Comics Reviews: Superman 355, Action 515, DC Comics Presents 29, Warlord 41

Superman 355 coverSuperman #355 – “Momentus, Master of the Moon” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with a voice-over about how the phases of the moon affect human behaviour, as we see a couple of werewolves menace two young lovers in the park. But these aren’t your typical werewolves, since they rob the couple using a gun and a knife. We move to a lecture at the science hall, where we see a scientist named Asa Ezaak (who’s a dead ringer for Isaac Asimov) is the one talking about the moon. Lois Lane asks if lycanthropy has any scientific basis, but Ezaakwerewolves beaten dismisses her. After the lecture, Jimmy talks to Ezaak (Jimmy is a huge fan and says he’s read all 200 of Ezaak’s books), while Lois thinks to herself that there’s something shifty about Ezaak. I think she’s just pissed off at being shot down so brusquely. Later that night, the werewolves strike again, mugging a guy walking through the park. But their “victim” turns out to be Superman in disguise and he quickly takes care of them. The werewolves turn out to be a couple of punks in masks. Superman takes off and hears an alarm from STAR Labs. When he gets there, he finds that a huge figure covered in oozing orange mud (sounds like the Glob) smashed through the wall and stole some moon rocks. Not only that, but when the guard fired at the glob, the bullets dropped to the floor before hitting their target. A couple Ezaak educates Jimmyof weeks go by, with no new sightings of the glob-creature, but Jimmy Olsen seems to have disappeared during that period. We see Dr. Ezaak lecturing again on the moon, this time at his own home. He says the moon exerts a large influence on the Earth’s tides through gravity, so he’s surmised that gravity can have an effect on the human body too (since it’s mostly water). Ezaak has come up with a catalyst that’ll turn a person into a “gravity sponge”, giving him undreamed-of powers. He injects himself and turns into the glob again (which he refers to as Momentus), and we see his lecture is being delivered to Jimmy Olsen, who’s been caged for the last two weeks. Ezaak wants Jimmy to report on his big discovery, but had to wait for the proper moon phase to demonstrate. Momentus takes off and Jimmy uses various items to knockJimmy escapes his signal watch off a nearby table, sending a distress call to Superman. Supes comes running and busts Jimmy loose and they find Ezaak’s stash of scientific wonders that he’s been stealing. Jimmy is grabbed by some kind of gravitic force and Superman latches on to go along for the ride. They end up on a mountain outside town where Momentus is waiting. He uses his gravity powers to force them to their knees, but Superman manages to break free and take jimmy to safety. Superman tackles Momentus, whose gravity power is more than the Man of Steel can handle. Superman wonders how Momentus could be stronger than him and gets an idea. He takes off and Momentus follows far Momentus explodesunder ground. Superman says Momentus drains gravity from other sources, but since every molecule exerts its own gravity, and Superman’s molecules are stronger than Earth molecules, Momentus won’t be able to absorb the gravity he’s draining from Superman. Yeah, that doesn’t really make sense to me either, but it’s apparently true because Momentus ends up exploding. Superman feels a bit guilty, but he did try to warn Momentus; you’d think a scientist would’ve been smart enough to listen. There was a “Superman of 2020” back-up in this issue, but as usual I’m not bothering with future/imaginary stories.

Action 515 coverAction #515 – “This Is My World and You’re Welcome To It” – Marv Wolfman/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Superman waking up and flying out to fight some bad guys, but we quickly realize something’s different. The people on the street seem to know superman’s secret identity and he’s fighting some kind of rebel group who use flying saucers. The captions assure us that this is not an imaginary story … this is Earth-1 and this is the real Superman, so reality itself must somehow be different than what we’re used to. Superman pounds the rebels, who he says have been stepping up their activities lately, but the leader gets away. Oh, by the way, the leader was Jimmy Olsen. Superman takes the captured rebels to the Emperor, who turns out to be Vandal Savage. Savage tortures the rebels but doesn’t learn anything. Savage summons his security chief (Lois Lane) and takes her andSuperman and Lois make out Superman to see his chief scientist, Lex Luthor. Luthor has invented a disintegration weapon that can be attuned to its wielder’s brainwaves. Savage needs the weapon for protection, since he’s giving a speech the next day condemning the underground movement as traitors and announcing they’ll be killed without trials from now on. Superman flies off to an emergency and Savage asks Lois how the rebels keep getting through her security into his castle. Lois says someone in the castle must be a spy, working for the rebels. Savage tells her to catch the spy so he can get information from them. Elsewhere, we see Jimmy and fellow rebel Jenet Klyburn planning an all out attack on Savage. In the castle, Superman and Lois get together (it’s obvious they’ve been seeing each other for a while) and Superman wonders why the rebels hate Savage so much, since he’s “always” been the Emperor—or at least for a few thousand years—and his immortality makes him superior. Lois starts spouting some rebel jargon, saying people don’t like having their choices dictated, even by a wise and benevolent Emperor. Hmmm, I think I can guess who the spy is. Superman detects the rebel attack and heads off to fight it, but the rebels are ready for him. They use a red sun ray to sap his strength and invulnerability, then stomp him into the ground with giant robots. Unfortunately, the follow-up isn’t quite on target and Superman smashes all the robots and captures the rebels. Superman smashes robotsJimmy is interrogated, but won’t talk, even after Lois slaps him around. Later, Jimmy is rescued from his cell and taken to a cavern under the castle. His rescuer turns out to be Lois and she says she’s been trying to sway Superman to the rebels’ cause, but he trusts Savage too much. I guess Lois’s isn’t that great a lay. Superman busts in, saying Savage told him to watch Lois. We get a revised origin for Savage: he was a caveman who got immortality from a comet and lived through the ages, gaining power andLois disintegrated taking different names (like Cheops and Genghis Khan) and eventually took over the world. When Superman’s rocket came to Earth, the Kents brought him to Savage, who raised Superman and taught him to believe in everything Savage stood for. Lois begs him to give her a chance to show her side of the story and he agrees. She takes him on a tour, showing him how most people live outside the castle—in rank poverty and slavery. She takes him to see Perry White, who runs Savage’s propaganda-filled newspaper, but also writes the rebels’ underground paper, which I’m sure is poorly xeroxed. Superman switches sides (maybe Lois is a better lay than I thought) and he and Lois go to the castle to confront Savage. Turns out savage was eavesdropping the whole time and he tries to disintegrate Superman, but Lois takes the hit and dies. Superman freaks and Savage disappears. Supes roughs up Luthor, who tells him Savage has fled into the past where Superman can’t find him, but Supes vows that he will find Savage and make him pay for killing Lois. We’ll see if he does next issue.

Atom pounds kidnappersAtom – “Sorry … Wrong Powers” – Bob Rozakis/Alex Saviuk/Vince Colletta

This one’s a bit weird; it’s a basic kidnapping caper for Atom to solve, but this cosmic weirdo named Mallo (supposedly the keeper of the cosmic balance) keeps interrupting the story and screwing round with the events. Mallo says there’s a cosmic imbalance because the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Atoms have different powers, so Mallo is going to switch their powers temporarily to restore the balance … or something. This switch happens while Atom’s friend Professor Hyatt is kidnapped by thugs who are using Hyatt to get to the Atom. They have a grudge against Atom because he once sent them to jail. In spite of not having his regular powers, Atom pounds the thugs and rescues Hyatt, then gets his powers back. Mallo tells us to check out a story about the Earth-2 Atom in DC Presents 31, which we will next month.

DC Presents 29 coverDC Comics Presents #29 – “Where No Superman Has Gone Before” – Len Wein/Jim Starlin/Romeo Tanghal

Last issue, Supergirl blasted through Mongul’s Warworld by flying at trans-light speed. Unfortunately, she never re-appeared after Mongul’s defeat, so now Superman sets out to look for her. After using his super-brain to make the proper calculations, he zooms along the same trajectory as Supergirl and passes light speed, just as she did. Breaking the light speed barrier takes him through other dimensions (though apparently not backwards in time) until he crosses the very boundary of infinity itself. He finds Supergirl, unconscious and still moving forward under inertia, so he tries to catch up. But he runs into the Spectre, who says Superman doesn’t belong in this place. Naturally Superman wants to save his cousin, but he finds his vaunted strength useless against the Spectre. Spectre tellsSuperman punches Spectre Superman that Supes is neither all-powerful nor infallible. Superman agrees, but Spectre points out that Superman sometimes acts like he’s the be-all and end-all of the universe and his shit don’t stink. Spectre shows Superman visions of Krypton, Jor-El, and Pa Kent, reminding him that all his power couldn’t save them. Superman is then confronted by his dark side, the part of himself that represents pure strength and violence, unthinking power wielded without conscience or remorse. Before that dark power can kill him, Superman gets Spectre’s point and realizes he’s been thinking with his heart instead of his head. The dark doppleganger vanishes and Superman hears a voice, the voice of “the one Spectre serves”; since Spectre is usually considered the Wrath of God, I assume that means this is God speaking to Superman fights himselfSuperman and they’re basically in heaven. Spectre does say Superman shouldn’t be there, since it’s “the golden veil beyond which no living man shall trespass”. That’s getting pretty metaphysical; Marvel did a Dr. Strange story where Strange supposedly met God, but they ended up backpedaling and saying it wasn’t the God, just a god. I think I detect Starlin’s hand in the plot here, since the metaphysical stuff is his favourite sandbox. Anyway, Superman asks Spectre to help Supergirl and he does, handing her over. Superman thanks him for the lesson that power must be tempered by conscience (though Superman has usually shown a lot of conscience, so I can’t believe this is a revelation for him), and Spectre disappears. Supergirl wakes up and Superman fills her in on what happened as they head home.

“Whatever Happened to Dr. Mid-Nite?” – Bob Rozakis/Alex Saviuk/Joe Giella

Dr. Mid-Nite’s deal is that he’s a doctor named Charles McNider who’s blind in the light, but somehow can see it total darkness. He uses some kindMid-Nite fights Timmy of infra-red goggles to see as Mid-Nite during the day, but now his vision is fading so the goggles don’t work and, even worse, his night-vision is fading too for some reason. He gets in touch with an eye doctor friend who’s been working on some new sonar glasses, but the eye doctor is killed by another patient (Timmy) who steals the glasses. McNider tracks Timmy down as he’s robbing a rich guy’s place. They fight and despite losing his night-vision again, Mid-Mite kicks Timmy’s ass. Mid-Nite takes the sonar glasses, figuring he can adapt them to work with his own infra-red goggles to restore his night vision powers, thus maintaining the status quo.

Warlord 41 coverWarlord #41 – “The Pit” – Mike Grell/Bob Smith

Last issue, Morgan and Shakira went to visit Morgan’s old friend Ashir, Prince of Kaambuka. Ashir is supposed to get married to seal a defense agreement with another kingdom, but he’s not too thrilled at the idea. And there’s a faction around the palace that doesn’t want the alliance to happen, so they’ve targeted Ashir for assassination. If all that wasn’t enough, when Ashir’s bride shows up, she turns out to be Morgan’s long-lost wife, Tara. Before Morgan can say a word, he sees more assassins about to attack Tara and leaps to her rescue. Tara pretends not to know him and Morgan plays along, although he’s confused. Tara is somewhat amused (though not exactly shocked) to meet Shakira; I guess she’s used to Morgan hanging out with hot, scantily-clad women. She even says something about enjoying a game of “cat-and-mouse” which sounds like she knows something about Shakira, but I’mMorgan and Tara together again sure they’ve never met. Morgan probably has told Shakira about Tara, so after Ashir greets his queen-to-be, Shakira keeps him busy while Morgan slips into Tara’s chambers. Morgan is seen climbing into Tara’s room, but she’s glad to see him … at least if the big smooch she gives him is anything to go by. She says her council arranged the marriage, but Morgan says they (and Ashir) will just have to live with their disappointment. While hunting a mouse, Shakira overhears Harrarh (the wizard from last issue) plotting against Ashir. It was one of Harrarh’s minions who saw Morgan going into Tara’s chamber, so Harrarh figures if they expose an affair between Ashir’s bride and his friend, that’ll scuttle the marriage alliance for them. Morgan is trying to talk Tara out of the marriage, but she says Shamballah needs the alliance with Kaambuka; the Therans are threatening to invade Shamballah, but they’d hesitate at taking on two kingdoms at once. Tara originally wanted to talk Ashir into a defensive alliance without the marriage, but now that he seems to have fallen in lust with her, that probably won’t work. Warlord and Tara fight thugsMorgan says he’ll kill Ashir before he lets him marry Tara and that’s when Harrarh and his thugs come in. Morgan realizes Harrarh is the one trying to get rid of Ashir and he and Tara cut their way through his men. Harrarh tries magic, but Morgan’s sword absorbs it, so Harrarh takes a trick from Robert E. Howard and knocks them out with black lotus powder. Morgan and Tara wake up suspended over a pit with some Lovecraftian (or Howardian) horror in it. Harrarh has gathered the lords of Kaambuka to get their blessing, telling them Tara and Morgan have betrayed the Prince. Morgan tries to tell them the truth, but Harrarh threatens to dump them in the pit. He’s interrupted by Ashir, who knows Harrarh’s plans since Shakira filled him in. Harrarh triesTara pissed off to kill Morgan and Tara, but Ashir puts an arrow through his face and Harrarh falls into the pit to be devoured by the monster (which actually looks more like a Sarlaac than anything). Ashir knows about Morgan and Tara and says Morgan can have her back, which Morgan is grateful for. Tara’s not so grateful to be passed back and forth like a piece of meat, so she decks Morgan (and knees Ashir in the jaw) telling Morgan he’ll have to win her heart all over again if he wants her back. She rides off and Morgan vows that he will win her back.

Mongo saves themWizard World – “The Book of the Dead Part II” – Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

Last issue, Mongo Ironhand, Machiste, and Mariah were buried by a rockslide on the volcanic mountain they were ascending, caused by an evil wizard (Sarrgon Fire-Eye) who had stolen the Book of the Dead. Mongo throws up a shield that keeps them from being crushed and they find a tunnel into Sarrgon’s mountain hideout. They run into a Gollum wannabe called Creatur, but he runs away from them. They make it to Sarrgon’s throne room and Mongo gets an idea. They mug a couple of guards and Mongo and Machiste don their outfits. Mariah wonders what her role is, but Mongo tells her he has it all worked out. As Mongo and Machiste approach Sarrgon, the wizard sees through their disguises. Mongo throws a dagger that misses Sarrgon by a mile,Mariah decks sarrgon sticking in the magical book. Sarrgon tries to blast them and Mongo shoots a magic bolt back, missing Sarrgon again but hitting the dagger embedded in the book. Sarrgon is amused at Mongo’s shitty aim, but it turns out Mariah was polymorphed into the dagger and Mongo’s bolt has changed her back. She decks Sarrgon and throws down the book. The three of them take off, but Sarrgon recovers and sends a blast at them, almost knocking them into the volcano. They save themselves, but Mongo drops the book into the volcano. He’s bummed about not being able to use the book to become Sorcerer Supreme (or send Mariah and Machiste home), but he figures it’s good someone like Sarrgon didn’t get the book. But far below, we see Creatur finding the book …

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