Comics Reviews: Superman 350, Action 510, DC Comics Presents 24

Superman 350 coverSuperman #350 – “Clark Kent’s Vanishing Classmates” – Gerry Conway/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts at Metropolis University, with Superman coming to the rescue of an old classmate (Art Borely), who’s in a hot air balloon that’s rapidly losing its buoyancy because of a hole. Superman patches up the shoddy balloon and Art turns the rescue to his advantage, trumpeting Superman’s prowess. Apparently, Clark Kent has accompanied Lana Lang to their college reunion and Clark changed to Superman for a quick rescue after noticing Art’s trouble. He changes back to Clark and joins Lana, who’s being harassed by another old classmate, Steve Power. Steve is a muscle-bound asshole; he’s a lot like Steve Lombard, except without the charm. Steve tries to manhandle Clark, but ends up straining his back. Clark had his foot hookedclassmates vanish around a tree root when Steve tried to pick him up … or that’s the explanation he gives Lana, anyway. Later, Clark and Lana listen to the guest speaker, an old astrophysics prof named Lemuel Tolkein (who looks a bit like Toyman, but it isn’t him). As Tolkein drones on about some marvelous scientific breakthrough he’s made, nine people at the reunion suddenly vanish in a flash of light. Everyone else freaks out and Clark uses his heat vision to cut a hole in the stage so he can pretend to fall through a trap door. Lana buys his fake fall and runs off to call the cops while Clark changes to Superman. He uses his super-senses to look for the missing alumni and finds them with his infra-red vision. They seem to be in another dimensional plane, but Supes brings them back with a super-powered clap. Unfortunately, none of them can shed any Lois and Lana discuss Clarklight on what happened. Two weeks later, Clark, Lois, and Lana are leaving work at Galaxy and Lois is being kind of snotty behind Clark’s back. Lana calls her on it and Lois admits she’s been kind of an asshole to Clark lately, but says most of the time it’s just reflex … she doesn’t really mean it. Lois thinks her renewed aggression toward Clark might be because he’s her rival again at the Daily Planet, but Lana wonders if it has something to do with Lois being so gung-ho to bang Superman again. Speaking of which, Superman shows up to take Lois on a date, leaving Lana to attend a lecture by Professor Tolkein at the Metro Science Center. Tolkein says he’s finally perfected the big science breakthrough he’s been working on—spontaneous generation of matter. Basically, he’s found a way to make objects appear out of thin air, which should be scientifically impossible according to Einstein. Tolkein demonstrates by pushing a button on hismind link Genesis machine; at different points across the country, we see a weird glow appear around the heads of nine people—the same nine ex-students who disappeared at the reunion, including Art Borely. As the energy crackling around the nine people peaks, a file cabinet in Borely’s office disappears and a television appears out of nowhere in the Science Center. Obviously, Tolkein’s experiment doesn’t violate the laws of physics, since the television wasn’t created out of nothing, simply transmuted from another form (which is still pretty damn impressive). But Tolkein seems to genuinely believe his machine works the way he says it does, though only about half the crowd seem to believe it. He tries again, and again we see he glow around the nine people’s heads. This time, Borely’s desk disappears and a typewriter pops up in the Science Center. Tolkein is surprised, since he was trying to manifest something bigger, so he tries again. This time, it’s not just office furniture that disappears from Borely’s office, but the office itself and everything around it. Yup, Borely’s entire building Superman saves Borelyvanishes, which Superman is close enough to notice. He leaves his date with Lois to catch the people who were in the building, now plummeting to the ground. He saves them all, including Art Borely, who’s in the same weird trance we saw earlier. He starts mumbling something to Superman, which turns out to be the word “Kill!”. Supes is pounded from behind by a vaguely humanoid energy creature with the faces of the nine affected alumni. At the Science Center, Tolkein is really surprised when a pencil sharpener is all that manifests, even though he was trying for something much bigger. He explains to Lana that his experiment was supposed to tap the hidden resources of the human mind as its power source, but something’s obviously gone wrong. Tolkein warns Lana that is there’s a “short circuit” in the mind-tap, whatever subconscious horrors lurk in the minds he tapped could manifest physically and wreak havoc. Looks like he’s right, as we see the nine-faced energy creature looming over Superman’s prone body as Art Borely watches. We’ll see what happens next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • When Steve is trying to “charm” Lana, he says “How did a zaftig kid like you get stuck with a lame clown like Clark?” As far as I know, zaftig usually means full-figured or voluptuous when referring to a woman, which I’d say Lana is not. Apparently zaftig originally meant “juicy” or “succulent”, so maybe that’s the meaning Gerry’s going for here?
  • Clark mentions that Stan Rivers, Zeta Mu frat bully, was taught a lesson by Superman back during Clark’s college days and turned into a nice guy. I don’t know if that’s referencing an actual story or not; there’s no footnote, so it might be something Gerry just made up.
  • I assume Tolkein knows which minds he’s tapping for his experiment, since he was there when they disappeared from the reunion. But he doesn’t really go into detail on how his machine works, so we’ll have to wait until next issue to see how much he knows and how much is a surprise even to him.

Action 510 coverAction #510 – “Luthor’s Last Stand” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Superman relentlessly patrolling the Metropolis financial district, which is completely deserted. Apparently, Lex Luthor phoned the mayor and threatened to cause a stock market collapse, so the whole district was evacuated and Superman is waiting for Luthor to make his move. He doesn’t have long to wait, as a strange machine emerges from the ground, looking like an overgrown Fabergé egg. But this egg has a force field that resists Superman’s strength and it starts giving off vibrations that threaten to demolish the nearby buildings. When Luthor said he was going to cause a stock market crash, I guess he meant it literally. Superman manages to smash the egg, but there’s a smaller egg inside, still giving off vibrations. A building falls on top of Superman, but he emerges unscathed and tosses the deadly egg into deep space. Turns out the vibrating egg was just a distraction; Luthor has constructed anSuperman rescues woman energy rifle capable of killing Superman and is lining up a shot when Superman suddenly dives into the remains of the collapsed building, spoiling Luthor’s carefully crafted plan. Superman emerges with an unconscious woman in his arms (he obviously detected her plight with his super-senses) and Luthor lines up another shot … but when he has Superman and the unfortunate woman in the crosshairs, he hesitates. Luthor can’t figure out what kept him from pulling the trigger (though I can make a pretty good guess) and Superman flies off to take the woman to hospital. Later that day, the woman (Angela Blake) says she’d accidentally bumped her head and knocked herself out while working in the sub-basement, which is why she wasn’t evacuated with everyone else. Angela is released from hospital and goes home, while Luthor watches on TV. He’s still trying to figure out what kept him from annihilating Superman (and Ms. Blake) earlier, Angela mugged by robotsso he decides to check her out. Luthor goes to Angela’s place disguised as a meter-reader so he can secretly get a bio-scan in case she’s a robot or an alien or something; Angela turns out to be human through and through. Luthor hires a detective to dig up everything he can on Angela and when he turns in his report, Luthor sends his robots to kidnap her and bring her to his hidden lab. When the robots tell her who they work for, Angela doesn’t know what Luthor could want with her … especially since she’s dying. Meanwhile, Luthor is out trying to auction off his Superman-killer gun to a bunch of underworld types. We get a quick glimpse of Supes himself outside as the last bidder shows up. Luthor demonstrates the gun by shooting it at the assembled criminals, encasing them in an unbreakable bubble. But one gang boss, Big Wade Farrell, was smart enough the hang back (because his astrologer warned him about a betrayal). Farrell figures Luthor is using the Superman-killer gun to eliminate the underworld competition and decides toSuperman sheds his disguise carry out that plan himself. Before Farrell can waste anyone, Superman (who was disguised as one of the mob thugs) busts out of the bubble and pounds Farrell, who’s astonished to find the energy gun has no effect on Superman. This particular gun actually does look different from the one Luthor was going to use in the financial district, so I wondered if something was up. One of the thugs blasts Luthor with a Tommy gun, but Superman ignores that and corrals all the other crooks. Luthor ignores his deadly wounds and punches out his would-be killer before revealing that he’s not the real Luthor after all, just another robot (a fact Superman had already discerned with his x-ray vision). The robot tells Superman that the “weapon” would’ve teleported the crooks straight to police headquarters. Superman can’t figure out why Luthor would want to bald lovedeliver criminals to the cops and the robot self-destructs before he can get any answers. But Superman reports Luthor’s good deed and it makes the front page of the Daily Planet, which Luthor shows to Angela Blake. She wonders why her opinion matters so much to him and Luthor tells her when he saw her through his crosshairs the other day, he instantly fell in love with her and now wants to be worthy of her love in return. (Love through the crosshairs … who says romance is dead?) Luthor tells Angela he’s cured her deadly disease—something called DXS, which caused her to pass out in the sub-basement the other day, and also to lose all her hair. Angela is so grateful, she seems to return Luthor’s love, but we’ll have to wait for next issue to see if it lasts.

Noticeable Things:

  • The Metropolis financial district is known as Tall Street; why do they even bother changing it?
  • The building that collapses is called the Winslow Building; I’m not sure if it’s meant to reference a real building or not (though the name makes me think of Winslow Schott, the Toyman).
  • Luthor has robotic servants named Asimov, Karel, and Capek (one of whom buffs his bald head for him!)
  • In case you’re wondering, Superman rebuilt the Winslow Building from the ground up, which Luthor considered showboating.
  • Did they really have to make Angela bald just because she was going to be Luthor’s love interest? That’s hardly a great foundation to hang a romance on (though falling in love with Luthor just because he saved her life isn’t much better).

DC Presents 24 coverDC Comics Presents #24 – “The Man Who Was the World” – Len Wein/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

This one starts with Deadman confronting Rama Kushna, the spirit of the universe. Deadman is tired of being stuck between life and death, playing “backseat god” as he puts it, and wants to just die like a normal person. Rama Kushna says he can have his wish, but under one condition. When Deadman asks what the catch is, he finds himself whisked off to Metropolis. The city is trembling with an earthquake and Deadman saves an old man from getting crushed under falling rubble. Superman shows up and saves more buildings from falling and sees a man collapse on the sidewalk nearby. The man says the earthquake was his fault and he needs to get to STAR Labs or the whole world could be in danger. Superman believes him and zooms off to STAR Labs, followed by Deadman. At STAR, Jenet Klyburn examines the man (Alex Atley), who shows her a device wired into his chest that he claims caused the earthquake. Klyburn has never seen anything like it before, but before she can check itSuperman takes Atley to STAR Labs out, Atley’s daughter and her boyfriend (Carol and Dennis) come in—having been called by a STAR scientist who recognized Atley—and she’s distraught that her father has used the Cardialink. Superman demands to know what the hell is going on and we get a quick origin story for Atley. He’s a scientist working on a project to drill into the molten core of the Earth, but his heart started giving him trouble and he was diagnosed as terminal. He invented the Cardialink, a pair of devices to link his heart to the Earth’s core so the “pulse” of the planet would extend Atley’s lifespan indefinitely. Unfortunately, the opposite happened, and the link is causing the Earth to have a massive heart attack. Dr. Klyburn suggests the obvious remedy … a pacemaker to regulate Atley’s heart, thus keeping the planet from having a coronary. Superman leaves to clean up the city and Deadman gets a bad vibe from Dennis, so he decides to follow him. Dennis goes to meet with a mob boss named Genarian and tells STAR Labs invasionhim about the Cardialink and that it can potentially keep him alive forever. Dennis wants paid for his tip, but Genarian insists he see this fabulous device Dennis is talking about. Genarian and his thugs bust into STAR and find Atley with the Cardialink still in his chest. Carol is devastated that her boyfriend sold out her dad, and Genarian decides to take Atley since the Cardialink is hooked into him. Klyburn warns them if he’s disconnected from the pacemaker the whole planet could suffer, but they don’t really give a shit about the planet. Deadman wonders what he can do; he’s scared to jump into some thug’s body in case it starts a shootout and innocent people get hurt. Rama Kushna shows up to remind him that he’s supposedly stopped caring about helping people, but Deadman tells her not to be a smart-ass and says he needs Superman’s power to fix things. Rama Kushna transports Deadman to Superman, who he promptly takes over. Unfortunately, Deadman isn’t too handy with Superman’s powers and almost kills a bunch of people while trying to save them. He releases Superman (who saves the endangered people), then psychically urges him to head back to STAR. SupesDeadman fights Death finds the thugs and starts pounding them, but Genarian dies from all the excitement and the thugs surrender. Atley’s heart causes another planet-quake and he begs them to let him die to save the world, but Superman says no one is dying on his watch. He zips down to the Earth’s core to retrieve the other half of the Cardialink, so Atley can tell him how to deactivate it. Atley is on the point of death, but when the Grim Reaper shows up in the Astral Plane to claim his soul, Deadman inhabits Atley, fights the Reaper, and urges Atley to live. Superman returns and Atley tells him how to switch off the device (push the green button … why is it always so simple?), which breaks the link between Atley and the Earth. Then, just to turn the happy ending into a sappy ending, Superman says he can use super-surgery techniques to cure Atley’s heart condition. That’s great, Supes: I’m sure millions of other heart disease sufferers will be thrilled to hear that you could cure them but apparently choose not to, except in rare cases. And to round it all off, Deadman’s defeat of the Grim Reaper has renewed his spirit (so to speak), so he no longer wishes to die, but wants to stick around and keep helping people.

Noticeable Things:

  • Deadman’s anger at his situation stems from a story in Adventure Comics 466, where he tried to stop an old man from killing himself, then found out the guy was dying of cancer and wanted to help his son who’d gotten mixed up with a dope dealer. The old man tried to kill the dealer, but ended up getting shot himself, and the dealer blew his own brains out seconds later. The old man’s son was redeemed by his father’s sacrifice, but Deadman was pissed off that he couldn’t save the old man and felt like his powers were meaningless … hence his urge to quit at the beginning of this story.
  • Genarian looks a bit like Silvermane from Marvel. What is it with these geriatric mobsters wanting the secret of eternal life?

 

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