Comics Reviews: Superman 370, Action 530, DC Comics Presents 44, Warlord 56

Superman 370 coverSuperman #370 – “Better Vengeance Through Chemo-stry” – Len Wein/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt

I had this comic as a kid, although he story is only vaguely familiar. It starts with Superman in his Fortress putting the finishing touches on a replica of the bottle city of Kandor that he’s been building. Superman helped the real Kandorians find a new home (in Superman 338), so he’s put together this model to replace the real Kandor in his trophy room. While reminiscing about Kandor, he gets an emergency signal and rushes off into space. At the Daily Planet, Lois Lane is talking to a guy named Joe Quinn who wants her to write a human interest story about him. Quinn has lost his factory job due to automation, but Lois says if she wrote a story aboutsuperman tries to divert comet everyone affected by the march of progress, there’d be no room for anything else. Perry White comes in to tell everyone there’s a comet on a collision course for Earth. That gets Lois’s attention and Quinn leaves, still pissed off. Superman finds the comet in space, but when he tries to blow it away from Earth, the comet dodges his super-breath and runs into him. The comet knocks Superman out and continues down to Earth, even laughing at one point. As luck would have it, the comet runs into Joe Quinn (literally) as he contemplates suicide on the Metro Narrows Bridge. Quinn and the comet plunge into the water. In orbit, Superman recovers and figures the comet must’ve absorbed a lot of red sun energy to knock him out like that. From his brief contact with it, he Superman saves people in riverfeels like the comet may have some kind of intelligence to it … a malevolent intelligence. Back at the Daily Planet, Clark lets Lois know that he got the exclusive on Superman dealing with the comet. Naturally that pisses Lois off and when Perry tells them a chunk of the comet fell into the Metro River, Lois vows to get this story for herself. Both she and Clark head out on a tugboat to check the river, which seems to be steaming and boiling with chemicals. They’re startled to see Chemo rise out of the river and start melting their boat with his corrosive breath. Everyone is knocked out when they hit the water, which gives Clark the chance to change to Superman and save them. Chemo has wandered off, but Superman goes after him, giving Lois an excuse for Clark’s absence: he was shaken up so Superman took him home instead ofSuperman fights Chemo to a hospital … I’m sure Lois will buy that. Chemo has headed straight for Major Motors, the factory where Joe Quinn used to work. Quinn’s consciousness seems to be guiding Chemo, so he starts smashing the factory to shit. When Superman shows up, he notices Chemo has changed since he wasn’t able to talk before. In fact, Chemo won’t shut up and keeps going on about Joe Quinn being a somebody now. Supes realizes there’s a human mixed up in Chemo’s body somehow, so he can’t just destroy Chemo. He tosses the behemoth aside and quickly fashions a giant still, which he traps Chemo in on his return. Superman uses fractional distillation to separate Quinn from Chemo, the Chemo dissolves into nothingtosses Chemo out of the factory so fast that the friction actually causes him to dissolve. The friction burns Chemo’s body away until there’s only one drop of chemicals left, which falls into the Atlantic Ocean. I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again sometime. Superman convinces Major Motors to hire Quinn back and train him to operate the machines that took his job in the first place; I’m not sure if that’s good irony or bad. Back at his Fortress, Superman gets a shock when he hears a tiny cry for help coming from his model of Kandor. Yup, Kandor has been populated … but by whom, and what kind of trouble are they in? We’ll find out next issue.

Action 530 coverAction #530 – “Fantastic Deadly Voyage” – Marv Wolfman/Curt Swan/Dan Adkins

Last issue, Earth was being threatened by a planet killer, a gigantic device constructed by Brainiac years ago now grown to huge proportions. The very approach of the planet killer was enough to set off natural disasters all over Earth. Even Brainiac and Superman together couldn’t stop it, so Superman rewired Brainiac’s mind to turn him evil again, hoping that might give him an edge against the planet killer. (Superman had previously wired Brainiac to be a good guy, but this change back to evil is permanent.) Brainiac’s ship is being pulled into the planet killer’s maw, so he and Superman abandon it. They’re grabbed by the device’s powerful gravitic pull, yanked into its “throat”. Superman grabs the side of the corridor, but Brainiac is pulled down toward the fiery core ofSuperman inside the planet killer the machine. Superman lets go and manages to smash through the walls into another part of the machine. He’s awed by the sheer size and complexity of it (although it’s not exactly state of the art … it looks like there are vacuum tubes on one wall). The planet killer puts Superman through a gauntlet, draining his powers with red sun energy and herding him through the machine with hardly time to breathe. Superman finally smashes through another wall into the heart of the machine … its computerized brain. He’s immediately grabbed and pinned to the brain by gravitic energy so strong he can’t break loose. He’s startled to find that Brainiac is still alive and is directing the machine, planning to use it to destroy the entire universe so he can remake it to his Superman blows up the planet killer's brainown satisfaction. Brainiac says the machine is using parts of all the planets it’s consumed to build a new planet; once it’s done, he’ll save one city from each new planet he destroys to populate his constructed world (like the city he saved last issue when he was still good) and asks Superman which of Earth’s cities should be spared. As Brainiac rants, Superman wonders if his tinkering with Brainiac’s mind is what caused him to go completely over the edge. Superman manages to push himself farther into the computer brain until it explodes. Brainiac freaks and plugs himself into the planet killer to direct it to kill Superman. The Man of Steel evades Brainiac’s weapons and flies outside, where he starts peeling the outer shell off the planet killer. WhenSuperman traps Brainiac inside the new planet Brainiac’s nascent planet is revealed, Superman tosses the villain into the heart of the planet (which still hasn’t finished forming), saying he’ll be trapped there until Superman can figure out a way to reprogram him back to being good again. Superman pushes the new planet to an orbit around a star and sets the city Brainiac saved on the new planet so the people can populate it. Superman figures his solution is poetic; Brainiac wanted to remake the universe, to create new life in his own image, and now he’s part of a planet that’s just bursting into life. Earth’s disasters have already stopped and Superman leaves the new planet to find its own destiny.

DC Presents 44 coverDC Comics Presents #44 – “The Man Who Created Villains” – Bob Rozakis, E. Nelson Bridwell/Irv Novick/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with Perry White sending Clark Kent to Fairfax, a town in New England that’s been host to a bunch of new super-heroes lately. Perry tells Clark to figure out what’s up with all the new heroes and sends Jimmy with him. Perry relishes letting Morgan Edge know he’s poached two of his best TV reporters … and the news chopper as well. In Fairfax, we get a recap of the whole hero phenomenon: Chris King and Vicki Grant discovered a couple of weird dials in an old trunk in Chris’s attic. A message on the trunk told them to use the dials wisely and that heroes would be neededChris turns into a monster soon. They dialed the word H-E-R-O on the dials are were immediately transformed into brand new superheroes. They kept their new identities until dialing O-R-E-H, but had to wait an hour before changing again, always into a new and different super-hero. Chris is messing around with his dial and wonders what would happen if he spelled a different word with the same letters. He spells out H-O-R-R-O-R and turns into a monster named Beast Maniac, filled with the compulsion to destroy. Beast Maniac flies off looking for something to wreck and when he sees the WGBS news chopper, he attacks it. Clark pretends to fall out of the chopper so he has a Superman and Sphera fight Beast Maniacchance to change into Superman. He saves the chopper (and Jimmy) and tackles Beast Maniac. Vicki is on the street below and sees the commotion. She knows Chris has used his dial since hers is glowing, so she dials H-E-R-O and changes into Sphera, who can form spheres on any material. When she gets into the sky, she figures Chris has dialed himself into being Superman, which is supposed to be impossible. (The dials don’t allow them to become heroes who already exist.) Sphera helps Superman against beast Maniac, but notices the dial on the monster’s wrist and realizes he’s Chris. She traps Beast Maniac in a sphere and tells Superman she’ll handle him. Superman uses his x-ray vision to watch as Sphera takes Beast Maniac into the woods and tries to revert him to human form by dialing O-R-E-H. Sphera is surprised when it doesn’t work (she would’ve had to dial R-O-R-R-O-H, something she never could’ve guessed). Beast Maniac knocks her out andBeast Maniac defeated Superman swoops in to help, knocking the monster out with his super-breath, which causes him to change back to Chris King. Sphera changes herself back to Vicki and Chris explains what happened. Vicki gives Chris shit for being so stupid and they explain to Superman about the dials. He examines them but can’t figure out how they work, so he concludes magic must be involved. Vicki mentions the guy who used to own Chris’s house was supposed to be a wizard, so Superman’s guess may be right. Superman says he’ll keep their secret, but wonders where all the villains in Fairfax are coming from. Chris (whose dad is a cop) says they seem to come out of nowhere, and none of them has a criminal record, or much of a traceable past at all. Elsewhere, we see the guy behind the villains, with the Master making villainsimaginative name of the Master. He used to work at a DNA lab and has been creating clones, giving them unusual powers, and disposing of the non-viable ones in a disintegrator pit. The Master is looking for the power dials; he knew the “wizard” who lived in Chris’s house, but when he searched the house he couldn’t find the dials anywhere. (He even says the basement and attic were completely empty, which make you wonder where the trunk came from that Chris and Vicki found the dials in.) He knows the dials have been found, so he keeps sending villains to get them from the heroes. So far, all his clone villains have failed, but he sends another (Nullifier) to try again. Clark and Jimmy are in downtown Fairfax when Nullifier starts causing trouble. Chris and Vicki are nearby too and quickly dial up heroic identities, Prism and Blazerina. (Blazerina looks more like Stripperina, butfighting Nullifier she was designed by a thirteen-year-old dude, so …) Nullifier is pretty tough but Superman shows up to help and his experience turns the tide. Prism absorbs Nullifier’s negative energy and sends it back at him, blowing him to hell. Prism is stunned but Superman says Nullifier wasn’t really human, he was made of negative energy. Superman leaves to answer an emergency alarm in his Fortress and Jimmy picks up some soil from the battle site. Chris and Vicki trail Jimmy around town as he investigates the sample, finally tracing it to a cave outside of town. Jimmy finds the cloning operation but he’s grabbed by the master’s flunkies, who drag him toward the disintegrator pit. Chris and in the caveVicki change into new heroes (Essence and Thundera) and stop the thugs before they can kill Jimmy. Essence realizes their opponents aren’t human and the Master (in shadow, of course) admits that and says he’s going to blow up the cave and take the dials from their mangled corpses. When the cave explodes, Thundera uses her power to shield them until Superman shows up to pull them out of danger. He tells them his x-ray vision confirms there were no other people in the cave; the technicians were all robots and the Master was a holographic projection. Superman concludes the cave was just a mock-up of the real operation; the Master lured them there to kill them. The heroes say they’ll be ready for the Master’s next move. After SupermanSuperman saves his friends leaves, Chris and Vicki speculate on his career; Vicki figures he probably had a secret identity as Superboy but abandoned it as an adult because his life would be too hectic to keep one up. We see she’s right about the hectic part, as Clark tries to explain to Perry why he hasn’t broken the Fairfax story yet. Superman promised to keep Chris and Vicki’s secret, so he has to come up with something to satisfy Perry without giving anything away.

Noticeable Things:

  • The gimmick with Dial H for Hero was that readers could send in their ideas or designs for heroes and villains and the creators would use them in the stories. I doubt if the readers were ever compensated (and probably had to sign all kinds of waivers) but they did get their names and ages printed in the stories whenever one of their ideas was used.

Warlord 56 coverWarlord #56 – “Conspiracy” – Mike Grell/Mark Texeira/Pablo Marcos

This one starts with Joshua (Morgan and Tara’s son) fending off a pack of Shamballan street urchins who want the gold watch he wears around his arm. Of course, nobody who would recognize him knows Joshua is still alive, and nobody else knows he’s related to the Queen of Shamballah … including Joshua himself. A guy named Darvin shows up and tells the street punks to get lost. They all work for Darvin, stealing and bringing him information from all over the city. I guess Darvin is the Fagin character in this story. Darvin has heard vague rumours about a kid with a gold talisman on his arm and figures Joshua (or Tinder, as the street people call him) might be valuable to keep around. Darvin offers Tinder a place in his organization and Tinder accepts, but saysMorgan at the council meeting no one is allowed to touch his talisman. A few blocks away, Travis Morgan is preparing for his investiture as Tara’s official consort. Morgan hates statecraft and longs to get out and go adventuring again, but he’s trying to ignore his natural instincts for once. Tara knows how hard it is for him and tries to make it easier. Elsewhere in the palace, a councilman named Praydor is plotting against the throne. Morgan’s return has thrown a wrench into Praydor’s plans, but he figures he can adapt. Praydor goes to a seedy part of town to meet with his fellow conspirator, one who’s very important to his plans. We can’t see the guy’s face, but he’s apparently good at mimicking the speech of others. He’s also getting impatient, but Praydor says they’ll make their move soon and once they’ve acquired the “package” it’ll be given to a man named Darvin for safekeeping. At the palace, Tara warns Morgan about rumours of a palace coup and he reminds her how much he Morgan is replacedhates politics. Morgan has been pushing for progress in Shamballah (probably based on his knowledge of modern life in the outside world), but his ideas aren’t well-received. He goes to a council meeting to argue his points, but ends up getting frustrated with the narrow minds in attendance and stalking out. Tara urges him to be patient, but his frustration mounts as a guy named Graemore comes to see Tara. It’s obvious the two are old friends—or maybe more than friends—and Morgan is jealous of the younger Graemore. He also resents being “just” the consort to the Queen, so he retreats to his room to pout. He’s surprised to find a perfect lookalike there and he’s so distracted that Praydor knocks him out easily. I think I see what Praydor’s plan is … we’ll see if anyone notices the old switcheroo next issue.

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