Comics Reviews: Superman 354, Action 514, DC Comics Presents 28

Superman 354 coverSuperman #354 – “Twice Upon a Time” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with a gang of thieves with rocket packs and other high-tech weaponry fleeing after a successful robbery. They’re reporting to their boss (Mr. Alpha) over a radio link when Superman shows up and ties them in knots … literally. He overhears Alpha’s communication and goes to look for him, but Alpha (who was hiding in a van in a nearby street) sneaks down into the sewers. Superman is delayed rescuing people from a car accident, so by the time he gets to the van, Alpha has made his way into the sewers and found an even deeper tunnel in which to hide. Superman gives up his search, since he has an appointment at the Metropolis Museum as Clark Kent. Clark is there to interview an archaeologist named Thalia Tate, who’s as crusty as she ismeeting Rodru famous. Clark meets the museum director, Susan Stanyon, who says Thalia has made some big discovery on her latest expedition (to Egypt) that she wants to share. Turns out Thalia found a man-shaped metal container, almost like a suit of armour … and it wasn’t empty. A guy named Rodru steps forward and greets Susan like an old friend—or girlfriend. Rodru says Susan’s real name is Myyla and the two of them are Tontrians, members of an advanced race from Earth’s prehistory. Rodru says he and Myyla were separated in a time storm and points out a medallion Susan is wearing, claiming it’s a Lingua-disc that enables them to understand any language. Rodru has one too, but Susan insists she bought the medallion at a rummage sale years ago and has worn it ever since. When she takes it off, she starts talking gibberish and wonders if Rodru’s story might be true. Thalia says she was skeptical too, Alpha listens inbut Rodru said he could track down his erstwhile partner with his own Lingua-disc, and it led him to Susan. A quick x-ray vision scan tells Clark the Lingua-discs are way more advanced than any current Earth tech, but he still wonders why Thalia wanted him there. She says Rodru has to return to the past (with or without Susan/Myyla), but the time-suit’s time-travel mechanism was damaged, leaving only the defensive weaponry intact. Thalia is hoping Clark will contact Superman to see if he can help. Meanwhile, Alpha has stumbled into some catacombs under the museum and hears the conversation through the vent. He’s especially interested in the part about the suit’s weapons. Clark shares a cab with Susan, who’s not buying Rodru’s story. Rodru said the time storm threw them out of synch, so Susan arrived five years before him, with amnesia. She invented a new identity and went to college, winding up at the museum. But Rodru can’t explain Susan’s memories of her life, family, childhood before five yearsSusan menaced by Alpha ago. Clark asks where and when Susan was born and she tells him before heading up to her apartment. She gets a shock as she finds a time-suit in her closet, making her wonder if it was always there and Rodru’s story might be true. She gets an even bigger shock as the suit opens and Mr. Alpha steps out with a gun. Superman goes to Susan’s hometown to look for her birth records, but can’t find anything. The nurse at the last hospital he checks says their records go back to 1910, so the only way they’d be incomplete would be if the person in question was over seventy. That gives Superman the clue he needs to figure out what the hell’s going on. He heads back to Metropolis, just in time to find Rodru robbing a bank while wearing the time-suit. Rodru says Alpha has Susan and will kill her if he doesn’t cooperate. Rodru uses the suit’s weapons to delay Superman and escape. In the catacombs under the Superman vs Rodrumuseum, Rodru turns over the stolen loot and asks Alpha to return Susan, but Alpha says he wants more money first. Rodru is ready to pound him—and Alpha is about to shoot Rodru—when Superman shows up, having tracked Alpha’s voice with his super-hearing. Superman rescues Susan, who’s s locked in a sarcophagus and buried with an oxygen supply. Superman turns Alpha in and retrieves the second time-suit from Susan’s place. Rodru is ready to head back in time, but wonders why Susan isn’t there. Superman explains that Susan isn’t Myyla after all … Thalia is. Her time-suit arrived way back in 1930 and she aged normally while waiting for Rodru to show up. After years of waiting, she finally gave up and became a professor, but she didn’t want Rodru to be stuck with an old bag for a girlfriend, so when she met Susan (who looked a lot like her younger self), she hatched her plan. This is where it gets really hard to swallow; Thalia (or Myyla, I guess we can call her) somehow arranged or Susan to find (and buy) the Lingua-disc, hypnotizing her to always wear it and to forget how to speak English otherwise. Then when Rodru showed up, Thalia got rid of Susan’s birth records and plantedhappy ending the time-suit in her apartment! This broad should’ve been a spy, not an archaeologist. Superman takes Rodru and Myyla back through time in their time-suits to the advanced civilization that spawned them (which turns out to be the same civilization that dug the catacombs under Metropolis, just in case you haven’t had your fill of coincidences yet). If you’re cringing at the thought of studly young Rodru banging away with dried-up old Thalia, don’t worry; due to timey-wimey paradox bullshit, Myyla’s traveling back to the past has returned her to her hot, young self. So she and Rodru can bone to their hearts’ content. There was a back-up story about the Superman of 2020 in the original comic, but I’m not going to bother with it; as a rule, I don’t care for future/imaginary stories.

Action 514 coverAction #514 – “Countdown of the Killer Computer” – Marv Wolfman/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Superman returning to Metropolis just in time to help two trains that meet in a head-on collision on a viaduct. He manages to save both trains with minimal injuries, but wonders what could have caused such a crash. We see that’s not the only strange event happening, as nuclear missiles launch toward Russia (on their own), traffic lights go crazy, and even the elevators at the Galaxy Building are screwed up. Superman rescues Lois and Jimmy from the stuck elevator, but has to take off when he hears about the missile strike. He halts the American missiles before they can hit Moscow and calls Hawkman to deal with the Russian retaliatory strike over Washington. Superman realizes every electronic system on Earth has been hacked and heads to his Fortress of Solitude, reasoning that his own computers are tamper-proof. But when hesuper scream gets there, he’s almost electrocuted trying to get in. He smashes through the door and finds someone has been wrecking up the place. His own security devices attack him, including robot guards, Kryptonite gas, and some of the displays in his trophy room. (The robot dinosaur is pretty cool; too bad Supes has to smash it.) We see someone in the control room, directing the attacks, but can’t tell who it is yet. Superman is attacked by more deadly devices (maybe he shouldn’t keep so much lethal weaponry just lying around?): a Mind-Molder almost drives him crazy, then Luthor’s killer robot blasts him with Kryptonite vision, and the rest of his trophies mass for an attack. Superman smashes them all with a super-loud shout, but gets jumped by space-creatures from his exotic animal collection. He wraps the creatures up (I’m sure they won’t tear each other to pieces) and busts into the control room to find … Brainiac! Last time we saw Brainy, he was shrinking out of existence Superman superchargedafter fighting Superman and Supergirl, but the green-skinned villain explains that he had a pre-programmed failsafe that brought him back to normal size. Brainy was damaged, so he broke into the Fortress to repair himself with Superman’s advanced machinery. Tapping into the Fortress computer let Brainiac drain power from every computer system on Earth (hence the malfunctions) and allows him to reprogram his 12th level intelligence into a 20th level one. He concentrates all the Fortress’s power into Superman’s body so he’ll explode, but Supes zips off to Capella and uses the excess energy to recharge the star. When he returns, Brainiac has finished his reprogramming and greets Superman as a friend. Supes is pretty cordial too and it turns out he used his heat vision to change the computer’s program when brainy was hooked to it. So Brainiac ended up reprogramming himself to be a sweet, lovable, benevolent guy. Brainy heads out into space, saying he’ll dedicate his life and knowledge to doing good from now on. Superman wishes him well and contemplates the mess he has to clean up in the Fortress. You certainly can’t accuse Wolfman of being afraid to change the status quo, though I’m sure the sweetheart Brainiac won’t last.

Air Wave splashAir Wave/Atom – “Sunspotter’s Crime Collection” – Bob Rozakis/Romeo Tanghal/Kim DeMulder

Last issue, we saw Air Wave and Atom get shanghaied (separately) by mysterious energy. This story opens with Air Wave materializing in his enemy Sunspotter’s hideout. Sunspotter used his electromagnetic powers to short out Air Wave’s power and bring him to the hideout, where he’s encased in an EM bubble. Apparently, Sunspotter is something of an exhibitionist, because he wants to keep Air Wave trapped and brag about all the crimes he’s committing. Sunspotter heads to a clock museum and starts stealing stuff, but Atom shows up out of nowhere to challenge him. It seems Sunspotter inadvertently pulled atom from the JLA teleporter beam and brought him here. The villain knocks Atom out and takes him back to the hideout, where he traps the Tiny Titan in an icicle. Sunspotter leaves to commit more crimes and Air Wave sees the icicle isSunspotter pounded starting to melt, but knows it’ll be hours before Atom is free. He maneuvers the EM bubble under the icicle and the dripping water shorts the bubble, freeing Air Wave. He melts Atom free of the icicle (over the stove!) and they wonder where Sunspotter went. Atom shrinks and finds a tiny char mark in the social register where Sunspotter was looking for a target. They interrupt his latest robbery and Air Wave tackles him, but Sunspotter’s power knocks him back. Air Wave says he has a new punch in his arsenal … a ventriloquist punch, that he can throw from across the room. Sunspotter thinks that’s funny, but Air Wave actually throws the Atom, who returns to his full weight right before impact, knocking Sunspotter out.

DC Presents 28 coverDC Comics Presents #28 – “Warworld” – Len Wein/Jim Starlin/Romeo Tanghal

Last issue, a powerful alien named Mongul found the key to Warworld, a Death-Star type superweapon that had been deactivated for millennia. Martian Manhunter tried to stop Mongul, but Superman’s interference allowed the alien to get away, so Supes vowed to enlist some high-powered help and stop Mongul before he can use Warworld to destroy any planets. As this issue opens, we see Superman’s help is his cousin, Supergirl, and he’s explaining the story to her. When they reach the last-known location of Warworld, it’s gone, so Mongul has obviously beaten them to it. They track Warworld’s unique emanations and find it’s heading toward the Raydor Galaxy. Supergirl isn’t too worried about Mongul (or Warworld), but Superman seems to have learned his lesson after his overconfidence last issue; he tells Supergirl that justWarworld unleashed because they haven’t encountered anything that can harm them (besides Kryptonite and magic) doesn’t mean there can’t be something out there capable of killing them. They locate Warworld and it’s even bigger (and better-armed) than they thought, but they press on. Their super-vision shows them Mongul, surrounded by a bunch of graves, some newer, some very old. Mongul uses a control helmet to interface with Warworld, essentially becoming one with the whole thing. He spots Superman and Supergirl approaching and we get a quick origin story for Mongul: he was a tyrant on a planet but was overthrown when a religious leader stirred up dissent. Mongul fled (and the religious leader became an even worse tyrant) and now Mongul wants to take over the whole universe. I wonder if Jim Starlin had a hand in the plot; ruling the universe is a very Thanos thing to do. Mongul shoots a couple of missiles and they’re so powerful, they almost blow superman away. Superman figures out how to defeat Mongul and tells Supergirl to goad the Supergirl slams through Warworldtyrant into going all out. Mongul obliges, sending every conceivable weapon at them. They run the gauntlet, dodging and destroying what weaponry they can. Supergirl wonders why and her cousin mentions the graves on Warworld; they must be those of Warworld’s former commanders, who basically killed themselves by going overboard while linked to the planet-killer. Superman’s theory is right and Mongul keels over from the effort of using all Warworld’s weapons. Unfortunately, Warworld has automated defenses, so Superman and Supergirl can’t just waltz in and destroy it. Supes tells Supergirl his plan and he engages Warworld’s defenses while his cousin backs up a few million parsecs to get a flying start. She zooms in so fast (faster than light speed) that Warworld can’t target her and she slams right through the middle f it. Superman heads into the breach and reprograms Warworld to turn its defenses on itself. He looks for Mongul, but the would-be conqueror is gone, so Superman gets out right before Warworld explodes. So the threat of Warworld is ended, but Mongul got away … and Supergirl has disappeared. We’ll see what happened to her next issue.

“Whatever Happened to Johnny Thunder?” Mike Tiefenbacher/Gil Kane

This is the cowboy Johnny Thunder, not the goofball who hung out with the JSA. Basically, Johnny Thunder is John Tane, a schoolteacher, and his girlfriend is Jeanne Walker, a photographer who masquerades as MadameJohnny and Madame .44 cooperate .44, another Old West hero (though for some reason, she’s considered an outlaw). They suspect each other’s secrets, but neither one can prove it. A criminal named Silk Black robs a bank and Johnny and Madame .44 both go after him. They’re at odds initially, but when they go over a cliff into a river like Butch and Sundance, Johnny saves Madame .44’s life and realizes she’s as dedicated to justice as he is. They cooperate and kill Silk Black, then realize they’re in love. They get married in their civilian identities and we see them telling the story to their kids years later.

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