Comics Reviews: Superman 357, Action 517, DC Comics Presents 31, Warlord 43

Superman 357 coverSuperman #357 – “Food for a God” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Charamonte

Last issue, Vartox dropped by to let Superman know he was using his hyper-powers as champion for a planet called Tynola, but he also gave Supes a secret message saying he needed help. Vartox said the Tynolans had been staging disasters for him to fix and he wanted to find out why. When Superman arrived on Tynola, he and Vartox staged a fight and Superman was captured and imprisoned. This story opens with people back on Earth (Jimmy, Lois, Lana) wondering where Superman is (and in Lois’s case, wondering about Clark too). On Tynola, Vartox is still taking care of manufactured crises, while Superman languishes in a bubble suspended in energy-absorbing liquid. Supes has toSuperman busts out make it look good for his captors, so he tries to escape by bouncing the bubble around like a pinball, but the liquid absorbs all the impact. Superman is only using about 90% of his strength though, since he’s not ready to escape just yet; his prison is the perfect place from which to observe the Tynolans with his x-ray vision and super-hearing. He spies on a meeting where the Tynolans discuss their master plan: every time Vartox uses his power to stop a “disaster”, he’s charged with Mosmic radiation. Once he’s been saturated with Mosmic rays, Vartox will be fed to a gigantic outer space creature called Moxumbra. Superman decides he’d better warn Vartox, so he uses all his strength to bust out of the bubble. The Tynolans are ready for that and fill the liquid medium around the bubble with red sun radiation, which weakens Superman so much he’s paralyzed. The Tynolans use Superman as bait for Superman saves Vartoxtheir sacrifice to Moxumbra; they shoot him into space, knowing Vartox will rescue him and be eaten by Moxumbra. (The Tynolans say Moxumbra can’t feed on Superman, even if he were charged with Mosmic radiation, because he’s invulnerable.) The trap works and Vartox speeds into space to save Superman from Moxumbra (which looks a bit like the Doomsday Machine from Star Trek). Superman warns Vartox about the trap, but he’s already in Moxumbra’s grip, being drained so much that he starts to fade away. Superman tells Vartox to transfer the Mosmic radiation to him and that shifts Moxumbra’s attention to the Man of Steel, leaving Vartox okay. As the Tynolans surmised, Moxumbra can’t digest Superman and it flies off into space with a cosmic gut-ache. Vartox decides to stick around and help the Tynolans; apparently their questionable morality was due to Moxumbra’s influence, so now that it’s gone, the Tynolans need guidance. Back on Earth, Clark gives Lois a really shitty excuse for his absence, but she seems to buy it. Some reporter.

Action 517 coverAction #517 – “The War for Peace” – Gerry Conway/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt

This one starts at the WGBS Christmas party, where Lana is about to corner Superman under some mistletoe when he zooms off. He spotted a brawl in front of a synagogue; a bunch of kids are fighting over whose holiday Christmas is. Superman gives them a sappy speech about brotherhood and how you can’t fight wars in the name of love. He sees another emergency, but after he leaves, the kids are suddenly friends. I guess his real super-power is giving sanctimonious speeches. Superman flies into space to catch a damaged spaceship which he deposits of the moon. Another ship shows up and blasts Supes with a ray that paralyzes him by stopping molecular interactions in his body. When he recovers, the pilot of the first ship tells him the attackers were the Aloi and they stole something from his ship … an artifact made of pure iridium (known as the Grayl) which is sacred to his people, the Margoi. The pilotSuperman evades the harpoon missile (whose name is Nemrul) asks Superman if he’ll help recover the Grayl. Superman repairs Nemrul’s ship and they head to his home planet, but it turns out the Margoi aren’t so perfect after all … they stole the Grayl from the Aloi (who stole it from them a thousand years ago). Superman refuses to help, saying the two races are locked in an idiotic struggle where both are in the wrong but think they’re in the right. Nemrul leaves Superman to be pounded by a couple of clone troops, whose weapons are actually strong enough to hurt him. Supes gets away, avoiding being blown away by a homing missile. He follows the attack fleet to the Aloi planet, where the thieves return with the Grayl. One of the Aloi priests isn’t too happy, saying the recovery of the Grayl is prophesied Superman destroys the power crystalsto start a war that wipes out Aloi and Margoi alike. Sure enough, the Margoi show up and start blasting, but Superman soon follows and trashes both sides’ weapons. He gets blasted, but realizes the weapons’ power source and destroys it. He zips back to the Margoi planet at super-speed and destroys their weapons’ power source too. He takes off, figuring it’ll take the Margoi and Aloi time to rebuild their power sources … time they might use to start talking to each other. We see the Aloi priest offer the Grayl back to the Margoi, so maybe Supes is right after all … and he didn’t even have to make a sanctimonious speech. Back on Earth, Clark uses the mistletoe to steal a kiss from Lois, who wishes him Merry Christmas.

Noticeable Things:

  • At the WGBS party, someone who looks like Julie Schwartz gives Perry White a t-shirt that says “foxy”; knowing what I do about Julie, I’m sure the shirt was meant for Lana or Lois.
  • After superman leaves the kids, the Jewish kid invites the others to his house for fruit punch and cookies … and to watch “A Christmas Carol” on TV. I guess the message is that for Jewish people to be accepted, they should act like Christians? He should’ve invited them out for Chinese food.
  • There was an Aquaman back-up in this issue, but as far as I can tell it was part of an ongoing storyline (from Adventure), and since I didn’t review the other parts, I won’t bother with this one.

DC Presents 31 coverDC Comics Presents #31 – “The Deadliest Show on Earth” – Gerry Conway/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Dick Giordano

This one starts with Robin sneaking into the Sterling Circus in Gotham. He’s jumped by one of the sideshow people (a half-man, half-woman) and decks them before slipping toward the big top. We get a quick flashback to that afternoon when he brought a date to the circus. He saw a clown named Waldo who he knew from his own circus days, but Waldo didn’t recognize him at all (though we can see the strongman giving him a strange look). That made Dick suspicious, so he came back as Robin to check things out. He finds everyone gathered in the big top, where someone is using telepathy to dominate the circus performers, including Waldo the clown. Waldo is forced to jump through a ring of fire as punishment for making Dick suspicious that afternoon, but Robin grabs him before he getsSuperman revealed as strongman incinerated. The telepathic voice intrudes on Robin’s brain, almost knocking him out, and when Robin tries to resist, the voice brags about how it already dominated someone far stronger than him. The strongman removes his disguise and it turns out to be a mentally controlled Superman. Robin is knocked out by a telepathic blast and taken to the conditioning room to be brainwashed. We get a closer look at Superman, and it looks like he might just be faking his enslavement. A week later, the circus shows up in Metropolis, where Jimmy and Lois show up to check it out. Jimmy thinks it’s a joke when he sees Robin with the trapeze artists and assumes he’s a fake, as does Lois when she spots Superman lifting an elephant with one hand. Uncharacteristically, neither of them feels compelled to investigate, since Robin exposes the hypnotistthey figure it’s just a cheap stunt by the circus. That night, Superman sneaks out to Robin’s cage (yeah, they keep him in a cage) and cures the mental domination with a super hand clap. Supes explains that he was never really hypnotized, but played along because he wasn’t sure who was behind the telepathic voice. The voice interrupts them and they find themselves surrounded by the whole circus, mentally forced to attack. Robin pounds the performers while Superman deals with the animals. Robin gets an idea to unmask the guy using the telepathy; he uses an old-fashioned flash powder camera to cause a blinding light in the tent. None of the hypnotized people turn away, but one of the clowns does, so Robin figures he’s the one dominating the rest. The clown says he just wanted to be in charge instead of taking orders all the time and Robin actually feels a bit sorry for him. Superman takes him into custody, though we never do find out how the clown got telepathic powers, or what’s to stop him from using them again.

Noticeable Things:

  • Some of the artwork (which is great) looks familiar; I think I might’ve had this issue as a kid.
  • Dick brought a girl named Angie to the circus; I guess he’s not dating Jennifer anymore since he quit college.

Robotman splash“Whatever Happened to Robotman?” – Bob Rozakis/Alex Saviuk/Vince Colletta

We open with a contemporary news report about the death (or disappearance) of Robotman. The report recaps his origin: Bob Crane was shot by gangsters, but saved when his friend Chuck Grayson transplanted his brain into a robot body; Robotman became a crimefighter for years until he disappeared. This is the twentieth anniversary of his disappearance, so I guess he was meant to have vanished around 1960, which is interesting since he was created before World War II. Turns out Robotman was trapped in a mine by a crook named Lashky twenty years ago and coincidentally his back-up power finally kicks in now. He manages to dig himself out of the mine, but I guess his CMOS is fucked up because he thinks it’s still 1960 and wants to track down Lashky. He gets quite the culture shock ($52 for a hotel room? Good thing he didn’tRobotman catches Lashky revive now, he’d explode), but it never occurs to him that it’s not 1960. He tracks Lashky down and is shocked to see he’s twenty years older and a prosperous businessman. When Robotman attacks Lashky, he finally learns it’s 1980, but that doesn’t stop him from bringing Lashky in. The cops (who had no idea Lashky was crooked) are grateful and offer him a job, but he’s learned that his old friend Chuck Grayson left him something special when he died … his body! Yeah, I don’t know how Grayson’s body was preserved for twenty years, but he left it specifically so Bob Crane’s brain could be transplanted into it and he could have a human body again. So it’s a happy ending, if you can accept all the brain transplants as plausible.

Warlord 43 coverWarlord #43 – “Berserk” – Mike Grell/Bob Smith

Last issue, Travis Morgan headed back to Shamballah to make up with his estranged wife, Tara. The city was besieged by Therans and after fighting his way inside, Morgan found out Tara wasn’t there … she’d been captured by the Therans before she reached the city. Morgan figures the Therans haven’t yet recognized her as the queen, otherwise they’d be making demands. He tells one of Tara’s advisers to recruit five hundred brave men to swim down through the caverns under Shamballah (without armour) so they can go up the river and outflank the Therans. Morgan goes out to treat with the Therans, taking his laser rifle with him as an intimidation tactic. Shakira retrieved the rifle from an ancient Atlantean cache last issue, but it’s out of power. Naturally, Morgan doesn’t tell the Therans that. He challenges the Therans to trial by combat and their champion is a barbarian dude with four arms. Morgan hasMorgan vs the barbarian to give his commando team time to make it up the river, so he makes like Rocky and lets himself get knocked around. Tara is chained to a nearby tree and wonders why Morgan isn’t fighting back. The swimmers finally reach the riverbank and launch a fire arrow to let Morgan know. He immediately slaughters the barbarian as the flanking squad attacks and the Shamballan army pours out of the city. The Theran leader finally realizes his captive is the queen and holds Morgan’s laser rifle to her head. Morgan knows it’s useless, so he lets the guy pull the trigger, then blows him away with his .44 Automag. Morgan frees Tara and they cleave their way through the Therans, but Morgan’s enchanted sword infects him with its own thirst for blood. Even after the Therans surrender, Morgan is tempted to keep killing Morgan throws his cursed sword awaythem. Tara stops him and after an agonizing moment, he tosses the cursed sword into the river, where it’s caught by a ghostly hand. Tara accepts him back as her husband and the city celebrates, naming Morgan their Warlord. Morgan’s old cohort, Aton, shows up with important news, but Morgan tells him to wait … he’s got some lovin’ to take care of first. After Morgan and Tara have banged each other silly, Aton tells Morgan he found a piece of his daughter Jennifer’s boat, washed ashore five hundred leagues to the north. Naturally, Morgan has to go see if Jennifer is alive, and naturally Tara isn’t happy that he’s taking off again so soon. You’d think if she really loved him she’d want to help him find his daughter, but I guess she does have her royal responsibilities to think of. Anyway, we’ll see how Morgan’s search for Jennifer goes next issue.

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