Comics Reviews: Superman 375, Action 535, DC Comics Presents 49, Warlord 61

Superman 375 coverSuperman #375 – “The Stoning of Lana Lang” – Cary Bates/Curt Sawn/Dan Adkins

Last issue, Lana Lang prepared to leave Earth to go live with her alien loverboy, Vartox. Lana received a boon from out of nowhere, a protective aura allowing her to live in the harsh atmosphere of Vartox’s planet. But unknown to anyone, Vartox’s first love (Syreena) has returned from the dead and is the one who gave Lana the protective aura. Syreena hates Vartox for leaving her and has been screwing with his head, hypnotizing him to believe Superman is trying to get Lana for himself. As this issue starts, Lana is enjoying her going away party at the Galaxy Building, with the entire WGBS and Daily Planet staff in attendance. Steve Lombard is classy as usual, giving Lana a big unwanted smooch on the dance floor. Superman shows up to dance with Lana and Vartox—who’s in aVartox attacks Superman jealous rage because of Syreena’s hypnosis—decides Superman is taking liberties and it’s time to kill him. Vartox busts in and attacks Superman, who fights back. They mix it up for a bit until Lana is hit by one of Vartox’s hyper-beams deflected off Superman’s chest. That snaps Vartox out of his trance, but it’s too late; the hyper-beam has turned Lana to stone. Vartox surrenders to the cops and Superman takes Lana to his Fortress to help her. He can’t come up with a solution, so he goes to see Vartox, who says he has no memory of attacking or fighting Superman. Vartox figures he’s losing his mind; he’s had other blackouts and he assumes he’s the one who unconsciously gave Lana her protective aura. Superman wonders if some outside force is acting Syreena's ghost shows upon Vartox and heads back to his Fortress. Vartox really thinks he’s losing it when Syreena’s ghost shows up to taunt him, giving him shit for not running away with her on Valeron years before. (Vartox caught her breaking the law and chose to turn her in instead of running away with her.) At his Fortress, Superman checks film from Jimmy Olsen’s camera from the party and finds there was a second beam that hit Lana, originating from outside the building. Superman realizes Vartox’s hyper-beam isn’t what petrified Lana. At the jail, Vartox has come to the same conclusion and smashes out through the wall, leaving the frustrated cops to gather up some strange crystals that were left behind. Vartox flies out to an empty field and tells Syreena to show herself. She materializes and Vartox says he realized she wasn’t a ghost when the remnants of the pendant she gave him (which enabled her to drain hisVartox confronts Syreena powers) were glowing after her “ghost” visited his cell. It as a simple matter to track her using the glowing pendant crystals. Syreena congratulates him and recounts how she managed to escape Valeron’s destruction inn a spaceship. She’s spent the intervening years roaming the galaxy and plotting revenge. Vartox realizes Syreena is behind everything: Lana’s aura, his memory lapses and jealous rages. But she’s not done yet … Syreena says she infused a deadly vapour into her lungs that’s harmless to her, but lethal to anyone with hyper-powers. She’s been breathing the vapour all over Vartox for the last Superman stops Syreena from taking offfew minutes and he keels over, choking on the noxious fumes. Superman shows up and burns away the toxic gas with his heat vision, then prevents Syreena from flying off. She finally attacks Vartox directly, but at the last second realizes she still loves him and gives up. Vartox asks if she can reverse Lana petrification and Syreena says she can. They go to the Fortress, although Superman isn’t sure whether they can trust Syreena. Vartox points out it’s their only chance to save Lana, so what choice do they have? Syreena confesses that she does still love Vartox and hopes he can be happy without her. She siphons off the petrification from Lana, who wakes up perfectly fine. But the petrifyingSyreena cures Lana energy had to go somewhere, and it’s now turned Syreena to stone. Unfortunately, Lana’s protective aura is gone too. Superman wonders if the aura was part of the petrifaction process, or if Syreena removed it on purpose as one last act of revenge. Either way, Lana can’t go to Tynola with Vartox, and Vartox can’t leave Tynola without a champion, so they go back to their (extremely) long-distance relationship. Vartox takes Syreena’s petrified body back to Tynola with him, promising he’ll keep working on a way to bring Lana there safely.

Action 535 coverAction #535 – “Enter—the Omega Men” – Marv Wolfman/Joe Staton/Pablo Marcos

Last issue, Superman was shanghaied to the Middle Ages, where he was split into two identical beings by the dark magic of Lord Satanis and Syrene. This story starts with one of the Supermans returning to the present at the moment he left, although he’s now (literally) half the man he used to be. When Superman disappeared, the Mole was shaking the foundations of the Galaxy Building. Superman catches the globe toppling from the roof, but he’s lost his invulnerability so he feels some pain as he steers the giant globe away from the crowd. The building is still shaking but Superman’s heat vision is gone, so he uses his super-breath to bust open a bunch of fire hydrants and freeze the spouting water into columns to shore up the building. As Superman checks the building, a falling chunk of stone hits him and he plummetsSuperman meets Omega Men toward the ground. He’s saved by Harpis, of the Omega men, who’s her usual charming self. She takes Superman to the other Omega Men (Primus, Kalista, Broot, and Nimbus) and Primus tells Superman they heard of him from Green Lantern. Superman explains that GL is out in space at the moment and Primus tells the Omega Men’s origin: the come from the Vegan system where they rebelled against the Citadel overlords and ended up on Earth fleeing the Gordanian hunters. Green Lantern helped them and now they want to return to Vega to fight the Citadel directly, but they need fuel for their ship. Superman says he’d love to help but his powers aren’t what they used to be. He explains how Satanis and Syrene split him in half and returned one part of him to the present Superman takes the hit meant for Primuswhile the other half stayed in the past. Superman says if the Omega Men help him, he’ll return the favour. They’re not too keen on wasting time when they could be pounding the Citadel, but when the Galaxy Building starts falling apart, Kalista urges them to help save the people trapped inside. The Omega men shore up the building and Kalista uses her powers to return it to normal. Superman says he’ll help them now, but he’s distracted by the mole going after a bank, causing it to sink into the ground. They go to stop the Mole and slap down his men quite easily (although Harpis and Broot have to be warned not to kill them). The Mole shoots Kalista with a ray gun and Primus runs to her, ignoring the danger. The Mole tries to shoot him and Superman takesLois freaks out the hit. Now that he’s no longer invulnerable, the shot does a lot of damage (although Kalista is just fine), and the Omega Men take him to a hospital. Superman is delirious, mumbling about Lois, Jimmy, and Clark. Primus figures out that Superman loves Lois, so he goes to find her. Primus uses his telekinesis to grab Lois and bring her to the hospital. Meanwhile, the Mole has realized that Superman is no longer invulnerable and wants to finish him off. He sends out two diggers under Metropolis in opposite directions. At the hospital, the doctors are operating on Superman, hoping his alien physiology is close enough to human that they don’t make things worse. Mole busts into the ORLois talks to Kalista about how much she loves Superman, but says she’s not ready to marry him and give up her career. I guess back then, women couldn’t have it all. Primus finds out the mole is attacking a building across town and figures it’s the Omega Men’s responsibility to stop him since Superman was injured saving Primus. After they leave, the hospital starts shaking and the mole pops up in one of his diggers right in the operating room. He grabs Superman (who hasn’t recovered from surgery yet) and pulls him down into the hole. Lois comes in and tries to hold on to Superman, but he’s pulled from her grasp and disappears down the tunnel.

DC Presents 49 coverDC Comics Presents #49 – (No Title) – Roy Thomas (plot), Paul Kupperberg/Rich Buckler/John Calnan

This one starts with Superman confronting some terrorists who are threatening to blow up Aswan High Dam with a small nuclear bomb. Superman tosses the nuke into space, but the terrorists breach the Dam with conventional explosives. Superman bags the terrorists and repairs the Dam before much damage is done, but the tremors threaten to destroy the ancient temple at Abu Simbel. Superman lifts up the entire temple until the tremors subside, then sets it back down in perfect condition … although it is a few inches lower than it was before. Superman heads home just as the morning sun shines through he doorway into the temple. Back in the United States, young paperboy Billy Batson heads for shelter as it starts to rain. He runsBilly's dream into a weird dude in an overcoat who asks Billy to follow him down to an abandoned subway station. Against all good sense, Billy does and finds a vast hall full of statues of the Seven Deadly Sins. The weirdo in the overcoat has disappeared, but Billy lights a brazier to look around and that summons the ghost of the ancient wizard Shazam. He tells Billy he’s the embodiment of justice and that he created a hero o a parallel Earth decades ago. Now Shazam wants Billy to be the Earth-1 counterpart of that hero. Billy figures this is all crazy, but does as the wizard says and yells “Shazam”, which transforms Billy into Captain Marvel. Shazam fades away and Captain Marvel flies up out of the old subway tunnel … then Billy wakes up. Yeah, it was all a dream; he even says “Shazam” when he first wakes up and nothing happens. Billy’s Uncle Dudley comes to check on him and we learn Billy has had this same Black Adam shows off his strengthdream numerous times over the last month. Dudley (who looks kinda like Carroll O’Connor) is worried, but Billy tells him everything’s fine. Billy heads off to school and overhears a police report about a guy in a black costume with a lightning bolt on the chest terrorizing Central Park. That sounds a lot like Billy’s dream, so he heads over to the Park. The nutcase lording it over everyone is Black Adam, who announces he’s going to take over the world. Superman shows up and Black Adam thanks him for bringing him to Earth-1. Apparently when the sunlight shone into the temple at Abu Simbel, it activated some mystical bullshit that brought Adam to Earth-1 from Earth-S. He was plain old Teth-Adam when he arrived, but soon changed to his super-powered form by saying the name of the ancient wizard who first transformed him … you know who I mean. Adam explains that his first taskSuperman fights Black Adam on Earth-1 was to gather all the lightning and charge it with his mystic energies, throwing up a barrier that keeps Shazam from seeing what’s going on. That same barrier will change Captain Marvel back to Billy Batson and electrocute him if he tries to cross it. Superman and Adam start fighting as Billy watches in awe. Jimmy Olsen shows up and thinks Billy looks familiar, but Billy says they’ve never met. Billy explains who he is and what’s going on as Superman and Adam beat the shit out of each other. Adam is too strong for Superman to overcome and Billy ends up interfering in the fight, telling Adam he’d better watch out or Billy will summon Captain Marvel. Adam recognizes Billy, though he realizes he’s too young to be the Billy he knows from Earth-S. Adam threatens to kill Billy if Superman doesn’t take Billy summons Captain Marveloff, so Supes swears he won’t attack Adam as long as he’s in the city. Superman grabs Jimmy and leaves, following Adam and Billy remotely with his telescopic vision and super-hearing. Billy again threatens to summon Captain Marvel, but repeated shouting of the word “Shazam” does nothing. Adam laughs and says only certain places on Earth-1 (like Abu Simbel) are sympathetic enough to magic to breach the dimensional barrier. He lets Billy go and Jimmy soon brings Billy to see Superman. Supes takes Billy to Abu Simbel, hoping he can summon Captain Marvel from there, but it still doesn’t work. Superman remembers what Adam said and flies up into space where he uses a mirror to direct sunlight into the temple so it strikes the exact right spot. This time Billy’s invocation works, and Captain Marvel appears in the temple. Billy is blown away and wants to talk about Cap’s adventures, butCaptain Marvel fights Black Adam they have a world-beater to stop first. They zoom back to the States and Captain Marvel jumps Adam, who’s shocked to see his old foe there. (I have no idea why Adam’s lightning trap didn’t change Cap into Billy Batson.) They fight and end up in the upper atmosphere, where Superman helps Cap. (Superman swore not to fight Adam in the city, he didn’t say anything about in the sky above it.) Adam knows he’s in trouble and zips back down to grab Billy. He threatens to kill Billy if Cap doesn’t surrender, but Billy tricks him bu pretending to have forgotten Shazam’s name. Adam says the name, inadvertently changing himself back to Teth-Adam. Before he change back Captain marvel decks Teth-Adamagain, Captain Marvel decks him. Marvel thanks Billy for his help and says for a brief moment, Billy almost was Captain Marvel … and maybe he can be again some day. Cap takes Adam back through the lightning barrier (with some help from Superman), leaving Billy to ponder Cap’s words. As he heads for home, Billy says “Shazam”, but nothing happens. He figures he may as well say the word every now and then … just in case. I’m not sure if this was supposed to be a set-up for an Earth-1 Captain Marvel, or if Roy was just messing around with the idea. I’m not sure we absolutely needed an Earth-1 version of Billy, and the Crisis renders all of this moot anyway, but it’s an interesting idea.

Warlord 61 coverWarlord #61 – “The Talisman” – Mike Grell/Jan Duursema/Bruce Patterson

This one starts with Tara talking to her aide, who helpfully sums up the previous storyline about Travis Morgan being replaced by a double. He also mentions Tara’s dalliance with the minstrel, Graemore, and says Shamballah won’t tolerate divisiveness in the royal house so she’d better figure out who she wants fast. The aide points to the garden, where Morgan and Graemore are sparring with rapiers. Tara isn’t sure if it’s for real or not, but gets worried when Morgan takes Graemore down and holds a sword to his throat. Across town, Darvin tells his chief urchin (Griff) that his former cohort Tinder is actually the Prince of Shamballah, Morgan and Tara’s son. Darvin recognized Tinder’s armband (which is Morgan’s wristwatch) and made the connection. GriffMorgan and Graemore talk points out that Tinder ran away, but Darvin still has the watch and figures he can get some money from the royal couple … especially if he has a red-headed substitute for Tinder. At the palace, Tara gives Morgan shit for his macho display of swordsmanship and stalks away. Morgan and Graemor have a few drinks together and Graemor admits he’s loved Tara since they were kids. He’d have married her if their social status were equal, but the last time he tried to woo her, the King had him whipped and threatened to kill him and his family if he ever set foot in Shamballah again. He hasn’t until lately. Graemor tells Morgan that Tara will definitely choose Morgan over him, but Morgan will never be a great king because he has no head for statesmanship. And when Morgan gets bored and wanders off on another quest, Graemor will be there Morgan and Tara read the notefor Tara. Tara summons Morgan to the throne room and shows him a note that says someone has their son, Joshua. They assume it’s bullshit since Morgan killed Joshua (or thought he did), but Morgan remembers feeling his watch on Tinder’s arm in the dungeon. Morgan jumps to the wrong conclusion, thinking that someone might have recognized the watch and assumed Tinder to be their son. Morgan thinks whoever was in on his kidnapping might be the one trying to extort some money now and he wants to take them down. Across town, Darvin gets the news that his note has been delivered and tells Griff (with his newly-dyed red hair) to get ready. Darvin sends the other kid to watch for Morgan, but the kid lights a smoke and tosses the match into some straw. Morgan notices smoke from across town and rushes over to find a pile of cinders … and his watch. He figures the body wearing the watch is too big to be Tinder, so he assumes Tinder escaped the blaze, though it still doesn’t occur to him that Tinder and Joshua might beTinder decides to leave town one and the same. But Tinder is closer than he knows, crouching on a nearby rooftop and observing Morgan. Tinder realizes Morgan was the guy he rescued from the dungeon and finally figures out that he’s the King of Shamballah. Morgan returns to Tara and gives her the watch, saying the trail has gone cold and he’s sorry he couldn’t bring news of their son. That night, Tinder sneaks onto the palace grounds and climbs up to the royal bedchamber. He sees Morgan and Tara in bed, but the window is barred and he decides it’s not feasible to get the watch back. He’s already made plans to leave town anyway, so he goes to meet his ride and heads out of town in a cart for parts unknown. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to think Tinder has figured out Morgan and Tara are his parents, but I’m assuming not; if that was the case, he could just go to the palace and tell them. But this isn’t the last we’ll see of Tinder (or Joshua, if you prefer); he’ll be popping up eventually in even more bizarre circumstances.

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