This one starts with Superman helping a NASA space shuttle land safely after some mechanical trouble. In side the control room, most of the technicians are amazed to see the Man of Steel in action, but one guy is absorbed in his own work … trying to design a solar-powered interstellar spaceship. The guy’s name is Edmond Hamilton, like the sci-fi (and early Superman) writer, and we learn a bit about his background; he had an aptitude for high-tech designs early on and ended up at NASA, where his abilities earned his the nickname Captain Future. (Although due to a recent promotion, he’s more properly Colonel Future now.) Hamilton spills coffee on a computer console and almost gets electrocuted. Before his friend knocks him to safety, Hamilton has a vision of a huge solar flare threatening Earth only two weeks from now. A couple days later, Clark Kent is at WGBS, congratulating a co-worker on her recent promotion, when his super-hearing picks up trouble at Metropolis University. Clark makes an excuse and changes to Superman to investigate. Something is causing the Electrical Engineering building to shake like it’s in an earthquake. It turns out to be a guy in a wild costume calling himself Colonel Future (I guess we all know who it is under the mask), who busts up through the floor and grabs a device from the lab. Future has a force-field that keeps anyone from touching him, and when Superman shows up Future encases him in an identical force-field, which he claims won’t be invented for a couple of centuries. Future leaves, saying he has no desire to fight Superman and insisting that he’s not really a criminal. Superman has a hard time believing that and busts out of the force field to pursue Colonel Future. Future sends a series of spacetime warps at Superman, who dodges them easily but can’t just leave them floating around free. He notices the warps cancel each other out, so he gets the warps to chase him and sends a super-shockwave to push them all into each other, eliminating them. Superman goes back to the university and learns the gizmo Future stole was a rather mundane device for monitoring solar activity. Superman wonders why Future would have to steal something like that with all the high tech at his disposal; he also wonders at Future’s seeming reluctance and his care not to harm anyone. Later, Colonel Future is at his home/lab trying to put together a device to help him stop the solar flare he saw in his vision. Apparently, Future only has visions when his life is in danger, so he built a machine that sends deadly energy through his body to stimulate the futuristic visions he uses to construct his high-tech devices. He goes into the machine to get clarification on how to finish the device he’s working on now. At his Fortress of Solitude, Superman is checking his deep space monitors and finds a rogue asteroid that will hit Earth in about 75 years. He figures he might as well divert it now, but he’s interrupted by an alarm from NASA. Colonel Future is stealing a laser component and after a brief tussle with Superman, he turns himself to light and gets away. Over the next few days, Colonel Future rips stuff off from labs all over the country, always staying one step ahead of Superman … almost as if he knows exactly where Superman will be and what he’ll do. At WGBS, Jimmy Olsen is excited about being sent to sunny Puerto Rico to report on a new radio antenna there. Clark decides to clear his head by taking a jaunt into space as Superman and heads out to intercept the rogue asteroid he detected before. Unfortunately, the asteroid is loaded with kryptonite, so Superman can’t get close enough to alter its path. He decides to take it out from long range and starts by gathering a bunch of dead satellites in orbit around Earth. In Puerto Rico, Jimmy is checking out the giant radio antenna when Colonel Future shows up with some crazy gizmo that he attaches to the antenna. Jimmy sends Superman an emergency signal, but Supes is busy in orbit, melting down all the dead satellites and fashioning them into a giant reflective disc. He then heads to the sun to pull a solar flare back toward Earth, planning to bounce it off the disc so it heads out into space and destroys the rogue kryptonite asteroid. This is obviously the “disaster” Colonel Future foresaw and he’s using his machine to focus solar energy collected by the giant antenna dish and send it into space to knock out the solar flare. But he doesn’t know about Superman’s participation, so Future’s energy beam destroys the reflective disc, allowing the solar flare a clear path to Earth. Superman intercepts the flare with his invulnerable body and flies down to give Colonel Future shit. Future explains about his vision and how he was trying to help. Superman says Future’s precognition is a spectacular gift, but he needs to put some thought into how he acts on his visions. The rogue asteroid isn’t mentioned again, so I assume Superman found another way to take care of it.
Last issue, Superman (whose powers were halved a while back after being split in two by the evil sorcerer Lord Satanis) got the shit kicked out of him by a lame-ass villain called Jackhammer. This issue opens with Superman (looking like Stallone at the end of the first Rocky movie) making his way to Jimmy Olsen’s place and collapsing on the floor. Jimmy cleans Superman up and uses some make-up to hide his bruises. At the Daily Planet, Lois shows Clark the story of Jackhammer pounding Superman, then she gives Clark some self-help books, saying he needs to be more assertive. He does his usual “aw shucks” crap and Lois gets pissed off and leaves. Meanwhile, Jackhammer is using his newfound fame as the guy who kicked Superman’s ass to take over all the mobs in Metropolis. Superman goes on patrol but keeps himself out of sight, letting the cops take up the slack. He sees Jackhammer breaking into a jewelry store, but he isn’t ready to get pounded again so he just sets off the alarm. The gang flees but Jackhammer just walks out with the loot, confident the cops can’t hurt him. Superman considers trying to stop him but getting a beat-down before has made him gun-shy. Over the next week, Jackhammer goes on a crime spree and Superman is nowhere to be seen. Everyone wonders why he isn’t trying to stop Jackhammer and Superman finally remembers some advice from Pa Kent about facing up to your fears. He heads out to find Jackhammer, who’s robbing a movie theatre with some of his thugs. Superman shows up and they mix it up outside the theatre. Jackhammer’s costume protects him from Superman’s reduced strength and he starts wailing on the Man of Steel again. The theatre patrons come out and start throwing stuff at Jackhammer, telling him they’ll defend Superman like he tried to defend them. Jackhammer is distracted and Superman gets in a solid punch to his unarmoured jaw, knocking him out. Superman thanks the people for helping him and gives them a speech about facing your fears before he carts Jackhammer off to jail. If you’re getting sick of this whole “underpowered Superman” thing, don’t worry … it’ll (finally) be resolved next issue.
This one starts with Superman rescuing workers from a power plant that’s blowing up. He puts out the fires and notices a weird black energy form in the wreckage. The energy passes by him so fast he barely gets a look, but it does seem to have a vaguely female shape. The workers tell him the black energy showed up out of nowhere and when it came in contact with the generators, they exploded. That Afternoon, Clark Kent is at work at the Galaxy Building while Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are downtown covering a parade. The Metropolis District Attorney is on the grandstanding, playing to the cameras, when a small green insect starts buzzing around him. My first thought was Changeling from New Teen Titans, but it turns out to be someone even weirder … Ambush Bug. This isn’t quite the post-modern goofball Ambush Bug that we’ll eventually get; this version is much more of a straight-out villain, which he immediately proves by killing the District Attorney, then disappearing into thin air. Clark quickly changes to Superman and heads for the grisly scene, but on the way he runs into the strange black energy form again, this time trashing random buildings downtown. He notices the feminine shape this time and thinks there’s something familiar about the black energy. Before he can figure it out, the energy being blasts right through him, disrupting his nervous system and sending him plummeting to the ground. A couple of figures watch Superman’s fall from a nearby alley. From their conversation we learn the errant energy being is called Negative Woman and they (Celsius and Tempest of the New Doom Patrol) are trying to help her. (Oh, and Tempest is in love with Negative Woman apparently.) They go to enlist Superman’s help and we see another of those weird green bugs flying around in the alley. As Lois and Jimmy broadcast the parade, Ambush Bug shows up to address the TV audience. He says he’s always wanted to be a villain, so he whipped up an outfit (basically a green bodysuit and goofy-looking antennae) and wasted the D.A. to establish some quick cred. Ambush Bug notices the wall behind him is starting to crumble and disappears, leaving one of those flying green bugs behind. At this point, I’m not sure if he’s turning into those bugs, or if they’re part of some kind of teleporting device. Cliff (Robotman) Steele comes busting through the wall looking for Ambush Bug. Cliff takes off, though not before pissing Lois off by calling her “doll”. The WGBS broadcast is cut off when Negative Woman smashes part of the Galaxy Building, cutting off the live feed. She also pops several parade balloons. Jimmy grabs his old camera to document the excitement, but ends up under the remains of a deflated balloon. Meanwhile, Superman has come to but doesn’t believe Celsius and Tempest when they say they’re Doom Patrol members. Ambush Bug stirs the shit by teleporting in, pretending Celsius and Tempest are his cohorts, and teleporting away again. Superman goes after Celsius and Tempest, which Ambush Bug finds hilarious, but Bug is distracted by Negative Woman’s wanton destruction … which apparently turns him on. Before Superman can waste Celsius and Tempest, Robotman shows up to vouch for them and explain what’s going on. Basically Negative Woman is Valentina Vostok, a Russian pilot who tried to defect and crashed her jet right where the old Doom Patrol died. She ended up with Larry (Negative Man) Trainor’s negative-energy inside her, but she lost control of it just yesterday and the pain drove her nuts. She’s still rampaging through Metropolis, busting up more buildings (including the one Ambush Bug is standing on) and parade balloons. (Jimmy just crawls out from under the first balloon when another one lands on him.) Tempest tries to help Ambush Bug but he teleports away, leaving Superman to get rid of falling debris. Supes tries to go after Negative Woman but Ambush Bug pops in to tell him to lay off, disappearing before Superman can grab him. Celsius encases Ambush Bug in ice, but he just teleports out and ends up decking her when she tries to blast him with extreme heat. Superman figures out the tiny insects are actually devices Ambush Bug is using to focus his teleportation (which is activated by circuitry in his costume). Superman quickly destroys all the bugs and goes to help Tempest with Negative Woman. So when Ambush Bug tries to teleport away he can’t and he ends up being decked by Robotman. Superman and Tempest can’t grab Negative Woman, so Superman takes off. Tempest thinks he’s wimping out but Supes comes back from a quick trip to his Fortress with a lead container and immediately traps Negative Woman’s energy form inside it. Later, Jimmy crawls out of the busted balloon and gets rousted by the cops, while Ambush Bug is already contemplating his escape from prison. Negative Woman’s energy has been returned to Valentina’s body, but she’s forced to wrap herself in chemically-treated bandages (like Larry Trainor did) to keep the energy under control. Valentina can’t help wondering if she’d be better off dead than living out her life like a mummy.
- Some of the balloons in the parade include: Superman, Cerebus the Aardvark, Judge Dredd, something that might be an Elfquest character, and a weird-looking cowboy that I don’t recognize.
Last issue, Travis Morgan was taking Rostov to see his daughter Jennifer, hoping she could cure Rostov of being a werewolf. In Kaambuka, Morgan was reunited with Shakira and they ran into some people called the Kaash’ban, who have a strange affinity for animals. One of them lured Rostov into the woods and by the time Morgan and Shakira arrived, Rostov was being sent through some kind of mystic portal. Morgan and Shakira try to to stop him, but Shakira ends up falling into the portal and Morgan gets knocked out. Shakira and Rostov wind up in Skartaris’s distant past. Rostov says the Kaash’ban spoke to him in a strange language and told him they needed him for some purpose, but they had to test him first. When Rostov realizes he’s in the Age of Wizard-Kings, he’s happy that he might get the chance to see his old lover, Mariah (who’s been stuck in the past with Machiste for quite a while). Before they can get their bearings, they’re attacked by a dragon, which picks them up and flies toward its lair. Rostov manages to stab the dragon, causing it to drop them on a rocky crag. The dragon falls dead to a cliff below, but before they can regroup, they’re confronted by a centaur demanding to know their loyalties. Once he realizes they’re strangers he introduces himself as Eran Shadowstorm (which is a great D&D name) and says he’s fighting to keep the Evil One’s minions (like the dragon) in check. Turns out he killed the dragon with an arrow through the eye and he invites Shakira and Rostov to travel with him. When he finds out Shakira can change into a cat, he’s intrigued to meet someone with the “Old Blood”. In the present, Morgan wakes up and asks the Kaash’ban what the hell’s going on. They say they don’t know exactly what Rostov’s purpose is, but they know he’s important; as proof, they show Morgan a medallion with an engraving of two people fighting—one of whom looks just like Rostov. Morgan figures he needs help, so he heads off for Castle Deimos to find Jennifer.
Barren Earth – “The Long Trek” – Gary Cohn/Ron Randall
Last issue, a human ship returned to Earth trying to make contact with bases on the planet that had been out of touch for centuries. A Qlov ship (Qlov are the mysterious aliens who have fought a millennia-long war with humans all over the galaxy) attacked and a lifepod crash landed on Earth with only a handful of passengers left. One of them (Jinal, who’s an ethnologist come to study the cradle of humanity) took a look outside and found a landscape that looks like Tatooine. They decide to leave the downed pod and head toward a base they saw as they were coming down. Unfortunately, they end up heading in the opposite direction from the base. Not long after they leave, a bunch of people show up in a tracked vehicle and pick the lifepod clean of anything valuable. Jinal and the others get caught in a huge sandstorm and have to wait it out in a hastily-erected shelter. The next day, one of them (Narra) finds a flower growing in the sand, but when she approaches, it turns out to be a gigantic carnivorous plant that devours her and another of the survivors. The remaining three trek across the sands, arguing about whether they’re going in the right direction. When they stumble across their lifepod, Jinal is sure they’ve been walking in circles, but it turns out to be the pod that moved. It’s been taken over by a giant mantis-like creature that’s wearing the lifepod on its back like a hermit crab does with a shell. The mantis eats another of the party, leaving Jinal and Advar (who is either her husband or boyfriend) to run like hell into the desert landscape. They collapse beside a weird tree which turns out to be another carnivorous plant, It grabs them both and Jinal’s blaster is useless so she uses an energy sword to slice right through it. Unfortunately, Advar is already dead. As Jinal mourns him, she realizes she’s no longer alone and looks up to see she’s surrounded by spear-toting robed figures riding lizards.