Comics Reviews: Superman 353, Action 513, DC Comics Presents 27

Superman 353 coverSuperman #353 – “The Fantastic Foe Superman Could Never Meet” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Clark Kent and Lana Lang skydiving to promote WGBS. Clark doesn’t open his parachute and isn’t saying anything. Lana assumes he’s scared shitless, but he’s actually spotted a mine collapse with his x-ray vision. He maneuvers into a cloud, switches to Superman to deal with the mine collapse, then switches back to Clark before dropping out of the cloud and pulling his ripcord. Clark drifts away from Lana and lands in a forest, but we see he seems to have disappeared, leaving only his parachute dangling from a tree. Lana and the WGBS news team find the chute, but can’t find Clark after two hours of searching. Lana blames herself for Clark’s disappearance, since she talkedalien bank robber him into doing the skydiving stunt. Clark finally shows up, saying he hit his head and wandered around in a daze before finding them. When they head back into Metropolis, they see a bank has been leveled, almost like it was hit by a localized earthquake. Judging by Clark’s thoughts, he has some idea what happened at the bank, and it coincided with the time he was missing. On the nightly news, we see what happened at the bank; a freaky-looking yellow alien robbed the place, knocked the building to the ground, and flew off. The cops tried to shoot him but the bullets just bounced off. Naturally, everyone’s wondering why Superman didn’t show up to stop him. The next morning, the alien is back, this time demolishing the Superman statue in the city square. We learn the alien has a force field around it, and seems to be committing these crimes just for the hell of it. Again, Superman is nowhere to be found, and we finally see why … he’s in a futuristic city in an Superman in other dimensionalien dimension. The alien has figured out a way to switch places with Superman, so while he’s rampaging in Metropolis, the Man of Steel is stuck in the alien dimension. The place is a utopia of sorts, with no crime, natural disasters, or even accidents. It’s controlled by a computer system that constantly monitors (and regulates) every aspect of daily life. Superman’s presence is noted immediately and alien police are sent to intercept him. He heads back to the lab where he first appeared, but the cops track him there and start busting in. Conveniently, the alien chooses that exact moment to switch places with Superman again, so the cops only find the lab’s owner inside. Outside Metropolis, the alien has left Superman a note bragging about all the crazy shit he did in Superman’s dimension. Apparently this guy gets off on committing crimes, since that would be impossible in his own dimension. Not only has he been running around destroying stuff, he publicly challenged Superman to stopSuperman sets his trap him. That’s impossible because of the dimensional switcheroo, but the people of Metropolis don’t know that, so they’re wondering if Superman’s scared to face this alien dude. Lois still believes in Superman and he gives her a special gem as a token of affection. Superman has prepared for the next dimensional switch by collecting some high-tech equipment that gets shunted to the other dimension with him. He’s figured out that the people of the other dimension are kept docile by an invisible ray that’s constantly broadcast over the city. The alien hijacker is immune to the ray because of a birth defect, so Superman constructs a headset to concentrate the ray. He puts the headset on and straps himself into a chair, so when the alien makes the next switch he’ll be subjected to the concentrated pacifist ray and cured of his anti-social tendencies. But before the alien returns home, he wants to experience Lois shot by alienthe ultimate thrill … killing someone. He chooses Lois and zaps her with a deadly ray, then switches places with Superman. Supes isn’t too bothered by Lois’s “death”; turns out the gem he gave her was a special Kryptonian space jewel that protects its bearer from all types of destructive energy. Since the alien warned Superman he was going to kill one of his closest friends, Supes gave space jewels to Jimmy, Perry, and Lana (and supposedly to Clark Kent), as well as Lois. I wonder if he gave one to Steve Lombard? Back in the other dimension, Superman’s cure has worked and the alien becomes a law-abiding citizen almost immediately. He’s grateful for Superman’s help, but he’s still strapped in the chair, so he might not be so thankful when he starves to death.

Noticeable Things:

  • Skydiving as a promo for a news station sounds a little extreme; I wonder if any real news team has ever gone that far to promote itself?
  • If there’s no crime or accidents in the other dimension, why do they have robots that act like police?
  • The back-up story is an imaginary tale about what would’ve happened if baby Kal-El’s rocket had crashed near Gotham and been found by Thomas and Martha Wayne. He saves them from being killed by Joe Chill and Commissioner Gordon suggests he’d make a great crimefighter, so he becomes Superman. It’s basically the same as Superman’s regular history, he’s just named Bruce Wayne instead of Clark Kent.

Action 513 coverAction #513 – “The Return of Superman Island” – Marv Wolfman/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Lana reporting on the return of Superman Island, a gigantic construct in the shape of Superman that the Man of Steel put together a while back and hurled into space. Nobody knew why Superman went to all the trouble to construct something so outlandish only to hurl it away, so now that it’s returning to Earth, everyone is speculating about it. In a dive bar, a couple of small-time crooks named Blisher and Larch are bragging that they’ve actually been on Superman Island (with Lois Lane) and know exactly what it’s for. Naturally, everyone in the bar figures they’re full of shit, except one guy who secretly works for HIVE; he figures if there’s even the smallest chance the two booze-hounds are telling the truth, he’d better tell his superiors. Apparently, they are telling the truth, asSuperman vs the volcano we see Lois at the Daily Planet, worrying that Blisher and Larch could cause trouble if they spilled everything they knew about Superman Island. She checks with the prison and finds out they’ve been paroled, so she asks Jimmy to call Superman with his signal-watch. But Superman’s a tad busy right now, trying to keep Mount Fuji from spewing lava all over Tokyo. Lois and Jimmy head to Blisher and Larch’s place, but they’re a few minutes late; the two bums were gassed and kidnapped by some slick dudes in a limousine, obviously working for HIVE. Blisher and Larch wake up in HIVE headquarters and are interrogated via loudspeaker. When Blisher tries to hold out for money, he’s obliterated, so Larch spills everything he knows about Superman Island … and then he’s obliterated as well. As Superman returns from Japan, he’s hit by a tractor beam that weakens him. Since the beam is green, you’d think he’d suspect Kryptonite, but it doesn’t seem to cross his mind. His x-ray vision shows a Superman taken downmissile heading for Superman Island and that definitely freaks him out. When the Island explodes, Kryptonite rains down on Metropolis, weakening Superman even more. He breaks free of the tractor beam, but plummets to the ground as the Kryptonite falls all around him. The Kryptonite isn’t there for long though, as a ship vacuums up all the green K, accidentally pulling Lois in with it, before zooming away. When Superman recovers and Jimmy tells him what happened, he tracks the green K radiation to HIVE’s base in the Atlantic. The base fires a Kryptonite missile at him and he falls into the ocean, watched by Lois who’s a prisoner inside the fully automated base. She tries to run, but gets zapped by a robot drone. Superman’s body is tractor-beamed again, this time from Superman Island itself. Yeah, I guess Superman Island wasn’t blown up completely, it was just breached and lost its Kryptonite cargo. The Island is inhabited by a race of blue-skinned aliens called the Krell, who save Superman’s life and tell him their story. The Krell fled the destruction ofHIVE base destroyed their homeworld and settled on Superman Island, mining its Kryptonite and adapting it to their needs. Superman says he has to go back and rescue Lois from HIVE and the Krell use their technology to make him temporarily immune to Kryptonite. That immunity allows him to wade through the HIVE defenses and rescue Lois before turning the HIVE base to slag with his heat vision. (Don’t worry, the base was only populated by robots … or so Superman tells Lois.) Supes returns to Superman Island, where the Krell tell him they’ve run out of Kryptonite to sustain their floating world. Superman tosses the Island through a space-warp toward a habitable planet, so the Krell can settle down and stop wandering the galaxy.

Noticeable Things:

  • The original story of Superman Island was told way back in Action 224; basically, Superman collected the Kryptonite for some scientist looking for an alternate energy source. When that didn’t pan out, Supes tossed the whole mess into space.
  • The unexpected eruption of Mount Fuji is said to be the third in a short time, the first two being Mount St. Helens (which actually did erupt in 1980) and a volcano at someplace called Lake Henry, which I can’t find any record of. I assume this is setting up a future story.
  • When the missile hits Superman Island, it seems to be inside the atmosphere. If Superman originally threw it on a parabolic arc into space, wouldn’t it just pass by Earth and keep going?
  • This must be one of the first mentions of the criminal organization HIVE (soon to become prominent in Wolfman’s New Teen Titans); according to a footnote, Lois has technically already encountered HIVE (in Superman Family 205), but that story isn’t published until February, 1981.

Air Wave meets AtomAir Wave – “The Red Dart’s Deadly Arts” – Bob Rozakis/RomeoTanghal/Kim DeMulder

I know Air Wave needs a Rogue’s Gallery, but is Red Dart really the best they could do? I don’t suppose Green Arrow was too broken up about losing him. Speaking of Green Arrow, he’s supposed to show up at the local university for a lecture and Hal (Air Wave) Jordan is looking forward to seeing his old mentor again. But Arrow had to cancel at the last minute and sent Atom in his place. Unfortunately, the microphone is booby-trapped and Atom seems to be blown up. When Air Wave checks it out, Atom is fine (he saw the explosive dart coming out of the microphone and reduced his size at the last second) and they head up to the JLA Satellite to figure out who’s behind it. The dart angle kinda gives it away, and they find out that while Atom was almost being blown up, Red Dart was stealing some paintings from a gallery across town. Air Wave reads that Red Dart took an interest in art while in prison and figures he’ll hit the museum next. Air Wave heads down to stake the place out, but gets blastedAtom disappears by the same kind of energy that Sunspotter used a couple issues ago. He shorts out and crash-lands. Meanwhile, Atom has figured another angle; Red Dart is really John “Midas” Mallory, and with a nickname like that, Atom figures he must be obsessed with gold. So Atom heads to a different museum where a famous painting called the “Lady of Gold” is on display. I don’t know why Atom didn’t tell Air Wave about his hunch … maybe he wants all the credit for himself. Sure enough, Red Dart shows up and Atom pounds him, informing Red Dart that his booby-trap failed to kill Green Arrow. But when Atom tries to manipulate his size controls to head home, he’s hit by an energy burst that looks a lot like the one that took out Air Wave. We’ll see where both heroes end up next issue.

DC Presents 27 coverDC Comics Presents #27 – “The Key That Unlocked Chaos” – Len Wein/Jim Starlin/Dick Giordano

This one starts with Superman getting a message from outer space, from a yellow-faced alien named Mongul. Mongul has taken Lois, jimmy, and Steve Lombard hostage and miniaturized them, trapping them inside a cube. Mongul says he’ll kill them if Superman doesn’t do something for him. Supes doesn’t have much choice and Mongul asks him to find the Ice Key so he can turn Kazooie into a dragon. No wait, that’s something else; Mongul wants a crystal key that’s locked in a special vault on the fifth planet of the Cygnus system. Superman isn’t too happy to hear that, since he fourth planet of the Cygnus system is New Mars, home of his old pal, J’onn J’onzz, Martian Manhunter. Mongul knows that but doesn’t care, soWarworld history Superman heads for Cygnus. He figures he can get the key, but keep it away from Mongul until he can figure out what to do. Superman is pretty sure of himself, assuming not only that he can get the key without any trouble, but that he’ll be able to beat Mongul as well. When he reaches Cygnus-5, the whole planet is barren except for a weird temple, obviously the place where the key is stored. But the place isn’t really unprotected; alarms have alerted New Mars and J’onn J’onzz shows up, imploring Superman to leave the key where it is. J’onn tells Superman the key’s history: centuries ago, a bellicose race called the Warzoon built a mobile space station capable of destroying a planet (yeah, it’s basically a Death Star, although the Warzoon called it Warworld). They traversed the galaxy, but all mysteriously died during their travels. An ultra-peaceful race called the Largas found Warworld and Superman fights J'onnreprogrammed it so no one could approach unless they had a special key to deactivate the defenses. The Largas eventually died out too, but the last one left the key with the New Martians, knowing how dedicated they are to peace. J’onn figures that story will dissuade Superman from trying to get the key, but Supes is adamant he knows what he’s doing. (“I’m Superman!”) They fight and J’onn tries to use Kryptonite missiles (which he had on hand for some reason), but Superman destroys them. Supes uses his heat vision to create fire, weakening J’onn enough that he can pound him. Superman retrieves the key and as soon as he emerges from the temple, Mongul shows up in a spaceship the size of a city. He beams down with Lois, Jimmy, and Steve in the mini-cube, threatening to crush them if Superman doesn’t hand over the key. His three friends tell him they’re willing to die to keepMongul escapes with the key Mongul from gaining power over Warworld, and—rather surprisingly—Superman agrees, telling Mongul he won’t give him the key. Mongul freaks out and starts shrinking the cube, crushing Lois, Jimmy, and Steve, but the cube suddenly shatters, freeing the three human prisoners. Mongul goes nuts, asking how Superman managed to free them, but Supes is as surprised as anyone. Turns out J’onn freed them by turning invisible and sneaking up on Mongul. Mongul decks J’onn and takes off, teleporting his spaceship away before Superman can stop him. J’onn gives Superman shit for being so arrogant and overconfident, and now Mongul has the key to a planet-blasting space station. Supes says he’s taking his friends back to Earth, then he’s going to get some super-powered help and hunt Mongul down. Superman swears he’ll recover the key, or die trying.

Noticeable Things:

  • The inker is listed as “Quickdraw”, but other sources say it’s Giordano; I assume he did a last-minute job when someone else dropped out.
  • If the Largas are so dedicated to peace, why the hell didn’t they just destroy Warworld?
  • Mongul mentions that J’onn stopped him from obtaining the key once before, but I think that’s an “untold” story; I’m pretty sure this is Mongul’s first appearance.
  • This story has a very Marvel feel to it; Mongul sounds like Dr. Doom, Superman jokes around like Spider-Man, and the whole good-guy fight is a very Marvel trope.

Congorilla splash“Whatever Happened to Congorilla?” – Bob Rozakis/Romeo Tanghal/Frank Chiaramonte

I’m always up for a good gorilla story, but this one is fairly slight. This takes place in some unspecified African city; since it involves diamonds, I’m thinking it might be near the West Coast. Congo Bill (a Great-White-Hunter type who found a ring that let him exchange minds with a golden gorilla) has become an industrialist. When a fireball steaks across the sky, many natives think it’s an omen of some kind. As usual, someone is ready and willing to take advantage of their superstitions. Some charlatan starts spreading rumours that the fireball heralds the coming of a silver gorilla, who can bestow wealth and power on anyone who brings an offering of uncut diamonds. I assume the people are taking the diamonds from mines (or companies like Bill’s), since they wouldn’t need wealth and power if they already owned a bunch of diamonds. Bill knows it’s a scam and figures he might as well use one gorilla to fight another. He exchanges minds with Congorilla and heads for the outskirts of town where the charlatans are operating. Congorilla finds out the “silver gorilla” is actually an American con man named Fred Cantrell, who previously tried to con some natives out of their oil rights inape fight Nigeria. Congorilla finds the fireworks Cantrell and his native pals used to make the fireball in the sky and uses them to cause a big flash, startling the crowd. Congorilla pops up, saying his silver counterpart is a fake and they start fighting. Cantrell was a wrestler, but no human can beat a gorilla! Congorilla kicks Cantrell’s ass, unmasking him and leaving him (and his accomplice) to the tender mercies of the people they swindled. Congorilla returns the diamonds and exchanges minds with Bill again. One of Bill’s African friends thanks him for helping the natives “take another step forward along the road of progress”, which seems a bit patronizing to me. But it was nice to see some ape action.

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