Superman 342, Action 502, DC Comics Presents 16

Superman 342 coverSuperman #342 – “Hero Under Glass” – Len Wein/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Superman getting a call from Jenet Klyburn at STAR Labs. It seems STAR were trying to solve the problem of industrial pollution, so they seeded the sky over the industrial area with an experimental chemical that was supposed to eliminate pollutants. Unfortunately, it did just the opposite, combining with the pollution to form a noxious black cloud that’s now raining filth on the town. Klyburn says what happened is impossible according to STAR’s simulations, so Superman goes to check it out. Whatever’s in the black cloud, it’s strong enough to make Superman feel sick, so he figures he’d better dispose of it fast. He whips up a super-speed vortex to draw the cloudSuperman crash lands away, but before he can make it through the atmosphere, he notices a weird shimmering layer of haze. As soon as the black cloud contacts the haze it explodes, sending Superman crashing down through the street in the middle of Metropolis. The bystanders who go to look in the hole are shocked by something, but we don’t see what. A lot of noise emanates from the hole and Superman rises out, encased in a glass booth that he whipped up while underground. Superman thinks to himself that the only thing keeping his “affliction” at bay is the purified air inside the glass booth, and that he doesn’t dare leave the booth as long as the shimmering layer of haze remains in the atmosphere. Outside Metropolis, we see a ball of chemicals coalesce in the air, forming into Chemo, the walking chemical waste dump. Chemo burns half the forest down and lumbers off toward town. Downtown, Dr. Klyburn is part of the throng surrounding car troubleSuperman’s glass booth; she feels responsible for her predicament, but he says it’s the weird layer of haze that’s to blame. She vows to find a way of eliminating the haze so Superman can leave his self-imposed prison. Let’s hope she has better luck getting rid of the haze than she did with the pollution. Lois shows up and commiserates with Superman, wishing she could share his booth. He says it’s too dangerous and the consequences of him leaving the booth are too horrible to think about. Lana tells Superman they’d never work as lovers, but should remain friends. Superman finds Lana’s skewed sense of priorities hilarious, but it does make him feel better. He hears a robbery across town and stops the fleeing thieves with a super-stomp that sends a shockwave to disable their car; I’m not sure why it didn’t destroy half the city in the process, but whatever. Jimmy shows up to tell them Chemo is on the rampage and Superman realizes the weird layer of chemical haze must be connected with Chemo, who exploded in the atmosphere last time they tangled (in DC Presents #4). Superman tries to use his heatChemo helps Superman vision long-distance, but Chemo just shrugs it off, so Supes busts out of his glass booth. As soon as he does, he starts reverting to a primitive state, getting all hairy and brutal. His mind deteriorates too and he becomes more savage. He tries to take Chemo down fast before he turns completely Neanderthal and accidentally discovers that Chemo’s fire blasts clear his head. He figures the right combination of Chemo’s chemicals might cure his atavistic condition, so he lets Chemo blast him repeatedly until he’s back to normal. He then tosses Chemo into a comet orbit, so he won’t return to Earth for years. Supes then gets a giant vacuum from his Fortress, sucks up all the remaining haze, and tosses the whole thing into the sun. He and Lois then head out for dinner, which is definitely not pheasant under glass.

Noticeable Things:

  • I guess Superman could’ve gotten the materials to manufacture the glass booth underground, but where did he get the purified air to fill it with?

Action 502 coverAction #502 – “Fall and Rise of the Star-Child” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with some scuzzy tabloid photographer trying to get a candid shot of Clark Kent. He doesn’t seem to suspect Clark’s dual identity, he just figures anyone as squeaky clean as Clark must be hiding something. Clark changes to Superman in an alley and uses his heat vision to drop a brick on the guy’s camera as a distraction so he can take off. Superman heads out to the middle of nowhere, following a strange signal that seems to be compelling him. He arrives at the site of a crashed space capsule, finding his cousin Supergirl already there; apparently, she received the same irresistible signal. The capsule opens and a crystalline box levitates out along with a couple of electronic devices. The devices transmit to Superman and Supergirl, telling them the capsule is from a planet called Dyrlia they’ve been chosen for a monumental task that could save the entire Dyrlian race. The devices instantly teach Superman andnewborn alien Rovos Supergirl the Dyrlian language and once they realize what’s expected of them, they rush to the Fortress of Solitude with the crystal. At the Fortress, the crystal “hatches” a baby Dyrlian, whose development is so accelerated he can already talk. His name is Rovos, and Superman and Supergirl are expected to raise him; not as time-consuming as it sounds, since Rovos’s physical and mental growth jumps forward every couple of hours. They feed him a shitload of information from their computers and he absorbs it all like Johnny Five … or maybe more like Commander Spock, since he seems to be lacking any kind of emotional spectrum. Superman and his cousin still aren’t sure why Rovos is considered the last hope of his race, nor why they were chosen to educate him. Rovos wonders that himself, but his musings are interrupted when Superman’s crisis alarm goes off. Something is happening at a radio telescope site out West and Superman ruses to the scene as Supergirl and Rovos watch on the monitor. Superman wastedThey see something coalescing at the telescope, a huge humanoid shape made of cosmic material … the Galactic Golem. Superman tackles the Golem and seems to be doing okay, which makes Supergirl proud. But then the Golem starts glowing with weird energy and ends up pulverizing the Man of Steel … literally. All that’s left of Superman is his costume, smoking from the impact. Supergirl is devastated, and she’s even more worked up moments later when she sees Parasite step from inside the Golem’s body and absorb the galactic monster. Supergirl figures Parasite must’ve lured the Golem to Earth with the radio telescope and merged with it to fight Superman, using the Golem’s power to convert Superman’s body to super-energy, which Parasite then absorbed. Supergirl is pissed off and ready to go after Parasite, but she won’t have to go far as Parasite heads straight for the Fortress. Rovos tries to talk Supergirl out of fighting the Parasite, but she’s determined to avenge her cousin and goes after him as soon as he shows up. It’s a short fight though, as Parasite reveals himself to be Superman in disguise. Turns out theRovos freaks out whole thing was bullshit; Galactic Golem was a hologram and Superman pretended to be Parasite “absorbing” himself at super-speed. Rovos freaks out and gives Superman shit for screwing with Supergirl’s emotions. (Let’s hope he never finds the Super Dickery website.) Supergirl realizes that was her cousin’s plan all along … to make Rovos feel actual emotions. Apparently, when the Dyrlian devices were educating Superman and Supergirl, he got a little extra; he was told the Dyrlians used to have living bodies but were wiped out in a plague and constructed robotic bodies for themselves. They needed someone to kickstart emotions in one of their offspring and chose Superman and Supergirl (though I’m not sure why she was the one who had to be put through the emotional wringer … maybe the Dyrlians are sexist and figure women are more “emotional”.) Rovos is ready to head home with his newfound emotions, which he’ll pass on to the rest of his people. He’s also acquired a sense of humour, but considering Superman’s usual take on humour, that may not be a blessing for the Dyrlians.

Noticeable Things:

  • The real Galactic Golem was originally created by Lex Luthor back in Superman #248 to fight Superman.

DC Presents 16 coverDC Comics Presents #16 – “The De-Volver” – Denny O’Neil/Joe Staton/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Black Lightning confronting a gang that’s ripping off people on the elevated train. He pounds the gang members, but a stray shot kills an innocent bystander and another shot takes out the train’s controls. Superman saves the train from crashing, but the girl is dead and her boyfriend is pretty pissed off at Black Lightning. Lightning recognizes the guy as Hugh Bryant, one of his best students (Lightning is high school principal Jefferson Pierce in his civilian identity). Pierce goes to Hugh’s place to see how he’s doing, but he’s attacked by a freaky Neanderthal who seems to know his secret identity. He switches back to Black Lightning and fights the Neanderthal, who disappears after Lightning knocks him through the window. We see the Neanderthal hiding and changing into something else. Lightning checks out Hugh’s place and realizes the Neanderthal actually was Hugh, somehow devolved. He decides heLightning vs Neanderthal needs help and heads to the Daily Planet to see if anyone there can help him contact Superman. Clark Kent is there and quickly changes to Superman, pretending to have been passing by. Before Lightning can explain what he wants, a report comes in about a prehistoric monster rampaging in Suicide Slum. Superman and Lightning head over there and find a pterosaur causing havoc. Superman fights it and the giant reptile sinks into the ground and disappears. A kid says he saw the pterosaur come from Hugh Bryant’s building, so Superman and Lightning check it ut. They find ancient artifacts and a weird device that obviously didn’t originate on Earth. Superman figures “Hugh” must be an alien who’s been on Earth since prehistoric times and is now devolving into its past selves. First it was a Neanderthal, then a pterosaur, and now … well, he seems to have changed into a gigantic, human-shaped mass of energy. He pops magnetic creatureup from underground and Superman tackles him, but the Man of Steel can’t connect with a punch since the being seems to be made of energy. It grabs Superman and Black Lightning and telepathically tells them it was exiled from its homeworld eons ago and evolved on Earth. Its existence was unbearably lonely, until it met Trina, the dead girl. It blames Lightning for her death, so now it’s going to kill him in revenge. Lightning notices metal objects are affected by the creature and figures it may be a living magnetic field. Since electricity and magnetism are related, he uses his electrical powers to disrupt the field, causing the creature to disintegrate and drop them. It reassembles itself as Hugh and says it would like to go home but can’t get past Earth’s gravity. Superman takes it out into space and releases it, where it heads for home.

Noticeable Things:

  • So, if “Hugh” could take human form anytime it wanted, why was it devolving in the first place? Was it just trying to find a form that it could use to get revenge on Black Lightning? It almost seemed like the transformations were involuntary, but apparently that wasn’t the case.
  • I’m not sure why the creature suddenly stopped hating Black Lightning for killing Trina. Maybe it was scared of his lightning powers and figured it’d better leave him alone.
  • Up close, Hugh reminds me of Danny Chase, of New Ten Titans fame; if Danny was an alien, that would explain a lot.

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