Comics Reviews: Superman 360, Action 520, DC Comics Presents 34, Warlord 46

Superman 360 coverSuperman #360 – “Is Superman Going, Going, Gone?” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with an alien spaceship landing on the roof of Clark Kent’s apartment building. Clark is inside, trying to brighten up his wardrobe with a tie that looks like something Crazy Quilt would wear. He changes to Superman and goes after the flying saucer but it turns out to be more formidable than he expected. While he’s distracted, an alien shoots him with a beam that passes through his cape and hits him in the head, sending him plummeting to the ground. We see the aliens conferring about the weapon they used (a scission beam), which they plan to employ in a war against another alien race. Their attack on Superman is a way of testing the scission beam to see if it’s powerful enough. Since it didn’t kill Superman outright, the aliens decide to stickSuperman tests himself around and observe him for a while. At the Daily Planet, Jimmy shows Clark and Lois photos of Superman getting shot and recovering. Clark has a splitting headache, so he goes to get some rest, zooming off to his Fortress of Solitude as soon as he can. At the Fortress, Superman has his robots shoot him with powerful lasers to test his invulnerability. Everything is normal, but Superman is having some kind of existential crisis, suddenly worried about his own mortality. Later, Clark goes to see a psychiatrist about his headaches and mentions that he’s been having blackouts. We soon learn what’s up, as we see the aliens discussing their “experiment” on Superman. Apparently their enemies (the Krydds) are normally quite docile but when threatened, turn into fierce space warriors. The Krydds basically have two aspects to themselves, but aren’t aware of it. Since Superman has two aspects (the docile Clark Kent and the warrior Superman) the aliens figured he’d make a Clark gets shotgood test subject. If the scission beam can repress the Superman side of Clark’s personality, eliminating his warrior persona, then it should also eliminate the warrior sides of the Krydds. It’s only been partially successful on Superman, causing him to switch back and forth between personas (hence the blackouts) and subconsciously making him fear losing his super-powered half (hence the obsession with death). The aliens decide to give Clark/Superman another scission beam shot to confirm whether it works or not. Superman goes to Clark’s apartment (believing that Clark is a separate person from himself) and finds some of his own Kryptonian trophies hidden there. Superman gets dizzy and knocks over a photo of Ma Kent, which he recognizes as his own mother. The alien busts in a few minutes later to find Clark Kent standing there and blasts him with theClark explains it all scission beam. The aliens assume that’s the end of Superman and test their theory by trying to obliterate the entire building. But Superman shows up to stop them and hurls their ship into deep space. The scission beam and its proponent are jettisoned by the ship’s commander soon after. We learn how Supes resisted the scission beam; the first time he was shot, the beam not only went through his cape, it went through the secret pocket where he keeps his civilian clothes. He realized the chemicals he uses to make his civvies friction-proof and compressible weakened the scission beam, so he doused himself with the chemicals after donning his Clark Kent attire, knowing the aliens would try again.

Action 520 coverAction #520 – “Superman’s Arch-Rival for Lois Lane” – Gerry Conway/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with a somewhat familiar scene … Superman leaves Lois while on a date because he has an emergency (an oil tanker is on fire in the harbour). Lois isn’t happy, but she soon finds something to distract her … or someone. A rich dude named Eric Burton pulls up in his limo and offers to take her to the charity ball where she and Superman were headed. Lois goes with Burton, since he was headed there anyway. In the harbour, Superman douses the oil tanker fire by flying the ship out into space where the flames die out from lack of oxygen. When he returns to the Galaxy Building, Lois is gone so he heads to the charity ball. Burton has been working overtime to charm Lois and it seems to be working, as the two of them dance up a storm. When Burton goes to get Lois a drink, Perry tells herSuperman diverted Burton and his brother run an electronics company out of the Galaxy Building and do pretty well for themselves. Lois insists she has no romantic interest in Burton, but when Superman shows up, she figures she might as well get some mileage out of it. She snubs Supes to dance with Burton and Perry tells Superman he’d better let Lois know how important she is. But before Superman can cut in, Burton uses a pocket transmitter to turn on a radio at the bar and Superman hears a bulletin about a deadly storm in North Africa. He takes off, leaving Lois to wonder if she went too far trying to make him jealous. (Meanwhile, the bartender is wondering where the radio came from.) Superman zooms to North Africa and counteracts the storm with his own whirlwind. We get some philosophy from the Man of Steel, when he thinks about how he’s had Burton puts the moves on Loisto compromise, knowing that he can’t stop every disaster or emergency in the world. Reminds me of Busiek’s story about Samaritan in Astro City, where he tries to be everywhere and barely has time to take a break. But Superman is wondering about the timing of the bulletins he overheard and if they’re just coincidences. He gets back to Metropolis and finds Burton slipping Lois some tongue at her place. Burton sees him and uses his remote to tun on Lois’s TV, which has a bulletin about a train crash in Melbourne. We find out Burton’s remote can scan all nearby signals, locking onto any that contain emergency broadcasts. I’m not sure how that would work, but whatever. Lois tells him they’re moving too fast and Burton decides to chill out with a smoke. Lois tells him to put it out and he accidentally starts her couch onSuperman saves Lois fire. He’s too busy putting the moves on her—apparently he’s had his eye on her for a while, like some weirdo stalker—but Lois finally notices the fire. She says they have to warn everyone in the building, but Burton pulls a George Costanza and says he’s getting the hell out of there. Lois pulls the alarm and helps her neighbours to the stairs. A wall almost falls on them, but Superman shows up just in time to save them. He puts out the fire and finds Burton trapped in the elevator. Lois tells Burton he doesn’t have a chance in hell and gives superman a big smooch.

DC Presents 34 coverDC Comics Presents #34 – “The Beast-Man That Shouted Hate at the Heart of the U.N.” – Roy Thomas/Rich Buckler/Dick Giordano

The title is a Harlan Ellison take-off, so this must be a Roy Thomas story. Last issue, Superman and Captain Marvel found that their powers had been switched. Superman went to Earth-S, where he and Cap figured out Mr. Mxyzptlk was behind the power switch and they were both trapped on Cap’s Earth. We found out (though they didn’t) that Mxyzptlk was working with Mr. Mind, Cap’s arch-villain, whose sensibilities are a lot more murderous than Mxyzptlk’s pranks. This issue starts with Supes and Cap regaining their proper powers, with no explanation as to why. Probably Mxyzptlk screwing with them to prolong his fun, but it’s not really clear. Cap figures he might know a way to get Superman back home, but he can’tSuperman meets the Marvels leave New York unprotected, so they drop in on Freddie Freeman, Mary Batson, and Uncle Dudley. (For those of you keeping score, Freddie is Captain Marvel Jr., Mary is Mary Marvel, and Dudley is a charlatan who calls himself Uncle Marvel … he’s not really their uncle, and doesn’t really have powers, but they humour him.) They agree to watch the city, so Cap and Superman head to the Rock of Eternity. The Rock is surrounded by some kind of mystical force field and they can’t break through. Superman mentions Shazam and they head inside the Rock to see him, but the ancient wizard is asleep and can’t be roused. Supes and Captain Marvel are surprised by a trio of unexpected visitors … Mxyzptlk, Mr. Mind, and another old Cap villain, King Kull, the crazy barbarian. Superman and Cap both attack Kull, but he easily Kull is too strongwithstands their assault. Kull is pissed off when Mxyzptlk sends the heroes to another dimension. Kull still hates all humans for destroying his race and wants to enslave and slaughter all of humanity. Mxyzptlk isn’t really into that and we find out he’s the one responsible for Kull’s big power-up. Mxyzptlk put a cosmic lightning rod atop the Rock of Eternity that absorbs power whenever any of the Marvels (or Superman) changed from their civilian identities to their super-powered ones. Maybe that’s why Mxyzptlk let them get back to normal, since Kull was already powered up. Mxyzptlk reminds his cohorts that he’s also responsible for Shazam’s mystic slumber and he might decide to undo all his spells. Mr. Mind says he wouldn’t dare, since the only way to cancel his spells would be to say his name backwards and banish himself back to his own dimension … something Mxyzptlk hates to do. Superman and Captain Marvel find themselves in a very different dimension … one populated by talking anthropomorphic rabbits. At first, IKull pounds the Marvels thought it might be the Zoo Crew’s dimension, but it’s all rabbits, no other animals. A giant robot rabbit is attacking, so Supes and Cap tackle it but get their asses kicked. Turns out Mr. Mind is directing the robot. On Earth-S, Kull goes to the United Nations (a ploy he’s used before) and runs into Cap Jr. and Mary. Kull pounds both of them pretty quickly and prepares to take over humanity before destroying it. Elsewhere in the city, two rabbits from the rabbit dimension show up out of nowhere … I guess they were teleported in when Superman and Cap went to their dimension. The cops quickly grab them, assuming they’re kids in costumes, but one of robbit attackthem is Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. When Hoppy hears that the Marvels are in trouble, he changes to his super-rabbit form and heads for the UN to confront Kull. Dudley intercepts him and says they need a plan, but Hoppy figures Kull needs a good ass-kicking and goes after the barbarian. Kull is … unimpressed. Mxyzptlk is still having doubts about his role in the whole mess, especially when Mr. Mind gets ready to pulp Superman and Captain Marvel with his giant robot rabbit (or “robbit”as he calls it). Mind threatens to have Kull pound Mxyzptlk, so the imp says to hell with it and says his own name backwards, instantly banishing himself home. That cancels allKull and robbit decked his spells, waking Shazam and draining the power Kull siphoned back into Superman and Cap. They smash the robbit and on Earth-S, Hoppy decks the de-powered Kull, surprising everyone. After meeting Superman, Hoppy heads home and the story ends with Clark back on Earth-1 reading about Hoppy’s comic book adventures, which suddenly don’t seem so far-fetched. It’s obvious Roy was having fun with this story; there are goofy jokes on almost every page and Mr. Mind is hilariously bombastic. I can see why Roy ended up writing both the Shazam revival and the Zoo Crew comic.

Noticeable Things:

  • When they first get their powers back, Superman tests his x-ray vision and accidentally peeps on a woman in her shower. Cap asks how he avoids seeing constant nudity and Superman says he just has to be very careful. Later, I’d swear he’s checking out Mary’s ass, so maybe the old x-ray vision got a workout after all.

Warlord 46 coverWarlord #46 – “X” – Mike Grell/Romeo Tanghal

This one starts with Travis Morgan and his companions (Aton and Shakira) finding his daughter Jennifer’s wrecked boat. Morgan tells Aton to head south while he and Shakira head north, into the shadow zone near the North Pole of Skartaris. Before they get too far, Morgan and Shakira run into a huge dinosaur. Morgan blasts it with his Automag, but the huge lizard falls toward him, smashing him to the ground. Morgan wavers between consciousness and oblivion, seeing the personification of Death, who he’s met before. Death still looks pretty hot, but obviously Morgan wasn’t looking forward to meeting her again after barely escaping her clutches before. But this time, Death isn’t there for him; Shakira was hit by the falling dinosaur too and Death is there to take her toMorgan enters Hell the afterlife. Morgan protests and follows Death to the Gates of Hell (complete with Dante reference). He heads inside and runs into a horde of people he’s killed. After fighting past them, he finds Death with Shakira’s soul and says he’ll do anything to save Shakira … even take her place. But Morgan is too good at harvesting souls for Death, so she doesn’t want him yet. She does offer him a deal: she’ll take ten years from his allotted lifespan in exchange for letting Shakira live. The catch is that Morgan won’t know which ten years they are, so he could still live a long life but die earlier than he would have, or he could keel over with his next breath. For Shakira’s sake, Morgan takes the deal and Death marks him with an X (the Roman Morgan rescues Shakiranumeral ten) as a reminder. He still has to kill a demon and flee with Shakira’s soul, but he manages that easily enough and the two of them wake up next to the dead dinosaur. Everything is hazy, but the X-shaped scar is still n Morgan’s chest, even if he doesn’t remember what it means. Further north, Jennifer is brought by her barbarian rescuer to his master’s castle, which looks somewhat familiar … Like the last story where Morgan fought Death, this is a diversion from the main plot; it reads almost like filler, with a lot of splash pages, but the art is great and the pact with Death might have consequences in future stories (or it might be ignored, we’ll have to wait and see).

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