Comics Reviews: Superman 332, Action 492, DC Comics Presents 6

Superman 332 coverSuperman #332 – “The Eternity Cage” – Martin Pasko/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

You may remember last issue Lana Lang’s old classmate Carl Draper (who’s had a weirdly obsessive crush on her since high school) designed a new escape-proof prison for super-villains. Superman made some improvements, putting the prison miles up in the atmosphere, and had the prison named after him. Draper, already jealous because of Lana’s crush on Superman, went a little nuts and used the technology that drains the powers from the villainous inmates to attack Superman. In his guise as Master Jailer, Draper kidnapped Lana and used the Parasite’s power to drain Superman’s powers and imprison him behind a steel door. As it turns out, Draper has constructed a maze for Superman that he calls the Eternity Prison. Superman has toSuperman encounters the first trap make his way through the maze—without his super powers—to have any chance at freedom. Naturally, Draper has stacked the deck; in addition to duplicate power packs that continue to drain Superman’s powers, the maze is riddled with deadly traps. The first obstacle is a Hall of Mirrors, which Superman navigates by using his belt buckle to mark his passage. But he ends up in a dead-end chamber, which starts filling with water. Since he’s powerless, Supes could drown like any ordinary man, although he obviously knows how to swim (or just tread water), so it’s not quite as dire as it seems. Draper and Lana (still caged) watch on a monitor and Draper gloats about how clever his traps are. He tells Lana she’s stupid for loving Superman all these years and she should hate him for stringing her along. Draper then tells her that he’s in love with her. Superman figures out that one of the mirrored walls is hollow and he Draper's originbusts through. Meanwhile, Draper tells Lana who he really is and she finally remembers him. He was a fat nerdy kid she went to school with, who everyone treated like shit. One day when they went on a field trip, the class was caught in a cave-in; Draper went off by himself and found a way out, but when he got back, Superboy showed up and rescued everyone before Draper could play the hero. In fact, nobody had even noticed Draper was gone. Draper tells Lana he went on a self-improvement kick, working out, getting plastic surgery, learning architecture. (Maybe he should’ve done a little work on his personality while he was at it.) But his real passion was locks, traps, and cages. In the maze, Superman is attacked by a panther while he’s on a narrow ledge above a snake pit. But Supes’s costume is still invulnerable, even if he isn’t, so he lets the panther break its fangs on his sleeve, then wraps his cape around its neck and knocks it out. Draper is still ranting to Lana about how he became a master of locks, traps, and prisons and how Superman stole his thunder with the new prison he designed. Lana doesn’t care about Draper’s bullshit, because Superman has made it topanther attack the maze’s exit. But Draper cheats and zaps Supes with one of Atomic Skull’s brain-blasts. Draper says that’ll give Superman amnesia, so he can’t remember his previous trip through the maze. Draper then spins the maze around so Superman is back at the start again, and tells Lana that the maze has a hundred traps in it. Superman got past two his first time through, but sooner or later one of the traps will get him—or he’ll keeping wandering around with no memory until he starves to death. At the beginning of the maze, we find out Draper brain-blast was strong enough to wipe Superman’s memory of his own identity; he doesn’t even know he’s Superman! He sees the marks he made on the mirrors and wonders why he’s wearing such a goofy outfit. He finds Clark Kent’s clothes stashed in the pocket of his cape. Draper lets Lana out of the cage and puts the moves on her. She grabs the power pack off his belt and tosses it at his control station, blowing it all to shit. Conveniently, that shorts out the monitor just as Superman dons Clark’s clothes. Clark recognizes himself in the mirror, Superman gives Lana the harsh truththen recognizes the “S” symbol on Superman’s cape and remembers everything. He changes back to Superman and smashes through the wall. Belatedly, he realizes that he shouldn’t have been able to do that, since his powers are supposedly gone. Superman busts into the control room just as Draper is about to slap Lana around; Supes takes Draper down (by proxy … he punches the wall and Draper is knocked out by a flying rock) and rescues Lana. He takes her to a hotel (since Draper trashed her place last issue) and she gets all amorous with him. But he gives her shit, saying she’s acting just like Draper did, expecting him to love her just because she (supposedly) loves him. He mentions that when she was in Europe she never called or wrote to any of her friends, then came back and expected to be welcomed with open arms. He says she never really loved him, she just liked the reflected glory of being around him—and being “Mrs. Superman” would’ve been even more prestigious. He’s pretty harsh, but I think it’s something she needed to hear. He probably should’ve said it a long time ago.

Noticeable Things:

  • A lot of panels and even dialogue in this issue seem familiar. I think I must’ve had this one as a kid.
  • Last issue, Draper said that he’d known Superman as long as he’d known Lana; I thought that was a hint that he suspected Superman’s true identity, but I guess it was just a reference to the time Superboy rescued them from the cave-in. I thought maybe Draper might’ve noticed that Clark was missing during the rescue or something, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Action 492 coverAction #492 – “Superman’s Secret Afterlife” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

As a rule, I’m not all that fond of imaginary stories (I know, they’re all imaginary … but you know what I mean), because they don’t really have any impact in the regular storyline. You could argue that this one isn’t completely imaginary, since the villains are real, but most of what happens to Superman doesn’t actually happen. This one starts with Superman in an unfamiliar region of space after chasing a comet that was threatening to wipe out three planets. He deflected the comet and is heading home when he runs into some weird spinning cosmic maelstrom. I have no idea what it is (not a black hole, anyway) but it’s apparently dangerous. Superman tries to avoid itSuperman encounters maelstrom but a tendril of energy emerges and pulls him in. The next thing he knows, he’s Clark Kent and falling out of bed back home. He assumes the cosmic maelstrom was a bad dream and heads to work at WGBS. He’s observed by three window washers who turn out to be General Zod, Faora, and Jax-Ur from the Phantom Zone. Going by their conversation, they’ve got some kind of ruse going and Superman hasn’t figured it out yet. At WGBS, Supes finds an envelope addressed to him in the storeroom where he usually switches identities. A note inside says Lois Lane and Lana Lang are in separate space capsules on a collision course. Superman zips into space just in time to save both women, but Lana’s unconscious from the strain. He takes them both to hospital and we see the doctors covering Lois’s corpse … she had a heart space rescueattack while Lana is fine. Zod and the others are in the hospital, disguised as doctors and patients. They celebrate the effectiveness of their plan. Clark wakes up in bed again, but now he’s married to Lana. He soon figures out that ten years have gone by in the blink of an eye. Clark wonders if the trauma of Lois’s death made him forget those ten years or if he might be skipping forward in time somehow. When he goes outside, he’s shanghaied by a teleportation beam and ends up on New Krypton. What’s New Krypton, you ask? In those missing ten years, Superman finally got around to enlarging Kandor and resettling everyone on a new planet. It’s the anniversary and the Kandorians are honouring Superman. Zod and the others are at the ceremony and Faora explains to Jax-Ur (and us) the villains’ plan: when Kryptonians die, key events of what would have happened in their futures flash before their eyes. It’s called the Ytrrym Effect and I guess it’s the opposite of a human’s past flashing before our eyes at the moment of death. We see that Superman is still trapped inside the cosmicfamily time maelstrom and the villains are projecting the visions from the Phantom Zone, trying to distract Superman and convince him he’s on the point of death before he tries to free himself from the maelstrom. Superman has another time jump, about fifteen years this time; he and Lana now have a couple of kids. He can’t handle being around his own kids who are strangers to him, so he takes off. He sees missiles headed for his house and chases them, but the house has a force-shield around it and the missiles explode harmlessly. He goes inside to hug his family, but they all keel over dead. Turns out the missiles weren’t so harmless after all; they contained some kind of radioactive poison that sprayed all over Superman when they exploded, and which he carried into the house with him. Sues is thrown into the depths of despair, knowing he just wiped out his whole family and didn’t even know his kids’ names. He thinks about killing himself and finds himself flying to a secret cave. In the cave, he finds Superman figures it outthe Nikru-Cannon, deadliest weapon ever constructed on Krypton. (Really? Deadlier than the weapon that blew up the planet?) He finds a note to himself saying that he hid the weapon there in case he ever felt like wasting himself. He sets the weapon to blow himself away, then comes to his senses at the last minute, moving out of the way. He realizes he’s trapped in the cosmic maelstrom, but manages to fly around inside it enough to move it. He steers it toward the comet he diverted earlier and they obliterate each other, freeing him. The Phantom Zone spectres ask where their plan went wrong and Superman reminds them that he has an unbreakable code against killing … including killing himself. So he could never seriously contemplate suicide. Searching back through his memory, he recalled the Zone villains in all his “flash-forwards” and knew they were the ones fucking with him.

Noticeable Things:

  • We learn that Clark Kent has at least twelve identical blue suits.
  • Future Lana is pretty hot. She definitely ages well.
  • Since the radioactive poison killed Superman’s kids and not him, I guess we can conclude they were regular humans? You’d think they’d have some powers, being half-Kryptonian.
  • I think the whole “enlarging Kandor” thing might be foreshadowing, as Superman does enlarge Kandor later this year.

DC Presents 6 coverDC Comics Presents #6 – “The Fantastic Fall of Green Lantern” – Paul Levitz/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Clark Kent and Lois Lane receiving awards from the Metropolis Press Club. Before they can mount the podium to make their speeches, Clark trips and knocks Lois over. She gives him shit, but it turns out to be fortuitous, as Green Lantern crashes through the roof moments later, obliterating the podium. Of course, it wasn’t just dumb luck that Clark knocked Lois out of the way … he heard GL’s imminent entrance with his super-hearing. GL gives his power ring to Clark before passing out. The ring give Clark a replica of GL’s costume, then lifts him into the air. Superman shows up, saying he’ll take the ring and drop Clark off at home. Turns out it was just Clark using the ring to project an image of Superman, but as soon as he’s out of sight, he changes to Superman for real and asks the ring what’s going on. It tellsSuperman chained Superman that GL was in a hell of a fight and almost got killed, so Superman gets the ring to take him to where the fight happened. That turns out to be Star City, where Star Sapphire is hovering on a floating platform downtown. Onlookers comment that she hasn’t moved since kicking Green Lantern’s ass. Superman swoops down and destroys her platform, but she uses her gem to blast him and chain him to a building. He’s chained to the main supports, so if he busts loose, the building will fall and crush people in the street. Supes uses the ring to cut the chains without disturbing the building. Star Sapphire uses her gem to grab the ring from Superman’s hand and teleports away. Supes doesn’t have time to look for her, as he has to get to WGBS for the nightly newscast. We see some weirdo aliens called the Weaponers (presumably the Weaponers of Qward) spying on Clark. They seem to know he’s Superman and cometthey’re after something, though we don’t find out what. After the news is over, Superman uses the JLA Satellite computers to scan for Star Sapphire’s spaceship and finds her trying to leave Earth with the unconscious Green Lantern and his ring. Sapphire apparently has wedding plans for GL, but Superman attacks her ship and she’s forced to defend it. She tries to use a conjured comet, but Supes turns it back on her, knocking her out. He takes her and the ship back to Earth and gets the ring back from her. But before he can remove her gem, she wakes up and gives him a brain blast that knocks him out. We see (though nobody else does) that one of the Weaponers was hiding nearby and blasted Superman at the same time Star Sapphire did. So I guess it was the combined blast that knocked him out. Green Lantern wakes up and wills his ring to return to him from Superman’s hand and he and Sapphire have a stand-off, ring against gem. They’re evenly matched, so GL revives Superman,Sapphire beaten who destroys Star Sapphire’s gem with his heat vision (which makes me wonder why the hell he didn’t do that in the first place). With the gem destroyed, Sapphire turns back to Carol Ferris and keels over unconscious. GL confesses that the reason she kicked his ass so thoroughly in Star City was because Carol recently broke up with Hal Jordan (GL’s alter ego) and he was conflicted about fighting Star Sapphire because she loves him, while he still loves Carol. He thanks Superman and leaves with Carol; as soon as they’re gone, the Weaponer jumps out and blasts Superman again with his powerful Q-energy bolt, which stuns the Man of Steel. The Weaponer says Superman’s interference means he has to pay the ultimate price. We’ll see what that means next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Clark thinks to himself that he had “a tenth of a second” to get Lois out of Green Lantern’s path, but the fall and the dialogue between them would’ve taken much longer than that.
  • So, Superman can use GL’s ring? I always thought Green Lanterns had to be almost unique on their respective planets. Of course Superman’s not human, so maybe that’s the difference.
  • A caption here says Star City is on the East Coast, but I always thought it was on the West Coast. Or was that not established until later?
  • When Star Sapphire first fights Superman, she spouts a lot of anti-male rhetoric. I assume it’s supposed to make her a “feminist”, but it just comes off as strident. Then again, the Zamarons were always rather bombastic when it came to the battle of the sexes, so maybe Levitz is just writing her in character.
  • Superman knows Star Sapphire is really Carol Ferris, but I’m not sure how or when he came by that knowledge.
  • I know Superman is vulnerable to magic, but is Star Sapphire’s gem magical? She says it has “mind-over-matter” powers and claims it makes her more than a match for Superman. Maybe that’s just her being arrogant, but the gem does seem to affect him; on the other hand, the gem’s full blast apparently only affected him because the Weaponer was blasting him at the same time, so I’m not sure how powerful the gem actually is.
  • Carol and Hal’s break-up happened in GL’s own mag. I’m glad to see some continuity between books, since that wasn’t one of DC’s strong points back then. But we never learn how Carol turned back into Star Sapphire.

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