Comics Reviews: Superman 368, Action 528, DC Comics Presents 42, Warlord 54

Superman 368 coverSuperman #368 – “The Revenger of Steel” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

Over the last couple of issues, Superman changed himself into a reptilian alien named Vlatuu so he could infiltrate the Superman Revenge Squad. Because his transformation actually changed his brain patterns, his plan worked; he insinuated himself into the Revengers and gained their trust (and the amorous attentions of an alien hottie named Nryana). Vlatuu managed to defeat the Revengers’ Superman android, thus earning the privilege of going to Earth to kill the real Man of Steel. In spite of all his precautions, the Revengers’ leader (Fwom) suspects Vlatuu might be Superman in disguise, but figures things will work out okay either way … if Vlatuu is genuine, he’ll kill Superman and if he’s really Superman in disguise, his mental conditioning will compel him to kill himself. This issue starts with Fwom, Nryana, and some other RevengersSuperman changes back to normal wishing Vlatuu well on his mission to kill Superman. Fwom confides his suspicions to the others, but Nryana refuses to believe Vlatuu is a fake. (Fwom says it’s because of her “irrepressible female emotions”; I guess sexism is a universal trait.) As Vlatuu enters hyperspace, he transforms back into Superman, who realizes his plan worked but has no memory of anything that happened to him as Vlatuu. He destroys his spaceship and zooms back to Earth, but doesn’t realize a Revenger ship was following him and saw Vlatuu changing back into Superman. In his Fortress of Solitude, Superman extracts the buried memories of his time with the Revenge Squad and reviews everything that happened while he was Vlatuu. Supergirl shows up to congratulate him on the success of his plan, but Supes has something Superman wrecks his own museumelse to take care of. He heads into Metropolis to see Lois, giving her a necklace and asking her out to dinner. But while he’s waiting, Superman sees his reflection in the mirror … except the reflection is a little off. It has the Revengers’ “slashed-S” symbol on the chest—just like the Superman android on the Revengers’ planetoid—instead of the regular symbol. Superman’s eyes glow red and he takes off, saying his mission is clear. He scours the city but can’t find whoever he’s looking for (which would seem to be himself), so he trashes the Superman Museum. The next day, nobody can figure out who wrecked the Museum or why. We see the Revenger spaceship that followed Superman reporting back to Fwom that everything is going as planned. Fwom apparently altered the Superman android while Vlatuu was fighting it so it planted a post-hypnotic suggestion in Vlatuu’s (and therefore Superman’s) mind. In Metropolis, Lois is abducted from her apartment by Superman,Superman saves Lois at the last second who knocks her out and takes her to the desert. When she comes to, her captor explains that he’s a super-android tasked with killing Superman, but can’t find his quarry. He trashed the Museum and grabbed Lois to bring Superman out of hiding, but so far it hasn’t worked. Of course, we know this really is Superman, acting out Fwom’s post-hypnotic command, and Lois recognizes the real Man of Steel too. She figures she can shock him back to normal by putting herself in danger, so she jumps off a mesa and plummets toward the ground. It looks like her plan isn’t going to work, but just before she splatters, Superman comes to his senses and saves her. The Revenger ship that’s been spying on Superman reports back to Fwom that the plan has failed, but Fwom says it’s not over yet. Apparently his post-hypnotic suggestion was so strong that even though Superman is back to normal, Superman explodes a weapon over Revengers planetoidhe’ll still be compelled to follow the android’s programming and kill himself. Sure enough, he flies to his Fortress and straps on an explosive, but instead of just blowing himself away, he heads out into space … on a trajectory for the Revengers’ planetoid. It looks like Superman is going to kill himself, but he’s going to take the Revengers with him. As he approaches, the Revengers launch a slew of missiles to intercept him, but he’s too close and the missiles detonate just outside the atmosphere, setting off the explosive Superman is wearing. Instead of blowing up the Revengers’ homeworld, Superman’s bomb spreads a veil of mist around the planetoid. Superman explains that saving Lois canceled the hypnotic suggestion, so he played along to get his weapon close to the Revengers’ world. The mists around the planetoid will instantly cause anyone who contacts it to have amnesia, so the Revengers can either stay there and wallow in their hate, or leave and forget their grudges against Superman. We never do get to see Nryana’s reaction to finding out Vlatuu was Superman in disguise, nor do we see any remorse from Superman for tricking her. Too bad, as her feelings for Vlatuu seemed genuine … and vice versa.

Action 528 coverAction #528 – “Star-Kill” – Marv Wolfman/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Brainiac heading toward Earth to get Superman’s help. Yup, you heard right … one of Brainiac’s creations has grown beyond his control and threatens the entire galaxy, so he needs Superman’s help to stop it. On Earth, Morgan Edge is telling his staff that he’s thinking about selling the Daily Planet. Perry, Jimmy, and Lois are upset but Clark pretends to take it meekly, not wanting to rock the boat. Of course, that really pisses Lois off, but Clark makes a hasty exit. He’s spotted Brainiac approaching Earth and flies out to intercept him as Superman. Last time they fought (in Action 514) Superman’s computer programmed Brainiac’s mind to undo every evil thing he’d previously done. Brainiac explains that he’s been following that compulsion, traveling all over the universe to fix all the shitty stuff he’s done. But he ran intoBrainiac asks Superman for help something he couldn’t handle: he’d once created a small power globe that could drain energy from planets, which he planned to use against Superman. But draining energy made the device too powerful to control, so Brainiac dismantled it and sent it into space. Apparently the device reassembled itself and began draining any energy it could find. Now it’s the size of the Death Star and capable of absorbing entire suns. Brainiac says if it’s not stopped, it could actually reverse the Big Bang, pulling everything in the universe into itself. Superman knows he has to help Brainiac and they head into space to find the killer machine. They don’t have far to go, as the device is obeying its original programming … to attack Earth. As they get close, Brainiac says the device isn’t fully operational yet, but it’s already the size of a moon and Superman climbs out of the planet-killergrowing all the time. Superman approaches to get a look and is pulled inside, drawn inexorably toward the burning core of the mechanical planetoid. He manages to claw his out before being killed, but when he tries to get back to Brainiac’s ship, the machine blasts him with energy. The machine has now grown large enough to swallow a planet and does. Superman sees the planet being torn apart, all the people dying in agony, and is reminded of Krypton’s destruction. That takes the fight right out of him and he’s pulled unresisting into the deadly machine again. But he’s saved by Brainiac, who pulls him back with a tractor beam and gives him a much-needed pep talk. Brainiac says the machine will go dormant for a while after consuming the planet, toSuperman gets blasted assimilate all the energy. The machine is close to Earth, so Superman goes out to attack it while it’s quiet, but an energy beam blasts him and he falls, landing in the ocean. Hours later, Superman shows up—half dead—at Lois’s apartment, where she’s holding a meeting of Daily Planet staff. As the world killer approaches Earth, its gravity begins to cause problems—earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanoes—and Brainiac wonders where the hell Superman is. We’ll find out if Earth is destroyed next issue.

DC Presents 42 coverDC Comics Presents #42 – “The Specter of War” – Paul Levitz/Irv Novick/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with Superman running across an atomic bomb test and deciding to funnel all the fallout and radioactivity into space. He goes off on an anti-nuke diatribe, then returns to Earth in a foul mood and changes to Clark Kent. He asks Perry White if he can do a story about war, about why humans consider war a viable solution to disputes when its really just a fancy way of committing suicide. (Yeah, I think Paul Levitz’s feelings are bleeding through here.) A soldier comes into Perry’s office and hands Clark an envelope, saying Clark’s just the guy he’s been looking for. Clark uses his x-ray vision and sees the message inside the envelope is addressed to Superman. He goes after the soldier, but he’s nowhere to be found and Perry’s secretary says there was no soldier in the newsroom. The note ClarkSuperman stops sabotaged missile got warned of a nuclear missile test sabotage and when Superman zooms out West, he finds the missile about to blow up in its silo. He tosses the missile into space where it explodes harmlessly and warns the officer in charge that someone’s trying to blow them away, which could start World War III. In a hidden base in the Arctic, we see the cabal of scientists and rogue military officers behind the missile sabotage and learn that they are trying to start a war. They hope both sides will get nuked and they’ll be able to take over afterward. Clark Kent goes to the Pentagon to ask about the missile sabotage but he’s seized by some MPs and dragged off to be confined without a trial or charges … good thing this is only a comic; that could never happen in real life. Before Superman finds info on Unknown SoldierClark is locked up, a general comes along and orders him released. It turns out to be the same soldier who gave him the note in Metropolis (though he was a private and looked different) and he gives Clark another note. The general disappears again, prompting Superman to ponder who he might be. He zips up to the JLA Satellite to do a little research (helped by Red Tornado) and figures out who his mysterious benefactor is … the Unknown Soldier. Of course, we already knew that since we saw the cover of this comic. Superman suspected his friend might be wearing a series of disguises, since he always seems to be scratching his neck right where the mask would end. Superman and Reddy figure if someone was going to start a nuclear war, they’d makeSuperman disarms missiles all over the world sure they were far away from danger. Superman heads for the Arctic where the cabal of crazies have captured a spy (three guesses who that is) and are beating the shit out of him. The nutcase in charge sends a signal to activate every nuclear missile on Earth just before Superman busts in. The Man of Steel sees the danger and heads out to try and disarm all the nukes. He zooms around the world, disarming every nuke he can find, but almost misses one. He manages to push it underground where it explodes harmlessly. He returns to the Arctic where a force of NATO troops is on the scene. The captain says some soldier brought in a bunch of prisoners at gunpoint and Unknown Soldier and Clark Kenttold him to check the hidden bunker, then vanished. Superman says he’s not surprised and tells the captain he’ll find all his answers in the bunker. Later, Clark goes to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington and lays a wreath. Clark isn’t sure if the guy helping him was really the Unknown Soldier (he’d have to be at least 60 by this point since he was active in WW II), or if it was a bunch of different soldiers just trying to do the right thing. Clark doesn’t really care either way; he concludes that they’re both soldiers in the fight for peace. After he leaves, we see a groundskeeper at the cemetery has been listening … and scratching his neck.

Noticeable Things:

  • I guess we’re supposed to believe this is the original Unknown Soldier, despite his advanced years. But he seems to be in too many places at once. I guess I can buy that he got from the Pentagon to the Arctic base in the time that Superman took to do research on the JLA Satellite. But when Superman stops the first sabotaged missile (in what looks like New Mexico), there’s a guy at the missile base scratching his neck that I assume is Unknown Soldier. But Unknown Soldier was just in Metropolis minutes before, giving Clark the warning about the sabotage, so how did he get all the way across the country so fast?

Sandman splash“Whatever Happened to the Sandman?” – Mike W. Barr/Jose Delbo/Joe Giella

This one starts with Wesley Dodds being lured into a trap by a good-looking redhead. She’s working with some crooks, including a guy named Snooze Simpson, who Sandman put away years ago. Snooze wants revenge and knows Wes is Sandman … except Wes swears he isn’t Sandman and doesn’t even seem to know who Sandman was. Wes is knocked out and placed in a giant hourglass, which threatens to drown him in sand. The redhead explains things to Wes; years ago she heard her father talking to Wes about his career as Sandman and his guilt over turning his partner (Sandy Hawkins) into a silicon-monster. The girl’s father hypnotized Wes into forgetting he was Sandman until a certain word triggered his memory to return, but the girl never heard what the trigger word was. When she grew up she fell for Snooze Simpson and wantsSandman pounds crooks to help him get revenge, but it’s not much fun killing Sandman if he can’t remember who he is. The crooks try numerous ways to bring back Wes’s memory, but nothing works so Snooze tells one of his men to hold Wes under the sand. Snooze says they’ll have to get their revenge by going after Sandy. Wes grabs the guy trying to kill him, pounds him, and busts out of the hourglass. He takes a Sandman costume Snooze had on display and goes after the crooks. He pounds them all and we find out Sandy’s name was the trigger that brought Wes’s memory back. Wes decides he’d better find out what happened to Sandy … which we’ll see next issue.

Warlord 54 coverWarlord #54 – “Sorceress Supreme” – Mike Grell/Mark Texeira/Mike DeCarlo

This one starts with Travis Morgan, Tara, and Shakira returning to Castle Deimos, where the witch Ashiya has been teaching magic to Morgan’s daughter Jennifer in exchange for learning how to operate the Atlantean tech that’s scattered throughout the castle. Ashiya has used her magic to look like Jennifer’s dead mother (Rachel) so Jennifer will trust her, but Jennifer’s powers have been growing by leaps and bounds. She eagerly absorbs everything Ashiya can teach and it seems like she might suspect the truth about her “mother”. Morgan gets a shock when he returns to the castle and finds his dead wife there. At first he’s thrilled (which pisses off his current wife, Tara) but quickly realizes something’s wrong when “Rachel” blasts him with a magic bolt. The disguised witch brings down the portcullis, almost impaling Shakira whoJennifer and Ashiya face off pushes Tara out of the way. Morgan resists Ashiya’s magic and grabs her by the throat. She’s forced to drop her disguise, changing from Rachel to the sexy witch disguise, and finally to the withered crone that is her true form. Before Morgan can stab her, Jennifer shows up and blasts him with her own magic and Ashiya urges her to finish him. Jennifer says she wasn’t saving Ashiya from her father, she just wants to take care of the witch herself. They start a wild magical duel and Jennifer’s powers are great, but Ashiya’s experience gives her an edge. She gains the upper hand until Jennifer uses Jennifer blasts Ashiya to hellher head and tricks Ashiya into standing near some Atlantean power cells. Jennifer blasts the cells and Ashiya is zapped out of existence. Morgan is glad Jennifer is feeling better and assumes she’ll come back to Shamballah with him and Tara, but Jennifer has decided she needs to learn more. She wants to stay in Castle Deimos (with Faaldren as her bodyguard) and explore what it means to be a sorceress, adding to her knowledge and power. Morgan isn’t happy, but he can hardly complain since she’s showing the same maverick spirit as him. Morgan, Tara, and Shakira head south, leaving Jennifer as mistress of Castle Deimos … but don’t worry, we’ll see hr again one of these days.

Noticeable Things:

  • According to an interview Mike Grell did, this issue is the one where hisJennifer Morgan glamour shot then wife (Sharon Wright) took over writing Warlord full-time. Mike may still have been providing plots but Sharon was doing the dialogue and I have to say, there is a noticeable shift in tone. The dialogue really does sound different and the whole thing of making Jennifer a powerful sorceress instead of a girl who needs to be rescued is a cool development. in fact, Jennifer ends up being one of my favourite characters, though she’s not used as often as I’d like.

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