Comics Reviews: Superman 369, Action 529, DC Comics Presents 43, Warlord 55

Superman 369 coverSuperman #369 – “Superman’s Last Christmas” – Cary Bates/Rich Buckler/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with Lana Lang and Steve Lombard doing a live broadcast from Galaxy Plaza where they’re waiting for an appearance by Superman. The Man of Steel has been delayed saving a house from falling into a sinkhole. After filling the sinkhole with lava, Superman carries out his original mission, bringing a gigantic Christmas tree to Galaxy Plaza. Elsewhere in Metropolis, a mugger disguised as a street corner Santa tries to whack an unsuspecting passerby with his bell. But the “victim” turns out to be a trained fighter (Cory Renwald) and kicks the fake Santa’s ass, tossing him down a manhole where he escapes through the sewers. AtRenwald takes down fake Santa Galaxy Plaza, Superman finishes setting up the mega-tree and decorates it at super-speed. He leaves Lana to turn on the lights so he can make a belated appearance as Clark Kent, pretending to be grouchy about the holiday season. Downtown, Cory Renwald (who turns out to be some kind of government agent) gets an assignment from a hidden tape recorder. He’s told to check out a local newscaster who’s suspected of committing treason against the United States; the newsman’s name? Clark Kent. Meanwhile, Superman is in his Fortress of Solitude, relaxing in the beams of a holographic anti-gravity machine designed to soothe his super-nerves. He’s thinking about his childhood Christmases when his parents were still alive and that distracts him, allowing Parasite to bust into the Fortress and Superman gets rid of Parasitejump him. Parasite starts absorbing Superman’s power, but before he can completely drain the Man of Steel, Supes makes a supreme effort and tosses Parasite out of the Fortress and miles across the Arctic. Parasite soon crawls out of the glacier he landed in and figures he’s drained enough power from Superman to last him through Christmas at least. He also absorbed Superman’s thoughts, so he knows Supes is feeling down about being an alien with no family at Christmas time. Parasite figures he can use that knowledge to take Superman down for good. The next day, Clark and Lois are returning from a shopping trip when Clark’s super-hearing alerts him that a sniper is about to shoot him. His x-ray vision finds the sniper (whoRenwald saves Clark works for some mobsters Clark’s been writing about), but before he can react, the gunman is taken out by Cory Renwald. After scanning Renwald’s ID with his x-ray vision, Clark remembers him as a government agent he once helped as Superboy. Since Lois is there Clark can’t do anything, but he assumes Renwald is hunting down the syndicate members. Renwald drops the mob assassin at police headquarters and makes contact with his control officer. His control tells him Clark Kent’s treason doesn’t entail him selling out to another country, but to aliens from another planet. Renwald is assigned to break into Clark’s place to find evidence that he’s consorting with aliens. Luckily Clark has a special alarm in his place that alerts him to Renwald’s intrusion. When his telescopic vision shows Renwald searching his place, Clark realizes Renwald Parasite jumps Clarkmust’ve been tailing him and not the mob assassin. Clark changes to Superman in the storeroom but gets jumped by the Parasite. Parasite knocks him around a bit, then takes off. Meanwhile, Renwald has found something very interesting in Clark’s apartment. He makes contact with a superior (disguised as a cab driver), but says what he found at Clark’s place is so sensitive he’ll only divulge it to his boss at a secret rendezvous site. When the cabbie drops Renwald off, we learn the cab driver is actually Parasite in disguise. He was the fake Santa who attacked Renwald in the street and that brief contact allowed him to drain Renwald’s mind, giving him all the proper code phrases and other secret info he needed to impersonate Renwald’s control officer. Parasite decided to attack Superman on two fronts: physically, as himself, and psychologically using Renwald to ruin Clark Kent’s life. Parasite knows Renwald foundGalaxy Xmas party Superman’s alien trophies in Clark’s place, which supports the lie that Clark is consorting with aliens. When Clark checks out his place, he realizes Renwald found his alien stash and wonders if Renwald’s assignment is to expose his secret identity. At the Galaxy Christmas party, Steve slips Lana some tongue under the mistletoe and Clark meets Carol Jenkins (who was a real-life anchorperson for WNBC back in the 80s and 90s). Clark heads out to find Parasite, who’s meeting with Renwald. Renwald has figured out his “control officer” is a phony, but is surprised to learn he’s really Parasite. Superman tackles Parasite, who isn’t as powerful as he should be. Superman reveals he secretly injected himself with low-level kryptonite, so the last time Parasite Parasite keels overdrained his energy, he introduced the kryptonite into his own system where it’s been growing. Since Parasite was sustaining himself with energy drained from Superman, the kryptonite is now attacking his own body and Parasite ends up keeling over without Superman having to do anything. Later, Renwald goes to see Clark and reveals that he used to be a real asshole as a teenager until the Kents took him in and reformed him. He knew Clark couldn’t be a traitor if he was raised by ma and Pa Kent, so he figured someone was setting him up. Clark is worried Renwald has figured out his secret, but Renwald believes Superman uses Clark’s place as a “way station”, storing some of his stuff there. Clark encourages Renwald’s supposition and says Superman definitely feels at home there.

Action 529 coverAction #529 – “I Have Two Eyes, but I Cannot See” – Marv Wolfman/Curt Swan/Dan Adkins

Last issue, a reformed Brainiac came to Earth to recruit Superman to help him fight one of his own creations that had gotten out of hand. The energy-absorbing device had grown into the size of a Death Star and was able to consume entire planets … and soon entire suns. The planet-killer was already too powerful and Superman was blasted by it, falling to Earth and ending up at the WGBS building with amnesia. Even worse, the planet-killer was approaching Earth to destroy the planet and as it gets closer, its gravity has already started causing natural disasters. This issue opens with Brainiac confronting the planet-killer and having to run a gauntlet of lasers. He barely manages to keep from being zapped and wonders what happened to Superman. The Man of Steel isBrainiac saves city at WGBS, trying to remember what happened to him. He’s told there are multiple disasters going on and zooms out to help. But he seems blind to reality, as he flies right over a volcano erupting in downtown Metropolis and proclaims the city to be peaceful and quiet. In space, Brainiac sees his doomsday machine attacking another planet and manages to save some of the inhabitants by using his shrink ray to miniaturize a city before the planet explodes. On Earth, Jimmy and Lois point out the volcano and the huge waterspouts in Metropolis harbour, but Superman simply can’t see them. He takes Jimmy and Lois to his Fortress, but he can’t even see the disasters on his monitor screens. He gives Jimmy a flying suit and they head back to Metropolis so Jimmy can act as Superman’s eyes. Naturally, Lois is pissed off at being left Lois hit by lightningout. Jimmy directs Superman to neutralize the volcano with a super-vortex and leads him through vapourizing the clouds spawning the waterspouts. The disasters become unnatural, as lightning begins shooting up from under the ground. Lois (who borrowed a spare flying suit to follow Superman and Jimmy to Metropolis) gets caught in the lightning and almost fried. Superman rescues her, even though he can’t see the lightning affecting her. Jimmy gets caught by the lightning too and Superman gets pissed off that he can’t see what’s going on. Brainiac shows up and saves Jimmy, then tells Superman they need to talk. At the Fortress, Brainiac analyzes Superman’s mind and fixes the damage done by the planet-killer. Superman asks Brainiac if he knows of a fail-safe to defeat the planet-killer, but Brainiac says if he putSuperman makes Brainiac evil again such a device in the machine, that knowledge vanished when Superman reprogrammed him to be good. Superman wonders if undoing the programming might reveal the way to beat the planet-killer, but Brainiac says if they go that route, he’ll be evil again forever since his mind won’t be reprogrammable again. Brainiac doesn’t want to be evil again, but Superman says there’s no choice; he undoes his good work and turns Brainiac evil again. Brainiac agrees to help defeat the planet-killer (since it’s a threat to him now too), but tells Superman he may regret making him evil again. We’ll see what these uneasy allies can do next issue.

DC Presents 43 coverDC Comics Presents #43 – “In Final Battle” – Paul Levitz/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt

This one starts with Clark Kent seeing something with his telescopic vision that freaks the shit out of him. After making a lame excuse, he changes to Superman and zooms off into space to confront a Sun-Eater, a cosmic entity that devours entire solar systems. Superman remembers facing a Sun-Eater in the future with the Legion (in Adventure 352-353) when Ferro Lad sacrificed himself to take an absorbatron bomb into the Sun-Eater’s heart. This Sun-Eater is on course for Earth and it blasts Superman, knocking him onto the moon.Legion get a distress call (Superman is vulnerable to Sun-Eaters because of the innumerable red suns they’ve consumed.) Before Supes can go back after the monstrosity, he’s confronted by Mongul, who admits he brought the Sun-Eater to Earth to get revenge on Superman. Mongul encases Superman in one of his unbreakable cube prisons, shrinking him down to miniature size. Jimmy and Lois have been watching through a telescope (though how they knew to do that or where to look I have no idea) and Lois goes to file a story. Jimmy figures Superman needs help, so he uses his Legion ring to send a distress call to the future. In the JLA and Supergirl fight Mongul30th Century, a group of Legionnaires (Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Wildfire, Element Lad, Shadow Lass, and Sun Boy) debates what they should do. They’re worried about creating time paradoxes and all that crap, but they can’t just let Earth be destroyed in the past (even though Brainy says that would create an alternate timeline instead of wiping out theirs). They head back in time and find Superman trapped in the cube as Supergirl, Green Lantern, Red Tornado, and Black Canary unsuccessfully try to fight Mongul. The Legionnaires team up to bust Superman out of the cube (mainly using Sun Boy’s heat power) and they join the fight against Mongul. He’’s too powerful for them and all they manage to do is destroy the controls he was using to direct the Sun-Eater.Wildfire takes on the Sun-Eater Now it’s loose and heading for the closest sun … Earth’s! The Legion leave Superman to fight Mongul and go to stop the Sun-Eater. Brainy comes up with a plan to stop the rampaging entity. All the Legionnaires add their powers to Brainy’s force field to shield themselves from the Sun-Eater and Sun Boy’s power attracts its attention. Brainy figures if they can get inside the Sun-Eater, Wildfire can blast it with his anti-matter energy, but Wildfire decides he’d rather die alone than have company. He tosses his teammates away and unleashes all his power in one giant blast that annihilates the Sun-Eater. Fighting Superman nearby, Mongul isn’t sure if the explosion is the Sun-Eater’s destruction or if it’s started devouring Earth’s sun; either way, Mongul only cares about Superman pounds Mongulwasting Superman. But Supes goes all Hulk Hogan and starts pounding Mongul, beating the shit out of him before collapsing himself. The legion cage Mongul (and hope it’ll hold) and tell Superman about Wildfire blowing the Sun-Eater away. They also mention Wildfire’s ability to re-form his energy matrix after total dispersion, which Superman doesn’t remember for some reason. Later, Jimmy Olsen files the story about Superman and the Legion beating Mongul and the Sun-Eater; I guess the Legion threw him a bone since he was the one who called them for help … although Jimmy seems to be milking it for all it’s worth.

Noticeable Things:

  • Superman fought Mongul before in DC Presents 27-29 and DC Presents 36.
  • This Sun-Eater is definitely said to be a different one than the Legion fought in their own time.

Warlord 55 coverWarlord #55 – “Have a Nice Day” – Mike Grell/Mark Texeira/Mike DeCarlo

This one starts with Travis Morgan, Tara, and Shakira heading back to Shamballah. They’re getting close, making it to the main merchant route leading to Shamballah, which happens to pass through the city of Kaambuka. Morgan figures Kaambuka’s ruler (his old friend Ashir) will give them a warm welcome. As they come to the road, they’re startled to find a huge citadel straddling the merchant route. The citadel is being attacked by an army who are soon repulsed. Morgan recognizes Ashir leading the army and catches up to the retreating Kaambukan force to find out what’s going on. Ashir welcomes his friendsAshir turns on the charm and takes them back to his palace in Kaambuka. After hearing Morgan’s recent adventures (and unsuccessfully trying to charm Tara and Shakira), Ashir tells his own tale: the citadel was a watchtower but a group of bandits killed the guards and took over. Now they’re charging heavy tolls for anyone using the road and since the citadel straddles a major trade route, the bandits can make a lot of coin. But their blackmail has already started drying up trade, hence Ashir’s attempts (this was the third) to oust them. Morgan offers his services, saying he has an idea. He swears to Tara this will be his last adventure and that he’s looking forward to settling down with her in Shamballah. Neither she nor Shakira believes that, but Morgan probably does. He and Ashir lead a small force back to the citadel, Trojan smiley facewhere Morgan tries the old Trojan Horse trick, figuring nobody in Skartaris will be familiar with it. Morgan’s deceit has a twist though; instead of a horse, he and Ashir leave a gigantic wooden smiley face with “Have a Nice Day” carved into it (a phrase Morgan says is meaningless in his world). The bandits check out the wooden face, thinking it’s a peace offering. But the bandit chief notices a door built into the side of the contraption and thinks there could be people hiding inside. He has the wooden juggernaut lit on fire and his men gather by the open gates and along the walls to watch the conflagration. Morgan and Ashir slip over the walls from the other side, taking out the few guards left inside the walls and letting their troops in. When the bandit chief notices his sentries on the walls have been replacedinvading the citadel by Kaambukans, he orders his men to head back into the citadel. But they’re met by Morgan and Ashir with an army of men, so the bandits have no choice but to surrender. After taking advantage of Ashir’s gratitude for a few days, Morgan and Tara are ready to head home. Shakira decides to hang around Kaambuka, which thrills Ashir; I’m thinking she doesn’t want to be around the happy couple anymore. As they near Shamballah, Morgan and Tara come across the house of Dagin, the woodcutter who helped Morgan before. The place has been burned out and the woodcutter and his wife are dead, but Morgan's sonthere’s no sign of their kid. Morgan and Tara return to Shamballah in triumph, celebrated in the streets by cheering crowds. Among the crowd, we see the woodcutter’s son, who tries to attract Morgan’s attention. When Morgan doesn’t notice him, the kid walks off down an alley and we see he’s still wearing Morgan’s watch around his upper arm. Yup, this is Morgan and Tara’s son, sent by the witch Ashiya to live with Dagin and his wife. Of course, neither Morgan nor the kid know of their familial connection, but we know, and we know the kid is still alive; this isn’t the last we’ll see of him.

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