Comics Reviews: Superman 389, Action 549, DC Comics Presents 63, Warlord 74

Superman 389 coverSuperman #389 – “Brother Act” – Cary Bates (plot), Paul Kupperberg/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt

This one starts with some guy in a phone booth trying to call Clark Kent at WGBS. Someone in a crane sends the wrecking ball toward the phone booth, trying to pulverize the guy. Since this is Metropolis, Superman shows up to save him. Supes assumes it was an accident until the crane operator is found half-conscious, claiming someone hit him from behind. The would-be victim disappears (shedding a disguise) before Superman can question him. Not far away, the killer (code-named Eagle) reports his failure to his superiors, who tell him he better get it right next time. At WGBS, Lois and Lana are looking at a photo of their fight last issue and agree it was stupid. They run into a suave-looking dude who heads into the office, turning heads as he goes. It turns out to be the guy from the phone booth in anothermystery dude parachutes away disguise, but this face is apparently famous and Justin recognizes him. (The character does look vaguely familiar, but I can’t place him; a British actor maybe? If anyone knows who it’s supposed to be, let me know in the comments.) When Justin demands an autograph, the guy takes off, jumping out the window and using his coat as a parachute to float to an adjoining roof. The guy runs for it, but slams right into Superman. As soon as Supes mentions the cops, the guy rips off is disguise to reveal he’s really … Cory Renwald. Who? Renwald is a character introduced in the new Superboy comic who supposedly was Clark Kent’s foster brother for a while before growing up and joining some top secret government spy agency. Superman knows flashback to Cory waking upRenwald, but Cory doesn’t remember meeting him before; in fact, he can’t remember anything, including his own identity. Cory says he woke up with no memory in an alley with a splitting headache and his clothes smoldering. Some guys started shooting at him, so he took off and found he had a wad of cash on him but no ID(maybe his real name is Jason Bourne?) For some reason, seeing Clark Kent on TV jogged something in his head; he knew he could trust Clark, even if he couldn’t trust anyone else, so he’s been trying to get to Clark ever since … in disguise, to stay away from the people hunting him. Superman drops Cory at Clark’s place, telling the doorman to let him into Clark’s apartment. At the Daily Planet, Lana is looking for Clark but can’t find him anywhere. Perry White is in a good mood, telling Lana that whatever problems he’s been having with his wife lately are over. They’reSuperman at Pentagon even having dinner at a romantic restaurant tonight. Superman goes to the Pentagon to ask about Cory and is told he’s being hunted as a traitor since being accused of selling info to America’s enemies. Superman asks if someone might’ve decided to waste him instead of capturing him, but the General says they need Cory alive to find out what secrets he’s passed on. Superman returns home as Clark Kent to talk to Cory, whose memory has come back after looking through Clark’s family albums. Cory says he was in his hotel this morning when a caller on the phone told him he’d activated a bomb by answering. Cory jumped out the window right before the bomb went off, hitting his head on the fire escape and running for is life ever Cory knocks Clark outsince. Clark urges him to turn himself in, but Cory says someone’s setting him up and he has to figure out who. He knocks Clark out (well, Clark rolls with the hit and pretends to be knocked out) and takes off again. Clark is ready to follow, but a bulletin on TV about a toxic spill from a crashed train draws his attention. Cory leaves Clark’s building and gets jumped outside, knocked out with a dart, and bundled into a van. At the crash site, Superman slurps up the toxic chemicals and spews them out into space before heading down to find Cory. The guys framing him have put Cory into a one-man jet which they’ve programmed to fly into the white House. The jet is loaded with explosives that’ll go off if Cory opens the cockpit, and the controls are set so he can’t change the flight path. Apparently framing him for treason was just to makeSuperman saves Cory it look credible when he blows up the President. As the jet starts on its way, Superman zooms down (having tracked Cory by his heartbeat) and pushes the jet into the water. He pulls Cory out and flies him to safety before the explosives can harm him. Cory assumes he’ll be able to clear his name now, although there’s no mention of who the perpetrators are or whether Superman even went after them. There area couple of epilogues to round out the story: Perry White’s wife stood him up at the restaurant, and Vartox is heading back to Earth.

Action 549 coverAction #549 – “Superman Meets the Zod Squad” – Cary Bates/Alex Saviuk/Vince Colletta

Last issue, four criminals escaped from the Phantom Zone using a chunk of Jewel Kryptonite and came to Earth after making some kind of sacred vow. A race of aliens found the remnants of Argo City and headed for Earth to look for survivors of Krypton. Meanwhile, Clark, Lana, and Lois received assignments at the Daily planet to report on a couple of new “citizens’ groups” that are helping to take back the streets from the criminals. Jimmy Olsen returns to the Daily Planet from his assignment (which was boring as hell) and runs into Lana, who says Lois is following up on their assignment about a martial arts instructor who teaches self-defense to women. Clark comes in, all excited about his story on the Guardian Angels—sorry, I mean the White Wildcats—who patrol the streets and fight criminals. Lois has followed Mrs. Simpson, the martialLois confronts Faora artist, into the park because she’s suspicious of some moves she used at the gym. Lois’s suspicions prove true and she finds herself surrounded by burning trees. Mrs. Simpson turns out to be Faora and she lit up the trees with her heat vision to get Lois’s attention. Lois suspected her true identity, since she recognized her use of the Kryptonian martial art Horu-Kanu, which only Faora knows. (no, it’s not the same as Kluklor … completely different skill set.) Faora says she doesn’t want to hurt Lois, she just wants to talk. Clark has been keeping tabs on the Wildcats’ leader, Curtis Sliwa—sorry, I mean Sonny Chilwa—and sees him head out to meet the Commandant, who’s been supplying the Wildcats with Kryptonian tech. Superman follows Sonny to a warehouse where the Commandant provides him with some fancy Superman pounds villainsneutralizer guns. When Sonny mentions being interviewed by Clark Kent, the Commandant sends an alert to his confederates. One of them is disguised as a crossing guard and prevents an accident with his bare hands before taking off. The other is getting jumped in an alley and beats the shit out of the muggers, then flies away. Superman busts in on the Commandant, who turns out to be General Zod (as I’m sure you’ve already guessed). When the other two show up, Superman pounds all of them, but has to hold off when Faora shows up with Lois. Faora drops her and two of the villains grab Superman to prevent him from catching her. Instead, she’s saved by Zod, who says he needed to make Superman stop fighting and listen. Lois admits that Faora never harmed her, but Superman has a hard time believing Zod and the rest would come to Earth to help fight crime. Zod mentions the sacred oath they took not toSuperman teleported to Vrang ship commit any crimes until their main vow was fulfilled. Zod says they learned that the Vrangs, aliens who once attacked Krypton and almost enslaved the entire planet, are heading for Earth. Zod says their hatred for the Vrangs is even stronger than for Superman but he’s not sure whether to believe them. Turns out they’re not lying, as Superman finds out when a Vrang teleport beam snatches him up to the alien ship in orbit. The four phantom Zone criminals fly up to confront the Vrangs, vowing to wipe them out. On the ship, Superman is held motionless in a nullo-field (which draws its power from the sun, just as he does) while the Vrangs taunt him. We learn of the history of the Vrangs and how they invaded Krypton millennia ago. The Vrangs considered gems from the Jewel Kryptonian history lessonMountains of Krypton to be extremely valuable, but the jewels were toxic to the Vrangs, so they enslaved Kryptonians to work the gems. A Kryptonian named Val-or led a rebellion (and got killed for it) that overcame the Vrangs and freed Krypton, but ever since then all Kryptonians have had a deep hatred of Vrangs. The Phantom Zone criminals attack the Vrang ship and the aliens draw them closer with a couple of ineffectual attacks. When the Kryptonians close in, the Vrangs blast two of them (Tyb-ol and Murkk) with a ray that disintegrates them. I knew those guys were Redshirts as soon as I saw them. Zod and Faora have a back-up plan and head off to implement it, leaving the Vrangs to shore up their own defenses. Superman exerts all his will to overcome the nullo-beams and move his hand even a tiny bit. Zod and Phantom Zone villains attack VrangsFaora retrieve the Jewel Kryptonite fragment that freed them from the Phantom Zone. Since they’re attuned to it, they can overload the fragment and detonate it like a bomb, blowing the Vrangs (who are vulnerable to Jewel K) to hell. The backlash will also kill Zod and Faora unless they can reverse their mental energy at the last moment before detonation, sending themselves back into the Phantom Zone. They’re not thrilled about going back into the zone, but they took a sacred oath and have to see it through. On the bright side, the Jewel K explosion will also kill Superman, so at least they’ll be rid of him too. On the ship, Superman has managed to twist his body against the pull of the nullo-Superman busts loosebeams, but since the beams are unbreakable, the entire ship starts rotating like crazy. The Vrangs stabilize it but that draws some power from the nullo-beams and Superman busts loose. Superman starts smashing stuff but the Vrangs are distracted when they realize Zod and Faora are attacking them with Jewel Kryptonite. They try to shoot the deadly duo, but the criminals detonate the Jewel K and blow the Vrang ship to pieces. Zod and Faora’s plan works and they find themselves exiled back to the Phantom Zone, but they console themselves with eliminating the Vrang and Superman. Well, one out of two ain’t bad; Superman appears in the Phantom Zone toVrangs blown to hell tell them he figured out their plan and copied their idea, telepathically linking with the Jewel K to hitch a ride to the Zone at the moment of the explosion. Zod figures Superman is trapped there with them, but Superman saved a tiny piece of Jewel K, enough to will himself back to his own dimension. He crushes the last piece of Jewel Kryptonite as Zod vows revenge from inside the Zone.

Noticeable Things:

  • In case you’re wondering why the Vrangs didn’t grab Supergirl too, she’s said to be away on a deep space mission.
  • I like generally Alex Saviuk’s art, although it’s not quite as polished as it will be a few years later on Web of Spider-Man. He does have certain tics (like most artists) that I can definitely recognize.

DC Comics Presents 63 coverDC Comics Presents #63 – “Worlds to Conquer” – Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn/Alex Saviuk/Ernie Colon, Bob Smith. Gary Martin

This one starts in Gemworld, where Prince Carnelian is hiding out at Lord Sardonyx’s castle. Sardonyx has been helping Carnelian in his plots, but doesn’t want Carnelian’s father (Dark Opal) to find out. Princess Amethyst is attacking the castle and Sardonyx opens a portal to Earth. Carnelian jumps through, but Amethyst busts in and follows him, materializing in Metropolis as 13-year-old Amy Winston. Luckily Amy is right outside the Galaxy Building and manages to get Superman’s attention. She gives Superman (and us) a rundown of her story: she thought she was a regular girl but turned out to be from Gemworld, a dimension ruled by magic. Her parents ruled Gemworld until they were murdered and she wasAmethyst tells her story sent to Earth to keep her safe. Recently she was called back to save Gemworld from the evil Dark Opal. Because of magic and timey-wimey dimensional stuff, 13-year-old Amy becomes 20-year-old Amethyst when she gets to Gemworld (and gains magical powers). She says Carnelian is actually from Earth but was taken to Gemworld when Amy was sent here. Dark Opal adopted Carnelian because all his real kids are monsters and now Carnelian comes here (and to other worlds) to get tech, which is rare in Gemworld. Meanwhile, Carnelian (who has also gotten younger after coming to Earth) goes to SKULL to get an artificial hand. He terrorizes them into giving him one (by conjuring a monster to fight for him) and notices some Kryptonite they’ve Superman fights Carnelianbeen working on. When he touches the Kryptonite, he becomes an adult and gets his magical powers back. Superman has been searching for Carnelian with no luck and is about ready to give up. Carnelian materializes and grabs Amy but her screams bring Superman to the rescue. Unfortunately, not only does Carnelian have magic (to which Superman is vulnerable), he also has the Kryptonite he took from SKULL. Carnelian has embedded the Kryptonite in his artificial hand and is channeling his magic through it, so it’s doubly effective against Superman. Amy tries to help, but without her powers all she can do is give advice on how to fight Carnelian’s magic. Carnelian’s monster grabs Amy and Carnelian beats the shit out of Superman and tosses him off the roof. Before he can grab Amy’s gem (which allows her to travelSuperman meets Citrina back and forth to Gemworld) she throws it off the roof. Carnelian and the monster conjure a portal and drag Amy back to Gemworld. Superman quickly recovers as soon as the Kryptonite is gone and catches Amy’s gem as it falls from the roof. He uses the gem to open a portal to Genworld and ends up in Castle Amethyst where he meets Amethyst’s mentor, Citrina. In his own castle, Dark Opal feels his magic fading and his lackey Sardonyx comes in to tell him Carnelian is responsible. Meanwhile, Amethyst’s powers have returned but aren’t at full strength since she doesn’t have her gem. She fights Carnelian anyway, but the combination of sorcery and Kryptonite radiation is screwing with Gemworld’s magic somehow. Superman shows up and gets blasted, but it’s Superman and Amethyst face Carnelianjust a trick to get close enough to deck Carnelian. Superman says Kryptonite can’t affect him when he doesn’t have his powers, so he had Citrina remove them and lock them in Amethyst’s gem, which he returns to her. I’m not sure about that logic; Superman is still Kryptonian without his powers, so why wouldn’t Kryptonite affect him? Maybe Citrina turned him fully human? Amethyst returns Superman’s powers and they team up against Carnelian, whose combination of Kryptonite and magic has made the Kryptonite dangerously unstable. Dark Opal and Sardonyx show up and Sardonyx urges Opal to attack both Superman and Carnelian. Amethyst conjures a fire truck (!) against Carnelian while Superman pounds the monster. Dark Opal attacks Superman, choking him in mystic tendrils, and Carnelian blastsfire truck Amethyst. Dark Opal demands the Kryptonite “gem” from his son, who’s reluctant to give it up. Amethyst frees Superman and they realize the Kryptonite is close to exploding in a massive chain reaction. Since the Gemworlders don’t yet grasp the extent of Superman’s abilities, Amethyst conjures a double of Superman which distracts Dark Opal long enough for the real Man of Steel to zip down at super-speed and grab the Kryptonite. Amethyst protects him with a magical shield and sends him through a portal to Earth, where the Kryptonite explodes harmlessly. Superman wonders if Amethyst was caught Superman back on Earthin the backlash and is surprised to see a little dragon-type creature holding the Kryptonite remnant, which has been turned to normal stone. Before disappearing, the dragon-thing conjures a bouquet of purple roses to let Superman know Amethyst is fine. This was obviously just a way to showcase Amethyst’s series, which was on issue 7 at this point. This isn’t a bad story, but I never much cared about Amethyst and this issue hasn’t changed my mind.

Warlord 74 coverWarlord #74 – “Home Again, Home Again” – Cary Burkett/Dan Jurgens/Dan Adkins

If you’re wondering why I’m reviewing the October issue of Warlord with the November issues of the other comics, it’s because I did the 1983 Warlord Annual last time, so that pushed everything back a month. Things will get back to normal when I start the 1984 reviews. This issue continues straight from the Annual, with Travis Morgan and Krystovar sailing away from the New Atlantean cavern in their stolen ship. Morgan is tempted to go back and investigate all the futuristic tech he found and its connection to the U.S. Air Force that’s implied by the strange cassette he found with a stylized USAF logo on it. But ultimately, he decides to head back to Shamballah to see Tara, since he’s been away so long. Morgan and Krystovar sell their ship in Bakwele, cross the swamp, and head into the forest toward Shamballah. While camped, Krystovar explains whyescaping the fire the New Atlantean culture differs so much from Skartaris, which was originally populated by Atlanteans too. Apparently, ancient Atlantis consisted of seven kingdoms; Skartarians are descended from Hallenia, while the New Atlanteans came from Balbaronia. Neither of them notice a raven watching their campsite and flying off, as if to report to someone. Later, Morgan wakes to find the campfire has gone wild and they’re surrounded by flames. They climb a tree and make like Johnny Weismuller (a reference Krystovar doesn’t get) to swing to safety. As soon as they’re clear, the fire dies away, telling Krystovar it was magical in nature. Morgan and Krystovar Morgan sneaks inreach Shamballah, but the guards at the gate refuse to let Morgan in, on orders of the Queen. Morgan knows one of the guards (Trogero), who tells him to get lost but shoots an arrow with a message scratched on it. Morgan and Krystovar go to the East Tower where Trogero lowers a rope for them. He tells Morgan Tara is really pissed off and has ordered him kept out of the city. Morgan sneaks into the palace to see Tara and she’s not really surprised he made it inside. She tells him she’s sick of him taking off all the time and that she needs a real husband, not someone addicted to adventure and wanderlust. Morgan says he loves her and she admits she loves him too, but can’t deal with himTara and Morgan reunite always leaving. Her feelings are stirred up and she says she needs time to think, but asks him not to leave yet. Morgan vows to himself not to leave again and intends to toss the mysterious USAF cassette in the fire … but decides not to at the last second. Meanwhile, the raven who was watching Morgan before is flying around outside the palace.

Barren Earth – “A Quiet Night” – Gary Cohn/Ron Randall

As the title says, this is a downtime story. Jinal and Barasha (the Harahashan leader) sit and talk as they watch the desert night. Barasha congratulates Jinal on uniting the Lizards and humans, but Jinal wonders if she’d have been better off dying in the desert. She tells Barasha her ship held over six hundred people (including her boyfriend), all of whom are now Barasha gives Jinal some advicedead. Barasha asks why the ship was coming here in the first place and Jinal gives him a rundown of human history. Humans originated here (on Earth) millennia ago, then migrated to the stars where they encountered aliens called Qlov. The Qlov attacked immediately, with no provocation, beginning a war that’s lasted thousands of years. Humans were sent back to Earth to establish strategic bases, but the war ended up bypassing this sector and the humans manning the bases fell into barbarism over the centuries. The war has expanded now, so Jinal’s ship was sent to re-establish contact with the bases, but they’ve forgotten their original mission and will be pretty much useless against the Qlov. Barasha says the planet has resources Jinal is unaware of. He recites a poem that tells her to stop holding onto the past and look to the future.

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