Comics Reviews: Superman 347, Action 507, DC Comics Presents 21

Superman 347 coverSuperman #347 – “The Sleeper Out of Time” – Gerry Conway/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

This one starts with the set-up for the rest of the story. A funky-looking green alien is in suspended animation on a starship. He’s delivering a peace message (in what looks like a Cosmic Cube) to a rival star system, when his ship is hit by a comet and goes off course … landing on Earth. Meanwhile, Superman is out on a date with Lois, who seems to have set her sights on rekindling their romance. She’s acting kind of goofy, like a teenage girl with a crush instead of her usual self, but Superman notes that she seems to be enjoying the change … and so is he. They notice an ominous glow at STAR Labs nuclear reactor across town (at a nuclear reactor, any glow counts as ominous) and head over to see what’s happening. Jenetgetting rid of radiation Klyburn tells Superman the control rods have just disappeared, which has started a meltdown. Superman tells everyone to get out and wraps his cape around the atomic pile to stop radiation leakage. He sees a ghostly figure (who looks like the alien from the crashed ship) flying away with the missing control rods. Obviously it’s not intangible, since it’s holding the rods, but before Superman can investigate he has a meltdown to deal with. He takes the entire core (still wrapped in his cape) down into the molten core of the Earth where it can’t do any harm as it melts into nothing. He zips out into space and spins at super-speed to rid himself of any radioactive particles that might be on him, then heads back to STAR Labs. He mentions the ghost he saw, but Klyburn knows nothing about it. Lois takes off to file her exclusive story, but Superman changes Superman meets the ghostto Clark Kent and scoops her. At the Galaxy Building, Clark has lunch with some co-workers and is invited to play on the Galaxy amateur football team. He says yes, which is surprising since he’s usually too worried about hurting someone to play sports. Personally, I’m wondering if Lana’s going to play. Clark gets an alarm about another nuclear reactor being attacked and zips off to check it out as Superman. He runs into the ghost stealing control rods again and grabs the rods back, throwing them into the core to prevent a meltdown. The ghost attacks Superman and it seems to have powers like Marvel’s Vision, able to change between being solid and intangible. The ghost gets away, but Superman’s arm has a slight glow to it from when he punched through the ghost. He tracks the ghost to the downed ship, where the alien is still in stasis-sleep. It wakes up when Superman busts in and tries to jump him, but he punches it out. Supes checks the ship’s logs and figures out the alien’s a courier on amission failure peace mission. We then get one of those “As You Know Bob” scenes where Superman explains something to the readers that the alien already knows. The crash caused a leak in the ship’s nuclear reactor (which is why the alien was stealing control rods) and the alien used it’s psychic powers to create a ghostly duplicate from the radioactive mist seeping from the reactor. By tracking the radioactive mist from his encounter with the ghost, Superman found the ship. The alien asks Superman to help him get back on course so he can deliver his message, but Superman takes him outside to show him that the ship was buried pretty deep, which indicates the crash happened centuries ago. Whatever message the alien was supposed to deliver, it’s far too late now.

Noticeable Things:

  • So, the alien has a ship capable of interstellar travel, but has made no provision for stray comets? Seems a bit short-sighted.
  • When Superman is flying Lois to the reactor, the shot reminds me one from the Superman movie with Reeve and Kidder.
  • Jimmy mentions the professional rivalry between Lois and Clark has been heating up lately and Clark wonders if that has something to do with Lois’s renewed interest in banging Superman. I assume that’s laying the groundwork for future stories.
  • We never learn exactly what the alien’s message was, except that it was some kind of peace offering in a conflict. Judging by his reaction, the failure to deliver the message probably had some pretty serious consequences.
  • Garcia-Lopez’s art is great, as usual. I like how he draws the faces to be so expressive.

Action 507 coverAction #507 – “The Miraculous Return of Jonathan Kent” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Lana and Clark finishing up a nightly newscast and Lana inviting Clark out for dinner. She’s acting really weird, telling him a third person will be joining them but refusing to say who it is. Clark is so over Lana’s bullshit, he doesn’t even use his x-ray vision to see who’s waiting in the restaurant. Maybe he should have, because it turns out to be his dead father, Jonathan Kent … or someone who looks and acts just like him. Naturally, Clark figures Lana is playing a (really shitty) joke, but his super-hearing indicates her heartbeat is steady … she really believes this guy is Clark’s father, even though she attended the funeral a few years back. Clark concludes this impostor must’ve hypnotized Lana somehow and starts thinking of ways to expose the charlatan for what he really is. Elsewhere, a rich couple are approached by a filthy hippie (named Starshine), who asks politely for some money. The rich dude tells him to get a job, so the hippie yells really loud, “Give me all your valuables, please!” … and allrobbing the rich their stuff—wallet, jewelry, furs—leap off their bodies and into Starshine’s hands. He thanks them for their generosity and leaves. At the restaurant, Clark mentions an injured rabbit he and Lana brought home as kids, figuring the impostor couldn’t know something that obscure. He does seem confused for a moment, but soon comes up with all the details of the rabbit story. The way he seemed to be concentrating, I’m wondering if he plucked the information from Clark and Lana’s minds? Clark is starting to wonder if this might actually be his dead father, and a quick x-ray vision look at the old guy’s fingerprints reveals they’re authentic. A couple blocks away, Starshine is up to his old tricks, this time at a bank. After asking the guard for change (and being thrown out on his ass), he uses his powerful voice again to ask the bank to hand over all its money. Clark hears the disturbance and checks things out with his x-ray Superman told to leavevision. Before he can come up with an excuse to leave, Jonathan (or whoever he is) pretends to have heartburn and asks Clark to go get him some pills, giving Clark the perfect chance to change to Superman. Now he’s really wondering if this might be his father back from the grave, and thinks of a way to be certain. But first he has to deal with Starshine, who’s standing in a pile of money in front of the bank. Apparently his plea was successful, as the money literally flew right out of the bank and landed at Starshine’s feet. He tells Superman he doesn’t want the bank’s filthy lucre, he was just teaching them a lesson about courtesy, but Superman is ready to haul his patchouli-smelling ass to jail. Starshine tells Superman to “take a slow boat to China” and Supes does just that, flying off to the South China Sea and boarding a junk. Since he can’t seem to go against Starshine’s command, Superman uses his breath to speed the journey to the Chinese mainland and heads back to Metropolis. Starshine is gone, but he did magic the money back into the bank, a stunt witnessed by Lana and a WGBS cameraman. Superman decides to concentrate on his supposed father and heads to Smallville the nextSuperman deals with muggers morning to check Jonathan Kent’s grave. To his surprise, there is no grave for Jonathan Kent, only one for Martha. Supes stops by his childhood home, where Chief Parker is supposed to be staying. Parker isn’t there, but there’s evidence that Jonathan Kent has been there all along, including some letters from Clark sent over the last few years … letters he never wrote. He heads back to Metropolis where he finds his father (yes, Superman is convinced his father is alive somehow) menaced by some punks. Superman takes care of them and greets his dad with enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Starshine has had it up to here with adults and authority figures and issues a general proclamation that everyone over the age of thirty has to leave Metropolis. I guess that means he considers people under thirty not to be adults? Anyway, we’ll see what effect this mass exodus has next issue … and if Jonathan Kent is really who he claims to be. (I doubt it.)

Noticeable Things:

  • There’s a beef bourguignon reference … haven’t had one of those for a while.
  • Every time Starshine makes a “request”, he says “Please” at the end; maybe that’s the secret to his power? I guess it is the magic word.
  • Clark mentions that the old “get me some heartburn pills” routine was established between him and his (real) father a long time ago, so he’d have an excuse to leave and change to Superman; he even has the same old pill bottle. I’m surprised Lana hasn’t seen that routine before.

DC Presents 21 coverDC Comics Presents #21 – “The Alien Epidemic” – Gerry Conway/Joe Staton/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Clark Kent finding a big surprise in the teletype machine at WGBS. Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny emerges from the machine, burning up with fever, dark blotches on his skin, and babbling incoherently … even more incoherently than usual. Clark figures Ralph might have some weird disease, so he takes him to the Fortress of Solitude where he can be isolated. The whole time, Ralph is babbling about his wife, Sue, being in danger from some epidemic that threatens the whole world. At the Fortress, Ralph goes nuts and tries to escape, thinking Superman is trying to kill him. After wrecking the place and almost killing himself in Superman’s lab, Ralph passes out. Supes isolates him and uses Kandorian medicine to cure whatever’s ailing him. The recovery process takes all night, but Ralph finally emerges from isolationRalph's flashback in good health … and promptly keels over from exhaustion. Superman revives him and offers him breakfast, but when Ralph asks about Sue and the others affected by the “plague”, Superman has no clue what he’s talking about. Ralph freaks out, but Superman calms him down and asks for his story, which we get in an extended flashback. Ralph and Sue were traveling around and ended up in a town called Stevenson, Connecticut. Ralph saved some kids from a runaway truck and was lapping up their attention, but noticed that the adults nearby (who all had dark blotches on their faces) were really out of it. That night, he decided to go out and investigate, which pissed Sue off since this was supposed to be a “no mysteries” vacation (or maybe she was mad because he didn’t bang her first). Ralph went out anyway, not noticing that Sue had a dark blotch on her face. Ralph went to the local doctor’s place, but found a bunch of townspeople already transformed into rock-skinned purple aliens (they look like Superman attacked by giant sporessomething the FF would’ve fought in the 60s) talking about their plague virus. The aliens talked about how everyone in town was effected and they were already spreading the plague through the state. Soon, it would spread through the country and then the world. Ralph freaked out and jumped them but got his ass kicked and was injected with the virus. He crawled back to the hotel, but Sue had already changed into a purple She-Thing and tried to kill him. Ralph made it to Metropolis, thinking Superman would be immune to the virus and that’s where we came in. Superman checks his Earth monitors and the plague has already spread halfway around the world. There’s no answer from the JLA Satellite, so someone must’ve taken the plague up there and infected everyone. Superman figures the original alien ship might still be near Stevenson, so he and Ralph head back there. The aliens are hiding behind a force field (seems they were expecting Superman) and shoot some virus spores which expand to giant size and swarm all over the Man of Steel. The spores are laced with kryptonite and Supes goes down under the onslaught. The aliens tell each other their origin story, even though theyRalph pounding aliens should already know it: their own home planet was changed by the virus (which was sent by someone called the Masters) and now they’re passing it on or something. Ralph jumps out of nowhere and starts pounding them, explaining that Superman’s attack was a decoy to get them to shut off the force field so Ralph could get at them. Apparently, there wasn’t enough kryptonite in the spores to actually harm Superman, so he’s fine. He and Ralph check the ship for an antidote, but find nothing. Superman mentions Ralph’s relatively rapid recovery and says he’s checked on Jimmy Olsen with his telescopic vision and Jimmy has recovered too, so Supes figures Gingold (the substance that allows Ralph—and Jimmy when he was Elastic Lad—to stretch) might hold a cure. They head back to the Fortress to synthesize a Gingold extract and broadcast it through the atmosphere; Superman figures everyone on Earth will be fine within a week.

Noticeable Things:

  • Would aliens like Hawkman be susceptible to the plague? Red Tornado certainly wouldn’t, but there’s no mention of him. Supergirl is said to be away on a deep space mission.
  • If some of you remembered Sue Dibny’s allergy to Gingold and are wondering how she’ll be cured, Superman mentions that the specific part of Gingold that holds the cure isn’t the part that causes stretching, or Sue’s allergy … though I have no idea how he could know that off the top of his head.
  • The issue ends on a weird note, with Superman saying he and Ralph will track down the Masters who originated the virus, but I don’t think that story is in the next issue. I’m not sure if it’s ever addressed.

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