This one starts with Superman rescuing some people from a tenement fire in the poor section of Metropolis. He then snuffs out the fire by creating a vortex to direct the flames up into space. Everyone is grateful except the two crooked building owners (Stone and Rose) who apparently arranged the fire to collect the insurance money. This is the fifth of their buildings to burn down and the cops haul them in. A few days later, Superman is called as a witness against Stone and Rose and he testifies that his x-ray vision spotted overloaded circuits and deliberately stripped wires in the building. Lois is proud of Superman for helping put the two crooks out of business, but she’s less thrilled by the constant interruptions to their dates. Case in point, they’re out for lunch and a priest (Father Perez) approaches Superman to ask for help rebuilding the burned out building and turning it into an orphans’ home. As an orphan himself, Superman is glad to help. When Superman arrives home later, he spots someone inside his apartment, so he changes to Clark Kent before going in. He needn’t have bothered, since his visitor already knows his secret identity, and wastes no time in revealing it. The intruder turns out to be a primal force of the universe, Destiny, and he says he appears to each person at the precise moment in their lives when there’s a fateful choice to be made. Destiny imparts some knowledge of fate to Superman and warns him against taking certain actions, though we’re not told exactly what they are. Whatever it is, Superman’s not happy, but Destiny says if he disobeys there could be dire consequences. We get an idea of Destiny’s stricture the next day. Father Perez is showing Lois and Clark the burned out building where the new orphanage will be built (under the name Superman House) and Clark thinks to himself that the construction will have to be done without any help from him. Stone and Rose show up to threaten Father Perez and Clark walks away instead of saying anything … which surprises Lois. On the nightly news, Clark says there’s a special announcement (which nobody else knew was coming) and runs a (pre-recorded) tape of Superman saying he’s retiring from crimefighting. We get several reaction shots: ordinary people are confused and worried, the JLA aren’t shocked (since Superman warned them ahead of time) but are still puzzled, and the criminal element are thrilled. They don’t waste any time taking advantage either; the next day, a bunch of robbers are shooting it out with the cops while Superman looks on. He finally decides to help in spite of what he promised Destiny, but when he tries he’s overwhelmed by his super-senses and caught in tar. He begs Destiny to let him help, but Destiny says it’s not his place to help them right now. Later at WGBS, Lois says much the same thing, that Metropolis has gotten to depend on Superman too much and that they need to solve their own problems instead of constantly expecting him to do everything for them. She makes a good point, but Clark gets pissed off and walks out. Later, Lois covers the rebuilding project, which is now being led by Father Perez and undertaken by the kids who will soon live in the orphanage. Father Perez says that doing the work themselves will give them a sense of pride and accomplishment that would’ve been missing if Superman had just put up the building at super-speed. Rose and Stone show up to threaten Father Perez again, but he says he’s not afraid of a couple of bullies, especially since they’re so close to being convicted. At the train station, a woman falls in front of an oncoming train and Superman tries to help her, but Destiny prevents it. The woman is saved by another bystander and Superman realizes he wasn’t needed. Destiny says sometimes a man is needed, not a Superman, but Supes still isn’t getting it. He sees Rose and Stone ramming a bulldozer into the fledgling orphanage and wants to rush off to save Lois, Father Perez, and the kids. But Destiny holds him back and Superman watches helplessly as Rose and Stone try to flatten everyone. But Lois rallies the kids and Father Perez, telling them they can fight for what’s theirs. She and Perez jump on the bulldozer and shut it down just in time to save the kids. Destiny tells Superman that strife helps humans build character, so he needs to stop playing God and trying to solve all humanity’s problems. Superman finally gets it and Destiny releases him. He congratulates Lois and Father Perez on saving the orphanage and Perez says they’ll be continuing the building on their own (though they still want to call the place Superman House). As Superman flies Lois home, they pass others—firemen and cops—who don’t need his help. So I guess Superman is officially un-retired now; if nothing else, maybe he’ll be able to pay more attention to Lois from now on.
- As far as I know, this is the same Destiny that appears later in Gaiman’s Sandman, though he looks a bit different here.
- During Superman’s recorded retirement announcement (which everyone is supposed to believe is live), Lana asks a question and Superman answers; turns out Clark knows Lana so well he was able to predict what she’d ask and tailor his pre-recorded reply perfectly. (In the studio, Clark thinks to himself that if Lana had asked the wrong question he would’ve interrupted to get things back on track.)
- There’s a moralistic back-up story (by Paul S. Newman/Rich Buckler/Joe Giella) about Jimmy Olsen’s cousin wanting to quit high school. Superman tells him a story about some guy on Krypton who didn’t want to attend survival classes (which taught every Kryptonian citizen valuable skills) and ended up regretting it when outer space pirates showed up. The Kryptonian dude was saved repeatedly by a guy who had attended the survival classes and finally realized he should attend too. After hearing Superman’s story, Jimmy’s cousin picks his school books out of the garbage can, so I guess he got the message.
The last couple of issues, Lex Luthor has made a fantastic face turn, from being arguably the most arch of arch-criminals to humanity’s biggest benefactor … all for the love of a woman. Lex met Angela Blake and immediately fell in love with her. He cured her of a deadly disease (which left her bald) and then began using his scientific genius to help mankind, in order to prove himself worthy of Angela’s love. Superman was skeptical, but Lex finally convinced him by helping him defeat Terra-Man. This issue opens with Superman showing his gratitude by arranging a full Presidential pardon for all Lex’s past crimes. Over the next few weeks, Lex and Superman become best friends, almost like blood brothers as Lana puts it. Superman even saves Lex when some of his former criminal associates try to exact revenge. Lex asks Superman to be his best man when he marries Angela, and Supes agrees. The wedding goes off without a hitch and Superman manages to switch to Clark Kent briefly, to allay suspicion. Supes re-appears in time to give the bride a kiss during the reception, but as soon as he lays one on her, they both disappear in a blast of energy. Everyone is freaked out and nobody notices Lex being dragged off by a couple of servants. He’s going nuts over Angela, but the servants turn out to be his own robot minions, who say Lex needs to have his “missing data re-instated”. They gas him and whisk him away to his Nefarium, a high-security hideout under the desert. Lex is hooked into his giant mainframe computer, which recounts the particulars of “Project Angela”. Hang on, because this one’s complex, even for a comic-book villain. Lex found a woman he could brainwash himself into loving (and who was psychologically predisposed to fall in love with him) … Angela Blake. He kidnapped her, inserted genetic bombs into her cells, then cloned her. The cloned Angela had a copy of the genetic detonators, and also had the same disease the original Angela had. Lex disposed of the original after transferring all her memories and personality to the clone. His robots hypnotized Lex into loving the cloned Angela and she was already predisposed to falling in love with him, culminating in their wedding. When Superman’s Kryptonian lips touched the cloned Angela, it set off a chain reaction, detonating the bombs in her cells and sending both of them to an anti-matter realm where they’ll be trapped forever. But when the robots scan the anti-matter realm, only Angela’s clone is there; Superman is absent. The computer goes nuts, but doesn’t have long to wait to find out the Man of Steel’s location … he smashes into the Nefarium and starts busting the place up. Lex doesn’t do anything as Superman rampages through the place, smashing the computer and all the robots. Superman explains that when he examined Lex in his Fortress last issue, he found some memory cells that had been blanked out. He noticed the memories of Lex’s first marriage (to Ardora of Lexor) were wiped too, so he examined Angela and found the genetic detonators, meaning she must be a clone. He played along, hoping the original Angela was still alive, zooming away at super-speed right before the genetic bomb pulled him into the anti-matter realm. He followed Lex’s robots back to the Nefarium and overheard that the original Angela was dead (which really pissed him off, since Lex could’ve found the cure for her disease before cloning her). Lex is still sitting there, completely unresisting, and Superman points out the one flaw in Lex’s grand plan … he couldn’t have predicted he’d really fall in love with Angela.
Last issue, Karen ‘s suspicions were confirmed when she found Hal’s Air Wave costume in his room (being torn apart by his bratty cousins). She fixed it—and upgraded it a bit—which surprised Hal, since he thinks nobody knows his secret identity. This story starts with Hal on his way to school. He runs into an electric-based crook called Sunspotter, who uses his powers to disrupt Hal’s control over his own powers. When Hal gets to school, Karen tells him he missed a science lecture on sunspots … some coincidence, huh? Another girl named Samantha oozes all over Hal, which gets him pretty worked up … Samantha is a cheerleader, after all. Karen is less impressed, saying Samantha’s only into him because he’s on the football team, so she’ll lose interest once the season’s over. I think Karen’s a tad jealous, but Hal seems oblivious to it. During the football game, some interference over his helmet radio tells Hal that Sunspotter is nearby. He deliberately fucks up one of his shoes (which Karen notices) so he can duck out and change to Air Wave. When he confronts Sunspotter again, the crook figures he can kick Air Wave’s ass again easily. But this time, Sunspotter’s power doesn’t work and air Wave pounds him. Turns out Air Wave put an electro-magnet in his costume that let him resist Sunspotter’s own magnetic powers. Hal heads back in time to win the football game, causing Samantha to slobber all over him again and Karen to seethe with jealousy.
This one starts with Green Lantern relieving Superman on monitor duty on the JLA Satellite. But GL soon gets an emergency call (through a space warp) from a fellow Lantern, a Cygnian named Archon I’gmora. GL is surprised, since they’ve never really gotten along, but he can’t ignore a distress call from a fellow Lantern, so he zips through the space warp; so much for monitor duty. When he arrives in deep space, I’gmora turns out to be already dead. His form was taken by a freaky-looking alien named N’gon. N’gon is engaged in a long-running fight with its counterpart and has been duplicating the bodies of powerful beings to use as proxy weapons. N’gon blasts GL and reshapes itself into his form, taking his ring and leaving him for dead. But it turns out GL is only mostly dead; he was suspicious of N’gon, so he managed to separate his astral form from his body before N’gon blasted him. GL overhears N’gon’s plans and realizes what he’s up to, but isn’t sure how to stop him. Superman is in Metropolis, about to save a falling construction worker, when he’s shanghaied into deep space. The disguised N’gon tries to get Superman to come closer (obviously wanting Superman’s indestructible body as his next duplicate), but GL’s astral form re-unites with his body and warns Superman to stay back. Supes is confronted with two identical Green Lanterns, but quickly figures out which is the real one when N’gon casually mentions his Hal Jordan secret identity—something the real GL would never do. N’gon conjures a huge kryptonite meteor, but GL saves Superman by throwing a rock at N’gon’s head, disrupting his concentration. Superman uses the yellow insignia on his cape as protection and punches N’gon across the quadrant, but GL warns him that the ring will protect him and he’ll soon be back. Superman decides to quit fucking around and takes N’gon out into space before giving him a super-wallop in the mouth. That knocks N’gon out (and back to his original form) and Supes gives GL his ring back. GL imprisons N’gon and returns Superman to Earth in time to save the falling construction worker; yeah, wherever N’gon took them was a “timeless dimension”, so GL and Superman could go back to Earth at the exact moment he left … convenient, ain’t it?
Sargon was a Golden Age character who presumably existed on Earth-2. Strangely, he seemed to turn into a bad guy in a couple of stories (Flash 207 and Adventure 462), but remained a hero in others (JLA 97-98). This story starts with a museum tour where the featured attraction is the Ruby of Life, which gave Sargon his magic powers. The Ruby is protected by a spell so no one can touch it, but we see Sargon lurking around the museum, worried that the Ruby might be influencing him to commit crimes like it has before. Recently, some gold bars floated out of a vault and a bunch of priceless paintings came to life and walked out of an art gallery, so Sargon figures the Ruby might be influencing him without his knowledge. He hangs around the museum after hours to guard the Ruby, but gets punched out … by a painting of himself! Sargon wakes up at home, surrounded by a pile of cash. He sees that a bank was robbed of a bunch of cash and prepares to turn himself in, until he notices the serial numbers on the bills are all the same. At the museum, Sargon removes the spell protecting the Ruby of Life and the true culprit immediately pops up and spirits the Ruby away; it’s Matter Master, who wants the Ruby to augment his Mentachem wand, but Sargon’s painting comes to life again and confronts Matter Master. Sargon suspected someone was after the Ruby, so he switched himself with the painting to trap whoever was responsible. Matter Master figures Sargon is helpless without the Ruby, but years of using it has left a residue of power in Sargon and he uses it against Matter Master, busting his wand and punching him out. Apparently Matter Master was too greedy for his own good; instead of planting all the stolen money in Sargon’s place, he took one bill and duplicated it a bunch of times, which tipped Sargon off that the whole thing was a set-up. As icing on the cake, Sargon reveals that the Ruby never actually left its protective case … it was all just an illusion.
There’s a special New Teen Titans insert in this issue, introducing the new team; I’ll review that next week with the JLA/Legion/Jonah Hex reviews.