Comics Reviews: Superman 385, Action 545, DC Comics Presents 59, Warlord 71

Superman 385 coverSuperman #385 – “Luthor Rises Again” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt

This one starts with Lex Luthor grieving in the shattered remnants of Lexor, the planet where he was considered a hero and had a family. Lexor was destroyed in a battle between Luthor and Superman (in Action 544) and now Luthor wants revenge. He brings a large chunk of Lexor back to Earth, depositing it in the South Atlantic (and crushing a crimelord on his yacht) to form Luthor’s new base … L Island. In Metropolis, Clark Kent is also blaming himself for Lexor’s tragedy, thinking the planet and its populace might still be alive if he hadn’t gone there to capture Luthor. Clark thinks Luthor died in the explosion of Lexor and wonders what Earth will be like without Luthor’s evil genius to contend with. We see Perry White fielding a few phone calls, the first from Lana Lang, who’s in the Middle East doing the interview that Lois was supposedSuperman stops bank robbery to do with the leaders of two warring countries. Perry then talks to Lois, who calls from her hometown of Pittsdale, although she doesn’t tell Perry where she is. Lois is taking the long way home after thinking her Middle East interview fell through and she doesn’t give Perry the chance to tell her Lana’s now on that story. Finally, Perry gets a call from his wife, but avoids it like he’s been doing for the last few issues. Superman finds a high-tech machine busting into a bank and assumes Luthor is back, but it’s just a couple of punks who stole one of Luthor’s devices from the police impound lot. Meanwhile, Luthor is stealing granite from a quarry (after hypnotizing the workers to forget he was there) to construct a fortress on L Island. Lois is hanging out taking missile into spaceon her parents’ farm and when she gets thrown from a horse, she doesn’t immediately assume Superman will come to save her. She realizes that’s pretty good progress for her. In Florida, Clark Kent is interviewing Dr. Bower, who’s scheduled to be the first woman aboard a space shuttle. The launch is scrubbed when an unknown aircraft nears the launch site. (It’s a blimp with the word “Greatyear” on the side.) Clark changes to Superman as the blimp falls apart to reveal an unmanned drone targeting the launch pad. Superman intercepts the missile and takes it into space to get rid of it. He again assumes Luthor is behind it, but quickly realizes the tech is too unsophisticated to be Luthor’s work. Superman wonders if he’s going nuts, obsessing about Luthor like this. Meanwhile, Luthor is getting his base of operations together, turning on a cloaking device that renders the island invisible to radar and the nakedescaped criminal profiles eye. In his Fortress of Solitude, Superman runs a computer program that tells him there’s a 90% chance that Luthor survived the explosion of Lexor. Superman feels better now that his suspicions seem accurate. He heads back to WGBS to do some work as Clark and runs into new employee Justin Moore. Justin shows Clark some reports about four criminals breaking out of prison hundreds of miles apart. Justin thinks there’s a connection and after reading the files, Clark agrees. (The criminals are: Renzil Dugan, a chemist who turned his guards into powdered bone meal; Louto Malono, a wrestler with a prosthetic arm who worked as muscle for the mob; Wicked Wanda Nordo, a woman who wasted her gangster boyfriend with her bare hands so she could take over his racket; and the Statler twins, criminal geniuses who are Superman losing itliterally joined at the hip (they’re conjoined twins). Superman checks out the prisons and finds each prisoner escaped by using a glowing cube to cut through the cell walls. When Superman tries to examine the cubes, they dissolve into nothingness. Superman is sure Luthor is behind the escapes and goes to the Superman museum to ruminate. The Luthor statue comes to life and Superman’s guilt at the fate of Lexor drives him to smash it, which earns him the ire of the curator. Outside, Superman sees Luthor on a bridge and tries to blast him with his heat vision, which only succeeds in melting the bridge. Superman figures Luthor must be causing him to hallucinate somehow … or else his own guilt is driving him crazy. On L Island, the escapees pledge their loyalty to Luthor, no matter what he asks of them.

Noticeable Things:

  • I guess this is the pre-Crisis version of Lois, since her father was a hard-ass Army general post-Crisis, but here he’s an elderly farmer. In fact, Lois’s parents look and sound a lot like Ma and Pa Kent here.
  • Sally Ride was the first American woman to go into space, in June of 1983. This comic would’ve been out before that, but it’s possible Bower could have been inspired by Sally Ride, although she certainly doesn’t look like her.

Action 545 coverAction #545 – “With But a Single Step” – Marv Wolfman/Gil Kane

Last issue, Brainiac went through a strange metamorphosis, traveling through time and space and mutating into a weird hybrid of machine and organic life. He bullied some aliens into helping him capture Superman (which he accomplished with a red sun radiation missile), but Brainiac’s change seems to have made him a little whacko. He keeps going on about the “Master Programmer” and how Superman is its Angel of Death. Brainiac takes Superman on board his ship and as a farewell, blasts a bunch of the aliens on Systus-2 that he forced to help him. Brainiac starts analyzing Superman, looking for answers about the Master Programmer. Of course, Superman has no clue what he’s talking about, so Brainiac shows him what happened while he was a mass of floating energy in space. A gigantic hand came out of nowhere and grabbedSuperman makes his way through the ship Brainiac’s essence, then Superman’s face loomed up over him. Since the hand is what changed Brainiac, he assumes it is the Master Programmer and Superman is its agent, sent to destroy him. Systus-2 attacks Brainiac’s ship, so he stops his tests on Superman to deal with them. Since Brainiac is basically wired into his ship now, the distraction is enough to let Superman break free. Brainiac directs his ship’s defenses to deal with Superman while he takes care of Systus-2. Some of the missiles from Systus-2 get through, causing Brainiac pain since he’s linked to the ship. He starts obliterating life on Systus-2, while Superman (whose powers still haven’t returned after the red sun blast last issue) makes his way through the ship, using its own weaponry to clear a path. He tricks some drones into blasting open the shuttle bay and he steals Brainiac’s shuttle and takes off. Brainiac obviously hasn’t become ditching the missiles in a starcompletely a machine, because he feels fear at knowing Superman might escape. He pursues the Man of Steel, who takes the shuttlecraft through an asteroid field. Brainiac’s ship just plows through the asteroids and Superman ends up crashing into a huge asteroid. Luckily, his powers have returned, so he flies back to engage Brainiac’s ship. Brainiac launches another red sun missile and Superman knows he’ll die if he loses his powers in outer space, so he takes off. The missile tacks him and he can feel his powers diminishing, but manages to lead the missile into a (yellow) sun, where it breaks up. By the time Superman gets back, Brainiac’s ship has warped away, even beyond Superman’s vision powers. He heads back to Earth and reports in at WGBS as Clark Kent. Justin Moore (the newest employee) tells Clark he wishes he had more responsibility there and Clark tells him to “hang in there”. HeBrainiac's army should’ve just given him one of those cat posters. Jimmy tells Clark he’s worried about how weird Perry has been acting lately. Meanwhile, at a fancy base in the Grand Canyon, Rip Hunter and his Time Masters get a visit from a couple more geriatric heroes, Cave Carson and Dane Dorrance (of the Sea Devils). Rip asks about “the others” (including Dolphin and Rick Flag) and Cave says they’ll show up soon. In the Betelgeuse system, Brainiac has been blasting more civilizations and pressing more alien warriors into his service. He now has an army of aliens that he plans to use against Superman … and Earth.

DC Comics Presents 59 coverDC Comics Presents #59 – “Ambush Bug II” – Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen/Kurt Schaffenberger

This one starts with Ambush Bug (who we last saw in issue 52) jumping on Superman’s back just as he flies forward in time. Ambush Bug screws up Superman’s calculations and they end up in 2983 (the Legion’s time) instead of the 40th Century Superman was aiming for. Supes is pissed off and takes Ambush Bug to legion headquarters, but there’s nobody there, so he goes with Plan B … the Substitute Legion. Polar Boy is on duty there and sticks Ambush Bug in the holding cell, promising to watch him until Superman returns. Supes warns Polar Boy that Ambush Bug has tiny bugs that he sends out all over the place and he can teleport to wherever one of the bugs is. Polar Boy says Ambush Bug won’t teleport out of the cell and Superman leaves, wondering if he’s made a big mistake. Porcupine Pete and Infectious Lass are returning from a dateSuperman hits a tree (apparently they’re both pretty hard up) and find Polar Boy beat to shit in the control room and the cell smashed open. Superman returns from his 40th Century business and sees Ambush Bug fleeing the Subs headquarters in a stolen speeder. Superman tries to grab the Bug, but runs into a tree Chlorophyll Kid grows to try and stop the fugitive. Chlorophyll Kid and Fire Lad explain that their only real holding cell was wrecked (Fire Lad accidentally sneezed on it, burning it to a crisp) and Polar Boy was too ashamed to admit it, so he actually stuck Ambush Bug in the empty aquarium (which was also empty because of Fire Lad … something about boiling the water). Ambush Bug is spying on them nearby and Stone Boy tries to sneak up and grab him. saving the alienAmbush Bug teleports away and Stone Boy hurtles toward the ground, turning himself to stone just before impact and planting headfirst into the concrete. Fire Lad and Chlorophyll Kid go to help him while Superman goes after Ambush Bug, wrapping him up in his cape. Ambush Bug teleports away (with the cape) and Superman is summoned by Chief Zendak of he Science Police. Ambush Bug grabs an alien bystander, affixes Superman’s cape to its shoulders, and tosses the hapless BEM off a building. Ambush Bug seems to think Superman’s cape will let the alien fly (or he pretends to think that), but of course it doesn’t. Antennae Lad and Color Kid jump into action to save the alien. Color Kid grabs it before it splatters and Antennae Lad grapples with Ambush Bug. Ambush Bug takes the cape back from the alien and evades his pursuers (rather easily) before noticing the Supermanthreatening the cake Museum. At Science Police headquarters, Zendak is having quite the day and it gets worse when he learns the Subs have called in their own reserves … people who weren’t quite good enough to make the Substitute Legion. A call comes in about Ambush Bug wreaking havoc at the Superman Museum and Supes flies off, worried that Bug will discover his secret identity. Before going to the Museum, he zooms around collecting all the teleport bugs and destroying them. At the Museum, Ambush Bug is facing several Subs (including Double-Header) and threatens to smash a piece of cake on the floor if they get any closer. (Why is there cake in the Superman Museum? I have no idea, unless it’s a piece of Lois and Clark’s wedding cake.) Although Supes collected all the teleport bugs outside, Ambush Bug has plenty of them Infectious Lass tries to be sexyinside the Museum, meaning he can teleport around at will. Superman learns that the hard way when he tries to grab Bug and gets a face full of Porcupine Pete’s quills. Ambush Bug taunts his pursuers and pops up all through the Museum, enjoying himself like he’s at Disneyland. Color Kid tells Infectious Lass to hit on Ambush Bug, distracting him with her feminine wiles, but she’s not exactly an expert at that. She does her best, but Bug figures out the trap and decks Color Kid before teleporting away again. Ambush Bug finds a room with a sign that says “Do Not Enter”, so naturally he goes in. He finds what looks like a camera with a button labeled “Do Not Push”, so naturally … he pushes it. Turns out it’s not a camera, it’s a Phantom Zone projector and Ambush Bug is now trapped there. It’s weird, since the two signs that led Ambush Bug to get trapped in the Zone are the only ones in the entire Museum written in English. Superman destroys the rest of the teleport bugs, retrieves Ambush Bug (and his cape) from the Zone, and turns the pain-in-the-ass over to the Science Police. Polar Boy apologizesPhantom Zone trap for screwing up and Superman (rather charitably) says he’s sure the Subs will become legends in time. They invite him to stay for a lemonade before taking Ambush Bug back to the 20th Century. Elsewhere, we see Fire Lad and Chlorophyll Kid still trying to figure out how to extricate Stone Boy from the ground (having rejected burning, drilling, and a crane). Obviously this whole issue was played for laughs, though (for me) the humour is a bit heavy-handed sometimes (a complaint I also have about the Justice League series that Giffen works on post-Crisis). This issue is probably what turned the Subs from a not-quite-first-string-but-still-competent team into the laughingstocks they became later.

Warlord 71 coverWarlord #71 – “The Journey Back” – Mike Grell/Dan Jurgens/Bob Smith

This one opens in Skartaris with an exhausted Jennifer Morgan keeping the magic mirror portal open so her father and Shakira can hopefully find their way back through. But as we say last issue, Travis Morgan and Shakira are in the outside world (Australia specifically) about a hundred years in the future. Morgan and Shakira learned that Earth became so polluted that humans started migrating to Skartaris through the South Polar opening, but when Skartaris began to get overpopulated, some people drifted back to Earth, hoping to reclaim it. Morgan and Shakira are heading south, hoping to get back to Skartaris, though Shakira worries what kind of place they’ll come back to after all this time. Morgan assumed they’d need a boat to get to Antarctica, but when they reach the coast there’s a long bridge reaching out toward the southernMorgan arouses suspicion continent. Morgan goes to a store to buy supplies, but arouses the shopkeeper’s suspicion when he tries to pay with gold coins. The shopkeeper calls the Border Patrol, saying he’s got a mutated human in his place. Morgan figures out he’s in trouble, so he steals a bunch of stuff and takes off. He and Shakira are riding across the bridge when a Patrol ship flies down to intercept them. Morgan pretends to give up as Shakira changes from a cat to a human and gets the drop on the security patrol. Morgan ties them up and he and Shakira steal the ship and fly toward Skartaris, but they’re soon shot down by other Border Patrol ships. They crash in a Skartaris park and Morgan gets blasted by patrol agents. Shakira drags him to safety and Shakira drags Morgan to safetygets him inside a building where they meet a guy named Gyre who offers to help Morgan. Gyre is a medic (military trained) and mentions how there’s been a lot of tension between different groups lately because of overcrowding. Morgan plays along, but lets it slip that he and Shakira are trying to get to Castle Deimos. Gyre says that’s no problem and offers to take them. Turns out he’s talking about a bar called Castle Deimos (he says the original Castle is now a troop garrison). Morgan is dismayed, but decides to make the best of it and goes in for a few drinks. Shakira notices the décor includes Jennifer’s crystal ball and asks Gyre where the stuff came from. He says most of it is from the real Castle Deimos. Before she and Morgan can ponder that, a bulletin comes on about the dangerous escaped mutie … injumping back through the mirror other words, Morgan. As the patrons prepare to jump them, Shakira realizes the mirror behind the bar is Jennifer’s magic mirror, so they jump through it and end up (somewhat anti-climactically) back where they started from, in Castle Deimos with Jennifer. So I guess they could travel through the mirror because Jennifer was holding it open specifically for them? Or maybe because they were already attuned to it from previous trips? They’d better hope so, otherwise the bar patrons could jump through after them.

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