Comics Reviews: Superman 367, Action 527, DC Comics Presents 41, Warlord 53

Superman 367 coverSuperman #367 – “The Revengers Strike Back” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

Last issue, Superman changed himself into a reptilian alien named Vlatuu so he could infiltrate the Superman Revenge Squad and take them down from the inside. Clark Kent told Morgan Edge he was taking off for a few days, but in order to allay suspicion Supergirl has made some other arrangements. Everyone at WGBS is startled when Clark shows up to do the news with no notice. Lana notices Clark’s sign-off is different than usual and wonders if something’s up. Morgan Edge is on his way down to give Clark hell for leaving and coming back without notice, but Clark slips away before Edge shows up. Jimmy asks if anything’s wrong and Clark tells him not to worry,GL pretends to be Clark and comforts Lois but almost breaks his arm. Clark knows Lana is waiting near his office to spy on him, so he sneaks into a storeroom to change … into Batman! Yup, the Caped Crusader has been masquerading as Clark (at Supergirl’s request), but he has to get back to Gotham so he gets Green Lantern to take over. Batman kinda sounds like he’d prefer to stick around and have some fun with Lana … Bruce, you old dog. Green Lantern uses his ring to disguise himself and goes to Clark’s place just before Lois shows up to ask if Clark has heard from Superman. She knows Superman left on a very dangerous mission, but “Clark” tells her he doesn’t know much about it. Lois gets all worked up and GL comforts her. After she leaves, Lantern calls Supergirl, who can’t tell him where superman is but asks that he and his fellow JLAers keep pretending to be Clark Kent for another 72 hours. Unknown to GL, a weird-Vlatuu pounded by the androidlooking alien is outside Clark’s window, eavesdropping on the conversation with Supergirl. Halfway across the galaxy, the real Superman (still disguised as the reptilian alien Vlatuu) has made contact with the Revenge Squad and convinced them he has a grudge against Superman too. One of the Revengers (a hot alien named Nryana) has taken Vlatuu under her wing, showing him around the Revengers’ planetoid and telling him about the contest they’re running. Whichever member of the Squad can defeat a Superman android (which randomly attacks various Revengers out of the blue) wins the honour of going to Earth to kill the real Superman. Vlatuu has sworn to defeat the android and kill Superman, which seems to have impressed Nryana. But when the android attacks them, Vlatuu gets his ass kicked andFwom shares his suspicions feels like an idiot. Elsewhere, the Revengers’ leader (Fwom) tells the rest of the Prime Council that he’s certain Vlatuu is Superman in disguise. Apparently, Fwom deliberately left a trail through hyperspace that Superman could follow, reasoning they’d have a better chance of beating him on their home turf instead of on Earth, where they’ve always been defeated before. Fwom’s fellow Revengers don’t believe Vlatuu is Superman, since mind scans show him to be an alien mentally as well as physically. Fwom says he sent a spy to Earth and that Superman is currently missing, but the others still aren’t convinced. Meanwhile, Nryana and Vlatuu are getting closer; both of them seem to be hot for each other, even though fraternizing isn’t allowed. As they’re talking, the android attacks Vlatuu saves Nryana and attacks the androidagain, grabbing Nyrana. Vlatuu goes after the android, saving Nryana from being disintegrated in an energy field. Fwom and the Prime Council watch on a monitor and Fwom keeps arguing that Vlatuu could be Superman. Fwom says Superman could have changed not just his body, but his mind as well, overlaying an alien personality on top of his own. For all intents and purposes, he would actually become Vlatuu, which is why the mind probe didn’t show any strange thoughts. (That also suggests his feelings for Nryana must be genuine, since it’s Vlatuu’s mind falling for her not Superman’s; I don’t think that’s gonna end well.) Vlatuu goes after the android and gets knocked around a bit. He pretends to run away, jumping in his spaceshipVlatuu attacks the android and taking off. When the android follows, Vlatuu aims the ship at him and bails out. When the ship explodes, it takes the android with it and Nryana realizes Vlatuu used the anti-matter coils to cause an anti-matter explosion that the android couldn’t handle. Vlatuu claims the right to go to Earth and kill Superman. Fwom tells the Council things are working out perfectly; if Vlatuu is genuine, he’ll kill Superman for them. If Vlatuu is Superman in disguise, his own brainwashing will compel him to kill himself. Either way, the Revenge Squad wins. We’ll see if Fwom is right next issue.

Action 527 coverAction #527 – “Sorcery Over Stonehenge” – Marv Wolfman/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Clark, Lois, and Jimmy in the WGBS cafeteria. A strange-looking woman shows up out of thin air and tells Clark she needs Superman. Of course, he plays dumb but the sorceress (Syrene) doesn’t have time to screw around, so she uses her magic to change Clark to Superman and wrap him in mystical bonds. She promises Jimmy and Lois will forget Clark’s existence (thus protecting his secret identity) and she takes Superman to space where she asks for his help. Syrene claims to be from a million years in the future, where magic hassuperman busts loose from Satanis's spell supplanted science (I wonder if she’s a Jack Vance fan?). The world is ruled by a demonic tyrant named Lord Satanis, who uses a runestone once belonging to Merlin to rule with an iron fist. Syrene attacked Satanis and the runestone fell through time; now she needs Superman’s help to find it before Satanis does. But Satanis shows up and attacks them. Superman evades Satanis’s mystic bolts and Syrene saves him from getting blasted, but when Supes tries to deck Satanis, he finds out the sorcerer’s magic protects him from Superman’s strength. Syrene takes Superman and vanishes, leaving Satanis (who also wants to use Superman to retrieve the Lois disappearsrunestone) to devise another plan. He kidnaps Lois from the WGBS helicopter and when Syrene and Superman show up at Stonehenge (“the gathering place for all sorcerous rhythms”), Satanis is waiting with Lois as his captive. Satanis tells Superman the truth … he and Syrene are married and she wants the runestone for herself so she can be supreme ruler in the future. Apparently Syrene’s father was the owner of the runestone and the original tyrant, and when Satanis attacked him he sent the runestone back through time. Satanis married Syrene to stabilize his hold on the throne, but they’ve both been looking for a way to come back in time and find the runestone. Satanis imprisons Superman and Syrene in a force bubble, saying that Superman is the vessel through which the runestone can be summoned. Syrene busts loose but is incinerated by Satanis. Superman gets pissed off and attacks,Syrene gets annihilated but his vulnerability to magic gives Satanis the upper hand. Satanis almost burns Superman to a crisp, them threatens to do the same to Lois; Superman saves her but gets knocked out. When he wakes up, he’s encased in a plasma bubble and Satanis is using his invulnerable body as a catalyst to draw the runestone to him. Superman’s agony causes the runestone to begin materializing, but Satanis’s threats against Lois galvanize the Man of Steel into action. Superman uses his heat vision to stir up the clouds formed from Satanis’s magic. As the pain gets worse and the runestone grows more solid, Superman calls the lightningSatanis is sure he’s won, but a lightning bolt strikes from the cloud, freeing Superman from the plasma bubble and knocking Satanis on his ass. Satanis tries to grab the runestone, but Syrene’s astral form shows up and the runestone disappears. Syrene says she isn’t really dead, Satanis just dislodged her in space into the “flux of time”; she’s sent the runestone back in time and vows to find it before he does. Satanis goes after her, leaving Superman to free Lois and wonder if he’ll ever meet these two sorcerous fiends again. (The answer is yes, but not for a while.)

DC Presents 41 coverDC Comics Presents #41 – “The Terrible Tinseltown Treasure-Trap Treachery” – Martin Pasko/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with Joker busting the Prankster out of prison by dropping a safe full of laughing gas in the middle of the prison yard. Yeah, it’s gonna be one of those issues. Superman hears about the jailbreak and checks the novelty shop where Prankster used to hang out. The guy there has apparently been living in a cave, since he first tries to fight Superman, then tries to escape. When that doesn’t work, he spills his guts, telling Superman that Joker and Prankster headed to Los Angeles to settle an old score. Conveniently, Perry White and Lois are heading to Hollywood to cover a story and Clark manages to get himself invited along. He calls Alfred to ask if he’ll keep Batman fromJoker and Prankster's trust issues seeing the story on Joker’s escape; Batman is recovering from a bullet wound and Superman doesn’t want him doing anything stupid. When they get to L.A., Clark sees a magazine story about the estate of a famous comedian (Jerry Travis), who owned a huge collection of novelties … something that would certainly appeal to Joker and Prankster. Speaking of that gruesome twosome, they’re hanging out in their hideout, talking about how Jerry Travis ripped both of them off. Apparently Travis was a middleman for criminal types, setting up jobs and taking a cut. But he had a habit of ripping off his clients, so Joker and Prankster want to steal his priceless novelty collection to get some of their dough back. Naturally, they don’t trust each other (and try to use their lethal pranks), but ultimately decide they’re better off working together. At Superman saves Jokerthe auction of Travis’s estate, Clark notices a helicopter coming in low and changes to Superman. But Prankster is already on the ground, stealing Travis’s motor home and his novelty collection. Prankster lets the motor home roll through the crowd, grabbing Perry White as a hostage when Superman shows up. Joker lassoes Prankster, Perry, and the trunkful of novelties, leaving Superman to stop the runaway motor home. Prankster betrays Joker, tossing him out of the helicopter, but Superman saves him from splattering. Supes is ready to take Joker to prison, but Joker reminds him that Perry is in danger and offers to help track down Prankster. Superman suspects Joker and Prankster are after more than just Travis’s novelties and Joker confirms that; apparently Travis kept his skimmed money in an overseas account and the novelties were some kind of code leading to the account’s passbook. Prankster has the novelties, but Joker figures they canJoker poisons Prankster reconstruct the code from the auction catalogue, which has an itemized list of Travis’s stuff. They crack the code and head to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where Travis buried the passbook under his star. Prankster has already figured it out and has a couple of goons jackhammering the star. The cops show up to ask for the goons’ permits, but Prankster blows up the cop car as a distraction. While Superman douses the cop car, the goons find the passbook and Prankster takes off with it, but Joker catches him, injecting him with Joker venom and stealing the passbook. Superman has to let him go to save Prankster, who he takes to the Fortress of Solitude to give him a full blood transfusion. Joker heads to the bank with the passbook and a pile of money bags. When the teller says he’s not authorized to draw from that account, Superman saves himselfJoker opens the bags and lets out his armed henchmen. Before they can get the money, Superman shows up and pounds all the gunmen, locking them in the bank vault. Joker tries to escape and actually does get away by using kryptonite dust against the Man of Steel. By the time Superman washes off the dust an alarm informs him that Prankster is conscious at the Fortress. Superman interrogates him to find out where Perry is stashed and shows up just in time to save Perry (who escaped his bonds) from being crushed by a gigantic version of the old “water bucket on the door” trick. Supes then zooms after Joker, catching his helicopter and tearing the rotors off. Later on, Batman finally hears about Joker’s escape (and capture) and isn’t happy with Alfred. And back in Metropolis, Perry doesn’t appreciate Jimmy’s whoopie cushion prank … I guess he’s seen enough pranks to last a lifetime.

Noticeable Things:

  • Perry books the Daily Planet trio into a hotel in Burbank to save money; Lois isn’t happy, since she wanted to be where the action is … not to mention all the movie hunks.
  • At times this story reads like it was written by Woody Allen, what with all the digs at L.A. (and Hollywood especially), like when Joker and Superman are walking around Venice Beach and nobody even notices them.
  • There was a special insert story in this issue about a “bold new direction” for Wonder Woman. No, they’re not bringing back I Ching and the Emma Peel outfit; basically, it’s just to let readers know that Roy Thomas and Gene Colan will be on Wonder Woman starting with issue 288 (which we’ll see in a couple weeks). The biggest change is that Wonder Woman is given a new bustier with a stylized “W” on itWonder Woman vs Hercules instead of the eagle she used to have. The new outfit is a gift from some feminist group (I guess the W is for “women”) and Wonder Woman goes through a bunch of rigmarole on Paradise Island (fighting Hercules) to convince her mother to let her change costumes. The story ends on a bit of a cliffhanger with Steve Trevor in a coma after a car crash. It seems like a lot of hoopla just for a costume change; I guess it was meant to highlight the new creative team, which is funny since they don’t actually last that long on the book. I seem to remember that Roy was never that excited about writing Wonder Woman and didn’t really care all that much.

Warlord 53 coverWarlord #53 – “The Sorceress’ Apprentice” – Mike Grell/Mark Texeira/Mike DeCarlo

Last issue, Travis Morgan accidentally wandered out of Skartaris back to the outside world. Unfortunately, he ended up in the Soviet Union, where he was attacked by Russian troops. He managed to bring down a MiG fighter but was beset by a HIND helicopter. The HIND lands and the Russian soldiers get out to check on the wreckage of the jet. Morgan ambushes them and slaughters them with his sword, letting his Skartarian training (and bloodlust) carry him through. The HIND pilot tries to take off, but Morgan jumps aboard, tosses the pilot out the door, and flies the stolen chopper back toward the polar opening so he can get back to Skartaris. In Skartaris, at Castle Deimos, Morgan’s daughter Jennifer is still wandering around in a trance. She hasn’t recoveredAshiya pops up from Deimos’s mind manipulations, but she seems to find some comfort in the advanced (but ancient) Atlantean tech scattered throughout the castle. The witch Ashiya materializes and blasts Jennifer’s protector (Faaldren) when he tries to attack her. Ashiya says she has no malice toward Morgan or his daughter—Morgan was Deimos’s obsession, not hers. But Ashiya wants someone to teach her about the Atlantean tech, and since Jennifer is from the outside world, she qualifies. Ashiya tells Faaldren she’ll pay Jennifer in kind, trading her own knowledge of sorcery for Jennifer’s scientific knowledge. First she has to get Jennifer out of her catatonic state; Ashiya uses her magic to heal what Deimos did to Jennifer’s mind, but she’s Ashiya pretends to be Jennifer's momnot completely cured. Jennifer is childlike and timid and it’ll take time for her to get back to normal. Ashiya doesn’t feel like waiting, so she changes herself to look like Jennifer’s mother. Jennifer is thrilled to see “her mother” again and eagerly teaches her everything she can about the computers and other machines in the castle. In return, Ashiya shows Jennifer how to tap into the sorcerous power that apparently resides in everyone, if they just have the will to use it. Faaldren isn’t happy about Jennifer becoming a sorceress (or Ashiya learning about tech that no one else in Skartaris knows about), but there’s not much he can do other than watch as Jennifer’s power grows. (Because of the way time flows differently in the outside world and Skartaris, lots ofMorgan bails out of the downed chopper time passes in Skartaris—weeks or even months—while only a day or so passes outside.) Outside, Morgan nears the polar entrance to Skartaris and has to ditch the HIND when it runs out of fuel. He heads for Skartaris and runs into Tara and Shakira, who have been looking for him since he left the castle. He tells them Deimos is dead and they head back to Skartaris, which Morgan now considers home. He’s in for quite a surprise when he sees Jennifer again … we’ll see what happens next issue.

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