Comics Reviews: Superman 371, Action 531, DC Comics Presents 45, Warlord 57

Superman 371 coverSuperman #371 – “Kandor Lives Again” – Len Wein/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt

Last issue, Superman returned to his Fortress of Solitude to find the tiny model of Kandor he’d built was now occupied by tiny people. As this issue starts, Superman at first thinks he’s going crazy but the minuscule aliens soon convince him otherwise. They tell him they’re from a planet called Sh’str, a near-Utopian world in another dimension where society was devoted to peace and the pursuit of knowledge. But Sh’str’s sun went nova, forcing the inhabitants to look for a new dimension to move into. They found Earth and decided it would be a good sanctuary, but after transporting Sh’str’s entire population across the dimensional barrier, they got a nasty surprise … they were tiny in comparison to Earth life forms. After scanning around for a safe haven, they used the last of their power to travel to Superman’s Fortress where theypurple pile driver found the Kandor model and moved in. The aliens say they’d like to assimilate with Earthlings, but figure the size difference makes that impossible. Superman says his microwave tunnel can enlarge the aliens two at a time and suggests they send a couple of representatives as a test before going all out. The aliens choose a couple of people to be enlarged (P’yll and G’ras) and Superman brings them up to Earthling size. A few days later, Superman runs into one of his most deadly enemies … or not. Yes, it’s the fearsome return of the Purple Pile Driver, who last appeared in Action 464 and probably should’ve stayed there. Purple Pile Driver robs an armoured car and actually gets away briefly by sabotaging an elevated highway. But as soon as Superman fixes the highway, he goes after the Pile Driver, who knocks himself out trying to smash the Man of Steel. After dropping the Purple Doofus with the cops, Superman changes to Clark Kent and heads to aliens go nutsWGBS just in time for his lunch break. He’s taking Grace Smith (new Daily Planet fashion consultant) to lunch, which blows Steve Lombard away since Grace won’t give him the time of day. Clark and Grace meet up with Phil (who’s working in the press room) for lunch and they talk about how the two aliens are assimilating to life on Earth. Grace and Phil are sneezing and itching, which worries Clark; I guess he’s read War of the Worlds. (Grace tells him not to be such a mother cow.) Clark gets distracted when Steve asks how he managed to get a babe like Grace interested, but their argument is interrupted by a couple of freaky-looking aliens going nuts in the street below. Lombard recognizes them as the two new Planet employees and Clark slips away to change to Superman. Grace and Phil have regressed to semi-barbaric forms, like their race once was before they evolved. They’re pretty strong, but Superman grabs them and whisks them back to hisaliens change back Fortress. They bust loose and start rampaging again, threatening to smash the Kandor model with all their fellow aliens in it. One of them sneezes again and Superman realizes what’s happening. He grabs some white kryptonite from his collection and it changes Grace and Phil back to normal. Superman explains that they were infected by Earth germs and the white kryptonite wiped them out. (As Superman mentions, white kryptonite affects only plants, so I’m not sure why it would kill bacteria, but maybe Phil and Grace were infected by some kind of spore.) He returns P’yll and G’ras to the Kandor model and says he’ll try to find a way to protect their people from Earth-borne diseases. In the meantime, the aliens say they’re happy to live inside the Kandor model and even re-christen it Kandor in honour of the original bottle city.

Action 531 coverAction #531 – “The Devil and the Daily Planet” – Marv Wolfman/Joe Staton/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with a smarmy dude named Waxman about to buy the Daily Planet from Morgan Edge. Apparently the Planet has been losing money for the last few years, so Edge is eager to sell. Waxman wants to turn the paper into a tabloid scandal sheet, which doesn’t sit well with any of the employees. Jimmy Olsen says it’s basically the death of the Daily Planet, a remark that causes something to stir in the printing rooms deep under the building. As Clark, Lois, Jimmy, and Perry try to leave, the elevator goes wonky and takes them to the Archive Room in the sub-basement. Jimmy looks at a mock-up of the Planet’s first edition and remembers a story about a printer’s apprentice (Jeremiah Odets) who was killed after falling into the presses. Upstairs, Edge and Waxman can’t even get the elevators to work, so they take the stairs. But every door is lockedSuperman fights the monster except the one to the Archive Room, so that’s where they end up. Waxman wonders if the building is haunted and that’s why Edge is so eager to sell. But Edge reminds him he’s just buying the newspaper, not the Galaxy Building. Perry suggests they split up to look for a way out. Clark and Lois are walking around and Clark tries to act scared, but Lois sees through his act. Before she can question him too much, they’re attacked by something claiming to be Frankenstein’s monster; not the growling green monster from the movies, but the articulate, tormented creature from the novel. Clark jumps it and gets slapped down and Lois faints, giving Clark a chance to change to Superman. The creature knocks him around again and disappears with Lois. Superman figures it must be magical, the way it could hurt him so easily. Upstairs, a Jimmy fights spiritscomputer terminal turns itself on and starts writing a story. Outside, a fake Perry White turns away the night shift, telling them the building is closed until the next day. The real Perry and Jimmy check out the loading docks and are startled to find a young woman being menaced by demonic spirits. Jimmy tries to fight the spirits, which promptly disappear, leaving him and Perry to take care of the woman, who’s like something straight out of a Bronte novel. Superman finds Lois and the monster (which vanishes right away) and when he compares notes with Jimmy he realizes they’ve been encountering characters from 18th and 19th Century novels. Waxman and Edge are blown to the spot where the others have gathered by a mystical wind. Perry notices the computers are writing a story by themselves, in somewhat archaic prose. A ghost materializes and says it didn’t mean to cause harm but itJeremiah's ghost wanted to save the Daily Planet … and fulfill its fondest wish, to write a story for the paper. The ghost threatens Waxman, who promises never to come back to the building. The ghost vanishes and Edge tells Waxman he’s not going to sell the Planet so it can be turned into a crappy tabloid. In the confusion, Superman changes back to Clark and pretends he’s just recovering from his Frankenstein beat-down. An employee brings a freshly printed paper from the presses about the Daily Planet being saved and Jimmy points out the byline … Jeremiah Odets, the printer’s apprentice who died the same night the Daily Planet was born. Clark mentions that printer’s apprentices used to be called “printer’s devils” and Lois says Jeremiah was more like a guardian angel.

DC Presents 45 coverDC Comics Presents #45 – “The Chaos Network” – Gerry Conway/Rich Buckler/Bob Smith

This one starts with an American traitor named Kristopher Kross trying to get to a nameless North African country (Libya, maybe?) with stolen computer components and a plutonium power pack. Superman intercepts the jet Kross is in, causing Kross to bail out. Superman blows him out over the Atlantic where the USS Rayburn, an aircraft carrier, is waiting to grab him. Before Kross lands, he’s hit by lightning which almost kills him. Superman saves him and gets him to the carrier’s medical bay, assuring Kross that he’ll probably live to be charged with treason. Some time later in New York, Firestorm has just stopped some muggers and heads back to Concordance Research before splitting into Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein. Stein works at Concordance and Ronnie wanted to bring himRonnie becomes Firestorm back there since he shanghaied him into the Firestorm matrix with no warning. Stein hears someone coming and tells Ronnie to hide since he’s not authorized to be there. Stein’s boss (Corply) comes in with a Fed named Gleason, who says Stein’s research partner, Kristopher Kross, has been stealing secret info from Concordance and Stein is suspected of helping him. Ronnie wonders what to do and he’s so distracted by the Professor’s predicament that he can’t concentrate on the basketball game that night and gets tossed out. He finally comes to the obvious solution and becomes Firestorm, pulling Stein away from his interrogation by Gleason. (Luckily Gleason’s back was turned just as Stein disappeared, otherwise he might really have some questions to answer.) Meanwhile, near the Strait of Gibraltar, the USS Rayburn is Firestorm meets Clark Kentcruising around when the electrical systems start going crazy. The systems go nuts all over the vessel, culminating in the jets taking off from the deck by themselves. In Metropolis, Firestorm goes to see Clark Kent, who Superman told him to contact if he ever needed to get in touch. Clark soon reveals that he is Superman and Firestorm explains what’s happening. They head out to find the USS Rayburn and Firestorm speculates that someone at Concordance was helping Kross and framed Stein for it. As Superman and Firestorm cross the Atlantic, Superman sees a Poseidon nuclear submarine being fired on by American jets. He creates a sonic wave to detonate the missiles before they reach the sub, then envelops the nuclear radiation in a column of sea water which he freezes and tosses into space. Firestorm realizes the jets have no pilots and starts blasting them, but one of the jetsdraining the satellite network gets behind him and starts homing in. Superman flies to the Rayburn where he finds a mutated Kristopher Kross (now calling himself Kriss Kross—I can’t tell if his shirt is on backward or not), who was empowered by the lightning strike. The lightning fused the smuggled tech to Kross’s body, allowing him to send out electrical energy and control technology at a distance. Meanwhile, Firestorm manages to destroy the pursuing jet by using his matter transmutation ability to change a cloud into a steel wall. To demonstrate his new powers, Kross shoots a beam into space where he takes over a defense satellite. That satellite sends out more beams until all the defense satellites in orbit are under Kross’s control, giving him a reservoir of power sufficient to fight Superman hand to hand. Firestorm heads into orbit and tries to Gleason gets a shockknock out Kross’s satellite links while Kross beats the shit out of Superman below. Finally, Firestorm manages to break the network, causing Kross to lose power; Superman immediately decks him. Back in New York, Gleason arrests Stein’s boss, Corply, who was Kross’s real partner. Firestorm gloats because he always thought Corply was a dick and Superman says he should be more calm and composed like Agent Gleason. Firestorm changes back to Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein and Gleason immediately loses his composure trying to figure out where the hell Stein came from.

Noticeable Things:

  • The title of this story was inspired by a book called “The Terror Network” by Claire Sterling; it was about how the USSR sponsored a lot of low-level terrorists around the world to destabilize the West. I think that turned out to be basically true, although some people (on both sides) disagree.
  • When Kross and his pilot are trying to evade Superman, the pilot refers to Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, where a lot of “freedom fighters” have been educated.
  • When Stein is being interrogated, the agent refers to Christopher Boyce, a real life defense industry employee convicted of spying for the Russians in the 70s.
  • Right before the electrical attack on the Rayburn, one of the sailors is shown reading “Beat to Quarters” by C.S. Forester.

Warlord 57 coverWarlord #57 – “Double Entendre” – Mike Grell/Mark Texeira/Pablo Marcos

Last issue, Travis Morgan was mugged in the royal palace of Shamballah and replaced bu an exact lookalike. He wakes up in a dungeon with a metal mask on his face like a Dumas character. His captor, Darvin (who also runs the local gang of child thieves) is holding onto Morgan for insurance; he’s realized how valuable having the true Queen’s Consort might be, so he forbids his gang of thieves from going near the dungeon and tells the head thief (Griff) to keep watch on Morgan’s cell. Griff tells Darvin their newest recruit, Tinder (who’s actually Morgan and Tara’s son, though nobody knows that) went out thieving by himself. Darvin figures Tinder is too green to be going solo, so he sends Griff to bring Tinder back. In the palace, Tara is still talking with her old friend Graemore who returned last issue for a visit. Graemore finds himselfTara and Graemore attracted to Tara, and realizes he always had a thing for her. The fake Morgan strides past in the corridor, ignoring Tara when she calls to him. He goes to see Praedor, the man behind the conspiracy to replace Morgan. Praedor says the people he works for are happy to have the false Morgan to whisper their wishes into Tara’s ear. Like most politicians, Praedor and his masters think they know the best way to run the country; the fake Morgan refers to it as a “dictatorship without the untidy earmarks”. Praedor warns the impostor to always wear his sword belt, including Morgan’s gun, as the real Morgan never goes anywhere without them. In the marketplace, Tinder tries to steal someone’s coin purse and almost gets caught, but Griff helps him escape. fake Morgan has gun problemsThey head back to Darvin’s hideout, detouring past the palace to gape at the finery. Griff mentions that Darvin used to work at the palace, though he doesn’t say in what capacity. Inside, the impostor is screwing around with Morgan’s gun and it goes off, scaring the shit out of him (and everyone else in the palace). Tara comes running to see what happened and the impostor tries to downplay it. She tells him Graemore will be staying on at the palace for a while. She seems disappointed when “Morgan” doesn’t get upset … I guess she expected—or wanted—some jealousy. The impostor quickly distracts her with a kiss and it looks like they’re headed for some lovin’. In the dungeon, the real Morgan is driving himself crazy with thoughts of what his double might be doing … like banging his wife.

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