Comics Reviews: Superman 390, Action 550, DC Comics Presents 64, Warlord 75

Superman 390 coverSuperman #390 – “Lost on a Comet” – Cary Bates (plot), Elliot S! Maggin/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt

This one starts with Vartox, in a deep state of unconsciousness, inside a comet in the far reaches of space. The comet runs into an alien spaceship, dislodging Vartox, who can’t remember who he is or how he got there. His heroic instincts are intact though, and he immediately tries to help the stricken ship. On Earth, Clark Kent is over at Lana Lang’s place for dinner when Perry White calls with a tip about a construction crane that’s collapsed nearby. As Clark is on the phone, some weirdo in a cat burglar outfit climbs onto Lana’s balcony to give her a love letter. Lana’s not impressed and kicks the guy over the balcony. He’s saved by his rope, but decides to get out while he stillSuperman catches crane debris can. Clark is intrigued by the intruder, but has to change to Superman to deal with he falling crane. By the time he gets there, the crane has completely fallen and is plunging to the street. Before Superman can grab it, the crane is vapourized from above by plasma energy and he has to gather the hot debris before it hits the street. Superman knows right away his helper was Vartox and flies up to greet him, inviting him to hang out at his Fortress of Solitude. We see Lana’s admirer at home, watching her newscast. This dude is seriously obsessed; he has a shrine to Lana and talks to himself about how much he loves her. We can’t see his face, so I guess this is going to be an ongoing mystery. The only guy I can think of who’s that obsessed with Lana is the Master Jailer, Superman and Vartox save skiersbut this guy isn’t wearing a costume. Farther north, Vartox tells Superman about waking up on the head of a comet and helping the ship the comet ran into. Vartox says his memory of how he got on the comet is screwed up, so he came to Superman for help. They save some skiers from an avalanche and Vartox admits he also came back to give his romance with Lana another try. Which is a tad awkward, since Clark is now dating her. At WGBS, Lana gets another gift from her secret admirer, who she tells Jimmy is a “sicko”. At the Fortress, Vartox actually takes the news of Clark and Lana dating pretty well, saying it’s his own fault for taking off. All of a sudden, Vartox goes nuts, attacking Superman (who refuses to fight back) and trying to kill him. He knocks the Man of Steel outside and ends up using some kind of red sun radiation to burn Superman to a crisp. Then Vartox realizes it was all in his head … heVartox attacks Superman and Superman are still talking in the Fortress. Superman didn’t notice Vartox’s weird mental digression and tells him he can stay at the Fortress as long as he likes. Superman heads back to Metropolis to attend a banquet and when he;s gone, Vartox freaks out, wondering why he’s losing control of his own mind. At the banquet, Clark and Lana try to stay awake as Perry drones on. Outside, Lana’s admirer tries to get in by claiming to be Clark, but the security guard throws him out on his ass. Unfortunately, he can’t stop the next party-crasher, Vartox, who tosses him aside and phases through the door, probably looking to waste Clark for stealing is woman. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see how that plays out.

Action 550 coverAction #550 – “The Day the Earth Exploded” – E. Nelson Bridwell (plot), Bob Rozakis/George Tuska/Sal Trapani

This one starts with Clark Kent and Lana Lang doing a news report about an attack on a jet at Metropolis airport that morning. A costumed weirdo calling himself the Exploder tossed a bomb at a jet and by the time Superman saved the jet from crashing, Exploder was long gone. Lana wants to tell Clark that her father was on the plane Superman saved, but a bulletin comes in about a massive underwater explosion near New Guinea and Clark slips away to change to Superman, hoping to take care of the crisis during the commercial break. Near New Guinea, Superman sees that the underwater explosion has actually moved the tectonic plate that New Guinea rests on, shifting the entire island (and Australia!) southward. Superman stops thesaving Australia accelerated continental drift and looks for the cause of the explosion. It doesn’t look natural, but he can’t find any chemical traces to indicate it was man-made either … and he thinks no one on Earth could build a bomb that powerful anyway. Clark returns to WGBS just in time to announce the news about Superman saving Australia and after the show, Lana says she knows how Clark got that exclusive news … he’s working with Superman. Clark lets her believe that and she mentions her father again, saying he’s made some big archaeological discovery and invites Clark to the museum tomorrow to see it. At the museum, Professor Lang shows them his discovery, a fragment of what appears to be plastic with unknown writing on it. The really fascinating part is that it’s about 220 million years old, so it goes back to the Exploder steals fragment from Professor Langtime of the dinosaurs, before humans even existed. Jimmy Olsen says it looks familiar and mention a similar fragment that his father found on a dig. (I always thought Jimmy was an orphan … since when does he know his father?) Professor Lang doesn’t think the two are related, since he found this fragment in Egypt and Jimmy’s dad found his in South America. Before they can discuss it further, a bright light blinds everyone (except Clark) and the Exploder shows up and grabs the fragment. Clark changes to Superman and chases the Exploder, but the thief teleports away in a flash of light. Superman figures Exploder’s attack on the jet yesterday must’ve been an attempt to get the fragment. In the museum, jimmy took a photo of the Exploder and asks Clark to get it developed while he checks something out. At WGBS, Lana tells Clark about a mysterious new satellite in orbit thatbomb blows up in space nobody is claiming, so Superman goes to take a look. The satellite is definitely alien, but it’s completely empty inside. Superman sees a flash of light down in Asia and streaks earthward to find another powerful bomb in the Himalayas … powerful enough to separate India from the rest of the continent. Superman takes the bomb to space before it finishes exploding, where it detonates harmlessly. Again he can find no clues to who planted the bomb and he’s interrupted by an emergency signal from Jimmy. Superman zooms back to Metropolis and finds Exploder ransacking Jimmy’s place. Jimmy had the ancient fragment his father found and Exploder obviously wants it. He tosses another bomb that Superman smothers, but Exploder gets away smothering bomb at Jimmy's placeagain … without the fragment. Superman takes it, figuring if Exploder can track the fragments somehow, he’ll have to come after Superman to get this one. At WGBS, Clark runs into the puzzle editor for the Daily Planet (Connie Hatch), who gives him the clue he needs to figure out what’s going on. He realizes that if all the explosions he’s thwarted lately had worked the way they were intended, the continents would be pushed back together the way they were about 220 million years ago. Superman heads out into space and finds an alien ship, where he’s soon transported aboard. All the aliens look like the Exploder and Superman soon learns their purpose for being here. Millions of years ago, one of their race hid fragments of a disk on Earth, which was still one primordial landmass (Pangaea) back then.aliens tell their story These aliens are basically immortal, which means they get bored easily, and the hidden disk was to serve as the prize in a cosmic treasure hunt. So, I guess this is an extreme form of geo-caching. They scoured the galaxy for millions of years and finally found the right planet, but since the continents are now spread apart, they want to push them back together to find the fragments more easily. Superman can’t let them rearrange Earth, so he volunteers to find the missing fragments for them. Their ancient map indicates the fragments were hidden in a diamond pattern, so Superman quickly finds the missing pieces in Antarctica, Africa, and California. Once the fragments are Superman retrieves missing piecesreassembled, they point the way to the next step in the hunt, which is on the fifth planet of the solar system. Superman points out that the fifth planet no longer exists, it’s now the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The aliens aren’t discouraged, saying the prize is indestructible. They beam Superman off the ship and blow up the artificial satellite before taking off to continue their hunt. Superman is a little pissed off that he never learned where they’re from, or even what they call themselves.

DC Presents 64 coverDC Comics Presents #64 – “May You Live in Interesting Times” – Mark Evanier/Alex Saviuk/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with a TV host named Victor Epoch doing a story about the future; specifically, he asks Superman how he traveled into the future and Superman says it has to do with breaking the light speed barrier while circling the Earth. Victor is actually kind of bitter, figuring he’s going to miss out on so much stuff that he won’t be around for in the future, so he builds a huge gyroscope (nuclear powered!) and sets it spinning. He figures if he can spin it fast enough, he might get a look into the future, even if he can’t actually go there. As usual with these sorts of crazy experiments, something goes wrong. Superman first indication of trouble is when he notices a section of Metropolis (which was fine onlySuperman examines rubble hours earlier) lying in rubble, like the aftermath of a nuclear war. Superman’s x-ray vision tells him the ruin was caused by old age, not an explosion. As he examines the rubble, he realizes it’s a couple centuries out of date … forward. Nearby, a couple of tiger-men stalk Kamandi, hoping to eliminate him for the trouble he’s caused their leader, Caesar. When the tiger-men notice the modern Metropolis, completely intact, they forget Kamandi and go to investigate. Clark is heading to work, pondering how part of Metropolis seems to be sliding into the future, when Jimmy tells him the crisis is getting worse. Clark hears people screaming for help and ducks out on Jimmy, changing to Superman so he can stop the tiger-men from abducting a couple of Superman saves civiliansinnocent citizens. As the future zone expands, the Daily Planet staff are shocked to see a brontosaurus outside the windows, and even more shocked as the building turns into a ruin around them. Meanwhile, Kamandi has overheard that Caesar is headquartered in the ruined Daily Planet building and snoops around, hoping to learn why Caesar wants him captured. He gets knocked out and dragged to Caesar’s throne room. Superman is scouting nearby and sees what happened, so he busts in to confront Caesar (who is also a mutated tiger-man). Caesar says that humans are animals who attack his people and when he noticed the modern parts of Metropolis (full of “animals”), he thought the humans were preparing to invade. Obviously, he doesn’t know anything about the time shift, so Superman is stumped as to the cause. Kamandi has heard legends of Superman and begs for his help, so Superman grabs him Kamandi recognizes Supermanand flies him out of Caesar’s throne room. Caesar freaks and orders his army t gather and wipe out all the humans they can find. Meanwhile, Victor Epoch is pissed off that he hasn’t gotten his look at the future … until he goes outside and sees Metropolis turned into a ruined shithole. Before he can go back and turn off his machine, he’s caught by Caesar’s troops. Superman explains things to Kamandi, who asks him to help eliminate the beast-men who hunt the last remaining humans of his time. Superman realizes Kamandi’s future is just one possible future timeline and that he can’t stop it from happening. Before he can try to explain that to Kamandi, they hear a commotion and find Caesar’s men abducting more humans. Superman and Kamandi start Superman and Kamandi pound tiger-menpounding Caesar’s tiger-men, and Superman throws some of them into the tiger cage at the zoo (where one of the troops is scandalized because the female tiger in the cage with them is “naked”). Kamandi is captured and herded along with the other humans, where he meets Epoch. Superman knows the cause of the time shift must be nearby, so he changes to Clark Kent and lets himself get captured too. Epoch tells Clark about his lightspeed gyroscope and Clark’s telescopic vision shows him the gyroscope is about to explode, taking both the present and future along with it. Clark “accidentally” breaks through the wall to free himself and the other prisoners, then takes off to change into Superman. On his way to Epoch’s lab, Superman is hit by a chronal beam that sends him through time. Kamandi and Epoch head for the lab to shut down the gyroscope, but Epoch is captured leaving Kamandi to fight his wayshutting down the gyroscope through to the lab. Superman breaks through the time barrier and returns in time to save Kamandi from getting blasted, and Kamandi tells him how to shut down the gyroscope. (Epoch told Kamandi how to shut it off before they were separated.) As soon as the gyroscope stops, everything goes back to normal and Kamandi disappears. Epoch shows up and smashes the gyroscope, apologizing for causing so much trouble. Superman says if he wants to see the future, he’ll take him for a time-jaunt, but Epoch has decided his brief glimpse of what may come was enough … he’s happy to live in the here and now.

Warlord 75 coverWarlord #75 – “All Dreams Must Pass” – Cary Burkett/Dan Jurgens/Bob Smith

If you’re wondering why I’m reviewing the November issue with the December issues of other comics, the Warlord Annual threw things out of synch; I’ll do the December issue in a couple weeks. This one starts with Graemore (Tara’s friend and sometime lover) finding out Travis Morgan has returned to Shamballah. Graemore wonders how long Morgan will stick around this time. Tara’s been wondering the same thing and asks Morgan as they go out for a ride. She says she’d like to go off adventuring too, but her responsibilities as Queen keep her from walking away from her people. Morgan says people can take care of themselves and mentions Machiste’s long absence from Kiro. Tara tells him Kiro has really gone downhill, torn apart by power-hungry factions fightingMorgan reaps the whirlwind for control, and beset from the outside by Therans and other raiders. Tara vows not to let the same thing happen to Shamballah. Meanwhile, Lord Saber-tooth and his beast men sail out from New Atlantis, looking for revenge against Morgan and Krystovar for defeating them and destroying their beast-changer machine (in the aforementioned Annual). Morgan and Tara are still talking about the future, followed by the strange raven that was spying on Morgan last issue. A whirlwind springs up out of nowhere and takes Morgan up into the air. He can hardly breathe, but manages to stop spinning by jamming his sword into a tree and holding on for dear life as the whirlwind flies off. Tara is relieved he’s all right, so she obviously still Saaba contacts Saber-toothloves him. The raven flies off to a hut in the forest, where it turns back into its true form … the witch Saaba (who still has a grudge against Morgan from his defeat of her back in issue 16). Saaba is the one who conjured the whirlwind, and the witchfire that attacked Morgan and Krystovar last issue. She gazes into her crystal ball and focuses on Lord Saber-tooth, who hates Morgan as much as she does. In the palace at Shamballah, Graemore asks Tara if she believes Morgan will actually stay with her this time. She’s not sure, but she does love him, so whatever she and Graemore had is over. Graemore’s pretty chill about that, saying he’ll be waiting for her when Morgan inevitably gets wanderlust again. Morgan is teaching some local kids to play basketball and contemplating the strange recording tape he found in New Atlantis, which seems to be centuries old but has a U.S. AirMorgan gets info from the Atlantean computer Force insignia on it. Krystovar returns from research in the palace library and mentions the ancient Atlantean chamber under the city. Morgan tells him how the old computers there went nuts and they flooded the chamber to destroy them (in issue 15). Morgan takes Krystovar to see the chamber (the waters having flowed back to the river) and Krystovar idly wishes the computers could speak to them. A computer voice pipes up to say that back-up systems are engaged and are working to repair damage from the flood. Morgan decides to check the Air Force tape with the computer and finds out it’s about 50,000 years old and comes from the Atlantean kingdom of Balbaronia. The tape belonged to a Lieutenant Robert Cole, USAF, who was Saber-tooth's army attacksborn in 1977, but whose induction date was 2297 … 300 years in the future. Krystovar wonders how a relic from ancient Atlantis could have a future date, but before they can ponder it further, a kid shows up to tell Morgan Tara wants him. Apparently Kaambuka (home of Morgan’s old friend Ashir) has been attacked and overrun by warriors with strange advanced technology, and now they’re marching on Shamballah. Yup, it’s the New Atlanteans (who Morgan doesn’t recognize), led there by Saaba, who counseled Saber-tooth to eliminate Kaambuka first so they couldn’t rally to Shamballah’s defense. The New Atlanteans outnumber the Shamballans three-to-one and their tech gives them an edge. Between their futuristic cannons and Saaba’s magic, they easily breach the walls and slaughterMorgan decks Tara Shamballah’s defenders left and right. Morgan realizes the city is lost and urges Tara to escape to fight another day. She won’t desert her city, so Morgan decks her and retreats (with Graemore, Krystovar, and as many guards as they can gather) through the old Atlantean chambers under the city. Shamballah falls, but Saber-tooth is pissed off that Morgan is nowhere to be found. Outside, Morgan and Tara watch Shamballah burn and Tara wishes she was there, burning with it. Morgan assures her it’s not over, and promises they’ll win back the city somehow.

2 thoughts on “Comics Reviews: Superman 390, Action 550, DC Comics Presents 64, Warlord 75”

  1. While I liked Action Comics #550, it is basically a copy of the Supergirl story in Action Comics #363 called “”The Landmark Looters” from 1968. As these stories are only 16 years apart, I would think others have noticed this. Basically, there are alien brats playing games by stealing Earth landmarks and using them as a kind of Monopoly game. Supergirl actually turns them over her knee for a spanking, but they are super like her, so that doesn’t work (I never understood this concept-I mean other supervillains like the Phantom Zoners are super, but that doesn’t mean they can’t affect Supes and vice versa. It just means they are the same strength. But in several stories from the 60s when bratty children are super, spankings won’t work as they don’t feel it! *I guess I am overanalyzing it*) Anyway, so Supergirl has to contend with aliens who just think of Earth as a place to play regardless of the consequences to humanity.

    But in all fairness, while I was reminded of the earlier story, as the premise is the same, the actual denouement is quite different

    1. I think there was a theory in comics back in the Silver Age that the average reader only stuck with comics for five years, so after that they could recycle stories and nobody would notice. I remember another bratty aliens story where Lois is the one spanking them thanks to an empowering ray Superman surreptitiously hits her with (Lois thinks the aliens are kids in costume, that’s why she spanks them). So the concept is certainly well-used in Superman comics.

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