Comics Reviews: Superman 364, Action 524, DC Comics Presents 38, Warlord 50

Superman 364 coverSuperman #364 – “The Sounds That Menaced Metropolis” – Cary Bates/Rich Buckler/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with an awards dinner for journalists where Jimmy Olsen wins for a story he did on chemical waste. Clark and Lois are happy for jimmy, but a rival photographer (Rory Stasson) is pissed off; he says Jimmy (and Lois and Clark) have an unfair advantage because of their relationships with Superman. He probably has a point, but Jimmy did his award-winning story with no help from Superman, so Rory’s wrong on that score. He’s still mad though, and vows to come up with something to rival jimmy’s constant coverage of the Man of Steel. A few weeks later, Superman is demolishing an old building to make way for a new Boys’ Club (I guess the girls are out of luck),Superman fights the Metro Monster while Jimmy, Rory, and several other photographers take pictures. Superman is attacked by the Metro Monster, a weird cloud creature that’s been showing up randomly around the city for the last few days. Superman is glad to get a shot at the Monster, but soon changes his mind as the foggy fiend grows arms and jackhammers Superman into the ground. By the time he gets back to the surface, the Monster is gone, leaving Jimmy and Rory to argue over what happened to it. The next day, Perry White gives Jimmy shit for his bare-bones story about the Metro Monster, because the Daily Eagle has an exposé by Rory that blows the lid off the “Monster”. According to Rory, the Monster is really a 43-year-old civil servant who transforms randomly into the Monster. The guy doesn’t remember doing anything when he’s Clark and Jimmy review the monster's progresstransformed and can’t predict or control the changes, but wants people to know he’s basically harmless, which is why he contacted Rory to tell his story. Jimmy wonders if it’s all bullshit, but Clark points out that the guy might be a devoted Daily Eagle reader, in which case it makes sense he’d contact one of their reporters to tell his story. Clark and Jimmy review the Monster’s attacks (on a fire truck, a ocean liner, and a subway, plus the attack on Superman) and wonder what the connection is. Later, Superman spies on Rory with his super-senses, hoping to get a lead, but Rory’s very careful about keeping his “source” protected … probably more to further his career than out of a sense of journalistic ethics. Superman stops by the WGBS Building to sign some t-shirts for kids and figures out the connectionSuperman signs shirts to the Monster attacks … noise. All the attacks came when the targets were making loud noises. At the Daily Eagle, a private eye gives Rory a file, but before Rory can get too excited he’s told the Feds are coming to force him to reveal everything about the Metro Monster. Rory switches clothes with the detective and sneaks out, followed by a shadowy figure who tails him to a hotel out by the airport. Rory has been stashing the “Monster” (who’s just a regular schlub) at the hotel because the guy has amnesia. The file Rory got from he private eye contains the guy’s real identity (Rory gave the detective a fingerprint to work with). Jimmy comes in to give Rory shit for hiding a guy who turns into a Monster and causes destruction all over the city, but Rory insists he Jimmy tracks Rory and Leo down near the airportwas trying to help the guy get his memory back. Rory tells the guy his name is Leo Thayles and that sparks his memory. Leo tells Rory and Jimmy he’s an audiologist who’s afflicted with tinnitus. He invented some kind of noise-canceling tech to get rid of the tinnitus, but there was a side effect … loud noises above a certain decibel frequency cause Leo to black out for a while. After reading about the metro Monster, he realized it was him rampaging during his blackouts. Remember how I mentioned Leo’s hotel is out by the airport? Well, they’re testing a Super Sonic Jet, which means Leo is about to go full monster again. He transforms and goes after the SST, but Superman shows up and attracts the monster’s attention with a super-shout. Supes slaps themonster chases Superman Monster around so it’ll chase him, the he deliberately accelerates past the speed of sound. Since Superman and the Monster are flying faster than sound can travel, the result is complete silence around them, which causes the Monster to change back into Leo. Superman gives Leo some special ear plugs to keep him from transforming again, and Rory admits his motives for keeping Leo hidden weren’t completely altruistic. Rather improbably, Rory and Jimmy both apologize and end up being (sorta) friends.

Noticeable Things:

  • When Superman signs the t-shirts, he talks to a woman named Marilyn Thomas; the way she’s depicted, I assume she’s a real person, but I have no idea who she might be. Maybe someone who worked in the merchandising department at DC?
  • I actually didn’t notice the art change at first, since Buckler sticks pretty close to Swan’s style, especially for the action shots. I did finally notice the difference in the faces; Superman looks a bit off and Lana actually looks better … though she’s more like a super-model than a reporter.

Action 524 coverAction #524 – “If I Can’t Be Clark Kent … Nobody Can” – Martin Pasko/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Superman crawling into the Fortress of Solitude through an air duct. Something’s wrong with Supes, as he seems to have lost his short-term memory … he can’t recall how or why he was crawling through the ducts. He does remember that he has to get back to WGBS right away, but when he tries to fly he finds out he can’t … his super-powers are on the fritz. He gets a Superman robot to fly him back to Metropolis, where he settles into his Clark Kent identity. He actually finds himself wishing he could be Clark Kent all the time and forget about being Superman, but that pipe dream is interrupted when Perry White gives him an assignment. A chopper carrying a WGBS reporter (Dan Reed) and a show-biz entrepreneur (J. Robet Arngrim) has crashed. The two are presumed dead, but Perryalien attacks space probe wants to be ready for any eventuality. We get an interlude with Superman (!) trying to retrieve a NASA probe from a hungry alien on an asteroid. But if Superman’s out in space, who’s hanging around WGBS as Clark Kent? Whoever it is goes through the WGBS files for info on Reed and Arngrim and comes across a story from a few days ago that he doesn’t remember; apparently, Lex Luthor replaced Superman with a clone, planning to kill the Man of Steel and let the clone replace him. Superman foiled the plot and the clone was killed, but Clark doesn’t remember any of it happening and suddenly gets a splitting headache. Yeah, we can all see where this is going. On the asteroid, Superman cages the monster long enough to rescue the space probe and heads back to Earth. When “Clark” sees him arriving at WGBS, he figures clone attacks Supermanout what’s going on and knows there can’t be two Clark Kents around at the same time. He also doesn’t want Superman to see him because he plans on being the last one standing. When the real Clark returns, Lois informs him that Arngrim died in the helicopter crash, about which Clark knows nothing. But he realizes someone else has been masquerading as Clark Kent, so he plays along. Later, when Superman goes home, he’s attacked by a guy in a battle suit (it actually looks like a regular diving suit) that makes him almost as powerful as Superman. Supes recognizes his opponent’s voice and wonders how he can still be alive. Supes destroys the guy’s power pack and drags him to his Fortress where he unmasks him. Naturally, itclone flashbacks turns out to be the clone and we get a long-winded explanation (with flashbacks) of how he came to be here. Basically, the clone lost hiss super-powers by exposure to Gold Kryptonite, Superman captured him and encased him in a prison cube, the clone escaped and blew up the cube to fake his death, but the explosion knocked him out and affected his memory. Superman gets an alert about a fire, so he hypnotizes the clone and takes off to deal with the emergency. But the clone was faking his trance and goes to his own secret lair (a nearby cave), where he constructs a new power pack clone hesitates to killfor his battle suit. He surprises Superman and leads him to his cave hideout, where he attacks with Green Kryptonite rays and traps him in Green K shackles. The clone says he wants Clark Kent’s life and asks Supes to give up that identity, or he’ll kill him with Green K. Superman says he needs his Clark Kent identity as much as his Kal-El side and refuses to give it up. Being an exact duplicate of Superman, the clone is reluctant to kill him, and his hesitation gives Superman the opportunity to break free by blowing the clone’s hand onto the release button with his super-breath. They fight and the clone’s rocket pack sends him flying out of the cave where he smashes into a tree, mangling his face all to shit and almost killing him. Supermanclone mangled figures he won’t be able to resist hypnosis in this condition and gets an idea. He takes the clone to a CIA hospital, where he gets them to give the clone Dan Reed’s face (no questions asked) an hypnotizes the clone to think he is Dan Reed, and that he’s lost some memories after the chopper crash. Supes then drops “Reed” out near the crash site so he can be miraculously found. So the clone got what he wanted … a real identity and a chance for a purposeful, productive life. As long as his super-powers don’t suddenly return, everything should be fine.

DC Presents 38 coverDC Comics Presents #38 – “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off Go Home” – Martin Pasko/Don Heck

This one starts with two separate crises: in Metropolis, Jimmy Olsen’s car plunges over a cliff, while in Central City, armed robbers fill the street with bullets, endangering innocent people (including Flash’s neighbour and almost-girlfriend, Fiona Webb). Superman and Flash are on the respective scenes, but both are astonished to find that time has slowed to an almost imperceptible crawl. They both wonder what’s causing the time slowdown, why it hasn’t affected them, and if they’ll be able to get back in time to stop their friends from dying if time is restored. They each determine that the time slowdown is widespread, affecting the whole country, possibly the world. Superman flies farther from Metropolis, to aSuperman and Flash fight small town carnival about a hundred miles from Central City. We see an alien beam down from an orbiting ship and turn itself into Flash. The fake Flash taunts Superman about the time distortion, which causes Superman to chase him. The real Flash shows up and the alien changes to look like Superman, decking Flash before taking off. You can see where this is going; when the real Superman and Flash meet, they start fighting like it’s a Marvel comic. The heroes soon figure out they’ve been suckered, which causes the aliens to confront them directly. A good-looking alien babe named Syryna directs a warrior (Klaanu) to encase them in an energy field, but they quickly bust free, pounding Klaanu. Syryna distracts them with an illusion, allowing another warrior to capture them and take them back to the spaceship where they’re confined by energy shackles. Syryna explains that she’s a queen in another Superman and Flash captureddimension and some rebels tried to blow up her ship, but ended up throwing it into Earth’s dimension. She speculates that her ship’s cataclysmic entry to Earth’s dimension caused time to slow down; Superman and Flash were unaffected because they were both moving at super-speed at the time. Syryna needed power to pierce the dimensional barrier, so she tried to siphon it from the two heroes, making them fight to increase the power output. Now that they’ve seen through that, she’s draining them directly, which gives her ship enough power to get back to her own dimension. She plans on draining all their power, to help her fight he rebels, but Superman notices a gem on her forehead glows whenever they strain against their bonds. He figures the bonds are illusions and Syryna has no real powers. Once they stop believing,Superman and Flash escape the illusory bonds disappear and Supes and Flash pound Syryna’s warrior. Superman grabs Syryna (ignoring her illusory Kryptonite) and smashes her gem. They hand her over to the rebels, who show them where Syryna’s ship originally disappeared. They vibrate through the dimensional barrier, but time is still slowed down on Earth. They realize Klaanu is still in Earth’s dimension, so they vibrate him through the barrier, leaving themselves less than a second to save Jimmy and Fiona before time starts flowing again. Naturally, they get there in time … was there ever any doubt? There’s a cool George Perez centerfold of Superman’s co-stars from the first 38 issues included in this issue … Perez knocks it out of the park with the group shot, as usual.DC Presents 38 centerfold

“Whatever Happened to the Crimson Avenger?” – Len Wein/Alex Saviuk/Dennis Jensen

This one starts with Lee Travis (aka Crimson Avenger) in hospital, having just been diagnosed with some deadly, incurable disease. Lee isn’t afraid to face death, since he’s had a pretty adventurous life (in both identities), but Crimson Avenger flashbackshe’s bothered by the fact that his costumed career was over so long ago that no one really remembers it; when he dies, everyone will mourn Lee Travis, crusading newspaperman, but Crimson Avenger will be forgotten. As Lee is moping, he notices a boat on the river whose lights are blinking an SOS. He figures this is a chance for Crimson Avenger to do one last good deed and quickly changes into his costume (which he apparently had with him in the hospital). N his way to the river, Avenger saves a kid who falls out a window and tells the kid’s mother who he is (since she doesn’t recognize him). When he gets to the boat, Avenger finds out it’s been hijacked by thieves trying to steal the high-priced chemicals on board. The chemicals are volatile, which is why the boat was taking them out to sea to dump, but the thieves figureCrimson Avenger pounds hijackers they can make some money off the stuff. Crimson Avenger has other ideas though; he uses his red mist bomb to disorient the hijackers and starts pounding them. One punk has a grenade, which Avenger knocks away, but the blast lights the boat on fire. The captain says if the fire ignites the chemicals, the boat will go off like a hydrogen bomb. He says if they can steer the ship out of the harbour to open water, the blast won’t kill anyone. Crimson Avenger takes charge, saying he’ll steer the boat out to open water, and sends the crew (and the unconscious hijackers) away on the lifeboat. The fire engulfs the boat as Avenger steers it out the river mouth, through the harbour, and out into open water. He knows he won’t have time to Crimson Avenger's legacyescape, but he doesn’t care since he’s going out as a hero … at least Crimson Avenger will be remembered for his last heroic act. The ship blows up, but it’s far enough from shore that nobody is hurt … besides Crimson Avenger, obviously. On the dock, the cops congratulate the boat’s captain, but he says it wasn’t him who steered the boat to safety. When the cops ask who the brave hero was, the captain says he doesn’t know … the smoke was too thick to see clearly and the guy never mentioned his name. So much for Crimson Avenger’s legacy. But Avenger’s last hope is fulfilled, after a fashion; the woman whose kid he saved tells her son she never let him forget the name of the hero who saved his life … the Crimson Avenger. Not exactly what Lee was hoping for, but still a legacy to be proud of.

Warlord 50 coverWarlord #50 – “… By Fire and Ice” – Mike Grell/Bob Smith

Travis Morgan and Shakira have been searching for Morgan’s missing daughter (Jennifer) for the past few issues and the trail has led them to Castle Deimos. Morgan suspected all along that Jennifer might be found there, so he steered their path toward the forbidding fortress. But they aren’t alone; someone’s been following them for the last few miles, so they set up an ambush. The pursuers turn out to be Morgan’s wife, Tara, and his old comrade-in-arms, Aton. Tara and Shakira are still antagonistic toward each other, and Shakira has to transform into a cat to avoid Tara’s punch, which hits Morgan instead … Tara decks Morgan ... againthough he wonders if he was Tara’s intended target after all. Morgan admits he came to Castle Deimos not just to look for Jennifer, but to make peace with killing their son. (Of course, we know that Morgan only killed a clone, but he and Tara aren’t aware of that.) Tara says she’ll go into the castle with him. Meanwhile, hundreds of years ago, back in the Age of the Wizard Kings, Mongo Ironhand tells Machiste and Mariah that they have to put aside their differences with his old rival, Sarrgon Fire-Eye and face the demon creature that stole the magic book last issue. Mongo says the coming of the Evil One will bring an age of darkness like Skartaris has never seen, so they’ll need every ally they can find to oppose the Evil One. In the present, Deimos summons Ashiyainside Castle Deimos, the lord of the castle (Deimos, in case you weren’t paying attention) has his henchman Faaldren bring Jennifer (who’s been cast into a trance by Deimos’s power) to the lab. Deimos summons his old ally, Ashiya the witch, to help his schemes. Ashiya is back to using her illusion powers to look like a total babe, but Deimos knows she’s actually a withered crone. He mentions that he wants to make Jennifer his “consort”, which pisses Ashiya off since he’d already promised her that honour. Ashiya also points out that Deimos is just a disembodied head grafted to a hand, creeping about the castle like a deformed rat. Deimos says he’s tried to clone himself (like he did with Morgan and Tara’s son), but he needs living flesh to grow the clone; since his current form is undead, he can’t replicate himself. But Deimos figures if Ashiya can send him to the Evil One, theEvil One restores Deimos's power demon lord can recreate Deimos’s living body. Ashiya casts Deimos back in time, where he shows up in the Evil One’s stronghold and begs for the demon to restore him to the way he was. Deimos promises anything in return, so the Evil One (who looks like a regular old Satan-type demon) restores Deimos to his human form. Just then, Mongo, Machiste, and Mariah bust in and free Sarrgon. The Evil One is still unaccustomed to fighting, so he drains Deimos’s magical powers into himself and sends Deimos back where he came from. Mongo and Sarrgon press the demon and he takes off, but vows to come back and finish them someday. In the present, Deimos reappears in his castle with his human body back, but without his magic. Ashiya lets him know that Morgan and company have invaded the castle. He asks her to Deimos attacks, killing Atonfight at his side and says he’ll marry her, for real this time. Ashiya is too smart to get burned twice, so she leaves him to his fate … but not before informing him that the “son” Morgan killed was the clone and the real Joshua is safe being raised in a woodcutter’s family. Deimos is pissed off, but figures even without his power, he can beat Morgan; he does have Morgan’s daughter, and his castle is riddled with ancient Atlantean technology. As Morgan and the others ride into the castle courtyard, Deimos starts blasting with an energy cannon. He blows Aton away and knocks Tara off her horse. Morgan grabs some cover and waits for an opportunity to shoot Deimos with his Automag. Deimos pulls out his trump card—Jennifer, who’s still hypnotized. BeforeMorgan saves Deimos from wolves he can do anything to her, Faaldren grabs her away from Deimos, saying he won’t let him harm the girl who was so nice to him. Deimos shoots Faaldren and Morgan puts a bullet through Deimos’s energy cannon, which causes it to blow up. Deimos lands in the courtyard and grabs a horse, kicking Shakira out of the way and taking off. Morgan asks Shakira to look after Jennifer and Tara and rides after Deimos. He trails Deimos north, through deep snow and wind, followed relentlessly by hungry wolves. Morgan’s horse gets stuck in a snow drift, s he abandons it and presses on. He finally finds Deimos, near an old shipwreck, being set upon by wolves. Morgan’s Morgan leaves Deimos to his fatehate is so great he actually fights off the wolves and builds a fire to revive Deimos, just so he can kill him personally. The fire draws more wolves and when Deimos wakes, the camp is surrounded. Morgan aims his Automag at Deimos, but sheathes it and walks away … leaving the wolves to finish Deimos. Is this really the end of Deimos? He’s come back so many times, it’s hard to believe it couldn’t happen again; but being torn apart and eaten by wolves would seem to be an insurmountable obstacle, even for Deimos. I guess we’ll see in future issues.

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