Comics Reviews: Superman 396, Action 556, DC Comics Presents 70, All-Star Squadron 34, Infinity Inc. 3

Superman 396 coverSuperman #396 – “The Battle for Superman’s Brain” – Joey Cavalieri/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt

This one starts with a big fake out; it looks like Superman is rescuing Jimmy Olsen from a bomb, but it turns out to be Greg Reed making another superman movie. The real Man of Steel is on set as technical consultant, but the director doesn’t take his dialogue suggestion, saying nobody will believe Superman’s brain can calculate faster than a supercomputer. There is someone who believes it though … a goofball named Intellex, the Brain Bandit. He’s observing Superman from a spaceship that he cobbled together from other ships. Apparently, Intellex started out collecting tech and switched to stealing brains, since brains have way more computational power. Intellex now has his sights set on Superman’s brain. (His helper robot suggests harvestingMasquerader saves Superman brains from heads of state, but Intellex says they turn to mush too quickly.) Intellex makes his move when Superman is helping with the Alaskan Pipeline. Intellex turns Superman’s heat vision back against him, but he underestimates Superman’s resilience and has to flee. Intellex attacks later, using some terrorists to blow up Mount Rushmore to get Superman’s attention. When he shows up, Intellex uses white sun energy to boost Superman’s powers, causing him to lose control. Before Intellex can follow up, Superman is saved by the appearance of another goofy-looking guy (in a green costume) called the Mystery Masquerader. I guess all the good names Intellex releases the viruswere taken. Masquerader saves Superman and Intellex takes off to study this new wrinkle in his plans. Superman and Masquerader rebuild Mount Rushmore and go their separate ways. Later, Superman is called to STAR Labs where they’re working on a cure for Virus Z (aka Zanzibar Flu) before it becomes a global pandemic; that’s rather prescient, considering what’s happening in the real world as I type this. The STAR scientists speculate that the virus originated in space, which means it could infect Superman. Intellex busts in and steals the virus, multiplying it and threatening to release it over Metropolis. Superman goes after him and Mystery Masquerader shows up to help, freezing the virus and throwing it into the sun. Intellex decides to pitSuperman wraps up Intellex Superman and Masquerader against each other, so he hypnotizes Masquerader (since Superman’s will is too strong to hypnotize) and orders him to attack the Man of Steel. Masquerader does as he’s told and Intellex brings both heroes aboard his spaceship. Masquerader finishes Superman off and Intellex puts him in his brain-draining machine. Masquerader offers to boost the machine’s functions, but ends up overloading it with his heat vision. Yeah, it turns out Mystery Masquerader was Superman all along, pretending to be hypnotized so he could get close enough to kick Intellex’s ass. So who’s Superman? Greg Reed of course; why else would they have shown him at the beginning of the story? As they wrap Intellex up, Superman and Greg explain how they used Superman’s powers to make it look like Greg was doing all those super-feats. Still no explanation for Masquerader’s goofy costume though.

Action 556 coverAction #556 – “Endings” – Marv Wolfman/Curt Swan/Kurt Schaffenberger

This one starts with a recap of the where Vandal Savage made Superman look bad to the public: goading Superman into smashing his robots (in Action 542); Superman going after the innocent Neutron (in 543); and Supes destroying the plants that Savage claimed could help humanity (in Action 553). There’s a lively debate at the Daily Planet over whether they should publish stories criticizing Superman or not. Clark suggests Savage may be setting Superman up, bu without proof Perry White is forced to tell the story the way it appears. After the meeting, Lana assures Clark that most of Metropolis is on Superman’s side and Clark actually considers telling her his secret identity. Before he can, some highfighting laser erasers tech losers (the Laser Erasers) show up in a flying machine and start blasting buildings, yelling for Superman to come face them. Clark changes to Superman and tackles them, taking them down pretty easily. He can’t figure out why the Laser Erasers would pull something so stupid, since none of their weapons could hurt him. We see Savage was behind the attack and it did have its desired effect … it made some members of the public realize that villains keep attacking in Metropolis because Superman is there. If he left, maybe the bad guys wouldn’t show up to blow the shit out of stuff. Savage tells his henchmen that he wants the public to associate Superman with danger and he’s willing to wait sonic disruptor makes Superman go wildas long as it takes for them to declare him a menace, which will compel Superman to leave. (This is a very Marvel-type story.) Savage does keep the pressure on, sending a sonic disruptor that shrieks into Superman’s ultra-sensitive ears, driving him nuts. He flies around like a maniac, smashing the shit out of stuff until Savage’s reconstructed Superman robots stop him and remove the disruptor. Of course, to the public it looks like Superman went nuts and the city was saved by Savage again. When the cops show up, some citizens call for Superman to be arrested and he willingly surrenders. Savage shows up to gloat and get the crowd even more worked up about Superman being a menace. Superman’s arraigned but released without bail because of his good deeds. Lois tells himSuperman talks to Batman most people still support him, even if his recent behaviour worries them. Superman says he’ll do whatever he can to regain their full trust. Superman goes off to contemplate his next move against savage. He comes up with an idea, but it’s a bit more underhanded than his usual style, so he runs it past Batman, who approves. (Superman also meets Jason Todd as Robin for the first time and Jason is thrilled.) Later, Clark sneaks into the Galaxy Building and plants an electronic device in the control booth. Lana catches him, but when he says he’s doing a favour for Superman, she promises to keep her mouth shut. Later, Superman goes to Abraxas to see Savage. Savage warns him not to try Savage taken down by his own egoanything, since he’s taping everything. Superman asks Savage why he’s setting him up to look bad and savage admits he did everything (the robots, Neutron, the plants, the Laser Erasers) to discredit Superman in the eyes of the public. Savage says people are stupid sheep and easy to manipulate, so he decided to use them to get rid of Superman, paving the way for savage to take over. Savage says he’ll win because Superman always falls back on violence to solve his problems. Superman says he actually prefers reason to violence and lets Savage know he’s using his intellect right now; Superman knew Savage would tape their encounter, so he brought a transmitter which is sending everything they’re saying to WGBS, where it’s being rebroadcast all over Metropolis. Now everyone knows Savage set Superman up, so it’s him they’ll distrust, not the Man of Steel. Superman leaves and by the time the cops show up, Savage is long gone.

DC Presents 70 coverDC Comics Presents #70 – “Survival of the Fittest” – Paul Kupperberg/Alex Saviuk/Tony DeZuniga

This one starts with some nutcase in New York trying to jump off the Empire State Building. he’s saved by the Metal Men, but instead of being grateful, he attacks them and Platinum has to take him down. In a hidden cave beneath Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, some weirdo is monitoring the Metal Men (who he seems to hate) and decides it’s time to make his move. Meanwhile in Metropolis, Superman stops a thief trying to escape in a hot-air balloon. In New Mexico, the Metal men are startled to find themselves suddenly transported to a barren cave. The weirdo who’s watching themMetal Men fight monsters (Otto Brisbane) tells them he can access their Responsometers and has decided to put them through some tests. He sends them to a bombed-out city-scape where they’re attacked by mutated monsters. The Metal Men make short work of the creatures, but Brisbane is just getting started. In Metropolis, Clark hears about the Metal Men disappearing from New York, but figures they can take care of themselves. In New Mexico, Brisbane sends the Metal Men to a freezing wasteland, where Tin and Mercury almost freeze solid. (There’s a lot of stuff in this issue about the various melting and freezing points of metals; I guess Kupperberg had a chemistry book handy.) The Metal Men work together to reflect sunlight down so Tin and Mercury are saved, but Superman drops in on the Metal MenBrisbane decides those two are a liability, so he makes them vanish. In Metropolis, Clark’s super-vision notices a glitch in the Daily Planet’s computer network, a glitch that shows the Metal Men in trouble. Clark changes to Superman and traces the signal to New Mexico. Brisbane has sent the Metal Men to a burning hot desert, where Lead begins to melt. Superman comes crashing in and immediately falls to the ground, since the sun in the sky is giving off red solar radiation. His powers reduced, Superman can’t help Lead. Luckily, Brisbane has concluded that none of his ‘test subjects” are up to snuff and removes them from the scenario. Apparently Brisbane is some kind of end-of-the-world prepper, trying to find subjects who can survive any conceivable Armageddon scenario. Once he finds an ideal subject, he’llsmashing through the wall transform the rest of humanity so they can survive whatever apocalypse occurs. He’s disappointed that the Metal Men (and Superman) proved sub-par, but gets another idea for humanity’s salvation. Superman and the Metal Men find themselves reunited with Tin and Mercury in a tropical jungle, but Superman’s powers are still reduced because of red sun radiation. They trek through the jungle, realizing that all the different scenarios are in caves. They find a steel wall at the edge of the jungle and the Meal Men turn themselves into a wrecking ball to smash it. They damage the wall enough to let Superman use his diminished strength to pull it down. Brisbane has decided cockroaches are the wave of the future (since they can survive Platinum takes out the fake red sunpretty much anything) and sends a horde of mutated roaches after the heroes. As they’re fighting, Superman realizes the ‘red sun” is an artificial construct and asks Platinum to destroy it. Iron uses a fastball special to get her airborne and she smashes the sun, restoring Superman’s powers just in time to catch her (which she enjoys immensely). Brisbane decides to set off a nuclear blast, but Superman and the Metal men escape, leaving the roaches to get blasted. Brisbane freaks out when they invade his control room and smash his computer, saying he was just trying to save humanity. Superman points out the obvious … if Brisbane turned humans into mutated cockroaches, that would wipe out the human race anyway. Apparently that never occurred to Brisbane. I think I agree with Mercury about never understanding humans.

All-Star Squadron 34 coverAll-Star Squadron #34 – “The Wrath of Tsunami” – Roy Thomas/Rick Hoberg/Bill Collins

This one starts with Johnny Quick, Firebrand, and their new ally Neptune Perkins searching for the submarine they spotted last issue. Perkins goes underwater and Johnny (as usual) gets impatient and follows at high speed. They find the sub but get captured and electrocuted in a net. Firebrand gets impatient too and dives down to look for them, but the sub is gone. Johnny and Perkins wake up on the sub and meet the captain, a Japanese soldier named Kizo Nishino. He admits he’s there to bomb the oil refinery at Santa Barbara, but mentions another motive. He tells them a story aboutJohnny and Perkins captured being humiliated (falling on a cactus) while commanding a peacetime oil tanker, which (according to Roy) is something that actually happened, although I couldn’t find any reference to it. In the interdimensional Limbo between Earths, Spectre struggles to keep Earth-2 and Earth-X from colliding and mutually annihilating each other. Speaking of Earth-X, uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters are startled to find Baron Blitzkrieg in command of a Japanese ship, and even more surprised to see Hourman strapped to one of the guns, since Sam thought Hourman was dead. Blitzkrieg threatens to blow Hourman to hell, but the Freedom Fighters attack anyway. Phantom Human Bomb knocks out his teammatesLady temporarily blinds Blitzkrieg, but he regains his sight in time to toss human Bomb to the deck, where his explosive touch knocks out all his fellow heroes (and seemingly blows Red Bee away completely). Hourman challenges Blitzkrieg, who releases him and easily slaps him down. Blitzkrieg points out that Hourman needs a Miraclo pill to give him superhuman powers and judging by his shaking and sweating, he’s a Miraclo addict who really needs a fix. Back on Earth-2, Tsunami (who we met last issue) boards the Japanese sub and reports that her mission to recruit help among Japanese-Americans failed. Nishino gives her shit and orders the sub to surface and fire on the refinery. The shells are on target but Starman has thrown up a force field with his gravity rod, preventing the shells from hitting theirTsunami attacks target. Firebrand made it back to the coast in time to warn Starman and Liberty Belle and the trio of All-Stars attack the sub. The sub dives, but Starman’s rod lets him and his friends get aboard. They attack the Japanese and free Johnny and Perkins. Starman tries to hold Tsunami with his gravity rod and an errant shot from Nishino causes an explosion that takes out the entire sub. Liberty Belle finds Johnny unconscious and pulls him to a buoy, but there’s no sign of the other All-Stars or Perkins. Liberty Belle gets a shock when Tsunami appears at the crest of a tidal wave preparing to send Belle and Johnny to the bottom of the ocean.

Infinity Inc 3 coverInfinity Inc. #3 – “Solomon Grundy Goes Hollywood” – Roy Thomas/Jerry Ordway/Mike Machlan

This one starts with Power Girl, Huntress, and Star-Spangled Kid (hereafter referred to as SSK) waking up and getting their bearings after being knocked out by Ultra-Humanite’s brain blast last issue. They wonder where the rest of Infinity Inc went, but before they can worry too much, the Infinitors return and tell them about all the crazy shit that happened to them in the past (which we saw in All-Star Squadron 25, 26, and Annual 2). The Infinitors wonder about the present-day Ultra-Humanite and decide they’d better go talk to the JSA, even though the Justice Society didn’t seem to recognize them earlier. (It’s one of those time paradox things that makesInfinitors at Hawkman's house your brain hurt if you think about it too much.) At Hawkman’s house, Shiera (aka Hawkgirl) greets them and says Hawkman, Robin, Wonder Woman, Atom, and Green Lantern were summoned by Superman for some kind of emergency. Some other JSAers are there and they’re a lot more welcoming than they were at the meeting a couple issues back. After Nuklon calls his mom (Terri Rothstein) in Florida and Fury calls her dad (Steve Trevor), the Infinitors head out to California to follow up on SSK’s offer to form a new super-team. SSK tells them how his asshole cousin Arthur stole his inheritance (which we saw back in All-Star Comics 71) and how he eventually got it back through the courts. Solomon Grundy attacksPart of the inheritance was Stellar Studios, an old movie studio, and SSK wants to make the Stellar back lot the headquarters for Infinity Inc. When they get to the lot, SSK mentions a sister (Merry) and Brainwave Jr. realizes Merry is his mom. Obviously he and SSK have a lot to talk about, so the others wander around the movie sets. They get a surprise when Solomon Grundy pops up and attacks them, claiming he was drawn there by a voice in his head promising he’d get to kill Green Lantern. Yeah, Grundy’s hatred for Green Lantern is still strong and when he learns Jade and Obsidian claim to be Lantern’s kids, he goes after them hard. The others try to stop him, but he’s too strong … even Power Girl, Fury, and Nuklon can’t beat him. By working as a team, the Infinitors manage to trap Grundy in a Globlass bubble thanks to Northwind. What’sganging up on Grundy Globlass? I have no idea, but it seems to be some kind of quick-hardening transparent material that Northwind shoots from a special gun. Northwind and Jade take Grundy to Feithera, hoping the Feitherans can hold Grundy in a bigger Globlass container. The others talk about the voice in his head Grundy was talking about and wonder if Ultra-Humanite is behind it. Meanwhile somewhere out West, the five JSAers summoned by Superman make their way into a cave looking for the Man of Steel. They’re knocked out by a wall of water that takes them by surprise, sweeping them through the caves and seemingly drowning them. Superman emerges to make sure they’re dead and says now he can go ahead with his plan … taking over Earth and wiping out humanity.

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