Comics Reviews: Superman 362, Action 522, DC Comics Presents 36, Warlord 48

Superman 362 coverSuperman #362 – “The Last Days of Lois and Lana” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Clark showing up late (as usual) for a news story at the Metropolis museum. Lois and Lana are already there; Lana’s father (an archaeology professor) has unearthed an ancient glass factory in Venice and brought back numerous pieces. Lana drops a glass vial and when it breaks, weird microbes are released into the air, making Lana, Lois, and even Clark feel a strange tingling sensation … and not in a good way. Professor Lang and the museum curator come in and he freaks out about the broken vial. While everyone is distracted, Clark does a quick heat vision sweep to neutralize the remaining microbes before they get out and infectflashback to the Kents dying the whole town. Clark is worried about these microbes, since they can apparently get through his invulnerable skin … plus something seems familiar about them. Clark remembers what it is and freaks out, saying he needs to go get some air. Why is he so worked up? He recognizes the microbes as the same ones that killed his parents years ago. As Superman heads to his parents’ house in Smallville to brood, we get the story of how they died. Basically, they dug up pirate treasure on a Caribbean vacation and traveled back in time with Superboy to see the treasure being buried. When they returned home, they became sick with a fever plague that hadn’t been seen in over a century. Superboy was immune because the plague only affects adults for some reason, but every remedy he tried was futile and Pa Superman deals with hijackerand Ma Kent died. Now Lois and Lana have been infected with the same fever plague, but Superman vows he won’t let history repeat itself. He zooms off to his Fortress to look for a cure, inadvertently setting off a sonic boom that forces him to stop and save a train from an avalanche. He’s also delayed stopping a D.B. Cooper wannabe robbing a plane in flight. When he reaches his Fortress, a self-exam confirms that the microbes are still in his body, but have been rendered harmless by his super-immune system. The fact the microbes entered his body in the first place makes Superman think they must’ve originated in a red-sun system. Supes speculates that Lois and Lana have about 72 hours before the fever plague kills them; since the effects vary by age, they shouldSuperman loses hope last longer than his parents since they’re younger. He scours his interplanetary data banks, but can’t find a cure that he’d be able to retrieve in time. He uses his x-ray vision to check on Lois and Lana, who are laughing it up at WGBS, unaware they only have three days to live. Superman despairs of finding a cure in time and gets all weepy; we’ll have to wait until next issue to see what cure he comes up with. I’m thinking he’ll use the microbes in his own system to come up with some kind of antibody.

Noticeable Things:

  • Would producers really send three reporters to cover a museum story? I guess Lois is there for the Daily Planet and Lana because of her father’s involvement, but it still seems like overkill. Why not just send Lana alone?

Action 522 coverAction #522 – “The Time-Tornado of the Clockwork Man” – Gerry Conway/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with a couple of scientists at a STAR Labs facility in Kansas having a conversation about a clockwork man that one of them (Abner) has built. Abner (who looks like Les Nessman from WKRP) has dreamed of building a clockwork man ever since he read the Wizard of Oz books as a kid. After spending years in engineering school and working for STAR, he finally managed to put together a robot that not only moves and talks, but supposedly can think independently. His friend thinks he’s nuts, even after he winds the clockwork man up and it moves and talks by itself. Unfortunately, Abner is a bit too good at what he does; after he and hisSuperman builds a hospital friend leave, the clockwork man decides he has to help his “master” and starts screwing around with the computers in the lab. The next day, Lana is reporting on a hospital that’s had to halt construction because the money ran out. Superman shows up to finish constructing the hospital himself, then zips back to WGBS to appear on the air as Clark Kent. He almost doesn’t make it, which baffles him since he has his high-speed costume changes down to a science. Clark doesn’t seem to notice that everyone around him seems to be moving faster than normal (or maybe he’s moving slower), but he soon figures it out. He hears an emergency at a nearby power plant and goes to fix the runaway turbines, but almost fucks everything up because the workers are moving Superman barely saves Loisaround the building so fast and getting in his way. He wonders if Lois might be in trouble and zooms off to help her. She’s at a rooftop revolving restaurant and falls out the window due to her accelerated movements. Superman’s speed is still off and he misses catching her, but saves her from splattering with a cushion of super-breath. Lois is talking even faster than normal, while Superman sounds like John Wayne on Valium. He figures something has affected the biological clocks of everyone except him, speeding them up. He tracks the effect to the STAR Labs facility in Kansas and finds the clockwork man generating a ‘time tornado” … the effects of which are spreading far outside the lab. Superman pushes his way throughSuperman fights the clockwork man the time vortex and grabs the robot, disrupting the effect. The clockwork man tells him it reprogrammed itself using STAR’s computers so it could better serve its master. Apparently, Abner is chronically late, so the robot is speeding up time so he’ll never be late again. It starts tapping into the power grid to generate another time vortex, which could permanently damage the timestream. Superman can’t fight his way through again, but gets an idea when he realizes he’s fighting a clockwork man. He scans the robot’s keyhole with is x-ray vision, molds a key from scrap metal, and winds the robot down. Afterwards, Superman takes the robot and tosses it into the sun; he feels bad about destroying Abner’s dream, but what’s stopping Abner from making another clockwork man?

Noticeable Things:

  • Abner calls his creation Click-Clock, after Tik Tok, the original mechanical man from the Oz books.

DC Presents 36 coverDC Comics Presents #36 – “Whatever Happened to Starman?” – Paul Levitz/Jim Starlin

This is the second Starman (at least, he was the second by publication order), Prince Gavyn. We start with Gavyn attending the burial of his sister (Clryssa), who was ruling her star empire when she was assassinated, leaving Gavyn as the (reluctant) heir to the throne. We get a recap of events that happened in Adventure Comics and get caught up on what’s happened since. Basically, Gavyn’s sister inherited the throne and had him tossed out an airlock to keep him from getting any ideas, but Gavyn turned out to be some kind of mutant who could survive in space. He met an alien named Mn’torr who gave him some quantum bands—er, I mean solar gauntlets—and taught him to control their power. Gavyn helped his sister hold onto herGavyn meets Mn'torr in space throne, but Mn’torr ended up being executed and Gavyn’s sister was murdered. Gavyn swears he’ll avenge her and zooms off to Throneworld. He finds the place all busted up and his friend (Jed Rikane) tells him that some huge kick-ass alien showed up, trashed the place, and took Gavyn’s woman, Merria. Gavyn uses his staff to track the kidnapper, but is interrupted by a vision of his dead mentor, Mn’torr, in deep space. Like most fantasy teachers, Mn’torr speaks in a convoluted way, but does mention that the imperial crown won’t survive this little adventure. Gavyn is upset to learn the thousand-strong Empire may fall, but he still wants to rescue Merria. Gavyn’s staff shoots off a beam into the far reaches of space and Gavyn continues tracking Merria. He finds her on a planet, but he also finds her kidnapper, who turns out to be Mongul, the would-be galaxy conqueror. Mongul slaps Gavyn down and imprisons him in a cube of force. Mongul Starman pounded by Mongulwants to take over Gavyn’s crown, to help reconquer his own system and says if Gavyn won’t hand over the crown willingly, he’ll marry Merria (who has her own claim on the crown) and take over the Empire that way. Mongul disappears with Merria, leaving Gavyn trapped in the cube watched over by a robot. But the beacon sent by Mn’torr from Gavyn’s staff has paid off … Superman shows up, slags the robot with his heat vision, and frees Gavyn. They exchange stories and Gavyn is eager to go rescue Merria, but Superman is worried about the overwhelming opposition they might face. Gavyn explains that the thousand worlds of the Empire don’t lend their space fleets or weapons to the Emperor; in fact, the worlds joined under duress. One of Gavyn’s ancestors found some kind of weapon capable of destroying an entire planet remotely and used it to force countless planets to join theflashback to Gavyn's ancestor Empire. If Mongul becomes attuned to the weapon during the coronation, he’ll have that power at his disposal and nothing can separate it from him except death. Superman says it sounds like Gavyn’s Empire is built on tyranny, but Gavyn says most of his line have been builders, only using the doomsday device when absolutely necessary … Mongul won’t be so discriminating. Superman says Gavyn needs to destroy whatever powers the doomsday weapon, while Superman keeps Mongul distracted. Supes goes after Mongul with everything he has, trying to keep him from concentrating on the doomsday weapon. Gavyn finds the weapon hidden in Throneworld’s sun and its design looks rather … familiar. Superman fights like a maniac, but Superman fights MongulMongul ends up kicking his ass. Mongul conference calls with the worlds of the Empire and starts giving orders, but he soon finds out he has no hold over them anymore. Gavyn has destroyed the doomsday device and all the planets of the Empire have technology that allows them to flee through space, so Mongul can’t even pound them into submission with his own power. Mongul takes off rather than face Superman and Gavyn (although they’re both pretty exhausted, so he probably could’ve wasted them with no problem). Gavyn tells Superman the doomsday device was built by Mn’torr’s people, who must’ve given it to Gavyn’s ancestor. Mn’torr knew Gavyn’s solar powers would enable him to destroy the device someday,planets fleeing which is why he trained Gavyn and watched over him. So Gavyn is an Emperor without an Empire now, but he does have Merria, so it’s still a happy ending. I think this is Gavyn’s last appearance before the Crisis, where he supposedly dies (although James Robinson eventually uses him in his Starman run). This whole story smacks of Jim Starlin’s hand; I’m sure you noticed the similarities to Captain Mar-Vell, Eon, Thanos, etc. Is it still considered a rip-off when you’re ripping off yourself?

Warlord 48 coverWarlord # 48 – “Dragon of Ice” – Mike Grell/Vinnie Colletta

This one starts with Aton returning to Shamballah to give Tara a report on Travis Morgan. When Tara learns that Morgan has headed into the Land of Shadow near the northern Terminator, she decides to find him and help him rescue his missing daughter. Aton wonders how they can find Morgan, but Tara has a pretty good idea where he’ll end up. In the Land of Shadow, Morgan and Shakira are trying to find any trace of Jennifer, but Morgan is mainly going on instinct. They run across a coastal village and Shakira wants to bypass it … especially when she spots the villagers about to sacrifice one of their own. Naturally, Morgan has to interfere (it probably doesn’t hurt that the girl being sacrificed is a total babe) and he makes a long shot with his .44 Automag that drops the guy with the knife. Morgan rides down and starts swinging with his sword, driving back the mob. He gives a sanctimonious speechMorgan to the rescue while cutting the girl free. Shakira watches from a distance, knowing just what’ll happen. Sure enough, the “victim” isn’t grateful at all and whacks Morgan on the head, saying the sacrifice is necessary to protect the village from the Ice Dragon. The villagers beat the shit out of Morgan and tie him to the crude altar, as the former sacrifice takes up the knife to spill Morgan’s blood in place of her own. Shakira sneaks up in cat form and grabs Morgan’s Automag, blasting the knife-wielder and a couple other villagers. A shadow appears on the horizon and the res of the villagers flee. It turns out to be a Viking longship full of frozen Norsemen (with a carved dragon prow); Morgan figures it got came through from the outside world centuries ago and got trouble stirs behind Jennifercaught in a current that keeps bringing it back to the village. Morgan pushes the altar into the sea and Shakira points out all his effort won’t change the villagers’ superstitions; Morgan knows that, but he has to keep trying to change things. Farther north, Faaldren and Jennifer reach his master’s castle. Faaldren tells Jennifer to make herself comfortable and goes to get some food, leaving behind the ornate box he’s been carrying—and talking to. As Jennifer strips and gets into the bath, the box opens and something inside stirs … something evil.

Noticeable Things:

  • When Morgan makes his long shot to stop the sacrifice he mentions an “old cowpoke who killed a mule deer at 600 yards”; after he makes the shot he adds “I’d like to see even old Elmer top that”. This is a reference to Elmer Keith and his famous 600 yard shot with a S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum.

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