This one starts with Lex Luthor’s battle-suit flying around Metropolis by itself, freaking out citizens. Luthor is heading into the Galaxy Building, where Perry White almost recognizes him but figures Luthor wouldn’t be bold enough to just stroll right in. A guard feels the same way, but knows it really is Luthor when he phases right through the wall. He phases into Clark Kent’s office (tossing Justin Moore out on his ass) and tells Clark he has a front page story for him. Luthor explains how Superman pursued him to Lexor (where Luthor’s wife and kid lived) and attacked him, causing the entire planet to blow up. Clark realizes Luthor has some kind of mental block that’s preventing him from admitting that his own attack on Superman triggered the backlash that blew up the planet. (Superman did feel a certain amount of guilt for contributing to Lexor’s destruction last issue, but he seems to have gotten past that.) Luthor tells Clark (who he doesn’t know is Superman) that he’s planning to make the Man of Steel suffer in unimaginable ways. Luthor dives out the window and his automated battle suit flies in to pick him up. Clark quickly changes to Superman to pursue, but doesn’t notice Luthor hitting the building with a ray before he flies off. The ray causes everyone inside the building to see the same hallucination … a gigantic Luthor preparing to smash the Galaxy Building. Superman has to deal with the illusion to prevent people from getting trampled in their hysteria, so Luthor gets away. Meanwhile, Perry White is at a marriage counselor but he’s alone, and tells the counselor his wife doesn’t know about the visit. We’ve seen Perry avoiding his wife’s calls lately, so I guess he’s going to tell the counselor what’s up. Maybe he needs some Viagra. On a farm outside of Pittsdale, Lois Lane surprises her parents by tossing out all her Superman stuff. Luthor shows up and threatens to kill Lois to get back at Superman for (supposedly) killing his wife Ardora. But when Lois mentions that she and Superman broke up (and Luthor confirms it with a brain scan), he decides killing her won’t cause Superman enough pain now that they’re not a couple anymore, so he takes off. Back on Luthor’s new hideout (L Island), his defenses blow away a submarine that’s nosing around the island. Luthor explains to his new hench-people (Wanda and Louto) about how he can’t use Lois to get revenge on Superman, then muses about getting Lois and Supes back together just so he can kill her. (While Luthor’s talking, Wanda is polishing his bald head!) Luthor’s other operatives call to say they’ve set up the “big stick” and Luthor gloats about his plans for Superman. Clark Kent and Morgan Edge are flying to Boston to interview a new sportscaster for WGBS when Clark notices a neutra-rod in the countryside. The neutra-rod is the device that accidentally blew the planet of Lexor to hell, so Clark freaks out thinking Luthor is planning to blow up Earth. He tells Edge he has to investigate the strange tower and bails out with a parachute, changing to Superman as soon as he’s out of sight. Superman goes to dismantle the neutra-rod but Luthor ambushes him, blasting him with a beam that coats him in a dark sheath. The dark coating blocks the yellow sun rays that give Superman his strength on Earth, so he’s almost powerless (and in a hell of a lot of pain) as Luthor attacks. Luthor pushes Superman underground to a chamber filled with molten magma and starts beating the shit out of him. Superman uses the last vestige of his powers to burn the dark coating off with his heat vision. It works, but he’s in a lot of pain as his invulnerability slowly returns. Luthor retreats to the surface and Superman lets him go to concentrate on the neutra-rod. But the neutra-rod turns out to be a fake and as it melts in front of Superman, a message plays promising that the worst is yet to come. Back at the Lane farm, Lois is shocked to see Lana Lang on TV doing the Middle East interview that was supposed to be Lois’s. We’ll see some of the fallout from that right away in my Action review.
Last issue, Brainiac—who is now a techno-organic mix of computer and living metal—assembled an army of aliens to attack Earth. Superman isn’t aware of Brainiac’s plans yet, but he is trying to analyze Brainiac’s new form to figure out a way to defeat him. Superman’s research is interrupted when the computer in his Fortress of Solitude suddenly goes dark for no reason. He decides to take a break and heads back to Metropolis to become Clark Kent. Jimmy Olsen shows up at Clark’s place to tell him Morgan Edge is looking for him. Lana is about to go live on her Middle East interview with two warring heads of state and Edge wants Clark on the anchor desk. When Clark shows up at WGBS, Edge gives him shit but Clark gets mad and basically tells Edge to go to hell, then walks out. (I think Jimmy ended up taking Clark’s anchor spot.) Clark’s tirade was partially because he’s tired of Edge’s bullshit, but mostly because his super-vision spotted Brainiac approaching Earth with his alien army. Clark changes to Superman and heads to the JLA Satellite to get reinforcements. He finds Flash giving Kid Flash some advice on his career path and tells them he needs help. Flash calls in the JLA and Kid Flash calls the New Teen Titans. Superman explains things and the two teams head to New York to fight the alien invaders. (I have no idea why they concentrated all their forces on New York City instead of spreading out a bit … other than it makes it easier to tell the story.) The teams fight the aliens (who are under Brainiac’s mental control) and Starfire and Red Tornado almost get killed trying to attack Brainiac’s ship. Superman has to stay away from the aliens since they’re equipped with red sun rifles that could drain his powers. He wonders how the aliens can keep up with him; it turns out they’re feed off his own energy, so the faster he goes, the faster they go. The excess energy is too much for the aliens’ metabolisms, so they burn up while Superman leads them on a merry chase. Meanwhile, Lois is watching Lana’s Middle East interview (which was originally Lois’s assignment) and getting more pissed off by the minute about Lana stealing her story. Superman zooms back to his Fortress to analyze Brainiac’s ship again, but his computer is still on the fritz. Superman figures out the computer is being affected by sunspots and remembers leading Brainiac’s missiles into the sun last issue. He speculates that the missiles could’ve triggered heavy sunspot activity and since sunspots can screw up electrical devices, maybe they can affect Brainiac’s techno-organic body. As the JLA and Titans fight on against the tide of aliens, Superman heads for the sun. Brainiac snags him with a tractor beam, but instead of resisting Superman moves with it to attack Brainiac’s ship. Brainiac releases the tractor beam and puts up his shields, which is just what Superman was counting on. He heads for the sun and starts creating a sunspot (which is basically just a cooler spot on the sun’s surface). The energy from the sunspot screws up Brainiac’s electronics, partially wiping his memory and almost shutting down his core functions. Brainiac manages to activate his back-up power source and warp through hyperspace, but Superman figures he’ll be out of commission for a while. In New York, the aliens all surrendered as soon as Brainiac’s control was broken and Superman promises to find them a new planet on which to settle. Superman wonders what they’ll do when Brainiac returns and Wonder Woman says all they can do is try to stay ready.
- When we see the Titans at their headquarters, Robin is with them but he’s nowhere to be seen through the rest of the story. Robin is currently away from the Titans, hanging out with Adrian Chase, so it makes sense for him not to be here. I guess the depiction of him at Titans’ Tower is a mistake. Conversely, Terra isn’t shown at Titans’ Tower or on the Satellite, but she does show up to help fight the aliens.
- Starfire mentions that Brainiac once invaded the Vegan system but was defeated by the Citadel (whom she calls “buffoons”).
This one starts with a Green Lantern getting assassinated by a wraith-robot, which then steals the dead GL’s power battery and takes it to its boss, a gold-armoured dude called Weapon-Master. On Earth, a Guardian of the Universe appears to Superman, telling him they need his help to save countless planets … and maybe the entire universe. Superman wonders why the Guardians need his help instead of just using the Green Lantern Corps, but his questions are put on hold when the Guardian takes him through a space warp to a black hole. The black hole is about to sweep numerous planets into its singularity, so the Guardian creates a “vortex cone” to counteract the black hole’s massive gravity. The Guardian tells Superman that only his powers can make the vortex cone effective, so Superman zooms around inside the cone, almost exhausting himself. His efforts work and the black hole subsides enough to be sealed with an anti-gravity shield, saving the surrounding planets. I don’t think any of that makes sense scientifically, but I suppose Burkett was working off the popular conception of black holes, not the reality. Anyway, the Guardian takes Superman to Oa where he learns why they need his help. Weapon-Master (who Superman has fought before) has used the power battery his minion stole to tap into the Central Power Battery on Oa and drain a large portion of its power. The Central Battery has enough for day-to-day functions, but not enough to power a ring for an emergency (which is why Superman had to handle the black hole). Weapon-Master has stored the siphoned energy in a huge crystal and used some of it to reconstruct a Dabalyan will-paralyzer, a weapon (which Superman previously destroyed) that can enslave minds. Since the will-paralyzer uses the stolen energy, anything that’s attuned to that energy—like Green Lantern rings—is especially vulnerable to the will-paralyzer. So Weapon-Master has enslaved a number of Green Lanterns, selling them as mercenaries to factions across the galaxy. Superman is introduced to a Guardian named Ranakar, who will accompany him on his mission to fight Weapon-Master. Ranakar explains that he neglected to notice the Power Battery being drained until it was too late … because he got bored after centuries of watching it and decided to compose some poetry! As they approach Weapon-Master’s ship, robot drones attack and Ranakar leaves Superman to smash them alone. When Superman gives him shit, Ranakar says the will to win is more important than sheer power. Some of the enslaved Lanterns attack and Superman starts getting pounded, but Ranakar takes off again. Superman goes to a nearby planet and fashions a coating for his body out of a yellow mineral, allowing him to fight the Lanterns close up. Weapon-Master shows up and blasts him with kryptonite, removing most of the yellow coating. Ranakar sneaks into Weapon-Master’s ship to look for the crystal holding the stolen energy, but he gets knocked out by Katma Tui, who’s under Weapon-Master’s control. Ranakar wakes up strapped to the crystal, which is draining his own energy. Superman is being held in a cage made of synthetic kryptonite, created by the enslaved Lanterns. But since the Lanterns energy came from the Central Power Battery, Ranakar can exert his own will to influence the Lanterns, forcing them to change the kryptonite to regular energy. Superman busts loose and Weapon-Master blasts him with Q energy, to which he’s vulnerable. Ranakar is too weak to help, but reminds Superman that will power can succeed where mere force can’t. Superman wills himself to get up and decks Weapon-Master, then smashes the crystal, releasing all the stolen energy and freeing the Green Lanterns. Weapon-Master teleports away before he can be apprehended, but Ranakar doesn’t seem too bothered … he’s already thinking of adding Superman to his next poem.
- Superman (and Batman) fought Weapon-Master in World’s Finest 272-274.
- Before Superman leaves Oa, Tomar-Re wishes him luck and we find out (although Superman doesn’t) that Tomar was the Green Lantern of the space sector containing Krypton and feels guilty for not being able to prevent its destruction.
- Besides Katma, the enslaved Lanterns include Arrkis Chummuck and one that looks a bit like Larvox, except with more of a face.
This one starts where last issue ended, with Travis Morgan and Shakira returning to Skartaris through Jennifer’s magic mirror portal. Before they can tell their tale, a unicorn comes through the mirror and goes wild, scratching Shakira with its horn before taking off out of the castle. Morgan thinks it’s funny, but isn’t laughing when a big burly dude comes through the mirror and starts strangling him. Morgan pounds the guy, but he’s pretty tough and looks like he’s ready to keep fighting. Jennifer (after finally closing the mirror portal) puts the newcomer to sleep, saying he’s probably freaked out about suddenly finding himself in a new place surrounded by strangers. Jennifer enters the unconscious warrior’s mind to read his past, like she did with Rostov. Turns out he’s a warrior from another world (which has a quasi-Native American culture) and captured a unicorn in the enchanted forest of Vulnicarn. That made him a hero (and entitled him to marry the chief’s daughter), but the unicorn brought a plague to the village, wiping out the entire population (except the warrior, who was off on another quest). He changed his name to Scarheart and vowed to kill the unicorn that decimated his people. He tracked it into the enchanted forest where it jumped through a waterfall. Scarheart followed and ended up here; apparently the waterfall was some kind of magic portal and since Jennifer had an open portal on this end, the unicorn and Scarheart both came through. Shakira suddenly keels over and Morgan realizes the unicorn’s horn must’ve infected her with whatever plague wiped out Scarheart’s people. Jennifer says the unicorn is immune to the plague, so it might have antibodies that can lead to a cure. Morgan heads out to track the beast, which has headed north into the dark part of Skartaris, the Terminator (which is the zone near the polar opening where the sun doesn’t reach). Jennifer is tending to Shakira when Scarheart wakes up and knocks her out. Shakira reminds him of his dead girlfriend, so he leaves to look for the unicorn … and the white-haired warrior who prevented him from killing it earlier. (That’s Morgan, of course.) Morgan finds the unicorn about to be devoured by a huge carnivorous plant, so he jumps in to save it, knowing it may be Shakira’s only hope. The unicorn gets loose, but Morgan is grabbed by the plant. He tries cutting it and burning it, but he ends up passing out from his exertions. On the hill above, Scarheart watches as the plant prepares to devour Morgan.
Barren Earth – “The Garden of Mulge” – Gary Cohn/Ron Randall
Last issue, the combined human and Harahashan (lizard) forces were attacked by the Mulge, a fungoid race that kidnapped a couple of humans … including Skinner, Jinal’s only real friend among the city dwellers. The Harahashan offer to help go after Skinner, but the humans refuse. Renna (who obviously has feelings for Skinner), agrees to let Jinal come on the rescue mission, as long as she follows Renna’s orders. Both Renna and the Harahashan leader seem to think Jinal has the hots for Skinner, but she denies it. They track the kidnappers into a Mulge garden, where they’re attacked by various forms of plant life. One of the rescuers is absorbed and Renna blows up the offending plant with an explosive. They end up at the Mulge settlement, where Skinner and the other captive are being prepared for a religious ceremony. The Mulge worship mushrooms and start placing the fungi on Skinner’s chest. Renna freaks out and blasts the Mulge priest, which draws the attention of every Mulge in the place.