Comics Reviews: Superman 345, Action 505, DC Comics Presents 19

Superman 345 coverSuperman #345 – “When Time Ran Backward” – Gerry Conway/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Superman stopping an experimental satellite from crashing into metropolis. The satellite is called NEWS-1, which you’d think would indicate a news satellite, but it actually stands for National Environmental Weather Satellite; it’s not a weather monitoring satellite, it’s meant to be for weather control … built by STAR Labs, of course. But something went wrong, prompting Superman’s intervention. He brings the remains of the satellite to STAR, but suddenly time starts running in reverse and Superman finds himself running backward through all his recent actions: saving the satellite, leaving WGBS after causing a disturbance during the nightly news,Superman alone and spotting the satellite’s peril in the first place (caused by a rogue meteor hitting it). Time continues to move backward, but Clark finally realizes something is wrong and uses his super will power to snap himself out of it. Around him, everyone and everything keeps moving back in time, reversing everything that they’d previously done. That leads to everyone fading away into the past and Metropolis itself disappearing as Clark stands there. He switches to Superman and figures out that someone is draining all the chronal energy from Earth, like draining water from a pool … essentially, someone is stealing Earth’s history, which is why everyone receded into the past; they were on the “wavefront” of the chronal energy. Superman heads into the past himself and catches up to the (still receding) chronal wavefront some time in the 1960s. He finds an alien spaceship sucking up all the chronal energy and busts in to confront those responsible. It turns out to be a weird-looking alien and his majordomo Superman flattened(named Koman-Ta). The alien says they’re time explorers who crashed into an alien creature while charting this dimension. The crash knocked out their store of chronal energy (without which they’ll be stranded here and die), so they started siphoning Earth’s energy and storing it in an accumulator on the ship. Superman says he’ll try to help repair the damage, but soon realizes the alien is full of shit. The damage was caused by a blaster of some sort, and the ship is armed with weapons. Superman decides the alien is probably lying about everything, so he breaks the devices that suck up the chronal energy. That halts the backward time-flow on Earth, but paralyzes time somewhere in the 1940s. Superman figures the aliens have Earth’s chronal energy in the accumulator they mentioned and he’ll have to find it to get Earth’s time flowing properly again. Before Superman has a chance to search the ship, Koman-Ta blasts him and he crashes to Earth. When he wakes up, he’s two-dimensional, like a cardboard cutout. Supes realizes Koman-Ta must’ve shot him with chronal energy (andSuperman smashes Koman-Ta has a convoluted explanation for why it turned him two-dimensional) so Koman-Ta must be the “accumulator” that’s storing the energy. Superman chases the fleeing alien through time and smashes Koman-Ta, which turns out to be a robot. The alien admits his race is in a war with another time-faring species and the accident he had was when he was on his way home to warn his people of an imminent attack. Superman says they might be able to help each other. The alien returns the stolen chronal energy, which sets Earth’s timeline back the way it was, and Superman throws the alien’s ship sideways through time so he can warn his people about the attack. The story ends where it started, with Superman delivering the crippled satellite to STAR Labs … hopefully for good this time.

Noticeable Things:

  • Clark got out of his newscast by using his heat vision to explode some lights on set; I swear, the people who work there must think that place is haunted.
  • Superman speculates that he was able to break free of the reverse time-flow because his numerous trips through time have rendered him immune to chronal energy.
  • Superman says he knew Toman-Ka was a robot because no living being could carry that much chronal energy; also, he totally looks like a robot.
  • I’m not sure it the satellite being knocked out of orbit had anything to do with the alien time-traveler, or if it was just some kind of MacGuffin.

Action 505 coverAction #505 – “The Creature That Charmed Children” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with an alien crashing to Earth near a town outside Metropolis. The children in a school near the crash-site suddenly turn into zombies and walk out of class, leaving their teacher to scream at them helplessly. She wants to call in the Army, but the local cops try to corral the kids themselves, to no avail. Morgan Edge is in a limo on the highway where all this is happening and gets pissed off at the delay. He calls the WGBS newsroom and Lana and Jimmy head out to see what’s up, leaving Clark to change to Superman and beat them there. When Superman arrives, he finds the kids clustered around a small impact crater, finally coming out of their trances. They tell Superman they don’t really remember leaving school, just that they felt a wave of happiness wash over them and knew they had to follow the feeling, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Supes flies after the retreating alien, but it causes a landslide above a town that Superman has to stop and deal with, enabling the alien to get away. Lana’s laterSuperman stops rockslide interviews with the kids yield pretty much the same answers; they were all very happy and they’d do anything or go anywhere to feel that happiness again. As Lana wonders if the weird phenomenon will strike again, we see the alien (which looks like a balled-up sasquatch) hurtling toward Metropolis. Lana invites Clark over for dinner and he accepts to avoid hurting her feelings, though he’d rather be out looking for the mesmer alien. He gets a telepathic message from someone, saying it can lead him to the mesmerizer and that any delay could cost millions of lives. Clark uses super-ventriloquism to make Lana think one of her informants is calling with a hot tip. Naturally, she takes off immediately, leaving Clark to change to Superman and follow the telepathic call. He arrives in a playground, where the alien attacks him. He tries to restrain it, but it turns out to be just as strong as he is. The alien uses its mesmer ability to call kids from all over, who tell Superman the alien’s name is Jorlan and that Jorlan breaks loosehe’s their friend, so Superman should leave him alone. Jorlan flies off then comes back; Superman thinks he’s attacking the kids, but Jorlan is actually saving them from a tiger that escaped from a nearby zoo. Jorlan takes off again and Superman chases him but can’t catch up. The telepathic voice tells Superman to go to his Fortress of Solitude to hear the rest of the story. No, it’s not Paul Harvey; it turns out the telepathic voice is coming from a guy named Orn-Zu, a prisoner in the Phantom Zone. Orn-Zu was sentenced to the Zone for creating Jorlan, which explains why its powers match Superman’s … Jorlan is just as much a Kryptonian as he is. Orn-Zu says the mission for which he originally created Jorlan is something that could threaten all the children on Earth with a horrible death. What was that mission? We’ll find out next issue.

DC Presents 19 coverDC Comics Presents #19 – “Who Haunts This House?” – Denny O’Neil/Joe Staton/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with a grizzled old prospector (who looks like Gabby Hayes) in the middle of the Western Desert. A huge Victorian mansion suddenly appears in front of him and he figures he can probably find a way to make money on his unexpected encounter. Six months later, the prospector (whose name is Gurk) has sold off a bunch of gold and jewels he found inside the house and is now throwing a huge party at the mansion, using the money he made to fly in celebrities and media from all over. I guess he likes publicity more than money, which is strange for a prospector. Clark Kent is there to cover the story, and so is Barbara Gordon, as a guest. The excitement starts early, when the helicopter bringing more guests almost crashes into the mansion. Clark quickly changes to Superman and saves the chopper. The pilot says he was fine until he looked at the mansion upon approach and suddenly was filled with murderous rage; he wanted todude in parlor with candlestick kill all his passengers, even if it meant dying himself. Gurk is worried, but tries to cover it and invites everyone in. Barbara is feeling a bit on edge herself and wonders if something in the house is causing it. There is a strange metal obelisk in the living room, which Gurk says was there when he found the place. He’s never been able to open it and when Clark tries to use his x-ray vision, he can’t see through it. Whatever malevolent influence the house possesses continues, as one of the passengers gets pissed off at the pilot who almost killed them and whacks him with a candlestick, putting him in critical condition. Superman re-appears and flies the pilot to the nearest hospital. At the mansion, things get weird over dinner as the wine turns out to be blood. One of the guests tries to strangle Gurk, which seems to excite the others until Barbara snaps the guy out of it. Barbara heads to her room, speculating about the Batgirl vs moboverpowering feeling of evil she has in the house. She hears screams from downstairs and changes to Batgirl. She heads down and finds an orgy of violence in progress (which isn’t nearly so much fun as a regular orgy), with most of the guests beating the hell out of each other and trying to rip Gurk apart. She jumps in to help him and barely gets him away from the frothing mob. They retreat upstairs and barricade themselves in a room. Batgirl wonders why she and Gurk haven’t succumbed to the house’s evil influence. Gurk figures it’s because they’re both a bit strange: him a desert rat who’s spent most of his life alone, and Batgirl, who risks her life for strangers every day for little or no reward. Batgirl thinks he might be right, but she’s feeling the house’s influence too, since she has to hold back from throttling Gurk. Superman returns from the hospital but can’t find the mansion. He scans with his super-vision and finds the house with infra-red. When he moves toward it, he’s confronted by a weirdo with a hawk’s head, who calls himself Dr. Horus. Apparently, Horus was a scientist a century ago who accidentally gave himself a bird’s head; that freaked out his neighbours, so he pulled his entire house (and himself) inside his own mind. Six monthsSuperman saves Batgirl and Gurk ago, he decided to see what was happening on the Material Plane and wasn’t too impressed. But when he tried to withdraw into his own mind again, he couldn’t close the gap properly, which left the house behind. Superman figures out where the real Horus is hiding and fights his way through Horus’s meagre defenses to the mansion. He’s just in time to keep Batgirl and Gurk from being torn apart by the mob. Superman explains about Horus and that it’s his insanity that’s been bleeding into everyone, making them homicidal. Superman leads them to the obelisk in the living room and tears it open to reveal Dr. Horus hiding inside. Since Horus admitted being in the house, Superman knew he must be in the one place his x-ray vision couldn’t penetrate. He forces Horus to bring the house back to Earth’s dimension, but Horus stays behind in the nether-realm he created. That ends the evil influence in the house, leaving Gurk in possession of a mansion in the middle of the desert. I have no idea how he’ll get any kind of utilities out there, though I guess it’d be a natural for solar panels.

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