Comics Reviews: Superman 372, Action 532, DC Comics Presents 46, Warlord 58

Superman 372 coverSuperman #372 – “Superman’s History-Changing Mission” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with a couple of WGBS traffic reporters in their helicopter over Metropolis. The reporters almost have heart attacks when a black meteorite streaks by, but Superman is soon on the scene to take care of things. The meteorite turns out to be made of anti-matter, which means if it touches any positive matter (of which Metropolis and Superman are made) it’ll cause an explosion that annihilates both forms of matter. Superman averts disaster by burning a hole through a building and getting a couple of workers out of the way. Luckily the meteorite was aimed at the maintenance level, so there were no other people to worry about. (If you’re wondering why positive matter air molecules aren’t blowing up the meteorite, Superman observes that it has a thin force field around it to keepSuperman meets Strath it from interacting with the air. The meteorite takes a sudden turn and zips into space, where it settles into orbit around Earth. Superman detects a radio signal controlling the meteorite and traces it to a South Seas island. On the island is a man named Mason Strath, a scientist who was set up on the island (with plenty of high-tech equipment) by NASA. He tells Superman he controls the anti-matter meteorite and if the controls are damaged, it’ll explode in orbit, causing a black hole to form right beside the Earth. Strath tells Superman he’s been doing research on the island for a while, but last August a tsunami swept away both his kids. He wants Superman to go back in time to save them, but Superman tells him time-travel can’t change fate. I wonder if this story is a shot at the first Superman movie, where fate definitely got Superman fails to rescue Strath's kidschanged? Strath says if Superman doesn’t go back in time and save his kids, the anti-matter drone will explode the next day, wiping out Earth. Superman agrees and builds a bubble to bring Strath with him into the past. They arrive just before the tsunami hits, but nothing Superman does can stop it. When he tries to grab the kids, his hands pass right through them like a ghost, since he and Strath have no material existence in the past. Strath is forced to watch his kids die again and Superman takes him into Metropolis to see Superman’s past self saving a building from lightning. Strath is convinced it’s impossible to change the past and promises to deactivate the anti-matter device when they return to the present. Unfortunately, the control device is wrecked when they get back (some kind of power surge), so Strath can’t shut off the anti-matter drone. He feels like an asshole for dooming Earth,Superman gets rid of the anti-matter drone but Superman has an idea. He zips into orbit and flies around the anti-matter drone, using atmospheric gases to make the drone spin with him. Superman breaks the time barrier again, but this time goes into the future. Normally when Superman time travels, he has to calculate where to appear since Earth is constantly rotating through space and revolving around the sun, which is also moving in turn, and so on. This time, Superman makes sure to appear in an empty region of space where the anti-matter detonation won’t matter. He comes back to the present, pondering some startling facts he unearthed while trying to save Strath’s kids in the past. This is where the story takes a sharp turn straight into the Silver Age: apparently, Strath’s kids were androids, which Superman detected with his Strath and kids reunitedsuper-senses. Those same senses tell him Strath believes the androids were his real kids, so Superman asks his CIA friend, Cory Renwald what the hell’s going on. Renwald tells Supes that Strath was contaminated by radiation after a lab accident, but NASA didn’t want to lose their best researcher, so they set him up on the island (as a type of quarantine, except Strath doesn’t know about the radiation he carries) and replaced his kids with androids. When the tsunami hit, the government (again not wanting to lose their best scientist) let Strath think his real kids had died, and told the kids their father had died. Superman says he can figure out a way to protect the kids from Strath’s radiation and Renwald gets the President’s okay. Superman puts light, transparent radiation suits around the kids and takes them to the island for a heartfelt reunion. Supes says the suits will protect the kids until he can whip up a cure for Strath’s radiation in his Fortress.

Action 532 coverAction #532 – “H.I.V.E. And Go Seek” – Marv Wolfman/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt

This one starts with agents of HIVE (the worldwide criminal syndicate) stealing helicopters in anticipation of a big project happening soon (on the 16th, though they don’t say what month). Superman interrupts them and has a little trouble at first, since the HIVE troops are equipped with kryptonite rifles. Lois Lane is nearby taking photos and tackles a HIVE operative who tries to run away. Superman takes down most of the other HIVE troops, though a few of them manage to get away in a couple of helicopters. Superman takes the HIVE soldiers away, but doesn’t notice Lois and her lone captive. Lois is somewhat relieved, since Superman would probably give her shit for coming out there alone toSuperman captures HIVE agents follow a tip about HIVE. Lois unmasks her captive and gets a surprise. Back at the Daily Planet, Clark fills Perry and Jimmy in on what Superman supposedly told him. Lois brings in the prisoner she caught and it’s a woman. Lois is pissed off (since HIVE has tried to kill her a couple times) and wants to take HIVE down herself, since the cops seem to be powerless. Perry doesn’t want her to endanger herself, but Lois threatens to quit if he takes her off the assignment. Perry agrees to leave her on as long as she reports in at regular intervals. Downtown, Lana is reporting at the STAR nuclear reactor, which has been plagued with all sorts of troubles. It’s re-opening on the 16th (hmmm, I think I know what HIVE’s target might be), shameless Titans cameowhen the nuclear waste from the reactor is being taken to Colorado to be buried. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Later, Superman wonders what HIVE might be up to and decides to ask some people who have fought HIVE … the New Teen Titans. They can’t tell him much and this smells like cross-promotion for Marv’s other ongoing series. Jimmy helps Lois disguise herself as the captive HIVE agent (in a crappy Beatles-type wig) and Lois goes to Metropolis jail until HIVE bails her out. She goes back to their headquarters, trying to play it cool. She learns HIVE are raiding the reactor tonight and they’re also discussing killing Lois Lane because she’s getting too nosy. The disguised Lois goes on the raid with other HIVE agents, breaking into the reactor to steal radiation suits. Superman is waiting to grab them and they blast him with kryptoniteLois almost kills Superman rifles, including Lois, who thought she was holding a conventional rifle. She catches Superman in her kryptonite beam and has to keep blasting him to keep from blowing her cover. She finally finds a way to drop the beam without looking too suspicious, giving Superman a chance to get away. Naturally, he recognized her, but he’s too weak to do anything but watch her with his telescopic vision. At WGBS, Clark runs into Lana and her mention of the reactor opening the next day—the 16th—gives Clark the clue to HIVE’s plan. At the reactor, the protesters go nuts, causing a riot. Jimmy’s there taking pictures and sees the disguised Lois sneaking off with some other people. Superman pounds HIVE robotsHe decides to follow them and figures they must be HIVE operatives, so he signals Superman with his watch. Inside the HIVE headquarters, Lois goes through the files and takes photos, but she gets caught. Superman shows up in time to save her, but all the HIVE agents turn out to be robots. Lois insists the HIVE agents she’s been hanging around with were human, so the robots must’ve just been substituted for them, as a distraction to let the real HIVE agents get away. Superman and Lois figure HIVE won’t change their plans, since all the robots were destroyed and they have no way of knowing Lois was a spy. But it turns out HIVE is one step ahead of them; HIVE agents are eavesdropping on Superman and Lois and we find out they set the whole thing up as a ruse; the anonymous tip, Lois catching their agent and replacing her, stealing the choppers and radiation suits … it was all to make Superman think HIVE were hitting the STAR reactor when their real target is elsewhere. But they have another mission in mind … killing Lois Lane. We’ll find out if they succeed next issue.

DC Presents 46 coverDC Comics Presents #46 – “The Wizard Who Wouldn’t Stay Dead” – E. Nelson Bridwell/Alex Saviuk/Pablo Marcos

In case the title didn’t clue you in, this is a very Silver Age story. It starts with Superman getting a distress call (over the TV) from Dr. Mist. Who the hell is Dr. Mist, you say? Dr. Mist is a mystic who’s been around for thousands of years (Superman refers to him as “possibly the most powerful man on Earth”), so Supes answers the call, heading to Mist’s secret hideout in East Africa. Mist tells Superman about an ancient Atlantean sorcerer (Thaumar Dhai) who possessed six mystical talismans and tried to take over the world. Dhai was defeated and the talismans were scattered, but certain powerful magic-users are trying to retrieve the talismans andSuperman and Seraph revive Dhai. Mist says Superman is the key to stopping them, despite his vulnerability to magic. What follows is a series of vignettes of Superman teaming up with various members of Dr. Mist’s team (the Global Guardians) in various countries, to find the talismans. Like I said, very Silver Age. Superman’s first stop is in Israel, where he teams up with Seraph to ind a breastplate set with a meteorite. They run into two sorcerers (Ashtoreth and Moloch) and Seraph takes them on as Superman goes after the breastplate, which is buried in a tomb. He gets it, but Moloch takes it away with his magic and disappears with Ashtoreth. Superman tells Seraph not to worry, they’ll get another shot at Superman and Little Mermaidthe duo. In Greece, Superman and the Olympian go after a silver armlet, but run into a snake-woman (Echidne) looking for the same prize. Superman finds the armlet, but loses it when Echidne summons a hydra. Superman says Dr. Mist envisioned them losing the artifact, but said there was still a chance to defeat the villains. In Denmark, Superman teams up with Little Mermaid (who looks pretty cute in her fish-glasses), who’s an Atlantean hybrid; her mother is from Tritonis and her father from Poseidonis, so she can change back and forth between biped and mermaid forms. They go to a ruined Atlantean city to find a belt and run into Sotrold … the Sea Troll. The Troll sends skeletons after the heroes, like a scene from Jason and the Argonauts. Sea Troll fights Superman and decks Little Mermaid after sheSuperman and Green Fury finds the belt. In Ireland, Superman meets Jack O’Lantern, the walking Irish stereotype; he even has a wee leprechaun companion (which they did away with later, thankfully). They check out a “fairy hill” for a gold necklace, but find a sorcerer (Dubh Magus) already there. Magus uses his magic against Superman and Jack and after a spirited donnybrook, teleports away with the necklace. In Brazil, Superman tells Green Fury about their mission. She’s a bit skeptical, since she’s never actually met Dr. Mist, but goes along with Superman anyway. They search a lost city in the jungle for Dhai’s crown, but run into a sorcerer called El Dorado. After being attacked by mystical jaguars, Superman brings Superman fights Onithe crown from under the ground but it’s snatched but El Dorado, who disappears with it. Finally, Superman goes to Japan where he and Rising Sun look for a pearled scepter under the lava flows of Mount Fujiyama. They run into Yuki-Onna (the Snow Woman), who conjures a blizzard. She then summons some Oni demons to fight for her. Rising Sun distracts them as Superman burrows under the lava beds to get the scepter. The Oni chase him under the ocean, where Superman spots a bed of pearls, thinking that’s exactly what he needs. The Oni return with the scepter and Yuki-Onna teleports away with it. On Easter Island, the sorcerers toss the talismans into a mystic warp and summon Thaumar Dhai back to life. Superman and the Global Guardians show up and Dhai animates the Ester Island statues to crush them. But theSuperman and Global Guardians pound sorcerers statues get smashed right away and Superman reveals that he and the Guardians have been substituting fake talismans for the real ones (which are now in Dr. Mist’s safekeeping). Supes and the Guardians pound the shit out of Dhai and the sorcerers, mixing things up to keep the bad guys off balance. Dr. Mist sends them a vision saying he’ll call on the Guardians again whenever they’re needed, which makes this sound like a try-out for the characters. They never got an ongoing series, so maybe they weren’t all that popular. I like them fine in spite of all the clichés, but I prefer the post-Crisis versions where the characters were more fleshed out.

Noticeable Things:

  • Dr. Mist and some of the other Guardians first appeared back in the Super Friends comic in the 70s. Super Friends isn’t part of the regular DC continuity (even though Superman already knows Dr. Mist and the Guardians and makes reference to their previous adventures), so this is technically Dr. Mist and the Guardians’ first canonical appearance in the DC universe. They (and plenty of other Guardians) will appear in various places in the future, especially after Crisis.
  • Dr. Mist is said to have ruled the Empire of Kôr 11,000 years ago; that (and the statue of Dr. Mist near his hideout) is a reference to an H. Rider Haggard novel, The People of the Mist.
  • Beatriz DaCosta/Green Fury will later be known as Green Flame and then Fire, the name she has when she joins the post-Crisis Justice League. She sure looks different here, and her personality isn’t as exuberant as later.

Warlord 58 coverWarlord #58 – “Royal Flush” – Mike Grell/Mark Texeira/Mike DeCarlo

Last issue, the real Travis Morgan was tossed in a dungeon and replaced by a lookalike as part of a conspiracy to secretly control the governing of Shamballah. Shamballah’s queen (and Morgan’s wife) Tara hasn’t realized her husband is a different man yet, but as this issue opens she gets a pretty big clue. She and the false Morgan (who’s drunk, as usual) are arguing and he backhands her across the face. She’s ready to skewer him with her sword, but ends up just walking away. Tara’s old friend Graemore sees she’s upset and asks her to go for a ride with him. Graemore is an old friend, but he’s had romantic feelings for Tara for a long time, so he figures this is an opportunity to get closer to her. As they’re riding through the woods, Tara confides that Morgan has changed aGraemore puts the moves on Tara lot lately; he drinks too much, never attends Council meetings or proposes new ideas anymore, and has even stopped wearing his gun. You’d think she’d know something was up, but I guess “husband replaced with a doppelganger” isn’t the first thing that would spring to mind. Graemore reflects on his feelings for Tara and we get an extended flashback of how they met. Graemore’s father was tailor to the King (Tara’s father) and his mother was a blacksmith. As they hung out and grew up together, they fell for each other. The King didn’t want his daughter involved with a commoner, so he arranged for Graemore’s family to be relocated. But Graemore never really got over Tara, and now that they’re together and Morgan is acting like such a dick, some of Tara’s old feelings come back too. When Graemore makes a move, she pushes him away at first, but changes her mind and pulls him Darvin figures out Praedor's planback for some lovin’. Meanwhile, Morgan languishes in a dungeon watched over by Darvin, master of a gaggle of child thieves. Darvin leaves Griff to watch the dungeon, but Griff pawns the duty off on Tinder, the newest recruit. Unknown to anyone, Tinder is actually Morgan and Tara’s son, long thought to be dead. Darvin goes to the palace to ask his co-conspirator Praedor (the mastermind behind the whole Morgan switch) for more money to keep the prisoner safe … and to keep his mouth shut. Darvin sees the fake Morgan and instantly figures out the whole scheme. Darvin squeezes even more money out of Praedor for his silence and when Praedor goes to get the gold, Darvin sees Tara walking by. That triggers a memory of when Darvin was the court magician at the palace; he remembers the “strange bracelet” (which is Morgan’s wristwatch) that Tinder wears once belonged to Queen Tara … until she gave it to her baby son. Darvin realizes Tinder is the heir to the throne and nobody knows but him. Praedor returns with the gold, but Darvin is already dreaming of much greater rewards for Tinder. The art isn’t by Grell, but it’s still pretty damn good.Tara almost wastes her (false) husband

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