Comics Reviews: Superman 336, Action 496, DC Comics Presents 10

Superman 336 coverSuperman #336 – “A Rose By Any other Name” – Len Wein/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with some guys robbing a jewelry store. They’re jumped by the vigilante known as Thorn, who kicks the crap out of them and leaves when the cops show up. Thorn heads home and changes back to her alter ego, Rose Forrest. But unlike most costumed crimefighters, Rose and Thorn aren’t aware of their alter egos because they have a split personality. So when Rose wakes up the next morning, she’s weirded out from the “dream” she had of being Thorn and beating the shit out of the crooks. She goes to see her psychiatrist, Dr. Roberts (wasn’t that a Beatles song?) He hypnotizesThorn becomes Rose her and learns that Rose’s Thorn persona has been taking over at night, compelling her to go out and fight crime. Apparently, Roberts has been treating her for a while, since he already suspected what Rose’s problem was. He’s also in love with her, but doesn’t want to say anything while Rose is under his care. He doesn’t tell her the truth, but gives her a necklace that he thinks will suppress the Thorn personality. She promises to wear it from then on. We see Superman on the ocean floor repairing the transatlantic telephone cable (that was how phone calls were transmitted before satellites, kids). He heads to work at the Daily Planet (at this point, Clark is still on “holiday” from WGBS, so he’s working at the Planet temporarily) and Perry White gives him shit for his latest article. Clark hears a Clark stops truckweird buzzing noise, then mouths off to Perry, telling him if he keeps treating him like crap he’ll walk. Perry backs down and Jimmy Olsen congratulates Clark for finally standing up for himself. Clark isn’t as happy as Jimmy, since he’s spent years developing the “wimp” persona for Clark Kent and figures his outburst to Perry might make people suspicious. He goes outside and sees a kid about to be mowed down by a runaway truck. He leaps to save her—as Clark Kent! He realizes he acted impulsively again, without regard for his secret identity. He covers by melting the pavement around the truck and telling onlookers the “freshly poured asphalt” must’ve slowed the truck enough for him to stop it. He realizes the weird buzzing he keeps hearing must have something to do with his impulsive behaviour, so he changes to Superman and tracks the noise to its source … Rose Forrest’s apartment. Superman knows Rose and asks to borrow her necklace, but before he gets too far, a water tower crashes down on his head.Thorn attacks Superman Thorn attacks him, saying she wants the necklace and kicks his ass. She tosses some thorns with lead particles in them and disappears before Superman can track her. He’s puzzled, since he and Thorn were allies against the 100 previously. Not far away, Thorn is being driven wild by the incessant buzzing from the necklace, but she can sense it’s important to Rose, so she can’t bring herself to destroy it. Superman hears her talking to herself and confronts her, and she goes nuts, attacking him even though his powers make him invulnerable to anything she can do. As they’re struggling, a bunch of crooks called the Sidecar Bandits (because they zip around on motorbikes with sidecars to steal stuff) go by on the street below. Thorn’s hatred of criminals takes over and she jumps down onto one of the motorbikes and starts kicking ass. Superman rounds up some of the other bandits and Thorn takes out the last one, but sidecar bandit fighta wild gunshot shatters her necklace. That immediately brings her personality back to normal (or as close to it as Thorn gets) and she apologizes to Superman and leaves. The next day, Superman goes to see Dr. Roberts (though I’m not sure how he knew the necklace came from Roberts in the first place) and tells him about Thorn going nuts when the necklace was damaged by the falling water tower. Roberts claims privilege and says the necklace was meant for someone special. Rose Forrest comes in and sees the necklace. She asks Superman to give it back, since it was from someone special; so much for doctor/patient privilege. Superman gives her the necklace, but thinks to himself that it’s not the original, just a copy. So, I guess it won’t suppress Thorn’s personality? I wonder if Supes mentioned that to the doc?

Noticeable Things:

  • In case you’re wondering, Rose and Thorn is kind of like the Punisher. Her father was a cop who was killed by the 100, a powerful criminal gang in Metropolis. Rose vowed to make them pay and her Thorn personality emerged (without her knowledge) and fought the 100. Now she seems to be fighting criminals in general.
  • Dr. Roberts is either deluded or an outright scumbag. He acknowledges that getting involved with a patient is unethical, but figures if the Thorn personality is subjugated, he and Rose can be together. I’m no expert, but I think it’s also unethical (and illegal) to get involved with former patients.
  • Thorn kind of reminds me of Typhoid Mary from Daredevil; a split personality where the dominant one (Thorn/Typhoid) is aware of the weaker one, but not the other way around.
  • Since Black Lightning was an enemy of the 100, a team-up between him and Thorn would’ve been a natural, but I’m not sure if it ever happened.
  • At the end, Superman wonders about the necklace and a possible connection between Rose and Thorn, but immediately dismisses the idea that a “quiet little thing” like Rose could be the “stunning” Thorn. That’s pretty stupid; never mind the supreme irony of Superman thinking someone is too wimpy to be a super-hero, but wouldn’t his super senses (x-ray vision, super-hearing) tell him that Rose and Thorn are the same person? I’m assuming Thorn is just wearing a wig, not literally undergoing a physical change, so Superman should be able to figure it out.

Action 496 coverAction #496 – “Death Out of a Bottle” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with a meeting in the bottle-city of Kandor, where the Drygur (which means leader) of the city calls a meeting to tell his council that the entire population of Earth is in danger. Outside the WGBS Building, we see Clark Kent and Lana Lang talking to a fan. Well, she’s a fan of Lana, but seems to think Clark is boring. Lana says Clark is too old-fashioned and needs to jazz up his personality a bit. Clark hears the Kandorian alarm with his super-hearing and has to ditch Lana fast. He uses super-ventriloquism to make her think Cary Grant is in a nearby limo. But it turns out to be some old dude who looks like the Crypt-Keeper. When Lana turns around, Clark is gone. When Superman gets to his Fortress and talks to the Drygur in Kandor, he learns that something went wrong with his decontamination last time he visited Kandor. Normally,Lana disappointed Superman is decontaminated before returning to Earth so he doesn’t transmit any Kryptonian microbes to Earth’s population. But last time, one of the sprayers fucked up, so Superman carried back X-5B4, a microbe that’s basically harmless to Kryptonians, but deadly to Earthlings. Since the microbe is harmless, the Kandorians never bothered to make a cure for it, so everyone on Earth will die within 18 hours. Superman freaks out and takes off to figure out a way to save Earth. He gets a signal from the JLA and wonders if their advanced science can help him, but when he approaches the Satellite, it disappears. He thinks about enlisting the help of Supergirl, but she also disappears before he can get anywhere near her. While he’s pondering the strange disappearances, he’s attacked by an alien named Zurnnulaxi-Vraxil (which I will abbreviate to Z-V to keep from going insane), who says he’s from an alien race that Superman freakssalvages materials from planets whose populations have gone extinct. Since he knows about the microbe threatening Earth, he figures it’s only a matter of time until he can start collecting. Superman tells him to fuck off and they start fighting. Z-V’s technology includes red sun radiation, which means he has the power to hurt Superman … or kill him. In Kandor, we see the Drygur explaining to his council that Superman has already been irradiated with the antidote to the microbe, but it requires stress to activate it. Apparently, the Kryptonian version of adrenaline is needed to activate the antidote, and the more stress, the more powerful the antidote will be. The Kandorians are the ones who made the Satellite and Supergirl disappear (with holographic tech) to put Superman under even more stress. To make sure his stress levels are at maximum, they even manufactured a threat for him to face. But it turns out Z-V isn’t the threat the Kandorians were going to fake up—he’s real, and he really wants to harvest Earth’stime drag resources. The Kandorians figure Superman’s stress levels have already spread the antidote all over Earth, but if he loses the fight with Z-V, it might not matter. Z-V starts to get the better of Supes, but the Man of Steel turns the tables and drags Z-V through time into the far future, after Earth’s civilization is over. Superman says he’s going to leave Z-V in the far future, but Z-V points out the ruins of civilization around them. A quick analysis proves that Earth survived long past the 20th Century, and Z-V says his people are scavengers, not mass murderers, so Earth is no longer in danger from them. Superman takes him back to his own time and thanks the Kandorians for curing him. Later, we see Clark warning Lana about letting her cold spread. Maybe he’ll turn all paranoid about germs, like Howard Hughes.

Noticeable Things:

  • I guess Lana has a thing for Cary Grant, even though he’d have been about 75 at this point. I remember Felicia Hardy had a Cary Grant thing in Amazing Spider-Man too.
  • When Lana expresses her disappointment that the old guy isn’t Cary Grant, he points out that she’s no Sophia Loren either.
  • Since Z-V’s people are scavengers of dead planets, why did he reveal himself to Superman a day early? Why not remain hidden until Earth’s population was dead, then show himself? And if his people aren’t murderers, why was he still a threat to Earth after the microbe was destroyed? Granted, neither Z-V nor Superman knew about the cure when it happened, but a quick scan would’ve told him the truth. Or if he waited and the people of Earth didn’t all die, he would’ve left anyway.

DC Presents 10 coverDC Comics Presents #10 – “The Miracle Man of Easy Company” – Cary Bates/Joe Staton/Jack Abel

This one starts with Superman in Paris, France, receiving an award. His super-senses tell him the award is booby-trapped, but when he tries to throw it away, it sticks to his hand. He flies up into the air to get the bomb away from the crowd and when it goes off, Superman disappears. We see him waking up in the countryside. Nearby, a couple of Nazis spies are taking off the American Army uniforms they used to infiltrate the American lines. Apparently, they were found out by Sgt. Rock and Easy Company and some of their fellow spies were killed. They’re making their way back to their own lines with information on American positions and troop strength. After they leave, Superman crawls out of the bushes and realizes he has amnesia, since he can’t remember how he got there or even who he is. He finds the discarded Army uniforms and puts one on (thinking his costume is way too weird to wear in public). It seems hisSuperman blasted amnesia is selective (or plot-convenient) because he knows he’s from 1979, but when his super-hearing alerts him to the approach of Easy Company, he’ surprised. Easy closes in and Little Sure Shot spots Superman hiding in the trees. Naturally, Supes can’t tell them who he is, so Rock assumes he’s a German spy and gets ready to blast him. But Rock spots a German ambush in the trees and Easy finds themselves in a firefight. Superman was shielded from the fight by a tree and Rock wonders if the Germans might’ve been trying to eliminate a loose end. He changes his mind about wasting Superman (though I’m not sure why) and brings him along. He grills Supes on American trivia, which the Man of Steel answers perfectly. Rock decides Superman is a G.I, who’s lost his memory and dubs him “Tag-Along”. Rock wonders if Tag-Along can cut it when the shit hits the fan, but he won’t have to wonder for long. The next day, Easy bazooka Supesis attacked by a tank. Rock orders Tag-Along to blast it with a bazooka, but Superman’s code against killing is so ingrained, he refuses to blow up the tank. Rock and the others think he wimped out and Superman is  pissed off at himself he smashes his fist on the ground. That opens a fissure that knocks the tank over and Rock drops a grenade in the hatch to finish it off. Rock wonders how the Nazis know where they are and Superman wonders how he can punch holes in the ground. He soon puts he pieces together and remembers everything, but before he can figure out what to do, a Stuka comes out of nowhere to bomb them. Superman deflects the bomb at super-speed (which makes Jackie Johnson think he’s seeing things), then takes the plane to a secluded spot and freezes the pilot with his super-breath. Superman know he has to be careful to not alter history, but realizes his presence has already changed things by jeopardizing Easy Company. He figures out that the tank and plane tracked Easy because the discarded uniform “Tag-Along” was wearing has a transmitter in it. Hesuper soldier destroys the transmitter and figures he owes Easy a favour. He heads to a farm-house up the road, where the Germans are preparing an ambush and gives himself up. The Germans start asking questions and Superman (who calls himself Corporal Steel) tells them he and Sgt. Rock are a new breed of super-soldier, bred to be faster, stronger, and tougher than anything the Germans have seen before. He demonstrates by beating the shit out of everyone, letting bullets bounce of his chest, and chewing up the Germans’ rifles! They freak out and take off and when Easy finds the farm house a while later, they find “Tag-Along’s” body, along with evidence that the Germans left in a hurry. Easy feels bad for thinking Tag-Along was a loser and bury him, grateful that he saved them from the ambush. After they leave, Superman climbs out of the grave and (presumably) heads back to the future.

Noticeable Things:

  • In spite of his memory loss, Superman instinctively “knows” he’s an American citizen. I guess he was an American citizen pre-Crisis, but later writers specifically said the Superman refused any Earthly citizenship.
  • Besides St. Rock, the other Easy characters we get to see are Bulldozer, Wildman, Little Sure Shot, Jackie Johnson, and Ice Cream Soldier.
  • I assume Superman slowed his breathing and heartbeat to simulate death when Easy found him.
  • If you’re wondering who sabotaged the award that threw Superman into the past, you’re not the only one. Superman vows to find out who the saboteur is, which we’ll see next issue.

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