Comics Reviews: Superman 338, Action 498, DC Comics Presents 12

Superman 338 coverSuperman #338 – “Let My People Grow” – Len Wein/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Superman at the heart of an exploding supernova. No, he’s not on vacation, he’s collecting energy from the supernova that he hopes will help enlarge the bottle city of Kandor. The energy from the exploding star is so great Superman has to wear a special space-suit, and even then he’s almost overwhelmed. His collecting device melts, but he figures he’s got enough supernova energy, so he heads back to Earth. But being at the heart of the supernova sapped his strength and he passes out, plummeting down toward the ground. Luckily for him, his cousin Supergirl was monitoring his progress and catches him before he splats. Superman soon recovers and tells Supergirl he got the supernovaenergy collector energy he needed. They rush to his Fortress of Solitude to tell the Kandorians the good news. The Kandorians are thrilled, except one sad sack guy named Arn-Ul, who’s skeptical about the whole thing. Superman says he’s going to test the enlarging ray before endangering Kandor and refuses Van-Zee’s offer to act as guinea pig. Supes tells Supergirl he’s going to test the ray on himself, so no Kandorians are harmed in case something goes wrong. But to test the enlarging ray, Superman has to be shrunk by Brainiac’s shrinking ray. He puts together a device that sends a signal to Brainiac’s computer brain, which Brainy should be able to home in on. Since he has nothing to do but wait for Brainiac to attack, Supes decides to put in an appearance as Clark Kent. He’s just in time for a party to celebrate Perry White’s fortieth year in journalism. Before Perry can cut the cake, the whole building starts shaking and Clark takes off, certain that Brainiac is responsible. Sure enough, the villain is out in Supergirl confronts Brainiacspace, threatening to shake Metropolis to pieces if Superman doesn’t turn off the buzzing signal that’s been driving Brainy crazy. They mix it up and Supes tricks Brainiac into using his shrinking ray, which reduces Superman in size. Before Brainiac can finish him off, Supergirl shows up and Brainy tries to shrink her as well. She uses the enlarging ray to counter Brainy’s shrink ray, which backfires and quickly shrinks him (and his ship). Brainiac begs Supergirl to use the enlarging ray, but she says it doesn’t have enough power to enlarge him, Superman and Kandor. Superman wants his cousin to save Brainiac too, but it’s too late; Brainy keeps shrinking and disappears. The enlarging ray works on Superman and the Kandorians celebrate … except Arn-Ul, who’s still being a big downer and predicting the worst. The Kandorians don’t want to be enlarged on Earth, preferring to have their own planet. They’ve done some research and found an empty world with a red sun (like Krypton), so Superman and Supergirl take them there in a spaceship. The world looks suitable for colonization, so Superman uses the enlarging ray and Kandor is finally restored to its full size. Kandor enlargedThe whole city celebrates, treating Superman (and Supergirl) like heroes. Supergirl’s parents apparently live in Kandor and they ask her to stay, but she says she has a life on Earth. Just when things are looking rosy, the whole city turns to dust and Superman realizes the enlarging ray wasn’t effective on inorganic matter. He feels like crap (and Arn-Ul doesn’t hesitate to say “I told you so”), but Van-Zee says they’d outgrown Kandor anyway. Superman’s tending to them for the last few years has almost made them like pets; Van-Zee says it’s time to stand on their own again, and what better way than to conquer and settle a planet? Superman offers to stay and help and Van-Zee shows his gratitude by punching him out. (Remember, it’s a red sun world so Superman has no powers.) Van-Zee tells Supergirl they chose this particular world for a reason; it’s Van-Zee punches Superman outactually from another dimension and only manifests here during a cosmic axis alignment. Van-Zee says the only way for the Kandorians to fend for themselves is by severing all ties to their past, especially to Superman. That way they’ll be forced to do things for themselves, since they won’t be able to count on Superman to always rescue them. Van-Zee helps load the unconscious Man of Steel on the spaceship and says goodbye to Supergirl. Superman wakes up just in time to see the planet shift into its home dimension and he and Supergirl wish the Kandorians well in their new life. This story feels like a way of getting shut of Kandor once and for all, but you can’t keep the Silver Age out forever; eventually we’ll see a new Kandor … but not for a while.

Noticeable Things:

  • Kandor was once the capital of Krypton until it was shrunk and stolen by Brainiac, before the planet was destroyed. Brainiac still had Kandor when he came to Earth decades later to harvest more cities in Action #242 (way back in 1958) and Superman rescued it and kept it in his Fortress, promising to enlarge it someday. Better late than never, I guess.
  • We see Van-Zee in this issue, but no sign of his pal Ak-Var, although there is a blond guy shown next to him that might be Ak-Var.
  • According to the cover, this issue celebrates Superman’s 40th Anniversary, even though he first appeared in 1938, so they’re a year off. Or maybe it’s celebrating DC’s 40th Anniversary … but they were around before 1939. Anyway, I guess the whole “Perry White’s 40th Anniversary” is meant to coincide with that.
  • I’m not sure why Supergirl brought the enlarging device when she confronted Brainiac; you’d think it would be too precious to risk. Maybe she wanted to use it on Superman right then and there, but how was she planning on dealing with Brainiac? I don’t think she and Supes thought out this plan too well.
  • When Brainiac is shrinking (and after he disappears) Superman feels bad about the villain’s fate, but Supergirl is much calmer. I guess she’s more  practical than Supes … or more ruthless.

Action 498 coverAction #498 – “The Catastrophic Man” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts out with Vartox (yeah, it’s a Vartox story) returning home to his planet of Valeron after completing a space patrol. I guess Vartox is like Superman, he polices the planet and surrounding space. But shortly after his return, he detects a vibratory flux spreading through the planet and before he can act, Valeron blows up. Talk about starting the story with a bang. On Earth, Lana turns down a date from a dude named Rodney Smathers, which shocks Steve Lombard since Smathers is the majority stockholder for Galaxy Communications, and rich as fuck. Lana says Smathers is a bore, just like Steve; nice to know her snottiness isn’t just reserved for Clark. Speaking of Clark, he hears an ultrasonic emergency signal and heads out as Superman to meet Vartox, who tells him about Valeron blowing up. Obviously Superman understands howValeron blows up he feels (though not precisely, since Supes was a baby when Krypton blew up) and tries to console him. He takes Vartox to stay at the Fortress of Solitude, and on the way they find an ancient spaceship partially buried in the ice. Superman assumes it just crashed, but Vartox’s hyper-senses say the ship has been buried for centuries and only recently uncovered by shifting ice. Superman can’t see inside because the hull contains lead, so Vartox takes a look and promptly freaks out. He sees the people of Valeron, giving him shit for letting the planet explode. Vartox loses it and the spaceship starts blasting Superman. He uses his super-hearing to determine there’s no life aboard and deflects the lasers back at the ship, breaching the hull. Supes goes in and finds a couple of bellicose robots, which he soon pounds into scrap. He figures the ship is useless, so he blows it to shit with his heat vision. Vartox is still cowering, but it turns out he was just protecting a valise he brought from Valeron. The case contains pieces of his Superman blasts the alien shipexploded planet, which my sound a bit morbid, but Vartox figures if he studies the rocks he might figure out why Valeron blew up and prevent it from happening to any other planets. The rocks from Valeron are radioactive like kryptonite, but unlike kryptonite these rocks have no adverse effect on Vartox. Superman says Vartox can use all the resources of his Fortress to research the rocks, as long as he spends his days in Metropolis. The next day at the Galaxy Building, Steve Lombard is being a prick, as usual. He dumps food on Clark “accidentally”, but he’s soon chastised by a new Galaxy security guard named Vernon O’Valeron … yup, it’s Vartox in civilian clothes. He tells Steve off (and causes the disposal to spew food all over him), which impresses Lana. The two of them walk off together and Clark hopes they know what the hell they’re doing. Lana spends the afternoon with Vartox and almost misses the nightly newscastVartox as Superman (yeah, I’m pretty sure they were banging), which starts to worry Clark a bit. The generators on the sixth floor explode and Vartox goes into action as Superman, using his hyper-powers to duplicate Superman’s own. Clark is impressed watching “himself” in action, but Lana wonders where Vernon disappeared to. (Oh god, I can already see where this is going.) Vernon comes back and explains he went to phone in an alert about the overloaded generators, then slips Lana some tongue. Vartox heads to the Fortress for some research and finds out something shocking—he was the cause of Valeron blowing up! Not only that, but his coming to Earth has started the same reaction, meaning Earth will soon explode and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. Well, Superman can probably do something … we’ll find out next issue.

DC Presents 12 coverDC Comics Presents #12 – “Winner Take Metropolis” – Steve Englehart/Rich Buckler/Dick Giordano

This one starts with Mr. Miracle doing a death-defying stunt high above the desert outside Las Vegas. Talk show host Lola Barnett is reporting on the stunt, which involves Miracle being blindfolded, handcuffed, and triple-locked in a coffin which is dangling from a chain 200 feet in the air. Two drone-piloted jets are rushing at the coffin, giving Miracle very little time to escape. A drone breaks the chain and the coffin plunges to the ground. Lola Barnett practically shits herself, but when the drones land, Miracle is in the pilot seat of one of them. Let’s see Criss Angel do that! Lola is thrilled, but says nobody will see the fabulous stunt, since GBS is airing a show about Superman opposite her show. Miracle gets a bit jealous, wondering why Superman gets such adulation on Earth, while Miracle (who is a god, after all) has to play cheesy magic shows in Vegas. He goes for a jaunt to clear his head and spots an Intergang chief named Carolyn Dole whoMiracle's escape just escaped from prison. Miracle figures if he can track her to her hideout and bring in a bunch of Intergang members, maybe he can show up Superman. He follows Carolyn to a warehouse where some other Intergang members are hiding. She says they need to lie low since Superman took an interest in their activities, but one of her cohorts (Xugat) says they’ve finished something called the Mentropy Machine. The Mentropy Machine can control people’s minds completely, so if they can get close enough to Superman, they can use the Machine to make him forget how to live—and thus, he’ll drop dead. They test it on an Intergang member who was planning on snitching to the feds; they prevent him from being able to squeal by zapping his brain. It works (he still wants to squeal, but can’t force himself to) and they crow about using it on Superman. Carolyn feels like someone’s watching, so they use the Machine to “ride Miracle gets populartheir brainwaves” out of the warehouse. Yeah, I don’t know what that means either, but they disappear, leaving Mr. Miracle to curse himself for not grabbing them right away. Despite his jealousy, he knows he has to warn Superman about Intergang’s plans, but when he calls Clark Kent to pass on the message to Supes, he finds he can’t actually vocalize the warning. When Xugat used the Mentropy Machine to force the squealer’s silence, there was apparently enough spillover to affect Miracle too. Pretty convenient, but I guess if that didn’t happen there’d be no story. Miracle finds he can’t write Superman a warning either, so he comes up with an intricate and half-insane plan … he’ll challenge Superman to prove he’s the better superhero. Barda’s not thrilled about that, but I guess Miracle can’t tell her the truth either. The next day in Metropolis, Miracle introduces himself as the city’s new hero and proceeds to save people left and right. Superman pretends not to care but finally admits it’s bothering him. He confronts Miracle, who challenges him to a contest to determine who should bemedia circus Metropolis’s resident hero. Supes agrees, even though he’s not thrilled that the contest will be televised. The contest soon becomes the only thing anyone’s talking about: TV, magazines, newspapers. Miracle has set the challenge to take place in the Nevada desert, at a site where nuclear bombs used to be tested. That ensures that he and Superman will be the only ones inside the area, since residual radiation makes it too dangerous for normal humans. (Couldn’t they just wear radiation suits?) Lois tries to talk Superman out of it, saying he’ll look like an idiot if he loses, but Supes is determined to go through with it. I guess his jealousy hasn’t simmered down yet. Superman flies out to the middle of nowhere, just as a storm starts over the desert. Supes wonders if Miracle is somehow responsible for the storm (which Miracle neither confirms nor denies) and Miracle points out a nearby mountain range that leads Miracle destroys the Mentropy Machinestraight back toward Vegas. Miracle says Supes can follow the mountains out of the area, if he can defeat Miracle. With that, they start brawling and Miracle puts up a pretty good fight, but Superman ends up pounding him. Superman doesn’t feel very triumphant, but follows the mountains back toward the city. On the edge of the danger zone, Intergang has set up the Mentropy Machine and are just waiting for superman to fly overhead so they can zap him. But they get a surprise … Mr. Miracle plows up through the ground, destroying the Mentropy Machine and removing his mental block. Superman shows up to give Miracle shit, saying the mountains led away from town, not toward it. Miracle explains about the Mentropy Machine and his mental block against warning the Man of Steel, then he mentions how he used explosives to sink the real mountains into some old Army tunnels, which ensured that Superman followed the wrong mountain range away from Intergang, giving Miracle his chance to smash the Machine. They round up the Intergang members without a fight and Miracle says it was strange helping someone else escape a trap for once. He also mentions that he only pretended to lose their fight, which gets Superman’s dander up again. But when Supes is ready to challenge Miracle to a rematch, Miracle says a magician never does his greatest trick twice.

Noticeable Things:

  • Lola Barnett is obviously DC’s version of Rona Barrett. Lola used to work at WGBS, but now she’s with UBC and claims GBS tries to undercut her show whenever they can.
  • Oberon mentions that Miracle is booked at the Flamingo in Vegas for the rest of the year.
  • When Carolyn enters the Intergang hideout, we get an interesting angle of her.Carolyn's ass
  • Of the media outlets reporting on the contest, we see Lola Barnett, Johnny Nevada, Lana, and someone who looks like Howard Cosell. Also various magazines like Paris Match and something called Nueva Times (shouldn’t it be Tiempo?)
  • Superman makes a reference to his fight with Muhammad Ali, thus confirming its canonicity forever … or maybe it was just Englehart plugging another DC book.

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