This one starts with Superman heading back in time to do a favour for Professor Lang. Coincidentally, Superboy (years in the past) is heading forward in time to go visit the Legion. Superman and Superboy both encounter the same strange time storm during their trips and they both try to rush right through it. But the storm is stronger than they thought and they actually end up colliding with each other and being catapulted back to their respective time periods … except they’ve switched minds. In the Smallville of the past, Superman—in Superboy’s body—is so out of it his parents have to look after him. (His part of the story was apparently told in a concurrent issue of Superboy, which I won’t be reviewing since I don’t have it.) In Metropolis in the present, Superboy (I’m going to refer to him as Superboy, but keep in mind he’s in Superman’s body) quickly realizes he’s not in Kansas anymore, and when he catches a glimpse of himself reflected in a skyscraper, he’s shocked to see that he’s now in an adult body. Elsewhere in the city, a guy is getting ready to jump off a building ledge. One of the crowd below tells him to go ahead and jump, earning a punch in the mouth from Jimmy Olsen. Before the despondent guy can jump, another man appears on the ledge and tosses a rope around the jumper, tying it to his own waist. The new guy talks to the jumper and somehow draws the man’s pain and despair into himself. Across town, Superboy saves some people from a falling girder and contemplates his new status quo. He heads to his apartment to think things over. How does he know where the adult Clark Kent lives? He just felt “drawn” to the place. Okay, whatever. Meanwhile, Lana Lang is talking to the ex-suicide jumper, whose encounter with the stranger not only took away his depression, it filled him with renewed hope for the future. The stranger has disappeared, but Jimmy figured he’d slip away and was waiting for him. At Clark’s place, Superboy has familiarized himself with his adult life by going through scrap books and newspaper clippings. He’s surprised to find out his co-anchor at WGBS news is Lana Lang … and she’s a total babe. At the Galaxy Building, Perry White is feeling like shit because his dog got run over, and Lana’s down because her career is great but her love life is non-existent since Vartox left. Jimmy brings in the guy who saved the suicide jumper (his name is Euphor), who uses his empathic aura to help Perry and Lana. Perry realizes he can always get another dog and Lana figures there are other men in the universe besides Vartox. Euphor says he isn’t interested in a print interview, but wouldn’t mind appearing on TV for a few minutes that night. Lana decides to call Clark to invite him to dinner, but he’s not home. Superboy is flying around Metropolis again, stopping high-tech bank robbers and catching petty thieves. He happens upon a guy trying to steal a chain from a woman’s neck, but this woman is no pushover … it’s Lois Lane, and she kicks the guy’s ass. Superboy recognizes Lois from Clark’s scrapbooks, but obviously has no idea that she and Superman have a more intimate relationship. He treats her like any other person, which makes her suspicious right away. Later outside Clark’s apartment, Superboy saves Dwight Decker, the kid who visited WGBS last issue, from getting run over. Dwight still wants an interview with Clark Kent and is disappointed when Superboy tells him Clark isn’t home (after supposedly checking with his x-ray vision). Superboy decides to check out Clark’s job at WGBS and runs into Lana, who invites him to dinner. He’s blown away by how hot she turned out to be, so he accepts right away. Downtown, a crowd has gathered and everyone in it is feeling blissfully happy, thanks to Euphor. But he’s apparently not as altruistic as he seemed; he’s wearing a goofy costume and it turns out that his absorbing all the negative feelings from people is giving him power of some kind. He plans on absorbing all the bad emotions in Metropolis and gaining even more power; we’ll see if he succeeds next issue.
Last issue in the Middle Ages, Syrene apparently killed Superman by using his body as a filter so she could absorb ultra-powerful magical energy through a Runestone. Superman had previously been split into two halves (each of which ended up in different time periods) by Lord Satanis, Syrene’s ex, who also wants the power of the Runestone. When Syrene tried to use her new powers to eliminate Satanis, he took refuge in Superman’s body, which retained its invulnerability. Satanis figures his magic coupled with Superman’s invulnerability will be enough to bring Syrene down, but her power level is immense and she’s confident she’ll win. In the present, the other half of Superman seemed to have died as well, and since he was in his civilian identity at the time, everyone thinks Clark Kent is dead. But just as they’re about to do an autopsy, Clark wakes up. He’s pretty freaked out and wants to leave, although the doctors would prefer he stick around for some tests. With help from Lois, Lana, and Jimmy, Clark leaves and ends up at Lois’s place where she insists he get some rest. Lana is glad Clark is alive, but she has to get to WGBS to do the news. Lois can’t help wondering at the coincidence of Superman losing half his powers and Clark almost dying, so she asks Clark straight out if he’s Superman. He denies it, figuring it’s technically not a lie, since he certainly isn’t the same Superman he used to be. In the past, the fight has shifted into an interdimensional limbo, where Syrene and Satanis keep trying to blow each other away with magic. Syrene hasn’t quite assimilated her new powers, but she’s a fast learner and begins to get the upper hand. Satanis tries to reach any shred of consciousness that might still live inside Superman, knowing they’ll need to work together to overcome Syrene. She grows to gigantic proportions, conjures a huge snake that swallows Satanis alive, and balls the snake up in her hands, preparing to destroy it. In the present, Clark has a nightmare about the fight and realizes it’s really happening to his other half in the past. He knows he needs to get back there and rejoin the two halves of his body, but Satanis has blocked every possible time-travel path. Clark decides to ask Perry White for some vacation time so he can ponder the problem. While at the Daily Planet, Clark overhears Lois talking about a story she’s working on about some “Forgotten Heroes”, including Rip Hunter, the so-called Time Master. Clark figures Hunter might be able to help him travel back in time, so he heads out to Hunter’s base in California. He’s surprised to find Hunter (and the other Time Masters) are quite old. Hunter is pretty bitter and doesn’t think Superman can help him with his problems. Superman feels a bit guilty asking, but tells Hunter he needs help. In the past, Superman’s consciousness aids Satanis, enabling them to burst out of Syrene’s snake ball. They push her out of Limbo to limit her power, and Satanis starts pounding her with rocks. Superman tells him to stop, since he doesn’t want to be a party to murder, but Satanis keeps going. He blasts Syrene with a combination of his magic and Superman’s powers, blowing her away. Superman hopes she isn’t dead, but Satanis is sure she is and says he now has all the power. His gloating is interrupted by the arrival of Rip Hunter’s time machine, from which steps Superman’s other half. I know I’ve been saying this for the last couple issues, but it looks like we’re finally going to see the big confrontation and Superman getting back to normal next issue.
- When Lois is talking about the Forgotten Heroes, she mentions not only Rip Hunter and Cave Carson, but also the Sea Devils, Suicide Squad, Vigilante (presumably the Earth-1 version), Ragman, and B’wana Beast. This is setting up a future story where Superman meets some of those old-timers.
- Gil Kane’s art is a little weird here (and last issue); his mystical stuff is fine, but his civilians look really off-model. Clark looks kind of androgynous in some panels and there was one panel last issue where Lois looked like the Dragon Lady from Terry and the Pirates. I really liked Kane’s Spider-Man stuff in the 70s, but this is a little too loose for me.
This one starts with Metropolis undergoing a smog alert. But this is no ordinary smog, it’s so thick visibility is basically zero and people are being warned not to go outside at all for fear of choking on the noxious fumes. Naturally there are people who don’t listen, so Superman is on duty, helping an ambulance get to the hospital and putting out a fire before heading to WGBS to do the news as Clark Kent. Meanwhile, Star City is having the same smog problem and Green Arrow has to stop some looters trying to take advantage. Arrow heads to the National Weather Service, where he’s told the smog is blanketing half the country, even places that normally don’t have smog. Put that together with the fact that natural weather patterns can’t seem to affect the smog and it looks like there’s something sinister about it. In Metropolis, Superman discusses the situation with Jimmy Olsen and notices trouble in Star City with his telescopic vision. He and Jimmy head to Star City, where Superman finds a weird energy storm in the skies. He suspects it’s not normal and gets confirmation when one of the energy bolts actually hurts him. On the ground, Jimmy runs into Black Canary and Green Arrow, and the trio is soon joined by Superman. Superman tells them the energy is being drawn to Earth from somewhere else and it’s creating an inversion layer in the atmosphere that’s trapping all the smog. Superman has traced where the energy is being pulled to on Earth and says he doesn’t believe there are evil intentions behind it, but Green Arrow’s not so sure. Superman takes them to the Rocky Mountains, to a secret base guarded by soldiers. After convincing the soldiers who they are, they meet a scientist named Selinger, who admits his project is responsible for the smog. Selinger says they’re privately funded but cooperating with the government, hence the soldiers and the old Army base. Selinger shows them his top-secret project (Z Project) which draws a new form of energy from the deepest reaches of the cosmos. The Zeta energy is supposedly beyond anything discovered before, even quarks, quasars, and pulsars. Superman wonders how they can possibly control energy that even he can’t handle and Selinger admits they can’t really control it … yet. But in a year or so, he figures they’ll have it beat. Green Arrow says the country will have choked to death on the smog in a year, not to mention what might happen if the energy got loose. Selinger says the smog will clear eventually, and it’s a small price to pay for a source of clean, nearly unlimited energy. Arrow is ready to deck Selinger but Canary holds him back. Superman says he agrees with Arrow’s concerns and tells Selinger he’ll be reporting all this to the government and keeping a close eye on the project. They’re ready to leave when they realize Green Arrow has disappeared. Yeah, he’s gone crusading again, looking for a way to shut down the project. He runs into some guards and their stray bullets knock out the safety devices containing the Z energy. Arrow is locked in a storage room while the facility prepares to deal with the energy breach. Superman flies up to try and contain the breach but gets knocked back. (For some reason, the breached energy is taking a vaguely humanoid form and seems to be quasi-intelligent.) Arrow soon escapes and improvises a bow and arrows so he can start pounding guards. Superman heads for the ultimate source of the energy, billions of light years across the universe. (He uses a space warp as a shortcut.) He finds where the energy is being drawn from, but he’s afraid that just plugging the hole might screw up the cosmic energy balance (or something), so he creates a supernova in a nearby star which is just enough to push the energy source slightly out of synch with Earth, cutting off the energy supply. He warps back to Earth and realizes as long as the Z energy collectors are operational, the “energy monster” will still exist. So Superman trashes the entire facility, making the monster vanish. Selinger freaks out, bitching about losing his precious energy source. Superman says the energy source is just slightly out of alignment and things will line up again in a century … when humanity will hopefully be able to harness the energy properly. Selinger says Earth might not last a hundred years and any price is worth it for unlimited energy. Superman points out that destroying Earth in order to save Earth is pretty damn stupid, but Selinger just doesn’t get it.
- Right before heading to Star City, Superman says he spotted trouble “to the north” and Star City is said to be several hundred miles from Metropolis. I always thought Star City was on the West Coast, not far from Coast City … maybe that’s post-Crisis only?
Last issue, Rostov and Shakira went back in time to the Age of Wizard Kings and ended up meeting a centaur (Erin Shadowstalker) who took them to Mongo Ironhand’s castle for help getting home. Mongo has been hanging out with Mariah (who is Rostov’s ex) and Machiste, who thought the newcomers were agents of the Evil One. That led to a classic misunderstanding fight, but before it could get too intense, Jennifer Morgan and her father (Travis Morgan, the Warlord of the title) came through a magic portal to break up the brawl. Jennifer impresses Mongo with her sorcery and uses her magic to keep Rostov from killing Machiste. Morgan explains things to Mongo and introduces everyone. (Including Shakira, who Mongo thought he’d turned into a cat with his magic; he’s relieved to learn she’s a shape-shifter.) Mariah and Rostov (who’s lycanthropic condition is a surprise to her) go outside to talk. Jennifer tells Mongo she and her father came back in time to stop the Evil One, and that if they don’t end his reign of terror now, it’ll have profound implications for the future. Mongo gives Morgan his old sword (the Hellfire Sword), but the gem is missing from the pommel. Too bad, since the gem protected the wielder against magic. Rostov tells Mariah how he became a werewolf and how he tracked her to Skartaris, hoping to rekindle their love. Mariah says whatever they had is over and admits she and Machiste are an item now. It looks like Machiste and Rostov might square off, but Morgan says everyone needs to work together against the Evil One. Jennifer suggests they bring all the surviving wizards together, but Mongo figures they have no chance against the Evil One’s power, especially while he has the Necronomicon. Jennifer says she can prepare a spell to get through his defenses, but they’ll have to draw him out of his stronghold in the heart of a volcano. The Evil one cares most for gold and power, so Jennifer figures if they can cut off his supply of gold, he’ll come after them. The wizards bring a vast hoard of treasure together and seal it inside a pyramid. That brings the Evil One to recover the gold, but he can’t get through the mystical barrier around the pyramid. Meanwhile, Jennifer and the others have teleported to the Evil One’s stronghold to look for the Necronomicon. Jennifer finds it by detecting the protective aura around it, but before they can grab it, the Evil One returns. He’s too powerful for them (even Morgan’s gun can’t hurt him) and he imprisons them all in force fields. He wants the key to the pyramid so he can get all the gold and Mariah pretends to help him, tricking him into stabbing himself with the spring-loaded dagger in her sword hilt. But even that isn’t enough to stop him and he uses his magic to screw with their minds, implanting the thought that they’re dying … which will make them actually die. But Skartaris’s moon is shining through the volcano cone and Rostov changes into wolf form. Having an animal’s mind lets him break free and attack the Evil One, who blasts him with magic. Rostov turns human again, but the distraction is enough for Jennifer to break herself (and the others) free of the force fields. She and the Evil one engage in a magical duel and they’re pretty evenly matched. Morgan knocks the Necronomicon off its stand and Mongo pushes it into the volcano. Losing the book’s power makes the Evil One change from his demon form back to his original body, which looks like Gollum. He scuttles off into the caves below the volcano and everyone takes off right before the volcano erupts. Morgan wonders why Jennifer didn’t kill the Gollum-creature, but she says it’s Evil so you can never really rid the world of it.