Comics Reviews: Superman 330, Action 490, DC Comics Presents 4

Superman 330 coverSuperman #330 – “The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis” – Martin Pasko/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

Have you ever wondered why nobody can tell that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person? After all, a pair of glasses is hardly a convincing disguise. We’ve all laughed about it at some point, and we’re not the first ones to do so. I can only imagine that this particular story was cooked up in response to all the people saying “Glasses? That wouldn’t fool anyone!” We start with a satellite falling from orbit and heading straight for the WGBS Building. Lois Lane, Lana Lang, and Jimmy Olsen urge Clark to change to Superman and stop the satellite from killing them all. Naturally, Clark plays dumb, but they assure him his glasses disguise never fooled anybody and they were just playing along. Jimmy rips Clark’s shirt open to reveal his Superman costume … and Clark wakes up. Yeah, it was just a dream, but it gets Clark wondering about his wafer-thin disguise; why hasn’t anyone noticed that Clark KentSuperman saves kid looks just like Superman with glasses on? Clark muses that Lois and Lana have both pretty much given up their suspicions of him being Superman, and if he can fool them—both prize-winning journalists—he should be able to fool everyone. While riding the bus to work, Clark sees an armoured car whiz by and crash into a fountain. The bus passengers file out like zombies and start looting the armoured car of diamonds. A guy in a garish costume is hovering over the fountain, obviously controlling the entranced citizens. Clark is unaffected and ducks down a manhole to change to Superman before confronting the villain. It turns out to be Spellbinder, who’s fought Batman before and refined his hypnotic powers while in prison. Spellbinder hypnotizes a kid to run into traffic, forcing Superman to save her, then hypnotizes the Man of Steel to think he’s fighting a monster that grew out of the stones of secret identitythe fountain. As soon as Spellbinder leaves (with the diamonds) the citizens snap out of their trance and wonder why Superman is standing under the waters of the fountain, struggling with himself. Supes quickly comes to his senses too and decides he needs to figure out a way to stop Spellbinder from hypnotizing people. At WGBS, Lana is introduced to Martin Korda, the new associate producer. You may recall Korda was hired way back in issue #317, but turned out to be Metallo in disguise. This is the real Korda, who’s supposedly less of a douchebag than the fake Korda was … though it’s hard to tell. A giant platform with a TV screen (like a floating IMAX) appears outside. Superman broadcasts a plea to the people of Metropolis to let him hypnotize them so they’ll be resistant to Spellbinder hypnotizing them … if that makes sense. Superman ducks into WGBS to change back to Clark Kent, but Lana and Korda walk in on him mid-change. He thinks his secret identity is blown, but Lana (and Korda) just address him as Superman. Supes comes up with some excuse that he was going to disguise himself as Clark, but Lana says he’ll never pull it off. When prodded, Lanafighting Spellbinder knows who Clark Kent is, but thinks Superman looks nothing like him—apparently Superman is way better looking. Clark can’t figure out why Lana’s perception of him is so off, but before he can mull it over, they’re informed that Spellbinder is robbing a sound lab. Superman figures he’d better do some self-hypnosis to protect himself from Spellbinder’s power. He confronts Spellbinder at the sound lab, where the crook is stealing what look like blank records. Spellbinder makes Superman think he’s lost his powers and takes off. A ricocheting bullet snaps Superman out of his trance, leaving him to wonder why his self-hypnosis didn’t work. He gets an idea that might explain that, plus why Lana can’t recognize him as Clark Kent. He remembers a low humming noise every time he’s fought Spellbinder and tracks the villain down in his civilian identity. Spellbinder tries to hypnotize Supes again and get away with his personal rotor-pack. But the hypnosis doesn’t work this time and Superman digs a pit and drops him into it. Supes reveals that he figured out Spellbinder was using sound to hypnotize him, so he put in ear plugs. Spellbinder tries to blast likenessesSuperman with hypnotic sound when Supes removes the ear plugs, but the pit he’s in turns out to be an echo chamber and Spellbinder knocks himself out. Back at WGBS, Clark gets an artist to draw pictures of him and Superman from photos he provided, but the drawing of Clark looks nothing like the real thing. Lana confirms it’s the way she sees him, so Clark concludes that he must be constantly giving off super-hypnosis vibes (amplified by the Kryptonian lenses in his glasses), which make people see Clark Kent as way more schlubby and nebbishy than Superman. Which explains why nobody can tell he’s Superman just by looking at Clark, in spite of glasses being a really stupid disguise. So that’s that question answered—though if you wanted to get nitpicky, you could ask why Lana and Lois suspected Clark of being Superman in the first place, or how the super-hypnosis affects people who see Clark on TV, or in photographs, or … you know what? Maybe we should just say the question’s been answered and leave it at that.

Noticeable Things:

  • When Superman first punches Spellbinder, it has no effect and Spellbinder says he built a special shock-absorber into the chin guard of his helmet. Good thing Supes didn’t punch him in the balls.
  • When Lana and Korda are introduced, he refers to her as “Ms. Lang”, but she corrects him and says “it’s Miss Lang”; I guess Lana’s a reverse feminist.
  • When Superman is doing his mass hypnosis of Metropolis, we see a woman going into a trance while ironing clothes. That made me wonder … what about people who were driving? Did they all crash? And what about people inside buildings, who couldn’t see Superman’s giant screen? How did they get hypnotized?
  • So apparently Superman’s power of hypnosis is—like everything else about him—super; he can hypnotize someone (including himself) just by staring at them intently.
  • Spellbinder is wearing special lenses in his helmet, which explains why Superman couldn’t turn the tables and  hypnotize him.
  • Turns out Spellbinder stole the blank records for the device in his chest that generated the hypnotic sounds he used (that’s where the humming noise came from) and he stole the diamonds because the stylus in his miniature record player has a diamond tip. So let me get this straight: he stole diamonds to use in his hypnosis device, so he could hypnotize people and … what? Rob banks? Why not just sell the diamonds?

Action 490 coverAction #490 – “No Tomorrow for Superman” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

You may remember last issue, most of Earth was watching as the light from Krypton’s explosion finally reached Earth. Superman was rather morose about it, zipping around the world to help people but only speaking Kryptonese. But Brainiac showed up and captured Superman just before the light reached Earth. Brainiac held Superman on the hull of his spaceship, forcing him to look at the light from the explosion and claiming that the light from Krypton exploding could have harmful effects on Superman the same way staring at an eclipse does for humans. But this issue starts with Clark Kent (looking none the worse for wear) and Lana Lang doing a news report the next day on Krypton’s light reaching Earth. However, it looks like Clark was affected somehow, because when Perry White lights a cigar, Clark’s eyes start glowingbuilding demolition and he’s bursting with energy that needs to be released. He gets out of the studio as fast as possible and heads (as Superman) to a nearby building that’s being demolished. He goes nuts, pulverizing the building into nothing. Brainiac is observing him from his spaceship and is disappointed that Superman found a way to release the energy by doing a good deed, demolishing a building that was scheduled to be knocked down anyway. Obviously, Brainiac subjecting Superman to the light of Krypton’s explosion has imbued him with some kind of energy that’ll run wild if not properly released. Superman goes to the Fortress of Solitude to get some sleep, but has a nightmare about Brainiac forcing him to watch the light from Krypton’s destruction. His scream almost brings down the Fortress on top of him and he’s tired after such a restless night. He blunders over the North Pole and into the Aurora Borealis, which triggers another grabbed by Brainiacepisode of runaway energy in his body. This time he successfully gets rid of the excess energy by whipping up a huge snow storm, vapourizing it, and blowing it all the way down to drought-stricken California. Back in Metropolis, Superman catches a couple of crooks who disguised themselves as cops for their getaway. Jimmy Olsen turns out to be hiding in the trunk of the getaway car … it was him who called Superman in. But when Jimmy takes a flash photo, Superman’s out-of-control energy problem returns, much stronger than before. Superman decks the two crooks and takes off to find a safe place to release the energy. Before he can get very far, Brainiac swoops down in his spaceship and grabs him, saying Supes is now charged with enough excess energy to destroy a planet. But instead of aiming the Man of Steel at Earth, Brainiac sends him hurtling toward the JLA Satellite. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see if Superman blasts the Satellite to smithereens.

Noticeable Things:

  • Now that we know more about climatology and chaos theory and all that, I’m thinking that Superman taking a massive amount of snow from the Arctic and turning it into rain in California might have … unintended side effects on the rest of the continent’s weather patterns—maybe the rest of the world’s weather patterns.
  • Did you spot the pattern in Superman’s energy flare-ups? The first came when Perry lit a cigar, the second in the Aurora Borealis, and the third after Jimmy’s flashbulb went off. Obviously, it’s triggered by sudden bursts of light, but whether that’s a natural side-effect of the light from Krypton or something Brainiac arranged, we’ll have to wait and see.

DC Presents 4 coverDC Comics Presents #4 – “Sun-Stroke” – Len Wein/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

This one starts out at a crowded beach in Metropolis, where numerous citizens have flocked to take advantage of the weather … which we’re given to understand is even hotter than usual for this time of year. A woman faints from the heat and a bunch of people crowd around (she is rather attractive). One of them notices the water starting to churn and then boil. Everyone flees onto the beach and then something rises out of the water—it’s Chemo! In case you’re wondering, Chemo is a giant vat full of dangerous chemicals that was originally used as a toxic waste depository in a lab but ended up gaining a rudimentary consciousness (and destructive streak). Chemo fuses the sand into glass and lumbers off toward downtown Metropolis. Coincidentally, the Metal Men are downtown, playing tennis (using Tin as the net and Mercury as the ball). They see Chemo coming and attack him (they’re his most frequent foes), but somethingMetal Men pounded goes wrong with their responsometers, rendering them incapable of changing shape. Chemo buries them under a half-constructed building and walks off. We now see Clark Kent going on a test flight of the Concorde when a waterspout rises in the Atlantic, threatening to total the plane. Clark switches to Superman (by pretending to be airsick and heading for the bathroom), but when he tries to vapourize the waterspout, his heat vision fizzles out. Another waterspout appears and he manages to spin around one twister and aim it at the other one so both are annihilated. Supes changes back to Clark Kent and heads for STAR Labs as soon as he lands, hoping they can figure out why his heat vision conked out. Jenet Klyburn tells him he’s not the only hero whose powers have been acting up and introduces him to the Metal Men. They’re all quite taken with him—Platinum especially, which seems to embarrass Superman meets Metal Menhim—except for Mercury, who’s his usual sour self. Klyburn tells them someone on Earth shot a magnetic beam into the sun a few days ago and now solar activity is off the scale: prominences, solar flares, sunspots. Not only has the solar activity screwed up Supes and the Metal Men’s powers, but the UV radiation is getting to levels dangerous to humans. (That explains the hotter than normal weather.) Klyburn says they need to reverse the effects of the magnetic beam before the radiation gets too high and suggests they check out the beam’s point of origin. In a nearby observatory, we see the man responsible for all this … IQ. IQ is an old Hawkman foe and we see he’s the one who summoned Chemo from wherever he was before he walked onto the beach. Chemo almost attacks IQ, who realizes he has to concentrate to control the dangerous behemoth. IQ is the one who jump-started the sun, thinking the extra solar radiation would increase his intellect (since absorbing solar rays in prison made him smart enough to break out), but he miscalculated and now wants to put theSuperman stops rocket sun back to normal before the radiation destroys all life on Earth. IQ has determined that shooting Chemo into the heart of the sun will reverse the effects of his earlier magnetic beam. Superman and the Metal Men bust in on IQ just as he shoots the rocket containing Chemo at the sun. IQ tells them he’s trying to reverse his earlier misdeed, but Superman points out a mistake in IQ’s calculations and zips into space to intercept the rocket. It explodes against Superman’s chest, stunning him, and Chemo somehow travels back along the rocket’s trajectory to IQ’s lab. But instead of one Chemo, half a dozen smaller Chemos are reconstituted. IQ tries to use the Chemos against the Metal Men, but he can’t control all of them and they turn him to stone with their chemicals. The Metal Men attack the mini-Chemos, but get blasted by its chemical breath, nearly killing them. The smaller Chemos rejoin into the original Metal Men fight mini-Chemosmonstrosity, but before it can finish off the Metal Men, Superman shows up. Chemo uses so much energy trying to melt the indestructible Man of Steel, it starts glowing white-hot and threatens to explode. Superman throws it into space and the ensuing explosion scatters chemicals throughout the atmosphere. You’d think that would be a bad thing, but apparently it creates a protective coating that will block the excess solar radiation until it goes back to normal. No mention of what happens to the chemicals floating around in the atmosphere after that, but this isn’t the last time we’ll see Chemo. Back at STAR Labs, Superman performs an “operation” on the Metal Men to restore them and it works. They’re all grateful—even Mercury—and Platinum embarrasses Supes again with her vamping.

Noticeable Things:

  • The Concorde was featured in a lot of comics in the late 70s; I guess it caught the imaginations of plenty of writers.
  • I’m not sure how IQ could know that Chemo’s precise mix of chemicals is what’s needed to reverse the sun’s runaway radiation. Chemo has been destroyed and reformed so many times, I don’t know how anyone could accurately catalogue his chemical composition.
  • If you’re wondering where Doc Magnus is while all this stuff’s happening, he’s at some scientific conference halfway around the world. That’s why the Metal Men went to STAR Labs the first time they got fucked up and why Superman was the one who had to fix them at the end.
  • Garcia-Lopez’s art is great as usual, but he gives Superman some weird facial expressions sometimes, especially when Platinum is crawling all over him. It’s kind of jarring, since Supes is usually so stolid.

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