Comics Reviews: Superman 343, Action 503, DC Comics Presents 17

Superman 343 coverSuperman #343 – “The Last Days of Metropolis” – Denny O’Neil/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one’s kinda goofy, but it seems familiar to me. I may have had it as a kid, or maybe it just reminds me of the typical Silver Age weirdness. This one starts in Ancient Rome, specifically in Pompeii, where a sorcerer named Moximus has conjured a vision in his brazier of Superman in the future. Moximus says Superman heralds destruction, then warns his fellow citizens about a more immediate threat … Mount Vesuvius, which is about to spew lava all over their town. But nobody listens to him, so Moximus tries to use his magic to stop Vesuvius from erupting. Unfortunately, Moximus keeps all his scrolls rolled together and ends upSuperman saves ship reading the wrong one. His incantation causes Vesuvius to blow right away, destroying Pompeii. Moximus manages to cast a suspended animation spell as he’s buried under tons of ash and lava. Centuries later, Pompeii is excavated and Moximus is taken to Metropolis, where he revives in front of Lois Lane, who’s covering the story of the archaeological relics. Moximus’s sudden awakening makes his powers go wild, turning the harbour to acid and fire. Superman shows up and saves the ship, but Moximus calls him the “evil one” and uses a darkness spell to escape. Superman realizes Moximus must be a powerful magician, as his mere presence made Superman weak. (Supes is vulnerable to magic, remember.) Moximus rigs up a new brazier to catch up on the centuries he’s missed and scry into the future again. He sees Superman attacking a rocket and hurling a fiery wad of destruction at something. The mixed-up wizard vows to stop Superman from destroying Metropolis. At WGBS, Jimmy tries to do some stupid Superman trappedmagic card rick—and screws it up, naturally—and a bulletin comes in about an experimental rocket going off course. Clark changes to Superman to check it out. The rocket is a new design that uses nuclear waste as fuel, so if it crashed or blew up, it wouldn’t be good. Maybe they should’ve thought of that before they sent a radioactive rocket up, but whatever. Supes finds Moximus is inside the rocket and confronts him. Moxie melts part of the rocket over Superman, trapping him much as Moximus was trapped for all those years. Moximus takes off, leaving Superman to his fate; since the metal covering Superman was melted by magic, he can’t just bust loose. Even worse, Moximus’s bullshit altered the rocket’s course, so it’s heading straight for the middle of the Gobi Desert! Oh, no, it’s heading straight for Metropolis … I almost forgot whose comic this is. Moximus goes to WGBS to brag about taking care of the “evil” Superman and doesn’t relent even when Perry tells him the rocket will total Metropolis incatching radioactivity four minutes. Isn’t that what Moximus was trying to avoid? Anyway, the rocket heats up as it enters the atmosphere and blows up, freeing Superman. He somehow manages to corral all the radioactivity and other detritus into a big fireball, which he tosses into space. Obviously, that’s the vision Moximus saw in his brazier. When Superman confronts the wizard, Moxie says his visions were “incomplete” and he’s going to withdraw from humanity to perfect them. He disappears without really apologizing for all the shit he caused, but he does promise never to bother Superman again. In the last panel, we see Moximus conjuring an image of Batman, so maybe the Caped Crusader is his next target.

Noticeable Things:

  • There’s kind of a parallel with Moximus warning the disbelieving Pompeiians about the volcano and Jor-El warning his fellow Kryptonians about their impending doom.
  • The archaeologist who excavates Moximus and brings him to Metropolis  is Lewis Lang, Lana’s father. I don’t know why Lana didn’t cover the story instead of Lois.
  • That last panel made it seem like Moximus was gearing up to face Batman, but I have no idea if he ever appeared again. The overall tone of this story, and the fact that Denny O’Neil is the writer, makes me think it might be inventory.

Action 503 coverAction #503 – “A Save in Time” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Superman in space, encountering what he calls a “pseudo-comet”; it looks like a comet, but its composition is so foreign even Superman can’t guess what it’s made of. He flies through it to check it out and the comet’s energy actually hurts him. His fly-through accidentally alters the pseudo-comet so it’s heading for Metropolis, but before he can correct his mistake, a giant invisible vacuum cleaner shows up and blasts the comet out of existence. No really, that’s what it looks like … a big vacuum cleaner. Superman catches a quick glimpse of the space vac as it manifests, but has to leave it to save a guy from getting run over. A jaywalker steps in front of a bunch of crooks in a getaway car and Superman interposes himself to save the hapless pedestrian. He also gives the guy a lecture on jaywalking before he hauls the thieves to the police station. The next day, Lana Lang is interviewingLana and Kolzer a supposed psychic named Kolzer. He tries to impress her by predicting that Jimmy Olsen in down in the building’s lobby, but Lana figures out he has a CCTV set-up outside, linked to a monitor on his wrist. Kolzer admits he’s something of a charlatan, then asks Lana out. She pretty much tells him to fuck off, but after she leaves Kolzer still thinks he has a shot. We see him popping some kind of pills after he has chest pains, which he had during the interview too, but managed to hide. Meanwhile, Superman is shanghaied to a volcano to meet the space vacuum, which calls itself Null-O; sounds like either an existentialist breakfast cereal or a Banjo Kazooie character … come to think of it, Null-O does look a bit like Weldar. Null-O explains he’s from the far future where humans have evolved into pure intellect … or something. The future humans generate a lot of waste material from their super-brains, so they send it through the timestream to a place where it’ll be harmless. A time eddy Null-O explainscaused some of the waste (the pseudo-comet) to manifest on Earth, so Null-O showed up to obliterate it. But he says Superman’s intervention in the matter was a disaster. Much like Edith Keeler, the pedestrian was supposed to get run over and the robbers were meant to be nabbed by the cops. Superman’s interference has fucked up the entire time stream and if Superman doesn’t set things back on course within 48 hours, time itself will cease to exist. Supes searches the city for the guy he rescued, but can’t find him anywhere. At WGBS, Lana is talking to another reporter named Josh; apparently, Kolzer called Lana and tried again to convince her his psychic powers are genuine. Kolzer told her a rainbow would appear in Metro Park at exactly 6:45 P.M. Josh checks the weather reports and figures Kolzer is full of shit, so he suggests Lana cover a theft at STAR Labs instead. When Lana sees what was stolen, she’s very intrigued and decides to go to Metro Park after all. That evening,Lana in the rainbow Lana is in the Park and the rainbow appears precisely at 6:45, just as Kolzer said. Everyone is amazed and Lana tries to step into the rainbow, which grabs her and starts lifting her into the air. We see the pedestrian that Superman saved hiding in the bushes watching Lana. When he sees her being carried off into the rainbow he tries to pull her down, but ends up being dragged into the air with her. Clark takes a break from the newsroom so Superman can show up and grab Lana and the mystery dude right before a helicopter runs into them. The mystery guy turns out to be Kolzer wearing a mask (which explains why Superman couldn’t find him), but the excitement was too much for him and he had a heart attack … he’s dead. Lana knew Kolzer’s game when she read that an experimental anti-gravity ray (that shoots out a rainbow-coloured beam) was stolen from STAR Labs; she figured Kolzer did it to impress her and Superman Superman saves Lanarealizes Kolzer must’ve been coming from STAR with the stolen device when Superman saved his ass from getting run over. Lana actually seems to feel bad about Kolzer’s death, until Superman assures her it wasn’t her fault. Null-O shows up and tells Superman he big catastrophe that he prevented was Lana’s death; Null-O hints at some grand destiny for Lana in the future, but I don’t think that was ever followed up on. So everything is wrapped up neatly; Kolzer died like he was supposed to, without Superman having to kill him. It’s probably good that Lana didn’t go out with Kolzer; if getting pulled into a rainbow gave him a heart attack, he never could’ve handled dating Lana—or banging her.

DC Presents 17 coverDC Comics Presents 17 – “The Ice Slaves of Killer Frost” – Gerry Conway/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Steve Mitchell

This one starts with Superman at STAR Labs in New York City. STAR wants Superman to use his heat vision to thaw Killer Frost so they can do a scientific autopsy on her. Before they start, Professor Martin Stein busts in, telling them they shouldn’t thaw Killer Frost because she’s too dangerous. The guards drag Stein out and one of the scientists says Stein has really gone downhill lately, boozing it up and disappearing for big chunks of time. Of course, we know that’s because Stein is one half of Firestorm, but to anyone else it looks like Stein’s losing his shit. Superman thaws Killer Frost and Stein’s prediction is accurate; she’s not dead and she’s still pissed off. She freezes the scientists and uses her powers—by way of an icy kiss—to numb Superman’s mind so he becomes her thrall. I think that’s a new power for her; before, her kiss could kill but not enslave. She decides to build a big cold machine to blanket the whole city and enslave allSuperman enslaved the men to her will … strangely, there’s no mention of the women. She and Superman bust out of the building and attack the guards below who are trying to haul Stein away. Luckily for Stein, Killer Frost doesn’t notice him (since it was his rejection of her advances that led to her murderous misandry in the first place) and he manages to escape. He’s so freaked out that he triggers a Firestorm merging, which is usually something only Ronnie can do. That’s Ronnie Raymond, high school kid, and Firestorm’s other half. Ronnie is normally “in charge” because Stein was unconscious the first time they merged and Firestorm appeared. But this time, Stein triggers the change, ruining Ronnie’s big moment in a basketball game. Ronnie doesn’t want to change to Firestorm, but has no choice and the superhero appears in New York, wondering what the hell’s going on. He soon figures out that Killer Frost is back (the Superman vs Firestormfrozen bodies probably gave him a hint) and Stein’s consciousness tells him he heard she was going to build a freeze ray. Firestorm heads for the highest spot in the city (at the time), the World Trade Center. He transmutes Frost’s freeze machine to render it harmless and she freaks out, sending Superman to kill Firestorm. Firestorm is obviously outclassed by Supes, but does his best. Killer Frost heads back to STAR to get more material for her freeze ray. Ronnie is sure Superman will pulverize him, but Stein tells him to trust his instincts. Firestorm leads Superman into the molten core of the Earth, where the immense heat finally thaws Superman’s brain, breaking Killer Frost’s hold on him just as he’s about to smash Firestorm. Supes thanks the young hero and they head back to face Killer Frost. She’s already enthralled the scientists at STAR and has them constructing another freeze machine. Superman comes in and she tries to control him again (without the smooch this time), but it doesn’t work, so she triesKiller Frost frozen to blast him, which also fails. “Superman” turns out to be a hologram constructed by Firestorm so he and the real Man of Steel had time to wreck Killer Frost’s machine. They combine their powers to turn the lab into a huge refrigerator and chill Killer Frost back down to absolute zero, rendering her inert again. Later, Superman asks Firestorm where he’s been for the last year and Firestorm says he quit being a superhero because he wasn’t sure he could cut it. Superman says Firestorm definitely has a hero’s instincts and suggests he might need guidance from a group of like-minded people. Supes then mentions Firestorm joining the Justice League; that story will be told (and reviewed right here) in JLA #179.

Noticeable Things:

  • The story of Killer Frost’s origin and freezing was told in Firestorm #3.
  • I never cared for Killer Frost’s whole “I’m crazy because a man rejected me” shtick and it’s played up even more here. Now she hates all men, apparently.
  • Ronnie mentions that he hasn’t become Firestorm for about a year and doesn’t want to be a superhero anymore, but after Superman’s pep talk it seems like Ronnie still wants to be a hero, he’s just scared he’s not good enough at it. But we’ll be seeing Firestorm again soon, in Flash back-ups as well as the JLA.

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