Comics Reviews: Superman 348, Action 508, DC Comics Presents 22

Superman 348 coverSuperman #348 – “The Master of Wind and Storm” – Gerry Conway/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts in the Arizona desert, where a couple of developers are preparing to build a retirement community. They’ve hired a Native American “rainmaker” to bring water to the desert (and as a publicity gimmick), but they’re shocked when his ritual summons a weird-looking cloud creature and the skies open up and pour rain down on the parched land. A couple weeks later in Metropolis, Superman saves an oil refinery from blowing up (and manages to do so without wasting any of the oil). He can’t hang around for accolades, since Clark Kent is supposed to be reporting live nearby. Because of the dramatic fire, nobody noticed Clark’s absence from the reportSuperman saves plane and he gets back in time to wrap things up. It seems like Morgan Edge might be suspicious—and Clark gets a bit paranoid about his secret identity—but it turns out Edge just wants to praise him for his coverage of the refinery fire and offer him a new assignment. Edge tells Clark about the retirement community in Arizona and the weird shit going on there, then hustles him onto a plane heading west. Clark isn’t alone … Lana Lang and Oscar Asherman (WGBS science reporter) are on the flight as well, and Lana’s not happy about sharing the assignment. As they approach Phoenix, a wild storm springs up from nowhere, buffeting the plane so hard it almost seems like the storm is sentient … and pissed off. Clark uses the confusion to switch to Superman and head outside, giving the plane a helping hand to make a soft landing. Superman notices the “storm” is extremely localized, surrounded on all sides by clear saving Phoenixskies. He’s hit by lightning strikes and attacked by a cloud monster (or Storm-Colossus as he calls it) and realizes the storm is acting with purpose. He’s ready to challenge the Storm-Colossus, but has to hold off since the rain from the storm is flooding Phoenix, threatening to wash the whole city away. Superman creates some holes around the city for the water to drain into and by the time he’s finished, the storm has vanished. Lana is freaking out because she found the plane door partly open and assumed Clark was pulled out. Clark shows up and says Superman saved him; I’m surprised Lana wasn’t suspicious about that. Oscar tells Clark the storm they just experienced is scientifically impossible, since there’s not enough moisture in the air to cause a storm like that. They head out to the desert to check out the “rainmaker” and find the developers looking a tad bedraggled. It seems the rainmaker’s powers worked too well; it’s been raining steadily for two weeks and the land where these guys wanted to build their retirement community is now a swamp. As another deluge starts, ClarkSuperman fights storm colossus notices the rainmaker has something in his hand and asks to examine it. He immediately knows it’s some kind of alien artifact and asks to borrow it. The rainmaker can sense Clark’s inner heroism (because he’s a stereotypical Native American who can read peoples’ auras or whatever) and gives him the medallion. Superman figures the Storm-Colossus is some kind of alien from another dimension. When Supes approaches with the medallion, the Storm-Colossus comes after him, trying to retrieve its lost medallion. Superman tosses the medallion across the dimensional barrier and seals it when the Storm-Colossus follows. Superman zips to his Fortress to make a fake medallion for the rainmaker, since he promised to return the medallion he “borrowed”. Later, Clark tells Lana the rainmaker is powerless now, so their chance at a story is over.

Noticeable Things:

  • Superman mentions Red Adair, the real-life firefighter who used dynamite to put out oil well fires. Superman’s technique is similar, but he uses a super-concussive hand clap instead.
  • I used to think Oscar Asherman looked like Rudy from Six Million Dollar Man, but here he looks more like Tony Stark.
  • When the weird storm first hits the plane, Superman wonders if Flash’s old enemy Weather Wizard might be responsible.
  • Superman says the water that drains under Phoenix will condense into steam from the geothermal heat, rise back into the atmosphere and become clouds, and thus restore the ecological balance. I guess that’s possible, but it sounds like comic book science to me.
  • Superman says he’ll have his work cut out for him restoring the ecological balance in Arizona, but there’s no indication of how he’ll accomplish that.

Action 508 coverAction #508 – “The Secret World of Jonathan Kent” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

Last issue, Clark Kent’s dead father Jonathan Kent miraculously showed up in Metropolis. Naturally, Clark assumed he was a fake, but after checking every possibility, he concluded that Jonathan was the genuine article; somehow he had never died, and had been living in Smallville all along. This issue starts with Superman and Jonathan visiting Martha Kent’s grave (who is still dead, apparently). On the way home, Jonathan gets nosy about Clark’s love life, wondering why he hasn’t gotten together with Lana yet. Superman says he and Lana are friends, but there’s no chance of anything more since they’ve both changed so much over the years. At Clark’s apartment, a couple of neighbours (the Marigold twins) drop by and are shocked that someone of Jonathan’s advanced years is still in Metropolis. Yeah, that’s the other plotline from last issue: a hippie weirdo named Starshine has the power to compeltwins people to do whatever he asks (as long as he says please) and he decided to order everyone over the age of thirty to leave Metropolis. Hence the twins’ surprise that Jonathan is there. Superman goes to check out the over-30 exodus, leaving Jonathan to speculate that he might know what’s causing it … but he’s bound by a promise not to say anything. Superman finds all the over-30s wandering around just outside the city limits and promises to figure out what’s going on. He soon learns the truth, as Starshine uses his power to compel Superman to appear in front of him (and bow down to him). Meanwhile at Clark’s place, Jonathan gets a visit from some funky-looking aliens and we learn what the hell’s going on. Years ago, Jonathan helped the aliens on one of Superboy’s adventures, so they promised to grant him his fondest wish someday, a subconscious wish that even he isn’t really aware of. Their technology is so advanced alien flashbackit’s basically like magic (Clarke’s Law, I guess) and they recently materialized Jonathan in Metropolis to fulfill their promise. But the technology they used spilled over onto Starshine (who was lamenting that using the magic word “please” wasn’t doing him any good) and granted his fondest wish too. The aliens say their power is irreversible and Jonathan can’t do anything to cancel Starshine’s wish without losing his own, so he’ll just have to wait until his own wish plays out. They do allow Jonathan to see (and mind-read) his son and he’s startled to see Superman all beat to shit. Jonathan realizes Superman must’ve gone to Lois for help, so he heads over there to see him. Supes says Starshine offered to let him join his hippie brigade, but forced him to pummel himself as a demonstration of Starshine’s power. Jonathan’s conversation with Superman soon reveals his secret identity to Lois, which pissesLois learns the truth Superman off. Jonathan doesn’t apologize, saying that Lois and Clark are made for each other and now that the big secret is out of the way, maybe their relationship can move forward. Supes leaves to deal with Starshine, still mad at Jonathan for revealing the truth. Lois hedges a bit, hinting that she maybe knew the truth all along and was just pretending not to. Supes pretends to want to join Starshine and gives him a gift, which turns out to be a super-muzzle that attaches to Starshine’s face and prevents him from using his power. He uses his powers to slap Starshine around a bit, then hypnotizes him into reversing the over-30 ban and then forgetting about his “please power”. Superman goes looking for Jonathan but can’t find him anywhere. When he goes to WGBS for the nightly newscast, Lana gives him a note from Jonathan begging his forgiveness for revealing his secret. Starshine doneThe note says it won’t matter soon anyway and that Jonathan will be back in Smallville soon and Clark should come see him. Lana then opens the newscast and Clark notices she seems to be a day behind and doesn’t mention Starshine at all. The note from his father disappears and Clark’s brain gets foggy, as he forgets everything that happened over the last day or so. Yeah, it’s one of those stories; Jonathan’s wish was to see Clark as a grown-up superhero and the aliens fulfilled that wish, but have to set time back a day to keep the space-time continuum from imploding or something. So the stuff from the last two issues is wiped out with no trace, except that Clark has a sudden urge to go visit his parents’ graves in Smallville.

Noticeable Things:

  • I guess the Marigold twins are established characters, though I don’t remember seeing them before. They look like those creepy girls from the Shining all grown up.
  • Superman/Clark, Lois, and Lana are all under thirty, apparently. Steve Lombard is with the over-30 crowd outside the city, so I guess he’s older than the rest.
  • We see Starshine outside WGBS asking Clark for money, but we don’t see if Clark actually gives him any.
  • I hate stories where everything is wiped out at the end; if the whole thing never really happened, what the hell was the point of reading the story? (Yeah, I know none of these stories really happened, but you know what I mean.)

DC Presents 22 coverDC Comics Presents #22 – “Plight of the Human Comet” – Mike W. Barr/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with some freaked-out dude showing up at WGBS looking for Clark Kent. Lois directs him to the waterfront where Clark is covering a story about oil spilling from a tanker. When the dude arrives he sees Superman (who he seems to know is Clark Kent) dealing with the oil slick. The guy suddenly bursts into flames and starts shooting around like a human comet. Superman catches him in his cape before he ignites the oil slick and the human comet simile turns out to be quite apt … it’s Captain Comet and he’s in trouble. He’s been having these “comet attacks” for a while now and he figures one more will probably kill him. Captain Comet has the powers (mental and physical) of a human who’s evolved another 100, 000 years. He got them from a comet that passed Earth when he was born, but lately his powers have been waning and these “comet attacks” have been flaring up, so he figures he needs to find theSuperman saves Chicago comet that originally gave him his powers so he can get another dose. Superman takes him to the Fortress of Solitude where he zips through his vast library at super-speed. Supes figures out the comet warps through space and will appear (rather conveniently) above Chicago that very night. In Chicago, a weirdo named Starstriker (who looks like a 70s porn star) is waiting for the comet too. Apparently, he was born the same time as Captain Comet but didn’t get any fancy powers, so he figures he can get some now when the comet returns. Superman and Captain Comet show up and Starstriker decides to eliminate the competition. He shoots some rockets from his anti-gravity sled, which Superman intercepts, then distracts the Man of Steel by firing more rockets at the city. Starstriker uses some kind of mental power to trigger another “comet attack” and Captain Comet shoots off into space, leaving Starstriker to wait for the comet. Superman snags the fiery Captain in his cape and slings him at the comet, causing them Superman poundedto merge. Captain Comet emerges with his powers back to normal, but Starstriker managed to absorb enough comet energy to duplicate the Captain’s powers. He takes off to plan his next move and Captain Comet says he’ll try to track him down. The next day, Clark realizes his Superman powers are gone and almost gets caught changing in the storage room by Lois. He figures Starstriker must’ve canceled his powers somehow and heads to the JLA Satellite to track down Captain Comet, hoping he’s found Starstriker. Wonder Woman offers to help, but Superman says he doesn’t want to put anyone else in danger of losing their powers. He uses the Satellite teleporter to beam to Starstriker’s hideout, which is under Barringer meteor crater in Arizona. Starstriker has already captured Captain Comet and sends out some dupes to deal with Superman. They beat Supes down and Starstriker mentally confirms Superman is exhausted before putting him inside a glassine tube. starstriker’s in for a surprise when Superman busts out, explaining that he figured out the truth … Starstriker didn’t actually remove his powers, he just created a mental block to make SupermanStarstriker defeated forget how to use them. But Superman is still indestructible, so busting out of the tube was no problem. He frees Captain Comet, who removes the mental block, and Superman is ready to pound him. But Captain Comet warns him there are seven comets heading for Earth that only Superman can stop, so the Man of Steel heads for space while Captain Comet confronts Starstriker. Superman uses one of the comets as a giant-sized billiard ball and takes out the other six. Starstriker tries to trigger another fatal “comet attack” in the Captain, who doesn’t fight back until he’s sure Superman has dealt with the comets (in case Supes needs help). Once the comets are dealt with, Captain Comet goes on he offensive, triggering a comet attack of his own that takes Starstriker down. He also restructures Starstriker’s brain so he can’t use his powers anymore. So, everything worked out, except Superman is disappointed that he didn’t get to beat Starstriker’s face in.

Noticeable Things:

  • Captain Comet is supposed to be the equivalent of a human from 100,000 years in the future, but in evolutionary terms, that’s not really all that long.
  • Of all the possible places in the galaxy (or the solar system) the comet they’re looking for just happens to be passing Earth right when Captain Comet is looking for it and directing all its rays at Chicago? Whatever.

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