This one starts with a typical day in Metropolis, as Superman chases the cosmic cowboy Terra-Man through the city. Terra-Man has added to his arsenal of high-tech weaponry and hits Supes with some red sun energy that binds him and drains his powers. Terra-Man shoots razor sharp cacti at the Man of Steel, hoping his weakened condition will leave him vulnerable. Superman uses Terra-Man’s horse to pull him free of the red sun energy and decks the goofy villain. Before he can wrap things up, Terra-Man disappears into a space warp, leaving Superman holding his lasso. Turns out Terra-Man was just as surprised by the sudden inter-dimensional jaunt as Superman was. Apparently Terra-Man hooked up a warp device to his horse and the horse took it upon himself to open a rift in space. Terra-Man finds himself in between dimensions in a cosmic storm. He rides it out as best he can, but ends up shunted into another dimension, where he meets … himself. But this Terra-Ma doesn’t carry a gun, he just shoots mystical beams from his finger. The original Terra-Man soon realizes he’s on an alternate Earth, one where magic has taken precedent over science. He figures this is a great opportunity and asks his doppelganger if anyone can learn magic on this world. Back on Earth-1, Clark Kent finishes his newscast and is accosted by Steve Lombard. Steve tries to pull the old “hollow egg” trick on Clark, but as usual, Steve is the one who ends up with egg on his face … this time literally. Clark walks away and Steve is so mad he goes after him, but Clark is nowhere to be found … almost as if he disappeared into thin air. Which is pretty much what happened; Terra-Man shanghaied Clark into the inter-dimensional limbo. (Terra-Man doesn’t know Superman’s secret identity, he just homed in on Superman’s alien bod and pulled him into Limbo, but Supes changes before Terra gets a look at him in his civvies.) Terra-Man leads Superman on a merry chase through Limbo, finally suckering him into following through a warp to the alternate magical Earth. (I gotta say, the fashions on the alternate Earth are pretty kick-ass; half the population—men and women—are wearing thigh-high leather boots. Nancy Sinatra would love it there.) Superman immediately knows something’s wrong, as his super-powers fade and he plummets to the ground. When Terra-Man shoots magical energy out of his finger, Supes figures out what’s going on; his powers are science-based, so in a universe based on magic he can’t access his powers properly, even though he technically still has them (which is why he didn’t splatter when he fell out of the sky). He soon realizes he’s in bigger trouble than he thought when the second Terra-Man shows up. They take turns running Superman through the gauntlet, conjuring anvils, hostile Native Americans, and a herd of stampeding buffalo. Superman quickly realizes that in a world based on magic, he can do what Terra-Man did and adapt to the local conditions. He takes a page from Zatanna’s book and starts casting backwards spells. It works and Superman regains full control of his powers through magic. Supes knows he needs an edge to defeat his two adversaries, so he borrows some magical artifacts from a museum. He binds the original Terra-Man and transports the magical version straight to the local cops. Superman uses a wand to return himself and Terra-Man to Earth’s dimension, where Terra tries to use his inter-dimensional warper to escape again. But during the trip home, Superman used his heat vision to adjust the warper so it would deposit Terra-Man at the closest police station, then self-destruct so he couldn’t use it again.
This one starts with Superman telling Lois why he he’s been acting weird lately; a few issues back, he was split in two by Lord Satanis. One Superman stayed in the past and the other was sent back to the future, but he only possess half the powers he used to have. So he’s stuck with no heat vision and no invulnerability, which he demonstrates by accidentally burning himself with hot tea. Superman decides he needs to become whole again and flies off to figure out how. Across town, a dude named Hammersmith is unloading crates at Metropolis Electronics and quietly opens a shipment to steal a certain component. Superman tries to fly through time, but he can’t get up enough speed and without his invulnerability he’d be fried anyway. He goes to his Fortress of Solitude and has to fly in through the keyhole, since he’s not strong enough to lift the key. He tries to use the Legion Time Bubble to go into the past, but it explodes and he barely manages to shield himself under his cape (which is still invulnerable). An apparition of Lord Satanis forms in the smoke and grabs Superman, telling him he’s closed all possible means of time travel. Satanis’s apparition says Superman will just have to wait until his other half dies in the past, which may have some interesting effects on the present version of him. Satanis fades and Superman it wasn’t really him, just a supernatural “alarm system” Satanis rigged to keep Superman from traveling through time. Supes wonders what his other self is doing in the past. We don’t have to wonder, as the story shifts to the Middle Ages and we see Superman’s other half bound in magical rings and floating over the countryside. He nears a castle that seems to rise for miles into the sky and wonders how that’s possible. Syrene (Satanis’s ex-wife and rival) appears and says anything is possible with magic. She’s ready to absorb the magic of the runestone she stole, but has to filter the energy through an invulnerable body. Unfortunately, that’ll burn Superman to a crisp, but Syrene doesn’t care. As she begins the process, Supes wonders where his other self is. He’s in Metropolis, heading to work as Clark Kent, when he sees a story in the newspaper about the mole, who has told everyone that Superman is no longer invulnerable. Across town, Hammersmith has read the story too and puts the finishing touches on a power suit he’s been building. He had been planning to leave town, but after seeing the story on Superman he decides to stick around and challenge the Man of Steel. After donning his power suit, he christens himself Jackhammer; he looks like a Marvel-style villain. At the Daily Planet, Perry White shows Clark an ad that Jackhammer wants run, challenging Superman to a fight that night. Perry isn’t going to run the ad (since Jackhammer paid for it with stolen money), but he wants Clark to write a story about it. That night, Superman goes looking for Jackhammer and finds him sabotaging the elevated train tracks. Jackhammer’s suit makes him strong enough to do some damage and Superman gets distracted saving a train from plunging off the broken tracks. He still has his super-breath, so he uses suction to keep the train from crashing, but the effort (and Jackhammer’s super-punch) leaves him exhausted. Jackhammer figures he’s beaten Superman and gloats like an asshole. We’ll see if he’s right next issue.
This one starts with Atom going back in time (using Professor Hyatt’s Time Pool) to investigate an anomaly. Apparently Professor Hyatt’s magnet pulled some really high-tech device out the American Old West, so Atom’s heading back to see where it came from. But as soon as he goes back in time, his body turns incorporeal, like he’s a ghost … something that’s never happened in any of his previous trips into the Time Pool. He finds a Native American village with an alien spacecraft parked beside it, which would explain the weird tech that the Professor fished out. Atom sees the aliens have captured Superman and figures the Man of Steel must’ve made his own trip back in time to fight the aliens. The aliens are binding Superman with red sun energy, which renders him vulnerable to harm. They’re about to blow him away and Atom can’t do anything to stop them in his intangible state. He watches in horror as Superman is obliterated. Atom isn’t sure how to get back to the present since he can’t touch the magnet, so he changes size rapidly, ionizing his body so it’s attracted to the magnet. When he gets back to the present, he heads to the JLA Satellite to tell the league about Superman’s demise, but is shocked to find Superman on monitor duty, hale and hearty. After explaining things, Atom takes Superman to see Professor Hyatt and Supes recognizes the artifact the Professor fished out of the past. It’s Kryptonian and Superman saw something exactly like it not long ago in the lab of his great-grandfather, Var-El. Var-El came to Earth years ago to perform forbidden experiments and Superman and Hawkgirl recently found his lab (in DC Presents 37). Superman decides to go back in time to investigate, even though Atom warns him he might end up dead if he goes. Atom mentions his own intangibility and Superman says that’s because an earlier version of Atom must’ve been there already and two versions of the same person can’t co-exist. Atom volunteers to go along and so does Professor Hyatt, who says he’s sick of being stuck in the lab all the time. Superman, Atom, and Hyatt go back in time and find Var-El’s lab. While examining it, they’re attacked by hostile Native Americans who they assume are being controlled by the aliens outside. But a Native shaman says they’re there because of a strange sickness in their village and they think these intruders are responsible. Superman uses his super-breath to knock the Natives down but the shaman’s magic affects Superman. Atom decks the shaman and they go outside to confront the aliens, who attack immediately. Atom is worried Superman will get blasted by red sun radiation, but the alien weapon shoots yellow sun energy, which doesn’t bother Superman at all. Atom jumps into the fight, impressing the aliens with his size-changing; they compare him to the inhabitants of Imsk, Shrinking Violet’s home planet. The aliens quickly realize Superman is Kryptonian and blast him with red sun energy, then knock Atom out too. Professor Hyatt witnesses that, but can’t fight the aliens alone so he takes off. Hyatt wanders through the woods and is about to get eaten by a bear when he’s saved by a guy dressed like Davy Crockett. But this frontiersman has super-strength and can fly; Hyatt realizes he must be Var-El. The aliens have trapped Atom (ironically) in a gravity field powered by white dwarf radiation and bound Superman in red sun energy rings … much like the scene Atom saw before, when Superman was killed. Professor Hyatt tells Var-El about Krypton’s destruction, which leaves him understandably shaken. Var-El says the aliens (called Orgons) rescued him from destruction in the other dimension, but he soon learned all their advanced science was stolen, not invented. He fought his way free and fled to Earth, wanting to live a quiet life. Professor Hyatt wonders why Var-El isn’t eager to stop the aliens and help Superman, the realizes Var-El is seeing his own mortality when he thinks about his great-grandson. Hyatt says he knows what it’s like to get old and worry about death, but if you spend all your time brooding about it you risk invalidating everything you did before. Superman is still confined but has figured out the aliens have a solar collector in orbit to power all their fancy tech, converting solar energy to other forms (which explains the sickness in the Native village … microwave poisoning). Var-El shows up and starts smashing the spaceship, not listening when Superman tries to tell him about the solar collector. Atom breaks free and Superman tells him to deal with the solar collector. Atom watches as history repeats itself and Superman is obliterated, this time with the added twist of Var-El getting blasted too. Atom heads into the spaceship to find the collector’s guidance system, planning to sacrifice himself by riding the photon beam into outer space, then enlarging to blow up the collector. But Superman isn’t really dead; he used his heat vision to sabotage the alien weapon, leaving only the ultra-violet and white dwarf energy emitting. He used those the same way Atom does, to shrink to infinitesimal size, but was stunned in the process. Superman races the light beam into outer space, catching Atom before he can sacrifice himself and smashing the collector. Back on Earth, the aliens are gone and Superman figures they went to Var-El’s lab to loot his stuff. The heroes check out the lab and find the aliens using Hyatt as a hostage. Hyatt decks an alien, allowing Superman and Atom to pound the rest of them. Superman tosses the alien ship far into space, figuring they can absorb enough solar radiation directly to survive. He looks for Var-El, but there’s no trace of him, so they return to the present. Hyatt tells Superman that screwing around in the past is probably a mistake and he should forget about Var-El, since he either died from the alien blast, or of old age. Superman decides to let his progenitor rest in peace and leaves with the Atom. Var-El emerges from hiding and thanks Hyatt for not giving him away, and for giving the method to travel forward in time. It kinda seems like they were setting Var-El up for some “man out of time” adventures, but as far as I know he only appears once more after this.
This one starts with Travis Morgan and Rostov traveling through Skartaris. They’re heading for Castle Deimos, to see if Morgan’s daughter Jennifer can use her sorcery to cure Rostov of being a werewolf. Rostov still has feelings for Mariah and wonders if Jennifer could send him back to the Age of Wizard Kings to find her. They come to Kaambuka, where Morgan’s old friend Ashir is King. Ashir welcomes them and listens to Rostov’s tale with interest. Ashir mentions that a religious sect—the Kaash’ban—have been hanging around Kaambuka lately; the Kaash’ban have a strange affinity for animals, actually being able to communicate with them on some level. Ashir says the Kaash’ban usually keep to themselves but sometimes mingle among the population to demonstrate their talents and look for others who have the same affinity for animals they do. Rostov is intrigued, comparing the Kaash’ban to the Romany of the outside world. Morgan notices a familiar black cat prowling around the throne room and asks Ashir a guarded question about Shakira. When Morgan left, Ashir didn’t know Shakira could turn into a cat, and he apparently still doesn’t know, since he tells Morgan that Shakira disappeared soon after he left. Morgan knows the black cat is Shakira and makes some sarcastic comments that earn him a scratch. Ashir leaves to tend to business and Shakira changes to human form, startling Rostov. She’s quite impressed by him, but not so much with Ashir, saying his advances became tiresome after a while but she didn’t want to leave Kaambuka with all the fat mice around. Ashir invites Morgan and Rostov (Shakira has disguised herself as a cat again) to watch the Kaash’ban perform their animal empathy. Rostov finds himself drawn to a young Kaash’ban named Calef, who has a rapport with wolves. Afterwards, the other Kaash’ban discuss Rostov, having noticed something different about him. They send Calef into the palace to find Rostov, and the two of them end up communicating on an empathic level. Shakira wakes Morgan and tells him Rostov is gone, take out of the city by the Kaash’ban. Her animal instincts lead them to a spot in the forest, where they see a group of Kaash’ban surrounding Rostov and chanting a strange song. Morgan and Shakira are shocked when Rostov disappears in a burst of light. We’ll see where he went next issue.
I haven’t been reviewing the back-ups in Warlord lately, but I’m going to start now because I actually like the Barren Earth stuff … plus I’m a big Ron Randall fan in general. The concept has kind of a Battlestar Galactica vibe to it; basically, it’s set millennia in the future, after our sun has swollen into a red giant and humans have long since explored and colonized other star systems. Humans have been fighting a war with an alien race called the Qlov for 5,000 years and now a human ship has returned Earth to check on long-forgotten bases that were left behind. (It’s been a couple thousand years since any contact with the bases, so they’re being pretty optimistic.) One of the passengers, a woman named Jinal, figures the bases will be long-destroyed, but the captain (Advar) is more optimistic, since the war has been fought in other sectors for the most part. Before they can attempt contact with the surface, a Qlov ship shows up and blasts them, but instead of obliterating them, the ship grabs them in a tractor beam. Advar figures the Qlov are curious about why humans are in this sector and mean to interrogate them. The Qlov invade the ship, overrunning it. (We don’t get a good look at the Qlov, since they wear all-encompassing robes.) Advar pulls a Captain Kirk and initiates the self-destruct, ordering everyone to the lifepods. Jinal and a few other make it to a lifepod, but some of the crew stay behind to slow down the Qlov. The lifepods are launched and the ship self-destructs, blowing up the Qlov ship too. Debris from the explosion damages the pod and it crash lands on Earth. When Jinal wakes up, some of the others are dead from the crash, while some are arguing about what to do. While plummeting toward the ground they noticed a base nearby, so some of them want to wait where they are, hoping to be rescued. Others think they should leave the downed lifepod and head for the base. Jinal avoids the argument and opens a hatch to look outside. She soon sees why the planet is now referred to as the Barren Earth … it looks a hell of a lot like Tatooine.