Comics Reviews: Superman 358, Action 518, DC Comics Presents 32, Warlord 44

Superman 358 coverSuperman #358 – “Father Nature’s Folly” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

The splash page calls this the “most awe-inspiring story of the year”; if that’s true, DC was having a pretty crappy year. This starts with Clark Kent showing up at a school as a guest speaker. (The kids are rather disappointed, since they were hoping the surprise guest was Superman.) One of the kids is a smart-ass named Alec and another is a bright student named Shanna. Before Clark can bore them too much, a storm causes a power outage, which worries a few of the kids, including Shanna (who seems a bit timid in general). The teacher asks Clark to distract the kids, so he tells them a story about his “close personal friend” Superman and how he dealt with a stormsubconscious hints in Colorado not too long ago. Superman was flying through the Rockies when he noticed lightning from a storm turning the trees below into weird alien vegetation. Superman was confronted by a freaky-looking alien named Cron, who telepathically informed him that he was there to modify Earth and make it better. Cron wrapped Superman in a poisonous cloud and by the time Supes got rid of it, Cron was nowhere to be found. Back at WGBS (Clark obfuscates in his story a bit to protect his secret identity) Superman started drawing a strange high-tech antenna. He couldn’t remember seeing it before, so he figured it must be something from his subconscious and the more he tried to ignore it, the worse it got; Superman started seeing the same design everywhere. He headed to the Fortress of Solitude where he did a super-scan of his brain. Superman finds the power prongThe scan revealed that the weird antenna was probably Cron’s power source, an image of which the alien had inadvertently transmitted while in telepathic contact with Superman. The Man of Steel crisscrossed the planet at super-speed until he found the antenna, disguised as a tree in the Amazon rain forest. But the antenna was shielded, stopping him from destroying it, and he was shocked when it began to speak to him telepathically. The antenna told Superman that it arrived on Earth while the planet was still in flux and over the eons, shaped Earth and subtly changed things so life could grow there. Basically, the antenna (or power prong, as it calls itself) is Mother Nature … or the ultimate edition of Sim City. Cron shows up and thanks Superman for finding the power prong for him; he’d searched everywhere and couldn’t locate it, so he transmitted a vision of his own power prong (safely hidden in orbit) to trick Supermanprong fight into finding this one. Cron revealed his true form (an electricity-filled cloud) and said the other power prong belonged to his mate, Nutra. But the two of them disagreed on how to nurture a planet; Cron’s method is much more destructive to human life. He started breaking through Nutra’s shielding and Superman knew if Cron eliminated her, he’d destroy the planet. Supes zipped back to the Fortress and returned with a plasma bomb. He threatened to detonate it, giving the people of Earth a quick painless death, instead of the drawn-out agony Cron promised. Cron assumed Superman was bullshitting, but Superman invited him to read his mind and the mind scan revealed that Superman was fully prepared to push the button on the plasma bomb. Superman reasoned that Cron looked on Earth as his “offspring” much the same way Nutra did … he superman bluffs Cron with the bombjust disagreed with her parenting methods. But Supes gambled Cron would prefer to keep Earth around than have it blown up, and it worked … Cron took off into outer space. The kids in the classroom wonder how Superman could make such a threat seriously, but Shanna figures out the truth; Cron’s mind scan of Superman showed that he was ready to push the button on the bomb, so Shanna figures the bomb must’ve been deactivated ahead of time. Clark confirms her guess and the power comes back on in the classroom, which means Clark can go back to the boring lecture he’d originally planned on giving.

Action 518 coverAction #518 – “Treasure Hunt on a Small Planet” – Gerry Conway/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts near a town called Carruthers Gap, where a hydro-electric dam has just disappeared, leaving the town in peril. Superman shows up and rebuilds the dam like a super-powered beaver, out of trees, rocks, and mud. Turns out the dam is the third thing to disappear in the last few hours (a textile factory and an auto plant are also missing), so Superman was on the alert for another disappearance. A security guard tells him a bright light shone down on the dam, then a skyhook came down and plucked the whole dam up into the air, like a claw machine in an arcade. Superman heads back to WGBS and changes to Clark Kent, wondering who could be stealing these objects from Earth … and why. Clark is contacted through his computer screen by an alien named Karmault, who knows he’s Superman. Karmault says his brother (Farlung) is the one stealing EarthSuperman cooperates with Karmault artifacts; apparently they’re from a race with telekinesis, so they never developed advanced technology. But lately they’ve been losing their powers, so Farlung decided to steal some tech from Earth to study it, while Karmault prefers to be more diplomatic. Superman meets with Karmault and gives him a list of Earth scientists before heading off to find Farlung. If you’re thinking Karmault is really the asshole and Superman just made a big mistake trusting him … well, you’re right. We see a couple of scientists out in the Mojave Desert collecting microwaves beamed from space on a giant array of parabolic dishes. But the dishes disappear, leaving the radiation to go wild. Before the scientists can be crispy fried, Superman shows up and gives them his cape for shelter before zooming into space to redirect the microwave transmitter. On the way down, superman finds Farlung’s ship and busts inside. Farlung attacks, Superman takes Karmault downsaying he was warned about Earthlings, but Superman takes him down. The Man of steel realizes they’ve both been played and asks Farlung about his brother, Karmault. Farlung admits Karmault was the one who told him not to trust Earthlings and to steal their tech; he also mentions that whoever brings the tech back to their planet will be name supreme ruler. Superman takes off to rectify his mistake and finds Karmault draining the mind of a top scientist. Supes takes Karmault down and soon gets Farlung to reverse the mind-draining of he scientists. Farlung promises Karmault will be tried back home and Superman gives him something to help his planet make the transition to a mechanistic society … a complete Do-It-Yourself library and a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. How generous of him.

Noticeable Things:

  • Jimmy Olsen and Steve Lombard are arguing about whether Joe DiMaggio’s famous hitting streak was 55 or 57 games. Clark absent-mindedly tells them it was 56, and even breaks down how many of each type of hit the Yankee Clipper got. Unfortunately, Jimmy and Steve don’t believe him.

DC Presents 32 coverDC Comics Presents #32 – “The Super-Prisoners of Love” – Gerry Conway/Kurt Schaffenberger/Vince Colletta

I get the feeling this was written to silence all the Superman/Wonder Woman shippers out there. It starts with Wonder Woman on the JLA Satellite, bored out of her mind with monitor duty. Eros, the Greek God of Love shows up and says he loves her, then lays a big smooch on her. Wonder Woman tells him she’s just not into him and that she’s already in love with Steve Trevor, suggesting Eros ask his mother (Aphrodite) about it. Eros says his mother’s idea of love is too soft and ephemeral, not like his. Wonder Woman points out that he’s talking about passion, not true love, but thatsuperman and wonder Woman falling in lust just pisses him off even more. Superman transports up to the Satellite at that moment and Eros decides to have some fun; he shoots Superman and Wonder Woman with his arrows, causing them to instantly fall passionately in love (or lust) and start making out. Eros disappears back to Olympus and Superman and Wonder Woman try to fight the attraction between them, even attempting to come up with a chemical cure in the lab. The heat between them can’t be denied, so Superman busts right out through the Satellite wall. He goes back to fix it, but notices Wonder Woman has already transported down to Earth. We see the Amazon trying to forget her attraction to Superman by sucking face with Steve. Apparently, Supes had Wonder Woman goes after Loisthe same idea, and Wonder Woman sees a live news report of him on TV making out with Lois Lane. That pisses her off and she walks away from Steve and heads for Metropolis in her invisible jet. Superman and Lois are still making out as Lana and the news crew look on. Wonder Woman shows up and tosses Lois in front of a cement truck. Superman saves Lois, but he can’t deny his feelings anymore and ends up smooching Wonder Woman right there in the street. The two of them leave to “take care of some business” (yes, that’s an exact quote), leaving Lois to be comforted by Lana. Unfortunately, we don’t get a soft-core scene of Supes and Wonder Woman getting it on; the business they’re taking care of is going to Olympus to confront Eros. Superman roughs him up a bit, but Aphrodite stops him, telling Wonder Woman that there’s a flower (the Blue Lotus of Lost Love) in a cavern nearby that can solve their problem. On the way to the cavern, SupermanSuperman vs the Minotaur wonders if they shouldn’t just go with their feelings. Wonder Woman attracts a lightning bolt to shock some sense into him. I gotta say, Supes seems way more into this than Wonder Woman, but can you blame him? They find the Blue Lotus cavern, but it’s guarded by a Minotaur, which Superman can’t overcome because of his vulnerability to magic. He collapses the cave ceiling on himself and the Minotaur and Wonder Woman digs him out. He can’t approach the Blue Lotus (magic again) so Wonder Woman uses her magic lasso to snag it. The two of them pull it free and the scent cures their attraction immediately. Later, we see that Wonder Woman and Superman have made up with Steve and Lois, but maybe there’s some lingering feelings there, since they decide not to go in the tunnel of love at the same time. Or maybe they’re just being overly cautious.

Mark Merlin splash“Whatever Happened to Mark Merlin and Prince Ra-Man?” – Mike Tiefenbacher/Alex Saviuk/Vince Colletta

This one starts with Roy Raymond (famed TV detective) interviewing Elsa Magusson about the disappearance a few years ago of her fiancé, Mark Merlin (a guy who used stage magic to fight crime). Elsa says a friend of hers named Prince Ra-Man told her Merlin died fighting a criminal called the Gargoyle, but when Ra-Man disappeared not long after that, Elsa started to wonder. She thinks Merlin might still be alive in witness protection, since his last case involved international crime. A black cat prowling around Metropolis takes an interest in the broadcast and uses some kind of mental powers to help make it to WGBS studios. Elsa is surprised when the cat shows up, as she recognizes it as Memakata, a feline Merlin found in an Egyptian tomb and brought home. Elsa takes Memakata home and the cat uses Merlin’s “magic eye” to communicate with her. Elsa is startled to learn it’s really Prince Ra-Man’s consciousness in Memakata’s body. He switched bodies with the cat to fight a villain called Doctor-7, but when he tried to switch back, he couldn’t find his original body. His memory started to fade, but was jogged when he saw Elsa on TV. Ra-ManElsa learns the ugly truth points Elsa to where his body was hidden—inside Merlin’s old vanishing cabinet, which the cat wasn’t heavy enough to activate. Ra-Man transfers his mind back to his own body, then tells Elsa what really happened to Merlin. He accidentally ended up in another dimension (the one Ra-Man came from) while fighting the Gargoyle and was stuck there. Merlin used magic to gain mind-over-matter powers and tried to leave the other dimension, sending his consciousness to be reborn as an Egyptian prince named … Ra-Man. So Elsa finally knows the truth, but it’s cold comfort, since as far as she’s concerned, Merlin really is dead. I believe Ra-Man dies during the Crisis, so this is one of his last appearances.

Warlord 44 coverWarlord #44 – “The Gamble” – Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

Last issue, Travis Morgan’s old friend Aton showed up to tell him he’d found the wreckage of the boat that brought Morgan’s daughter Jennifer to Skartaris. We saw Jennifer being found by a brute who was taking orders from a fancy box he carried with him, but Morgan doesn’t know anything about that. Morgan and Aton head for a lawless city called Bantuhm, which lies in the shadow of the Terminator, the line of shadow that marks the polar opening leading to the outside world. Morgan needs a new sword to replace Hellfire, the cursed blade he threw away last issue when he realized its bloodlust was corrupting his soul. Morgan leaves Aton in a tavern and goes to get a new sword, but Aton gets caught up in the old shell game and ends up losing his horse … and Morgan’s. Morgan decks Aton when he finds out, but luckily for them, thewolf attack rip-off artist who won their horses (Tevalco El Cint) is prepared to return them if they’ll do him a little favour; all they have to do is break into a tower at the centre of a hedge maze and steal a fabulous jewel. Morgan has no choice, so he and Aton follow Tevalco to the tower, where he locks the gate behind them. Tevalco tells them the gate key is in the same room as the jewel … in case they needed a little incentive. Morgan wonders why there are no guards in the grounds, but soon learns the hedge maze is full of traps … and rabid wolves. Morgan uses his Automag to shoot the wolves at a safe distance, but uses up all his ammo. They go inside the tower—which also seems empty of guards—and head up the winding stone stairs. They’re attacked by animated suits of armour and Morgan uses a torch to fend them off. The tower lights up like it was made of straw instead of stone and Morgan and Aton rush to the top. Morgan tells Aton to forget the jewel and grab the key, and they jump Morgan teaches Tevalco a lessonout a window and plunge into the moat. Morgan and Aton return to the tavern, disappointing Tevalco since he bet they’d be killed. Since they didn’t bring the jewel back, Tevalco won’t return their horses, but proposes another shell game wager … the horses against Morgan and Aton doing another job for him. Naturally, Tevalco is cheating, and Morgan teaches him a lesson by cutting off the hand he used to palm the pearl. Morgan says he didn’t care about being cheated, but resented Tevalco trying to turn them into crooks like him. Outside, Morgan tells Aton he didn’t expose the cheating before because he was teaching Aton a lesson about foolish wagers. Shakira pops up and says she’s there to help them on their quest. They make a quick detour back to the site of Morgan’s crashed plane so he can pick up more ammo for his Automag. Shakira goes inside the Atlantean ruins and gets emotional while viewing the lost grandeur of Atlantis on a computer screen.

Noticeable Things:

  • This one has a bit of a Howardian feel to it; I’m reminded of “Tower of the Elephant”. Maybe a little Arabian Nights too.
  • I’m not sure why Shakira got all worked up about lost Atlantis; I assume that’s meant to be a sub-plot, but I don’t know if it was ever actually explained. We’ll have to wait and see, I guess.

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