Comics Reviews: Superman 351, Action 511, DC Presents 25

Superman 351 coverSuperman #351 – “The Fiend With Nine Faces” – Gerry Conway/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

Last issue, Clark Kent’s old science teacher (Professor Tolkein) came up with a device he called the Genesis Machine, which was supposed to create matter from nothing, thus defying the laws of physics. We saw that the Genesis Machine didn’t really create matter, it just transferred it from one place to another using some kind of psychic link that Tolkein set up between nine of his ex-students. But the matter transfers are unequal, with large objects disappearing and reappearing beside the Genesis Machine as much smaller items; this culminated in an entire office building disappearing and showing up as a typewriter near the Genesis Machine. Superman saved the building’s occupants (which include Clark’s old classmate Art Borely), but the Man of Steel was attacked by an energy creature—described as a “living Aurora Borealis”—that seems to have manifested from the mind-linked people, includingSuperman fights living aurora Borely. Superman is stunned by the attack; in fact, his body actually goes numb where the creature struck him. He assumes there’s some connection between the creature and Borely—who’s in kind of a trance—but when he fights back, the energy creature keeps manifesting. It numbs Superman’s arm and he finally realizes he can’t fight it in the conventional way, so he takes off and the energy creature follows. The entranced Borely heads for the Science Center, where Tolkein was giving his demonstration … and Borely’s not the only one; the other eight people in the mind-link all go into trances and head for the Science Center too. At the Science Center, objects are manifesting like crazy. Tolkein tells Lana Lang (who’s been covering the story) the truth about the Genesis Device switching matter instead of creating it, but he says something’s gone wrong. He created a psychic link between ten students back in college and now he’s Borely goes wildtrying to use that link to power the Genesis Machine. But there’s a short-circuit in the process, allowing the ex-students to control the Genesis device, which has released their own subconscious furies. Oh, by the way, the tenth student who was supposed to be part of the link? Clark Kent. Borely shows up and encases the audience in crystal before coming after Tolkein. Lana tries to stop him, but gets blasted by energy when Borely teleports away with the Professor—which makes the Science Center’s roof disappear. Meanwhile, Superman has led the energy creature to the real Aurora Borealis, thinking the creature will be absorbed. It works, but there’s an explosion and Superman gets blasted. Back in Metropolis, Lana goes to the Galaxy Building to tell everyone what’s going on, despite the fact that her hands were burned pretty badly when Borely teleported away (and the rest of her isn’t in great shape either). At the Fortress of Solitude, Superman recovers from the Aurora blast and confirms his theory on the computer; the Aurora creature wasn’t one energy being, it was a whole bunch of them, phasing intoLana impresses Superman reality. So whenever Superman destroyed one, another popped up, like heads on a Hydra. Superman gets an emergency signal from Jimmy and zips back to Metropolis. Lana tells him about Tolkein before keeling over, impressing Superman with her fortitude. He goes to look for Borely and the others, but makes a quick side trip first. He finds them at Metropolis University, where they’ve turned the Science Building into a castle (indicating a subconscious fear of attack). Superman busts in and is grabbed by a couple of stone fists. He melts his way free with heat vision and finds an Aurora energy net blocking his path. That doesn’t stop him (the side trip he took was to bathe in Aurora Borealis energy, rendering him immune to its effects) and he finds Tolkein tied up in the main hall, with the nine ex-students entranced around a table. Superman frees Tolkein and the entranced students try to blast them with the Genesis Machine. Superman dissolves the linkSupes fashions a mirror out of a flagstone at super-speed and the reflected energy destroys the Genesis device. But the nine students have absorbed enough energy that they don’t need the device anymore. Tolkein tells Superman he hypnotized the students without their knowledge and mentions that Clark Kent was supposed to be the tenth student, but the hypnosis didn’t take. Superman (who’s immune to hypnosis) realizes why the mind-link short-circuited and figures the best way to disrupt it is to join in. When he inserts himself into the link, it immediately breaks, freeing the students and returning the “castle” to normal. Tolkein and the students all have amnesia, thinking they’re about to attend their class reunion, which took place two weeks ago. Superman doesn’t seem inclined to clue them in, and takes off to spend some quality smooching time with Lois.

Noticeable Things:

  • Last issue, it was implied that Clark’s ex-classmates lived all over the country, but now it seems like they’re all based in Metropolis.
  • Superman says he’s immune to hypnosis, but in an earlier story he hypnotized himself. Maybe he’s immune to Earth hypnosis.

“Mr. Mxyzptlk’s Circus Adventure” – Denny O’Neil/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

This is a back-up story; DC was obviously recovering from the Implosion, as they start adding 8 extra pages to a lot of the books this month. Like a lot of back-ups, this one is basically just filler, so I won’t spend too much time on it. There’s a circus coming to Metropolis and a bunch of kids are supposed to see it, but for some reason MxyzptlkMyxzptlk's tiger sabotages it. There’s a subplot about a kid named Juan who can’t speak English very well, so he records stuff on a tape recorder to help him learn. There’s another kid named Matthew who’s an asshole to Juan because he thinks he’s weird. (Meanwhile Matthew’s walking around in overalls with no shirt underneath like Jethro Clampett … who’s the weird one, Matthew?) Anyway, Superman takes the circus wagon into town and puts on the circus himself by changing outfits at super-speed so he can play all the different characters. Mxyzptlk tries to fuck things up and sets some giant tigers and lions loose. When Juan speaks Spanish to one of the tigers it stops because its trainer is Spanish, so it’s used to obeying in that language. Superman takes Juan’s tape of Mxyzptlk speaking and plays it backward, thus banishing the troublesome imp back to his own dimension. Predictably, Juan and Matthew end up being friends.

Action 511 coverAction #511 – “Luthor Fights for Good” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

Last issue, Luthor met a woman (Angela Blake) who was dying of a rare disease. He fell in love with her at first sight (which may or may not have something to do with her being bald from chemo treatments) and to show his love, he not only cured her, but also decided to go straight. Yup, Luthor’s a good guy now … or so he claims; Superman (and the rest of the world) is understandably skeptical. Luthor breaks into every TV and radio feed on Earth to broadcast the fact that he’s changed his status from villain to hero. He says he’s going to prove himself by embarking on an unprecedented spree of good deeds, but doesn’t want anyone to think he’s in competition with Superman on that front. On a spaceship orbiting Earth, a couple of aliens and their boss (who turns out to be Terra-Man, the walking Western stereotype) have plans of their own for Earth and hope Luthor’s sudden face turn won’t screw them up. True to hisno more nukes word, Luthor starts curing Earth’s ills, first remotely disarming all nuclear weapons on the planet (which makes all the military types go nuts) and then repairing the ozone layer in the atmosphere. Superman runs into Angela Blake at WGBS and learns she had the deadly DXS disease before Luthor cured her. Luthor is now donating the cure to the world, eradicating the disease once and for all, but Superman is still suspicious; he even allows his prejudices to show when he does the nightly news as Clark Kent. It seems the authorities share his skepticism, since they’re not rushing to pardon Luthor’s crimes, no matter how many good deeds he performs. Luthor and Angela go out to suck face in the rain and Superman nerve-pinches Lex into unconsciousness. Angela says Lex knew Superman was watching them and would come to arrest him, but he was going to turn himself in voluntarily … on one condition: Superman has to examine Luthor as thoroughly as possible to see if he’s lying about being a good guy. Superman knows the only place he could do such an analysis is the Fortress of Solitude Superman takes Luthor to the Fortressand figures it’s too big a security risk to take Luthor there. But Superman’s curiosity gets the better of him and Luthor wakes up inside the Fortress … paralyzed inside an automated strait jacket. Superman runs every conceivable test and concludes Luthor really has gone straight, but says he’s still a wanted criminal so he’ll have to be taken in. Luthor figured that would happen, but he also knows Superman’s code of ethics will compel him to plead for leniency on Luthor’s behalf, knowing how much good an altruistic Luthor could do for the world. A huge rock smashes through the ceiling and Superman realizes someone’s attacking the Fortress. Luthor offers to help him against the attackers, but Superman says no way. He heads out and runs into one of Terra-Man’s alien henchmen, who he quickly manages to pound into the ice. We see hat Luthor has already escaped from the “escape-proof” container he was in. Superman takes on Terra-Man’s other henchman, who wields a blade that can cut through the dimensional barrier into the anti-matter universe. Superman dodges the blade over and over until the alien has trapped himself in an anti-matter cage. Luthor shows up just in time to blast the first alien, who’d recovered and was about to jumpSuperman and Luthor fight Terra-Man Superman. Supes agrees to work with Luthor just as Terra-Man shows up to confront them. Terra sends alien tumbleweeds to cling to them and drain their life energy. Superman uses his super-breath to bury Terra in snow and Luthor blasts the tumbleweeds covering Superman. The weeds drop off and Superman pounds Terra before rescuing Lex from the weeds that were draining him. Superman reveals he knew Lex could teleport out of his restraints any time, but didn’t prevent him because he wanted to see if Lex would come back to help. Since he did, Superman is now convinced of Lex’s good intentions and says this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Supes better hope Lex isn’t just playing the long game … but we’ll see what happens next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Besides removing all Earth’s nukes, fixing the ozone layer, and eradicating DXS disease, Luthor’s list of good deeds also includes: capturing the 41 most wanted criminals; an earthquake prediction device; a process for creating synthetic oil instantly; and an automatic pollution eliminator. If I lived in the DCU, I’d be pissed off that Luthor had held all this shit back for so long.
  • If you’re wondering why Superman was vulnerable to the alien tumbleweeds, it’s because they come from a red sun system, so their energy draining ability can affect him.

Air Wave surprises bombersAir Wave – “A New Costume for Air Wave” – Bob Rozakis/Alex Saviuk/Frank Chiaramonte

We last saw Air Wave in Action #488, where young Harold (Hal) Jordan moved to Dallas, Texas to live with his aunt and uncle. He’s still trying to get used to the new place, as well as being a superhero, and having the hots for Karen, the live-in babysitter for his cousins. As this story opens, we see Hal heading by the school he’ll be attending, to get a feel for the place before the school year starts. He spots a couple of guys screwing around on the roof and pretends to leave, but quickly changes into Air Wave and comes after them. They’re just a couple of high school punks wiring the school sign to blow up on opening day. Air Wave pounds them, but they manage to blow up the sign, so he’s pissed off at himself. The next day, Hall has some kind of stomach trouble, so his aunt insists on taking him to the doctor. While they’re gone, his cousins get into his room and tear apart his Air Wave costume … seemingly without realizing what it is. But Karen figures it out right away—she was already suspicious of Hal—and decides to repair (andAir Wave pounds sniper modify) the costume so Hal won’t know what happened. Hal comes back from the doctor with a diagnosis of “sun poisoning”, which I assume is like heatstroke. He has to postpone his trip to the amusement park with Karen, which gives her time to finish his costume and sneak it into his room. A couple days later, they go to the amusement park and some nutcase starts shooting from the top of a Ferris wheel. Hal changes to Air Wave and pounds the guy and finally realizes his costume is different than before. Not too observant, I guess. He comes back with some lame excuse about having to go buy a hat during the excitement, but of course Karen pretends to believe it. Hal’s relieved, but still wonders where his new costume came from.

DC Presents 25 coverDC Comics Presents #25 – “Judgment Night” – Paul Levitz/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin

Back in DC Presents #14, the Legion convinced Superman that Pete Ross’s son, Jon, was destined to grow up as a military leader for some alien race, leading to a chain of events which would prevent Earth’s destruction a thousand years in the future. Superman reluctantly complied and let the Legion deliver Jon Ross to the aliens. Naturally, Pete wasn’t happy about that and swore revenge on Superman. But that hatred seems to have fucked Pete up pretty bad … this issue opens with him in an asylum, barely coherent and tearing up pictures of Superman. Naturally, the doctors don’t believe Pete’s claims about Superman handing over his son to aliens, so I can see why he might be a tad frustrated. Meanwhile, Superman is cleaning up his Fortress and has a sudden attack of excruciating pain. It’s the latest of several such attacks he’s had and he doesn’t know what’s causing them … though he soon gets an inkling. The Phantom Stranger pops out of nowhere and Superman figures the attacks must be magic-based.Phantom Stranger vs Tala Stranger tells Superman he’ll try to figure out who cat the spell on him, but points out that this spell only affects those with a guilty conscience … people who feel weighed down by their failures. Stranger disappears, leaving Superman to ponder his words. Stranger goes to a carnival, where a sideshow seer named Madame Benita is casting a spell using the clippings, the curl, and the conscience of a hero. Stranger warns her against it, but she completes the spell, summoning her dark mistress … who turns out to be Phantom Stranger’s old foe, Tala. She manipulated Benita into casting the spell and says Superman’s soul will soon belongs to her. In the Fortress, Superman thinks about the things he feels guilty over and concludes that letting Jon Ross be delivered to aliens is his biggest regret. Later, Clark is talking to Lois about a problem and she gives him shit, saying he needs to be more pro-active like Superman. That motivates him to quit moping and he takes off. In Tala’s hellscape, Phantom Stranger, Benita, and Pete Ross’s go-between (who Pete bribed to contact Madame Benita Tala defeatedand deliver the fingernail and hair clippings he stole from the Superman Museum) are being held in hellfire. Stranger quickly breaks free to confront Tala and they engage in a magical duel. Superman flies to the planet Nyrvn to rescue Jon Ross, smashing some of Nyrvn’s robot space-fleet on the way. Superman takes Jon home (wearing a space-suit) and says Nyrvn will just have to get along without him. In Tala’s hellscape, she thinks she’s won, but Superman’s salving of his guilty conscience gives the Stranger a burst of power that manifests as light, pushing back Tala’s darkness. Superman takes Jon to see Pete, which instantly snaps him out of his madness and hatred. That in turn feeds Phantom Stranger’s power and Tala loses her claim on Superman’s soul, as well as the others she tried to claim. She admits defeat, but says it’s only temporary before vanishing. Later, Clark gives Lois a rose to thank her for the pep talk, which surprises her a bit, though of course she doesn’t know the details.

Noticeable Things:

  • Tala refers to Phantom Stranger several times as “my love”; apparently, Tala’s attempted seduction of Stranger is an ongoing thing. I don’t know if she actually had the hots for him, or just wanted to corrupt his soul … most likely the latter.
  • Superman’s other regrets are Krypton’s destruction, and his parents dying … neither of which he could’ve prevented.
  • I’m not sure exactly what Jon’s function on Nyrvn was supposed to be; I assume it’s sort of like Ender’s Game where he devises strategies for the robot ships or something. Superman doesn’t seem too worried about wiping out the future, but as far as I know it’s never mentioned again, and the Legion don’t seem to care so maybe the Nyrvn fleet got what they needed in the short time Jon was there. Or maybe the whole thing was bullshit from the get go.

 

“Whatever Happened to Hourman?” – Bob Rozakis/Charles Nicholas/Joe Giella

This “Whatever Happened to …?” thing becomes a regular back-up feature in DC Presents. It’s supposed to update us on some classic characters (mostly Golden Age) who have been out of the spotlight for a while. The first one is Hourman, but the update isn’t really anything spectacular. Rex (Hourman) Tyler is now head of his own chemical company. He’s been getting threatening notes about pulling a certain chemical from theHourman pounds saboteurs market, promising sabotage if he doesn’t. The cops are useless, so he suits up as Hourman again, using the one Miraclo pill he stashed for emergencies. Miraclo is a drug Rex invented that gives him super-powers for exactly one hour … hence the name. He finds the saboteurs and tackles them, but gets knocked out. When he comes to, he doesn’t know how much time is left on the Miraclo pill, but goes after the saboteurs anyway. He pounds them before they can blow up the plant, then realizes his Miraclo hour ran out 18 minutes ago. Later in All-Star Squadron, Roy Thomas has a storyline about Miraclo being addictive, which was why Rex stopped using it. There’s no mention of that here, so I don’t know if that was established in the original stories, or if it’s something Roy made up. For that matter, Hourman had actually stopped using pills and switched to a Miraclo ray (which I think was established in the original comics), but there’s no mention of that here either.

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