Comics Reviews: DC Comics Presents Annual 2, Superman Annual 9

DC Comics Presents Annual 2 coverDC Comics Presents Annual #2 – “The Last Secret Identity” – Elliot S! Maggin/Keith Pollard/Mike DeCarlo, Tod Smith

This is one of those goofy Silver Age-type stories that old time fans seem to like so much. I’ve never been a huge fan of those, although this one’s certainly well told. It could even fall under the category of “Imaginary Story”, but it’s presented as if we’re meant to take it seriously. I can’t imagine it being canon post-Crisis though. Anyway, it starts in the year 2862, where history teacher Kristin Wells is lecturing her class on ancient history … specifically, the year 1983. (I have to say, teachers sure dress a lot sexier in the future.) Kristin specializes in super-heroes (apparently she’s a character from a Superman novel written by Elliot S! Maggin, so I guess this story is a bit of cross-promotion) andKristin lectures the history class naturally most of their secret identities are known by that time. But Kristin tells her class there’s one very mysterious super-hero who popped up in 1983, and whose identity is still unknown … Superwoman. The class watches some of Superwoman’s exploits (like saving a lane from crashing), but aren’t too impressed, pointing out that almost anyone in their own time period could do that sort of thing thanks to high tech anti-gravity and decorporealization devices. The class suggests Kristin petition the university to send her back in time to figure out who Superwoman really was and she agrees. After making the trip nine centuries into the past, Kristin heads to the Daily Planet, where she meets Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. Jimmy’s quite taken Kristin meets Jimmywith her, but she has no interest in him even when he invites her to a costume party at Morgan Edge’s place. Kristin impresses Lois Lane by typing up part of a manuscript Lois has been working on at top speed. Kristin actually cheats a bit; since Lois’s book will end up being widely read, Kristin simply brought the whole thing back with her so she could pretend to retype it and give Lois some of the pages to impress her. While pretending to work in Lois’s office, Kristin snoops in her closet and finds a Superwoman outfit. She figures she’s already solved the mystery … Superwoman is really Lois Lane. Clark comes in and greets Kristin (they met during the aforementioned novel and Kristin is aware of Clark’s secret identity). In the outer reaches of the solar system, an alien tyrant named King Kosmos (who seems to haveKristin urges Lois to help Superman amnesia) shows up out of nowhere and decides to conquer Earth. Meanwhile, Kristin explains why she came to the past and asks Clark about Superwoman, but he says he hasn’t met her yet. When Kristin finds out the date, she mentions that it’s the day King Kosmos attacked and sure enough, Kosmos’s spaceship shows up over Metropolis. Clark changes to Superman and heads out to confront him, but Kristin is worried; she knows Kosmos is capable of beating Superman and also knows Superwoman will help him defeat the invader. She goes to Lois, urging her to put on the Superwoman costume and help Superman, who’s already having trouble against Kosmos’s advanced tech. Lois says the costume is actually for Clark’s Superman blasted into the pastcousin, Linda Danvers (aka Supergirl, though Lois doesn’t know that), for Morgan Edge’s party. Kristin tries to call Linda, but she’s on a plane halfway to Metropolis. Superman manages to reach Kosmos’s ship, but gets blasted with a ray that seems to disintegrate him. Kristin is worried until Clark shows up at the office and explains he was actually thrown back in time. Kristin drags him into the coat room to tell him about King Kosmos, which makes Jimmy kinda jealous, although Lois seems cool with it. Kristin tells Clark about Kosmos: he’s a tyrant from an alternate future, he conquered and destroyed his own planet, and now he’s come here to look for fresh victims, blah, blah, blah. Clark and Kristin go for a walk and she points out a kid who’s about to be run over by a car. Clark saves the kid without turning into Superman andClark saves a kid wonders how Kristin could have historical knowledge of something so trivial. Kristin doesn’t tell him, but she recognizes the kid as someone who grows up to be a leading industrialist … and endows a university scholarship in Clark’s name. At Morgan Edge’s party, people are dressed in various costumes: Batman , Flash, Ponce de Leon, gangster, sexy cheetah girl, and even Spider-Man. Jimmy (who’s dressed as Elastic Lad) tries to woo Kristin again, but she’s still not interested. Kristin’s wearing a yellow leotard, but I have no clue who she’s supposed to be; it actually looks a lot like the outfit she wore as a teacher in the 29th Century. Clark shows up (without a costume partycostume) with Linda, who has decided to dress like a princess instead of Superwoman, which kills Kristin’s theory about Supergirl and Superwoman being one and the same. Kristin follows Clark into another room (making Jimmy jealous again) and asks if he told Linda not to wear the Superwoman outfit just to fuck up her mission. Clark says he’s more worried about Kosmos than Kristin’s mission and his worries prove true when a mushroom cloud erupts across the city. Clark changes to Superman and goes to check it out, but it turns out to be an illusion, so he races back to Edge’s townhouse. Kosmos has tracked Superman’s power (and another power source) to the house and now uses a weapon to knock out everyone inside … except Kristin, who uses her future tech to protect herself. When Kristin sees that even Clark and Linda are knocked out, she finally realizes who SuperwomanKristin becomes Superwoman is and rushes to the adjoining room for the costume. Yeah, most of you probably figured it out a while ago (Superwoman does have red hair, just like Kristin), but Kristin herself is Superwoman. Kosmos broadcasts across Earth that he’s taking over the planet, and demonstrates his power by knocking out all the other super-heroes. He says he’s taken over the nuclear arsenals of the world, but before he can threaten anything else, Superwoman flies up into orbit to confront him. Kosmos launches a nuclear strike on Dallas and while Superwoman is distracted, he decks her. Kosmos teleports his ship away, leaving Superwoman to plummet back to Earth. Luckily, Clark has recovered from Kosmos’s attack, so Superman flies up to catch his reactor through space warpcounterpart, who he immediately recognizes as Kristin. She explains how her time beacon protected her from Kosmos’s attack because it technically holds her “outside” of the present, as an observer. She tells Superman to meet her in Dallas and transports herself there instantly. When Superman catches up, Kristin tells him to bring the nuclear reactor that’s falling toward the city even closer. Superman finds that strange, but does it anyway, and Kristin creates a space warp that sends Superman and the reactor to a distant part of space. He destroys the reactor and zooms back to Earth, to find Kristin has left a message he can only see with his x-ray vision: Washington, D.C. April 14, 1865. Kosmos has gone back to the time right after Lincoln’s assassination to take advantage of the chaos and hysteria of the time. (Apparently, people were really out of it, seeing angels, demons, and allKristin saves Superman kinds of crazy shit, so Kosmos’s spaceship would just be written off as more hysteria in the history books.) Superwoman confronts Kosmos and manages to get him out of his ship using more of her future tech. Superman shows up and gets blasted by a ray that creates a pocket of red sun energy around him. Superwoman knocks him free and they chase Kosmos farther back into the time-stream. Superwoman actually catches up to Kosmos first, but refuses to touch him, so Superman finally grabs him. Superwoman knocks Kosmos’s controller out of his hand and he disappears into the time-stream, everywhere and nowhere at once. (Kristin hints that Superman may encounter him again someday, but I’m not sure that ever Superman beats Kosmoshappens.) Kristin explains that history claims Superman as beating Kosmos, so she had to let him do it. They return to 1983 and Clark tells Jimmy and Lois that he was out getting an exclusive interview with Superwoman. (He tells Linda he’ll explain everything to her later.) While Clark and Kristin are talking, Jimmy comes in and Kristin immediately grabs Clark and lays a big smooch on him before leaving. Jimmy is pissed off, although Clark says he really hadn’t been encouraging Kristin at all. Kristin goes back to her own time (and her sexy schoolteacher outfit) to tell the class what she learned. One of her students asks why she was so cold to Jimmy (who apparently got pretty famous later on) and Kristin admits she’s actually one of Jimmy’sKristin puts the moves on Clark descendants, so making out with him would’ve been pretty gross. Not exactly a shocking development, since Kristin and Jimmy really look alike, right down to the freckles. The student mentions that there were other instances of Superwoman in the late 20th Century, so Kristin will probably go back sometime, but Kristin says that period of history is hazy … I guess Maggin was hoping there’d be more Superwoman stories, but didn’t know if there’d be a market for them. Superwoman will appear again in a couple years in another DC Presents Annual.

Superman Annual 9 coverSuperman Annual #9 – “Villain, Villain, Who’s Got the Villain?” – Elliot S! Maggin/Alex Toth/Terry Austin

This one starts with a space probe gathering some debris from an asteroid field. Since the probe belongs to Lex Luthor, we can probably assume it’s gathering kryptonite to use against Superman. Speaking of the Man of Steel, he’s pounding some weapons dealers in Metropolis, aided by Batman who brings in the ringleader. As Superman hauls the crooks off to jail, he’s seen by a young medical student named Reston, who has a secret meeting with none other than Luthor. Reston is whisked into an underground bunker where he does something for Luthor, although we’re not shown exactly what. When Reston leaves, he finds himself pursued by an unknownSuperman busts into the subway car foe, who turns out to be Batman. Batman knows Reston was meeting with Luthor and forces him to spill everything he knows. Batman later meets with Superman and they plan strategy before heading home. The next day (after dealing with one of Steve Lombard’s idiotic jokes) Clark hears a siren and quickly changes to Superman, zooming down the street and flying through the ground into the subway system. Some hijackers have taken over a subway car with a high tech device that renders it invisible to even Superman’s x-ray vision. But they’re communicating with the authorities by radio, which gives Supes the chance to track them and bust into the subway car. One of the thieves Superman brings the subway above groundshoots him with a photon blaster that adheres to Superman’s ultra-dense skin and propels him up into space. He finally dissipates the photons with his heat vision and heads back down to confront the thieves. After letting the legitimate passengers off, Superman brings the whole subway car above ground and shakes the hijackers loose for the cops (which seems like overkill to me). Superman heads down into the subway and finds the hijackers’ leader (Luthor, of course) in a hidden bunker. Luthor is ready for the Man of Steel and pulls out a chunk of red kryptonite. Red K is different from most forms of kryptonite, in that each piece has a different (and usually weird) effect on its victims. Luthor (with help from Reston) has figured out what this particular piece will do and refined it to work just the way he wants. The red kryptonite causes its victimSuperman transformed into a duplicate Luthor to transform into an exact duplicate of whoever’s closest to them. That’s right, Superman turns into a duplicate of Luthor, bald head and all. Luthor injects Superman with something to make the change permanent, then puts the rest of his plan in motion. Luthor calls a press conference and announces that he’s Erasmus Luthor, Lex’s non-evil twin. Lex has kept Erasmus prisoner for years, forcing him to work on diabolical devices, but Erasmus has finally escaped and captured his villainous twin. “Erasmus” sends Superman (who looks just like Luthor, especially since Luthor has dressed him in his purple and green costume) to the cops, and tells them to check his fingerprints. Naturally the prints match, since Supes is now Luthor’s exact double, and Batman saves Luthorthey haul him off to jail. Batman watches on TV from Clark’s apartment, but does nothing. Of course, to make people believe “Erasmus” is for real, Luthor has to pretend to be selfless and benevolent, so he goes to apply for a research job at Metropolis University. His helicopter almost crashes, but he’s saved by Batman, who warns him to use the front door next time. “Erasmus” gets the job and within a short time, he’s already discovered cures for diseases, revolutionized agriculture, and come up with new machines for therapy. But Luthor is still power-hungry and decides to make his move, capitalizing on the goodwill Erasmus has gained. As Erasmus calls another press conference, we see Luthor sitting quite comfortably in the warden’s office in prison and he tells the warden the charade has gone on long enough. That sentiment is shared by someone else: Batman, who we see peeling his costume off to reveal … aSuperman and Batman bust in on the press conference Superman costume underneath. As Erasmus broadcasts an appeal to all the world governments to give him unfettered access to their monetary and scientific resources, Superman and Batman bust in on the press conference. Luthor is stunned and tries to escape as his men jump the two heroes. Batman makes his way through Luthor’s smokescreen and pounds the villain, while Superman mops up the crooks. Luthor wonders how they defeated his scheme and Batman says they were onto him all along, since he scared Reston into spilling his guts. Batman took Superman’s place in the subway tunnel, so he was the one exposed to the Red K. Batman disguised himself as Luthor and Batman gets Luthorwent to jail (the warden was in on it, which is why he said the fingerprints matched) and Superman took Batman’s place, even saving Luthor during the chopper crash. Luthor wonders why they didn’t bust him right away and Batman says his ruse as Erasmus caused Luthor to concoct cures and therapies that will benefit mankind for years to come, so they let him go ahead until he decided to make his power grab. Luthor says Batman is a real pain, a sentiment Superman echoes later when Batman plays a stupid joke on him. With the old-fashioned art and the convoluted storyline, this could easily pass for a Silver (or Golden) Age story.

“I Flew With Superman” – Elliot S! Maggin, Cary Bates/Curt Swan

This is a meta story about Curt Swan (longtime Superman artist) falling asleep at his drawing board and dreaming he wakes up in Metropolis. HeSuperman takes Curt Swan flying goes to see Clark Kent to ask for Superman’s help getting back to Earth Prime (in other words, our world), but Superman has to stop some armed muggers first. Superman takes Swan through the dimensional barrier and he wakes up at his drawing board, assuming everything was a dream … except Superman’s fight with the muggers is on the drawing board. Swan figures he drew it in his sleep, but he can’t explain the smashed bullets from the muggers’ guns that Superman handed him right before sending him home.

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