Comics Reviews: Superman 376, Action 536, DC Comics Presents 50, Warlord 62

Superman 376 coverSuperman #376 – “The Ozone-Master Comes Calling” – Elliot S! Maggin/Curt Swan/Dan Adkins

This one starts with Superman interrupting a robbery at a high-end glassware store. He’s surprised when the robbers’ weapons actually hurt him, first a heat gun then a force projector. Supes manages to chase the thieves away without smashing up the place and when they attempt to flee in an armoured helicopter, the Man of Steel destroys it and captures them … but not before getting blasted with another painful force beam. Later, Clark Kent is having dinner at Perry White’s place (a scene straight out of Norman Rockwell) where Perry shows him photos he took of the thieves’ guns. Perry tells Clark the weapons the crooks used against Superman were hollow. Yeah, they were pistols with no apparent inner mechanisms at all. Clark leaves and spots a plane in trouble, so he changesPerry shot by Ozone-Master to Superman and flies to the rescue. Someone knocks on Perry’s door and when he answers, he’s shot by a guy calling himself the Ozone-Master. The intruder holds back Perry’s family with a force field and takes the photos from Perry’s pocket. After saving the plane, Superman looks back in on Perry’s place with his telescopic vision and sees the publisher lying unconscious. He swoops in and rushes Perry to the hospital, followed by Perry’s family. Elsewhere, we see the Ozone-Master destroying the photos Perry took and we get his origin story. He was a test pilot who cracked up and was almost vapourized in the upper atmosphere, but a strange combination of sunlight and ozone imbued him with power. He eventually figured out the only thing that could block the energy he generated was silver, so he fashioned the hollow weapons and lined them with silver so he could charge them up with Perry's super cigar gives him powershis energy. Ozone-Master is destroying all evidence of the weapons (including Perry’s photos and the guns themselves in the police evidence locker) to cover his tracks. He figures as long as he can keep absorbing solar radiation, he’s basically unstoppable. At the hospital, Perry isn’t doing so well and asks Superman to bring him the last of his favourite cigars from his office. Superman complies, but it turns out this is one of the “super-cigars” (from way back in Action 436) that once gave Perry super-powers. (And Perry admits it wasn’t the last one … he has another one left.) Perry immediately recovers, gaining super-strength and flying out the window. Superman catches up to him, giving him his clothes before anyone can see what’s under his hospital gown. Perry can sense the radiation that Ozone-Master used on him andSuperman and Perry blown through the wall tracks the crook to an abandoned hangar. Superman checks inside with his x-ray vision and sees Ozone-Master charging up some big weapons (which are hollow just like the handguns from earlier) with energy. Perry uses his new powers to fashion a sword out of rock and slices a hole in the hangar. Perry and Superman bust in but are blown back through the wall by one of Ozone-Master’s cannons. Superman notices the blast knocked him through the wall without damaging the wall itself. He determines the wall is lined with silver, so he and Perry use chunks of silver-lined wall to defend themselves from Ozone-Master and his men. (Superman fashions silver-coated bracelets and makes like Wonder Woman.) They cage Ozone-Master’s men Superman and Perry capture Ozone-Mastereasily, but the boss attacks again. While Perry keeps him busy, Superman fashions a silver cone out of three quarters from Perry’s pocket and slams the cone down over Ozone-Master, trapping him. Perry’s super-powers wear off and he feels like crap, but Superman checks him over and says he’s fine internally. The cigar gave Perry’s body time to heal itself, so now he just has a fever as his body returns to normal. Perry’s wife is thrilled he’s okay and Clark writes the story of the Ozone-Master’s capture. Perry offers Clark a cigar (a real one) to celebrate, but Clark ends up hacking his guts out. Yeah, this was a very Silver Age story, but then you knew that as soon as you saw the title (and Maggin’s name in the credits).

Action 536 coverAction #536 – “Battle Beneath the Earth” – Marv Wolfman (plot), Paul Kupperberg/Joe Staton/Sal Trapani

Last issue, Superman was visited by the Omega Men, who wanted his help in returning to the Vegan star system. But Superman wasn’t quite himself, since he’d been split into two identical beings (by Lord Satanis a couple issues back) and was only operating at fifty percent capacity, retaining his strength but losing his vulnerability. Superman was wounded and taken to hospital, where the Mole (a criminal who specializes in robbing buildings by sinking them into the ground) busted in and kidnapped the Man of Steel. This issue opens with Mole and his men taking Superman to an underground city. After slapping him around a bit, Mole locks Superman up in a cell. Above ground, the Omega men return to the hospital (they were lured away last issue by some of mole’s men) and Lois tells them whattrying to follow Mole's trail happened to Superman. Harpis is ready to say to hell with Superman and leave, but Primus says if they help Supes, maybe he’ll still help them. They vote and everyone decides to stick around and help, Harpis finally going with the majority. (Broot votes to help Superman as long as he gets to smash something along the way.) They follow the tunnel the Mole left behind, but find the way blocked. Even all their powers can’t break through, so Lois decides to try a different tactic. In the underground city, Mole has called a bunch of criminals to gather and bid for the privilege of killing Superman. Up top, Lois and the Omega Men go to STAR Labs looking for Cave Carson, famous underground explorer. They’re told Carson has quit his job at STAR and moved to a remote island to get away from humanity. Kalista locates him with her powers and—after noting that Carson reluctantly agrees to help Supermanhe’s full of anger—telekinetically brings Carson and his digging machine to Metropolis. Carson is pissed off and refuses to help, even when Harpis threatens to gut him. He relents when he learns it’s Superman in trouble and takes Lois and the Omega Men in his Mighty Mole digger. From the angle of Mole’s descent, Carson says he knows their destination … an ancient city he and his team discovered years ago. He also has a pretty good idea who the Mole is: an ex-teammate who stole a prototype of Carson’s digging machine and a bunch of his charts. Lois points out that one bad apple couldn’t have soured Carson on humanity that much and Carson confirms there’s more to it than that, but tells Lois to mind her own business. At the underground auction, various criminals bidOmega Men attack criminals to waste Superman, but a guy in black calling himself the Hunter wins, saying his omni-wave projector could probably kill Superman even if he was at full strength. Right before Hunter is about to blow Supes away, Carson, Lois, and the Omega Men show up. The Omega Men start pounding all the criminals and the Mole’s men, while Superman uses his strength to break free of his chains. Naturally Lois wants to help, so Carson gives her a gun. Good thing too, as she shoots Hunter right before he blasts Superman with the omni-wave projector. (Don’t worry, she just shoots him in the shoulder.) Superman pounds the Mole and thanks everyone for rescuing him. Carson says he just wants to be left alone again; I Lois shoots Hunterassume we’ll find out more about Carson’s attitude when Superman encounters the Forgotten Heroes in a few months. Superman takes the Omega Men to his Fortress to analyze the fuel they need to return home. He determines the elements aren’t available on Earth, but takes the Omega Men to the JLA Satellite to synthesize the fuel. As he’s doing that, an alert comes in and Superman detects a number of life forms in space near the Satellite. He brings them in and it turns out to be the Teen Titans … a scene we already saw in New Teen Titans 23. We’ll see what happens with the Titans and the Omega Men in my review of NTT 24 in three days.

DC Presents 50 coverDC Comics Presents #50 – “When you Wish Upon a Planetoid” – Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn/Curt Swan/Kurt Schaffenberger

This one starts with a quick flashback to the aliens known as the Controllers. They were trying to use the Miracle Machine (an omnipotent device with the ability to alter reality by making wishes come true, which has been seen in the Legion’s era) to change their civilization. As with most wish-granting artifacts, the Miracle Machine causes chaos and then disappears. We now see Superman diverting a planetoid that was pushed toward an inhabited planet by a disruption in space-time. While diverting the planetoid, Superman remembers that he’s due back on Earth for a newscast as Clark Kent, and muses that it would be easier for him if he didn’t have to constantly switch identities. Little does he know, the Miracle Machine is embedded in the planetoid he’s currently pushing. Back on EarthClark strips down for no reason later, Clark Kent is at a ceremony where Superman is supposed to receive a medal from the United Nations. Superman is late and people keep asking Clark why, which he finds strange since he has no special knowledge of Superman’s habits. If you think you see where this is going, you’re right. Superman is busy stopping a flooding dam and a forest fire and Clark ends up writing a story castigating the Man of Steel for missing the ceremony. Perry tells Clark that saving lives was obviously more important, but Clark thinks Superman needs to take a break and connect to the people he’s helping to avoid losing touch with his humanity. An alert comes in about Atomic Skull attacking STAR Labs and Clark is ready to cover the story. Perry tells him he needs to rewrite the Superman hatchet job and sends Lois to STAR. Clark slips off Superman saves Lois into the storeroom and starts taking his clothes off … which he suddenly realizes is a very weird thing to do. (And no, he’s not wearing a Superman costume under his clothes.) At STAR Labs, Superman arrives to find Atomic Skull wrecking up the place. They fight and Skull uses his brain-blasts to knock the WGBS helicopter out of the sky, forcing Superman to let Atomic Skull go while he saves Lois. Superman gives Lois shit, saying if he ever has to choose between saving a bunch of people and one reckless reporter, she’ll be on the losing end. He drops a pissed-off Lois at WGBS and is kinda snotty to Lana too. Lana asks Clark why Superman’s being such a dick lately and mentions how she used to suspect Clark was Superman … which Clark doesn’t remember at all. Over the next day or so, Superman zips around the world, stopping numerous disasters. Unfortunately, he’s too busy to stop Atomic Skull from wrecking another STAR facility, and when one of the scientists gives him shit, Superman says “You Earth people should feelClark starts to realize something's wrong lucky to have me at all.” Lois talks to Clark about Atomic Skull’s destruction and Clark figures he’s attacking STAR facilities where he once worked in his civilian identity of Albert Michaels. They discuss Superman’s strange attitude and Clark notes it happened after Superman diverted the planetoid out in deep space … something Clark realizes he couldn’t possibly know about. He checks the Daily Planet archives and finds a bunch of recent stories he doesn’t remember writing. After getting a call from Bruce Wayne, who he doesn’t recognize, Clark is really freaked out. He decides to pursue the Atomic Skull story and figures Skull will hit another STAR lab where he worked as Albert Michaels, this one in San Francisco. Clark sees on live TV that something is causing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to shake Atomic Skull blasts Supermanuncontrollably. Superman shows up to stop it and comes to the same conclusion Clark did, that Atomic Skull is attacking STAR labs where he used to work. This facility specializes in earthquake studies, including a machine that siphons earthquake energy and redirects it; Skull is now using that technology to cause earthquakes. Superman busts into the lab, but gets blasted by Atomic Skull, who gets away again. In Metropolis, Clark Kent has a weird dream where he’s saving a planet from a rogue planetoid, but ends up dooming the planet to destruction instead. When he wakes up, he realizes he can see perfectly without his glasses and even sees a phantom of Superman in his mirror. Clark figures out the truth and heads to the Galaxy Building, where he gets Jimmy to summon Superman with his signal-watch. When Superman shows up, Clark mentions his recent adventure in space and points out thatClark tells Superman they're one and the same Superman miscalculated when he diverted the planetoid. Superman recalculates and realizes Clark is right, that the planetoid will miss the planet but hit its moon, causing the same destruction. Superman asks how Clark could possibly know that and Clark says up until a few days ago, they were the same person. Before Supes can digest that, Jimmy comes in to tell him Atomic Skull has taken over a STAR nuclear plant in California and is threatening to cause a meltdown. Superman tells Jimmy he can’t stop Atomic Skull because he has to go rectify his mistake with the planetoid; it’s a case of millions of lives versus billions and he has to go with the numbers. Clark tells Superman he can stop Atomic Skull and Supes drops him at the STAR earthquake research center in California before zooming out into space. The STAR scientists are Atomic Skull gets foamedskeptical, but Clark points out the nuclear facility Atomic Skull has taken over has built in earthquake protection, so if they cause a tremor using the earthquake center’s machines, the nuclear plant will shut down, stopping Skull from destroying it. Clark’s plan works … the plant shuts down and Atomic Skull’s radium-powered brain causes him to be enveloped in expanding spray foam. Out in space, Superman saves the planet for real this time and when he returns to Earth, Clark takes him to the Kent house in Smallville. At first, Superman doesn’t recognize anything, but when Clark takes him to see his—or their—parents’ graves, that snaps Superman out of it and he and Clark merge back into one person again. So, everything turns out fine, although Superman does seem to be talking to himself now. There’s a cool double-page spread in this issue of all Superman’s co-stars from the first 50 issues of DC Presents.Superman's co-stars

Warlord 62 coverWarlord #62 – “Cry Wolf” – Mike Grell/Jan Duursema/Tom Mandrake

This one starts with a young goatherd not far from Shamballah, who goes looking for his animals and finds more than he bargained for … a pack of wolves feasting on some of the goats. What’s more, there’s a human running with thee wolves and he seems just as wild as they are. At the palace in Shamballah, the minstrel Graemore watches as Travis Morgan breaks up a fight between some soldiers. Morgan accepts their explanation of an unpaid debt, but Graemore wonders if there’s more to it. Morgan goes to his chamber to relax in a hot bath, sore from drilling troops all day. Tara (Queen of Shamballah and Morgan’s wife) tells him he doesn’t have to go so hard, but Morgan is hardly listening. Tara leaves, wondering how long it’ll be before Morgan’s wanderlust takes himGraemore and Tara in the garden away from her again. She runs into Graemore in the garden and tells him that she hasn’t let Morgan know about her dalliance with Graemore, which happened while Morgan had been replaced by a lookalike. Graemore mentions the soldiers’ fight and says it was about her; one soldier was talking shit about Tara banging Graemore and the other was defending her honour. Graemore says all of Shamballah is gossiping about them and wonders if Morgan’s heard of it, but Tara is sure Morgan doesn’t know. She mentions how Morgan’s been chafing at palace life and Graemore tells her about the wolf attacks near the city. He says a royal wolf hunt might be just the thing to scratch Morgan’s itch for action. They head out to track down the wolves and find plenty of tracks, including some human ones mixed in with the Rostov attacks Morganwolves. Morgan has a pretty good idea who the human tracks belong to and when the tracks split, he sends Tara with most of the entourage to follow the main tracks, while he and Graemore stick with the human trail. As they’re riding, Graemore and Morgan are ambushed by wolves. Graemore deals with a couple of the beasts, but Morgan finds himself facing an old acquaintance … Rostov. Rostov was Mariah’s fencing master (and a werewolf) who came to Skartaris looking for her and ran into Morgan instead. But something’s happened to Rostov; he no longer has his human intellect even while in human form. As Rostov tries to rip Morgan’s throat out with his teeth, Morgan attempts to get through to his human side. Saying Mariah’s name makes Rostov hesitate for a second, allowing Graemore to knock him out. Morgan thanks him, but points out that would’ve been a great opportunity to get rid of him so he could go after Tara. (Morgan knowsMorgan offers to help Rostov Graemore and Tara were childhood sweethearts, and that Graemore still has the hots for her, but not about their recent affair.) Morgan takes Rostov back to the palace and eventually breaks through to his human side. Rostov admits his mind has been staying bestial more and more every time he changes. Morgan says his daughter Jennifer is a sorceress and might be able to help. Rostov is skeptical, but figures he has nothing to lose. Naturally, Tara is pissed off that Morgan’s leaving again and doesn’t buy his explanation about helping Rostov. He asks her to come along, but she can’t just abandon her duties as Queen, so she tells him to go play adventurer himself. He promises he’ll be back soon, but after he leaves, Tara tells the staff to change the locks on the palace doors.

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