems pretty damn stupid to me … I mean, it’s glass! How much protection can it be? Let’s hope he doesn’t fart too hard or the whole damn thing will shatter. The General explains why he hates Superman and how he found the Supermantruth robot and assimilated with it. Supes tells the General he wasn’t the one who caused the accident that fucked up the General’s arm; it was actually one of his robots that was malfunctioning. And guess what? It’s the same robot that washed up on the island and merged with the General. Ah yes, a twist worthy of O. Henry. The General freaks out when he learns he’s merged with the robot that caused him to lose his arm and Superman takes advantage. He dumps the Kryptonoid into the vat he brought, which turns out to be full of liquid helium. The Kryptonoid is frozen, neutralizing the nanobots and putting the General in some kind of suspended animation. So all’s well that ends well, I guess … except for the General, but I think we’re supposed to believe suspended animation is better than living with the knowledge that he merged with the robot that crippled him.

Noticeable Things:

  • Superman says the liquid helium is pressurized, but wouldn’t the pressure drop as soon as he took the lid off?
  • In the last two panels, there’s kind of a joke about Lana being suspicious of Clark again and everyone dismissing her. But her logic actually does make sense; it’s pretty coincidental that Clark appears naked in the ruined phone booth just after Superman disappears, leaving his costume behind.
  • There’s a Mr. & Mrs. Superman back-up story by Bates/Schaffenberger/Giacoia. This is the Earth-2 Superman and Lois and these stories are set in the past, shortly after they got married. These stories are pretty banal, but this one’s extra boring. Basically, Clark and Lois buy amarried love new car, someone steals it, Lois freaks because she left a tape recorder with her talking about being married to Superman inside, Supes tracks the car down and pounds the thieves, and it turns out they did listen to the tape but just assumed Lois was speaking metaphorically about her husband being a “Man of Steel”. The most noteworthy thing about this story is that we get to see Lois and Clark getting a little action. But they’re married, so it’s okay to show that, I guess. There’s also a letter in the back from Cat Yronwoode, saying “Mr. & Mrs. Superman” should be retitled to “Mr. & Ms. Superman”. E. Nelson Bridwell explains that the stories are set in the past, before the term “Ms.” came into general use.

Superman explosionAction #489 – “Krypton Dies Again” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

As this issue starts, we learn that Superman has been zipping around the world saving people from all sorts of disasters, kinda like the Samaritan in that issue of Astro City. While he’s diverting a nuke into space, he’s shanghaied by the JLA, who ask him about his recent frenzy of heroics. He replies in Kryptonian (which Batman speaks fluently, for some reason) and we learn that some kind of somber event is coming up. WGBS is counting down to it, people all over the world are preparing to observe it, even Supergirl is in Kandor getting ready to mark the solemn occasion. What is it? The light from the explosion of Krypton is finally set to become visible from Earth. We soon learn that there’s something else going on; while Supes has been zipping around saving lives, he’s been searching for Brainiac. Apparently, Brainiac issued a challenge to Superman—and planted some cosmic bombs around Earth to insure he’d accept—and Supes has been looking for him. He finds him in a spaceship and gives chase. BrainiacSuperman blinded taunts him over Krypton’s destruction, as everyone at WGBS prepares to witness the dying light of Superman’s home planet (and wonders where Clark Kent is). As everyone on Earth (and Kandor) waits for the light to become visible, Superman and Brainiac fight. Brainiac uses his super science to forcibly stick Superman to the outside of his spaceship. Brainy taunts Superman some more, giving him a perfect view of the light from his long-dead planet. But Brainiac’s not just being an asshole … he says looking directly at the light from Krypton’s explosion can damage a Kryptonian’s eyesight, much like looking at a solar eclipse can damage a human’s eyesight. And since Superman is a captive audience, the light hits his eyes dead on, seemingly blinding him. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see if he’s really blind, and how he regains his sight. (Because we all know he’s going to regain his sight, the only question is how.)

Noticeable Things:

  • Is it just me, or is the whole “everybody look at the death throes of Superman’s planet” thing a bit … macabre? At best it seems tacky.
  • I’m not sure why the explosion of Krypton is so bright it can blind Superman. Even in space, supernovae aren’t that bright and Krypton was a planet that exploded, not a star. They never say exactly how far Krypton was from Earth, but I’m assuming it was farther than Alpha Centauri.
  • If you’re wondering how Superman managed to beat the light from Krypton’s explosion to Earth, he cheated: his baby spaceship went through a space warp.
  • The observatory is on Mount Olympus, but I’m assuming it’s near Metropolis, not in Greece. I’m not sure if this is meant to be the same observatory we’ve seen before, but I assume so; how many observatories could Metropolis have?
  • When everyone’s talking about how they’ll be glued to the TV to see the Krypton explosion, one kid says that explosion can’t hold a candle to the ones in Star Wars.There’s an Atom back-up story by Rozakis/Saviuk/Colletta. It has to do with Jean Loring doing the will reading (I thought she was a criminal lawyer?) of an old-time comedian who recently died. He leaves various personal bequests to family and friends, but leaves the bulk of his estate to his oldAtom wins comedy partner—which shocks the shit out of everyone, since the partners hated each other. One of the personal bequests (a platinum watch) disappears during the will reading, thrown into the light fixture by someone below. Atom just happened to be hanging out up there (though we’re never told why) and waits for the thief to return. He gets his ass kicked, but when another of the personal bequests goes missing, Atom stakes out the guy who has the last personal bequest. He catches the thief, who turns out to be the ex-partner; apparently, the guy is such a prick that he wanted all the minor bequests (because he thought he deserved them) more than he cared about the shitload of money he was left. And the dead guy knew his partner was a dick, because he left a codicil in the will that if any of the minor bequests ended up in the partner’s possession, the entire estate would be split evenly among the other three heirs. I’m not sure why Jean didn’t read that part earlier, but whatever; this is basically just filler.

DC Presents 3 coverDC Comics Presents #3 – “The Riddle of Little Earth Lost” – David Michelinie/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

Before I get into the meat of this issue, I’ll just catch you up on the status quo, as it was at the time. As most of you probably know, Adam Strange is an Earthman who was accidentally teleported to the planet Rann (which orbits Alpha Centauri) by a zeta-beam, invented by Rannian scientist. Professor Sardath. Rann is a weird planet, with city-states instead of countries and varying levels of technology. Adam fought all kinds of monsters, pirates, and so on, fell in love with Sardath’s daughter Alanna, then popped back to Earth when the zeta-beam energy wore off. He then had to calculate the next zeta-beam’s coordinates to get back to Rann … and Alanna. Eventually, Adam and Alanna got married and the zeta-beams were altered so Adam no longer went back to Earth when they wore off; instead, he could teleport anywhere on Rann, but when the energy wore off he’d end up back where he started. AsSuperman saves Rann a side-effect, it was determined that if he ever left Rann, he’d die. That’s how things stand as this story starts. But we don’t start with Adam Strange; it’s Superman we see streaking home after a deep space mission, except home isn’t where he left it. The Sun is still there, but instead of Earth, Rann is orbiting our home star. Supes fights some warriors and runs into Sardath and Alanna, who take him to Sardath’s lab. Sardath explains they were trying to change the zeta-beam’s effect on Adam, but when he teleported away he never reappeared. Instead, Rann ended up in orbit around Earth’s sun and (presumably) Earth is in orbit around Alpha Centauri. Before anyone can comment on this bizarre state of affairs, Alanna keels over. It seems there are micro-organisms in a nearby lake that are usually kept dormant by the three suns of the Alpha Centauri system, but under Earth’s single sun they’re running rampant Superman capturedand making people sick. Superman uses the glass domes in Rann’s capital city to rig up a way of bombarding the planet with extra solar energy, sending the dangerous micro-organisms back to dormancy. Supes notices a trail of zeta energy and follows it to a ruined city where he finds a sophisticated lab and a maniac named Kaskor. Kaskor says he’s the one who switched the planets around by screwing with the zeta-beams. He traps Superman in a cage where he’s bathed in red sun energy, which takes away his super powers. Kaskor says he once tried to take over Rann but was stopped by Adam Strange. He decided if he couldn’t rule the planet, he might as well destroy it. That’s quite the logic there, Kasky. Unfortunately, when Rann is destroyed, Earth will be too. Speaking of Earth, we see Adam Strange arriving there instead of reappearing in Sardath’s lab. That throws him for a loop, but he soon figures out he’s on Earth, though Earth has obviously moved to Alpha Centauri, considering the three suns in the sky. Much as Rann suddenlyAdam saves Earth having only one sun caused ecological problems, the same thing happens now that Earth has three suns. An experimental algae farm was being developed as an alternate food source to feed an ever-expanding population—I’m glad that idea never really caught on—and ran wild due to all the extra sunlight. Adan vapourizes the water in a swimming pool, which creates enough mist to block the suns’ rays and send the algae back to normal. Adam is mobbed by grateful bystanders looking for autographs; by his reaction, I’d say he doesn’t get that sort of reception on Rann. Lois Lane shows up for an interview and Adam whisks her off to WGBS where there are reports coming in from all over the world about weird weather caused by the extra suns. Adam notes one discrepancy and takes off, which reminds Lois of someone else she knows. Adam goes to Australia, where an ice crater has appeared in crazy planthe middle of the desert. He’s attacked and captured by a robot and Kaskor pops up. He says he boosted the zeta-beam to make it switch Rann and Earth, but when the energy wears off, Rann will pop back to its original place; unfortunately, that space is currently occupied by Earth, which means both planets will be destroyed in an Earth- (and Rann-) shattering KABOOM. Luckily, Superman shows up right at that moment and starts smashing the robot holding Adam. Supes explains that he shielded himself from the red sun energy with his cape, enabling him to bust out of Kaskor’s cage. Adam and Superman team up to send the robots into space and Adam decks Kaskor. But the zeta energy is wearing off, and when it does … KABOOM. Superman mentions that he used a space warp to get to Earth so fast and Adam comes up with some convoluted bullshit pseudo-scientific plan. He says if Superman can move Earth into the space warp, it’ll end up back where it started (in our solar system) while Rann will take the “long way” back to Alpha Centauri thanks to the zeta energy, thuswarp explosion avoiding a collision. Yeah, I don’t really get it either. Superman mentions that te space warp is too far from Alpha Centauri to push Earth through, but Adam has a plan for that too: they build a spaceship full of explosives which Adam pilots into the warp. Adam calculates everything so that he disappears from the ship (and detonates it) just in time to expand the space warp enough so Superman only has to move Earth a few inches … or something. Again, it doesn’t really make a shitload of sense to me, but it works. Adam and Rann end up back around Alpha Centauri, Superman and Earth end up in their home solar system, and everything’s back to normal. Clark does a news report on the “strange astronomical phenomena” that affected Earth, and Adam ends up smooching Alanna—which isn’t a bad place to be, all things considered.

Noticeable Things:

  • If you’re wondering why Earth was affected by Kaskor’s messing with the zeta energy, he says he planted a zeta booster on Earth beforehand, though how he got it there is never explained.
  • I’m not sure about this story; even if I buy the pseudo-scientific explanation for getting the planets back to their proper places, wouldn’t all that planet-shuffling have a disastrous effect on both ecosystems?
  • There’s a kind of weird parallel where the citizens of each planet first wonder where their usual heroes are when the disasters start, then quickly become enamoured of the new guy. Even Lois seems kinda into Adam, the way she usually is with Superman.
  • If you’re wondering why the JLA didn’t show up to help, Kaskor says they were on the edge of the zeta energy. I’m not sure what that means, but maybe the Satellite was trapped in some kind of limbo, not able to manifest near Earth or Rann.

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