Comics Reviews: Superman 331, Action 491, DC Comics Presents 5

Superman 331 coverSuperman #331 – “Lockup at 20,000 Feet” – Martin Pasko/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Superman confronting Metallo, who has broken out of prison. Metallo has replaced the radium that was powering his artificial body while he was in prison with his preferred power source, kryptonite. He’s attempting to steal some solar mirrors from some energy collector on the roof of STAR Labs—apparently looking for yet another alternate source of power for his bod. His kryptonite heart gives him an advantage over Superman, but the Man of Steel uses the old “empty boots hanging off the ledge” trick to fake Metallo out and turn the tables. Supes uses one of the solar mirrors (which, conveniently, has a lead backing) to seal up Metallo’s chestplate. Clark and Lana report on the fight for WGBS News later that daySuperman beats Metallo and Lana mentions a new prison designed specifically for super-villains (called the Mount Olympus Correctional Facility) that’s opening the next day. We see the guy who designed the  prison, Carl Draper, sitting at home watching the newscast. We learn that he knew Lana years ago and he’s basically obsessed with her, even though they haven’t seen each other in twelve years. It sounds like he had some kind of unrequited crush on her that grew into obsession; he actually sounds like kind of a nutcase. He’s nervous about seeing Lana at the opening of the prison, but kind of excited too. At WGBS, Clark gets shit from his producer and Lois and Lana try to make peace, but when Lana finds out Lois has a date with Superman, she gets all weird and jealous. She vows that she’ll have Superman for herself no matter what. I think I’m seeing a parallel here. The next day, the prison is officially opened and Lana doesn’t even remember Draper, while he’s prison tourfreaking out just being near her. He shows her the prison, which can be run by only two men, and explains the security devices that keep the prisoners from escaping. He shows Lana a device called a power pack, which is uniquely tuned to each prisoner, providing whatever energy is necessary to keep them caged. In Metallo’s case, his power pack gives off radio waves which would disrupt his body if e tried to exit the cage. Parasite’s power pack drains his power to keep him weakened, and Atomic Skull’s cell siphons off his brainwave energy whenever it builds up enough to give off a psychic blast. Lana’s not too impressed by Draper’s achievement, but Superman shows up and he seems pretty jazzed. He adds some shielding to the prison and puts it on an anti-gravity platform so it can float 20,000 feet above the ground, thus making it even more secure. Draper (and his assistant, Latimer) are given the option not to be the caretakers of the prison, since it’s in permanent orbit now, but both of them agree to stay on. SupermanSuperman grandstanding gives Draper a signal pendant (I guess he was all out of watches) so Draper can call for help if he needs it—or if they run out of toilet paper. Superman refers to the prison as “Draper’s Island”, but Lana suggests “Superman’s Island” and that’s the name that sticks. Also, Draper’s whole interview is cut from the newscast to show Superman adding some plastic to the prison. A week or so later, someone on the floating prison dresses up in a funky costume and takes the power packs from the cells. Luckily all the villains are heavy sleepers. Superman gets a signal from Draper, who he finds dazed in the prison. Draper tells him Latimer stole the power packs and went after Lana. When Superman gets to her place, the Master Jailer (as he calls himself) is busting through Lana’s wall. Superman attacks him but gets the shit kicked out of him. Master Jailer Superman vs Master Jailerexplains that the power packs don’t just siphon energy from the prisoners, they store it. So Master Jailer can use he power packs to blast Superman with Metallo’s kryptonite rays, Atomic Skull’s brain blasts, or Parasite’s power drain. Jailer takes Superman and Lana and imprisons them in separate cages. Jailer turns out to be Carl Draper (anyone surprised? Yeah, me neither) and we find out the “Draper” that called Supes for help is a robot, which is still at the prison with an oblivious Latimer. Draper says he knows Superman from way back and he’s drained Superman’s powers, which means the Man of Steel can’t punch his way out of the metal cage he’s in. Draper reveals himself to Lana and says now that Superman is out of the way, they can be together forever. We’ll see if that’s true next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Lana’s an asshole in this story, and has kind of been moving in that direction for a while; was she always like that or was something new for the Bronze Age?
  • Seriously, putting the prison 20,000 feet up makes it a logistical nightmare. Supply and maintenance would be a huge pain in the ass.
  • Draper says he knew Lana years ago and also claims he knew Superman at the same time. I’m assuming that means he went to school with them, but that would seem to indicate that he knows Superman is really Clark Kent.

Action 491 coverAction #491 – “A Matter of Light and Death” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

Just to bring you up to speed on the last couple of issues: the light from Krypton’s explosion has finally reached Earth where everyone is treating it as a solemn occasion—except Brainiac, who strapped Superman to his spaceship and subjected him to the light from the blast. Somehow, that charged Superman with excess energy, so every time he sees a flash of light, his power builds up to a critical state—potentially enough to annihilate the entire planet. So far he’s managed to release the excess energy in non-destructive ways, but at the end of last issue, the power was building up again and Brainiac aimed him straight for the JLA Satellite. (If you’re wondering why the JLA aren’t helping, it’s because Brainiac planted bombs all over Earth that he’ll detonate if anyone interferes in his fight with Superman. Hawkman is on duty on the Satellite and tries to figure out what’s wrong as Superman crashes straightlaser surgery through and comes back for another pass. Hawkman manages to direct him through a lead-lined container with green kryptonite in it, which weakens Supes and causes him to fall back to Earth. He’s found by a blind old man and his robot (!), who take him to their cabin in the woods. The blind dude says he built the robot, but some kind of neutron flare in the lab caused him to get super-cataracts (seriously, that’s what it says) which can’t be removed by normal lasers. Superman turns two lumps of coal into diamonds, uses them as filter lenses for his heat vision, and removes the old man’s cataracts. He takes off to confront Brainiac, the “diamond laser surgery” having given him an idea. Brainiac is planning to set off a light burst that’ll amp Superman’s powers so high he won’t be able to control them. But Superman strikes first, hurling himself against the unbreakable force field around Brainiac’s ship. The field repels him and Brainy grabs him with a tractor beam, but Supes takes off, dragging the ship behind Superman breaks the unbreakable shieldhim. Superman is going too fast for Brainiac to safely disengage, so he can only hang on as Superman drags him halfway across the galaxy through a space warp. Supes heads straight for a supernova just as it blows. The intense pulse of light amps his power up beyond all control and he uses the extra power first to break Brainiac’s tractor beam, then to smash through his “impenetrable” force field. As Brainiac explains it, the supernova charged Supes with so much excess energy, he can do the impossible … penetrate an impenetrable field. Brainiac is freaked out when Superman busts into his ship, but destroying the “unbreakable” force field dissipated all the excess energy—probably forever, if Superman’s calculations are correct. He decks Brainiac and finds the locations of all the bombs Brainy planted. When a damaged control panel explodes, the flash doesn’t trigger any excess energy build-up in Superman, indicating he’s cured; I guess the supernova was intense enough to purge whatever energy was in him from Krypton’s explosion. I’m still not sure how all that was supposed to work, but everything’s back to normal now, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

Noticeable Things:

  • Why is there a box full of kryptonite on the JLA Satellite? Hawkman says they were doing some “experiments” with it … a likely story. I guarantee Batman’s the one who put that green K there … just in case.
  • The whole interlude with the old man and the robot reminds me of the old blind dude in Frankenstein.
  • I don’t know what Superman did with the diamonds he used in the cataract surgery. Maybe he left them for the old man?
  • Superman says he spent all morning calculating the exact place and time of the supernova. Seems a bit convenient, but I guess I’ll buy it.

DC Presents 5 coverDC Comics Presents #5 – “The War of the Undersea Cities” – Len Wein (plot), Paul Levitz/Murphy Anderson

This one starts with some old reprobate fishing by the shore. He hooks a tire, an old boot, and a mermaid. You heard me. He immediately starts dreaming of a life in show biz, but when the mermaid mentions Superman, he figures he’d better not do anything stupid and takes her to STAR Labs. In case the mermaid’s mentioning Superman didn’t tip you off, we soon find out this is Lori Lemaris, who once had an ill-fated quasi-romance with Superboy. Superman is summoned to Star Labs and Lori tells him she came to get his help. Her undersea city, Tritonis, was attacked by their sister city, Poseidonis … led by Poseidonis’s leader, Aquaman. Superman can’t believe Aquaman would do that, so he returns to Tritonis where they’re greeted in a rather hostile manner. Lori’s husband, Ronal, explains they thought Poseidonis was attackingSuperman and Lori attacked again. Superman asks about disputes, but Ronal says there weren’t any until Poseidonis attacked out of nowhere. The Tritonians are sounding pretty bellicose, so Superman heads for Poseidonis to figure out what the hell’s going on. He’s attacked by crazed fish which he puts into a vortex. Aquaman shows up and disperses the fish, saying he didn’t command them to attack Superman. Aquaman claims Poseidonis was hit by a seaquake that was caused by an army rampaging through the city. Aquaman went to track the army and when he got close to Tritonis, he and his men were fired on without warning. Since that’s basically the opposite of what Lori said, Superman figures someone’s screwing with both cities. He and Aquaman head back to Tritonis, where they’re jumped by the security forces. The guards can’t hurt Superman, and Aquaman holds his own, but they realize it’s counterproductive so they surrender Ocean Master in chargeand ask to see the leaders of Tritonis. When they’re taken to the throne room, they’re startled to find Ocean Master, Aquaman’s adopted brother, is the new king. Lori tells Superman Ocean Master promised to protect them against the marauding hordes from Poseidonis and, since they’re not warlike people, they made him king. Ocean Master sentences Aquaman to death, but knows he can’t carry out the sentence with Superman there, so he banishes them both from the kingdom forever. Aquaman says he could feel a telepathic presence in the throne room, something that was dominating the wills of the Tritonians. Since Ocean Master isn’t telepathic, it has to be something else. He and Superman tunnel under the sea floor and come up in the throne room, but Ocean Master is ready for them. He attacks Aquaman telepathically and Aquaman realizes the source of Ocean Master’s new power is hidden in a giant globe. Ocean Master lets it loose and it turns out to be a huge jellyfish that apparently hasSuperman vs giant jellyfish some kind of telepathic powers that Ocean Master can tap into. Superman fights the jellyfish, but it’s too strong for him. Aquaman starts beating the shit out of Ocean Master and Superman realizes the jellyfish feeds off his aggression and power, so he stops resisting. That weakens the jellyfish, which distracts Ocean Master long enough for Aquaman to deck him. Superman promises to take the now-docile jellyfish to the Marianas Trench and Aquaman makes peace with the Tritonians, now freed from Ocean Master’s mental thrall. Superman says goodbye to Lori and heads home for some rest. Good luck with that, Supes.

Noticeable Things:

  • If you’re wondering about the whole Tritonis/Poseidonis thing, a brief history: in ancient days, Atlantis was a continent with those two cities at opposite ends. When Atlantis sank, the inhabitants of each city encased them in protective domes and invented sera that let them breathe in water. For some reason, the Tritonian serum caused them to evolve fish tails, while the Poseidonian serum left its inhabitants more or less human. The two cities have always been allies, which is why the unprovoked attack was so jarring.
  • I guess Ocean Master is the one who caused the seaquake in Poseidonis, then used the anger to feed the jellyfish and stir up the Tritonians, which fed the jellyfish even more and gave it enough power to cloud their minds. It’s not really spelled out in the story, but I assume it’s something along those lines.
  • This story seems familiar; I think I might’ve had this one as a kid.

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