Comics Reviews: Superman 398, Action 558, DC Comics Presents 72, All-Star Squadron 36, Infinity Inc 5

Superman 398 coverSuperman #398 – “The Kid Who Master-Minded Superman” – Joey Cavalieri/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt

This one starts with a suburban kid (Mickey Norris) finishing his paper route in Masonville and playing his favourite game … Superman. Yes, this is the same kid from Superman 388 with the weird mental powers. Mickey pretends to be the Man of Steel saving a jet falling from the sky. At the same moment over Metropolis, a jet plunges toward the city. The real Superman flies up to catch it, but has a strange moment where he can’t bring himself to grab the plane. Instead, he uses his super-breath to save it and wonders why he couldn’t seem to act as he wanted to. The nextelectrical overload at the plant day, Mickey reads about Superman saving the plane and remembers his own pretend rescue the day before. Mickey notices an ad for a TV special about Superman and asks his mom if he can stay home from school tomorrow to watch it. Naturally, she says no, so Mickey starts wishing for it to rain enough that school is canceled. His mom wakes him in the middle of the night because it’s been raining like hell and the whole town is flooding. Mickey isn’t worried; he figures Superman will show up and blow the clouds away with his super-breath. In Metropolis, the Daily Planet has heard about the torrential (and unnatural) rains over Masonville and Clark changes to Superman to investigate. When Superman stretches his cape to catch the rainhe gets to Masonville, Superman tries to blow the clouds away, but can’t get his super-breath to work. He stretches his unbreakable cape over the whole town, catching the rain and using his heat vision to turn it into steam. Once the rain stops, Superman regains control over his super-breath and thinks he must’ve had some kind of mental block against using it. Later, Mickey imagines the power plant overloading and Superman wrapping his cape around it to contain the electricity. Sure enough, the plant goes wild, but Superman can’t make himself wrap his cape around it, so he uses his breath to freeze the plant. Are you sensing a pattern here? The next day, Mickey is playing baseball and wishes for gravity to reverse to he won’t be out on a pop fly. Gravity does go wildMickey gives up his fantasies and not only the ball but the players and even nearby buildings rise into the air. Superman comes to investigate and realizes Mickey’s weird ESP powers are what’s been screwing up his own powers lately. Whatever Mickey wishes for comes true, but whenever he imitates one of Superman’s powers, it prevents Superman from accessing that power. Superman uses his heat vision to cancel the null-gravity and tells Mickey he’s the only one who can stop this stuff from happening. Mickey vows to never play Superman again, which should prevent anything strange from happening with Superman’s powers.

“The Clothes That Make the Man” – Paul Kupperberg/Alex Saviuk/Dennis Jensen

This one starts far off in space where Superman prevents a strange energy phenomenon from obliterating a planet. He returns to Earth and begins changing to Clark Kent, but he’s shocked when his suit suddenly animatesClark's suit attacks him and starts beating the shit out of him. He subdues the suit and puts it on just in time for the nightly news broadcast, but partway through, the suit starts acting up again. Clark feigns sickness and runs out of the studio. He changes back to Superman and ends up fighting the suit again. He scans it with his super-vision and realizes an energy being it inhabiting the suit, feeding off the anti-friction chemicals Superman puts on the suit in case he needs to fly as Clark. He communicates with the alien energy creature and learns it was affected when he blew up the strange energy pulse out in space. The alien needs to be encased in a protective chemical sheath and Clark’s suit was the closest thing that fit the bill. He flies the alien out into space where it can find a new energy sheath and he gets his suit back.

Action 558 coverAction #558 – “The All-Searing Eyes” – Bob Rozakis/Kurt Schaffenberger

This one starts with Superman stopping a fire from burning out of control in coal country. When Professor Potter (the wacky scientist who’s always bringing his goofy inventions to Jimmy Olsen) sees the story on TV, he gets an idea. Potter calls Jimmy to get him to cover his brilliant brainstorm, but Jimmy has a date so he gives the story to Clark Kent. Professor Potter was hoping Jimmy would show up because he needs him to summon Superman with his signal watch. When the Professor’s elaborate tea kettle explodes, Clark ducks out and comes back as Superman to contain the explosion and restore the lab to its former state. Potter tells Superman he wants to harness his heat vision to solve theSuperman defeats thieves with his eyes closed world’s energy crisis. Superman says he doesn’t know how his heat vision works, so Potter puts a fancy helmet on Superman’s head to analyze the heat energy. In the middle of the analysis, Superman gets an emergency signal from Jimmy and takes off, leaving the helmet (which is quite hot now) in pieces on the floor of the lab. Superman shows up at the restaurant where Jimmy is and finds the place being robbed. He uses his heat vision but soon realizes it’s out of control. He has to close his eyes to keep from burning everything to a crisp and defeats the thieves using his super-hearing. Superman tells Jimmy about his wonky heat vision and Jimmy guides him back to Potter’s lab. Potter shows him the busted helmet and Superman says he’ll have to Superman rebuilds the helmet many timesrebuild it at super-speed. Following Potter’s instructions, Superman recreates the helmet and puts it on, but when they get to the same place in the analysis, his heat vision is still out of control. Superman realizes that when he straightened up Potter’s lab earlier, he put things in their proper places, which aren’t necessarily where the absent-minded Potter thought they were. So in reconstructing the helmet, Potter may have told Superman to use the wrong chemicals. They run through all the possible substitutes until they find the right combination and the helmet turns Superman’s heat vision off. Potter decides not to try and harness Superman’s heat vision after all, since the cost of doing so would be astronomical.

“Hoax Night” – Paul Kupperberg/Howard Bender/Dennis Jensen

This one has Clark, Jimmy, and a cameraman named Gus doing a specialSuperman defeats a druid report from Pepperwood, New Jersey, a town where they hold a special drawing every Halloween to see who gets to put on a hoax to fool the town … kinda like Orson Welles’s old “War of the Worlds” thing, except in this case the entire town knows something’s going to happen. The guy who wins the drawing this year decides to use a druid mannequin and some pyrotechnics for his stunt and the townspeople get into it. Coincidentally, a real druid pops out of an oak tree in the park and Clark has to change to Superman to defeat him (which he does by breaking the druid’s contact with the ground).

DC Presents 72 coverDC Comics Presents #72 – “Madness in a Dark Dimension” – Paul Kupperberg/Alex Saviuk/Dennis Jensen

This one starts with a strange storm over Metropolis. After saving some people from lightning, Superman flies into the storm and finds a rift to another dimension. Before he can investigate, a meteor shower pours through the rift and he’s forced to deal with the meteors before they kill someone. One meteor gets past him, but Phantom Stranger shows up to help him out. Phantom Stranger tells superman the rift was caused by Maaldor (who Supes last fought in DC Presents 65), but Maaldor isn’t trying to obliterate Earth this time … the rift is actually a cry for help. Stranger takes Superman to Arkham Asylum to recruit the Joker, who he says is integral toSuperman and Joker enter chaos dimension their plans. Joker is willing to get out of confinement for a while, so he agrees to accompany them. Phantom Stranger explains about Maaldor and how the cosmic craziness that existed in Maaldor’s dimension is now pulling every other dimension into it, infecting each of them with chaos and madness. Joker decides he doesn’t want to help after all (since such universal madness appeals to him), so Phantom Stranger uses his powers to render Joker more complacent. Superman and Joker head into Maaldor’s dimension, which is pretty freaky-looking. (I think Saviuk is channeling Ditko here.) Superman and Joker run into a couple of illusions conjured by Joker taps into the dimension's powerMaaldor and Joker starts figuring out the illogic of the place. Maaldor himself shows up to attack them and he’s no illusion, but he catches Superman off guard and manages to make him believe he’s being attacked by wraiths with a chilling touch. While Superman fights the non-existent wraiths, phantom Stranger shows up and tells Joker they have an opportunity to move against Maaldor while he toying with Superman. Phantom Stranger tells Joker he can actually harness the power of Maaldor’s crazy dimension, since he’s already insane. Joker doesn’t believe him at first, but since his life is at stake too, he gives it a shot. Turns out Stranger was right: Joker ends up taking control of the dimension, but Superman assumes it’s another of Maaldor’s tricks. Joker slaps Superman around a bit and lures him toward the dimensionalSuperman blasts Maaldor core where Maaldor’s crazed consciousness resides. Superman tries to concentrate as Joker and Maaldor trade threats. Joker’s distraction is enough and Superman musters his will to deliver a huge heat vision blast (with a little help from Phantom Stranger) that drives Maaldor’s consciousness away. Phantom stranger says Superman basically lobotomized Maaldor’s mind, cutting off the malevolent intelligence from the rest of his consciousness and putting Maaldor’s spirit to sleep, which returns the dimension to a non-insane state. Joker tries to punch Superman out, thinking he still has the power of the dimension behind him, but now that the dimension’s madness is gone, Joker can no longer access that power … so he just ends up with a sore hand.

All-Star Squadron 36 coverAll-Star Squadron #36 – “Thunder Over London” – Roy Thomas/Rich Buckler/Richard Howell

This one starts with a number of All-Stars (Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Batman, and Hawkman) watching a newsreel about the Blitz in London. They see a flying man (described as secret Nazi weapon) smashing British planes to give the German bombers more opportunities to pound London. Nobody seems to know the flying Nazi, but we recognize him as Captain Marvel. The newsreel concludes with Shining Knight taking on Captain Marvel and getting his ass kicked. Superman is really pissed off about this new threat, since Cap is described as a “Nazi Superman”. The All-Stars head over to the White House to see the President, escorted by Plastic Man, who was ordered to keep an eye onHitler issues orders to Captain Marvel them. The government is afraid they might go after Captain Marvel and fall under the influence of the Spear of Destiny, becoming evil Nazis (which is probably what happened to Cap). Superman stops by a newsstand and points out that the new super-Nazi looks just like comic book character Captain Marvel, but the others think that’s too outlandish to mean anything. Superman takes off to do a little checking, leaving the others to go to the White House. Over in Berlin, Hitler is gloating about Captain Marvel’s triumph over Shining Knight. He gets a report that Superman is heading across the Atlantic and tells Cap to seek him out and kill him. Cap is hesitant, since he’s never killed before, but Hitler seems to have some kind of hold over him and he finally agrees to Superman vs Captain Marvelkill Superman. As Cap prepares to leave, we see Hitler’s ace in the hole … he holds Billy Batson captive. (How is that possible, since Billy is Captain Marvel? I have no idea, but I’m sure Roy will explain it sooner or later.) In Washington, the five All-Stars (and Plastic Man) receive a top secret briefing from William Stephenson (aka the man called Intrepid), though we aren’t told exactly what he says to them; I guess we don’t have clearance. In London, Superman visits Shining Knight in hospital and learns that the Nazi super-weapon has some kind of magical aura around him, which could pose a problem since Superman is vulnerable to magic. Captain Marvel shows up over London again and Superman flies up to intercept him. Supes is stunned to realize Cap really is the hero from the comics, except he’s spouting the Nazi party line. They beat the shit out of each other and Cap knocks Superman on his ass just as the other All-Stars show up to help. They can’tCaptain Marvel fights All-Stars handle Cap any better than Superman, but Captain Marvel surprises them by retreating toward Germany. The All-Stars give chase until Batman reminds them they have to stay out of the Spear of Destiny’s sphere of influence. They head back to London where Superman is recovering from his beating. Before the All-Stars can figure out their next move, a couple of kids approach them, saying they’ve been trying to catch up with them since Washington. The kids are Mary Batson and Freddie Freeman and instead of trying to explain their powers, they opt for a demonstration. Unfortunately, when Mary and Freddie turn into Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr., the All-Stars assume they’re junior league Nazis and attack.

Infinity Inc 5 coverInfinity Inc. #5 – “Dead Men’s Bluff” – Roy Thomas/Jerry Ordway/Mike Machlan

Last issue, a number of Justice Society members turned up dead in Colorado and Infinity Inc. got pretty pissed off, since most of them are related to the JSA in some way. Fury is especially mad about her mom (Wonder Woman) being dead, so she goes out to smash a mountain and scream about vengeance before being talked down b her boyfriend, Silver Scarab (whose father, Hawkman, numbers among the dead). At the police station, the cops are being careful about not letting anyone unmask the dead JSAers, but they also won’t take it on faith that the Infinitors are related to the dead heroes, so they won’t release the bodies. Huntress tells the cops that Wonder Woman’s husband and Hawkman’s wife are being contacted, so they’d better hold off on autopsiesdealing with the cops until then. After seeing a news report on TV about a giant dome encasing Metropolis, Power Girl decides to fly back there and check it out, since Superman hasn’t responded and nobody knows where he is. That leaves Nuklon and Northwind (who aren’t blood relatives to the JSA) and Huntress (who is technically related to Robin, but isn’t ready to start spilling secret identities yet) with a bunch of skeptical (and sexist) cops. Star-Spangled Kid and Brainwave Jr. went to talk to the people who found the bodies, while Jade and Obsidian are in a church, trying to come to terms with the fact that Green Lantern (who may be their father) is now dead. Northwind, Nuklon, and Huntress go to see the mayor of Fall Springs (who looks just like Jonathan Winters) and he asks them to Flash tells the story of Koehahaget permission for the autopsies. They call Hawkgirl and Dr. Mid-Nite is with her. He tells them Flash is on his way out there and they should make sure no autopsies are performed under any circumstances. Flash shows up (a bit winded since he’s not as young as he used to be) and tells the mayor and the cops that the dead JSAers might not really be dead. Flash recounts a tale about an enchanted stream called Koehaha—the Stream of Ruthlessness—which only appears every hundred years. Back in 1947 (in an issue of All-Star Comics), the JSA dealt with some guys who had succumbed to Koehaha’s waters, which erases all trace of conscience from whoever falls in. They buried the stream, but Flash believes it may have been uncovered, especially since SupermanWonder Woman goes wild was involved in that old adventure and he’s the one who summoned the now-dead JSAers to Colorado. But Flash says if the JSAers fell into Koehaha, they aren’t really dead, just in a trance. The mayor admits he’s already ordered the autopsies, so Flash zooms over to the morgue, followed by the others. At the morgue, the coroner is about to slice into Wonder Woman when she wakes up and starts tossing him around. Flash saves him but realizes Wonder Woman has been affected by the waters of Koehaha, as she’s acting completely ruthless. The other dead JSAers (Robin, Atom, Green Lantern, and Hawkman) wake up and they’re all assholes too. Wonder Woman decks Ultra-Humanite appearsFlash and the five whacked-out JSAers start arguing amongst themselves. When Nuklon, Northwind, and Huntress show up, the JSA members pound them and GL conjures up a death trap with his ring to finish them off. A few miles outside town, Star-Spangled Kid and Brainwave Jr. are following the guys who found the JSAers’ bodies. These guys swear they saw Bigfoot near the bodies, which SSK and Brainwave find hard to believe. But as they climb a canyon wall, an explosion sends them flying and a big, hairy, ape-like figure emerges from a cave. No, it’s not Bigfoot … it’s the Ultra-Humanite. Which is way worse, of course.

 

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