Comics Reviews: Superman 402, Action 562, DC Comics Presents 76, All-Star Squadron 40, Infinity Inc. 9

Superman 402 coverSuperman #402 – “How Do You Hide a Superman?” – Cary Bates/Curt Swan/Bob Oksner

This one starts with Daily Planet writer Justin Moore wandering the streets of Metropolis, suffering from a terrible affliction … writer’s block. Justin hears a call for help from an alley and finds a guy who looks and sounds just like Superman except he also looks like a homeless person. The guy swears he is Superman and that he was attacked by some guys he calls Marauders, an attack which caused him to lose most of his super-powers and almost all of his memory. Justin figures the guy is a nut (or a drunk) and is ready to take him to a Halfway House when a weird spaceship shimmers into existence. Superman says those are the guys who attacked him and that makes a believer out of Justin. Before the ship fully materializes, Justin takes Superman out of theMarauders appear in the alley alley and down a manhole into the sewers. The Marauders (who look human, but very futuristic) scan for traces of their quarry and turn their ship invisible to avoid complications. They don’t think to scan underground though, so Justin and Superman make it to a safe place … the Superman museum. Justin figures it’s so obvious that no one would look for Superman there. Superman’s diminished strength is just enough to bust a hole in the wall, allowing him and Justin to hide among the exhibits. Justin is tired from all the excitement and goes to sleep, dreaming of writing a front page story about himself helping Superman. (We also see that Justin still has the hots for Lois.) The Marauders realize Superman acting paranoidthat the rampant air pollution in 1984 will hamper their search, so they shoot up into orbit to contact the Monitor and ask his help in finding the fugitive. (Apparently, one of the Marauders is a historian, so he knows about the Monitor.) The next morning, Justin finds Superman examining the museum’s replica of Kandor, which he has no memory of. Justin tells him how Brainiac miniaturized Kandor, but doesn’t bother mentioning that this is just a replica and the real Kandor was enlarged and sent to another planet. When Justin suggests moving to a safer place, Superman goes a little nuts, saying he has to stay there, surrounded by the trappings of his culture. He also gets really paranoid, accusing Justin of being in league with the Marauders. Supermanthe real Superman shows up goes after Justin, who threatens to smash Kandor and kill all the “people” inside. When Justin does smash the replica city, Superman freaks and comes after him, but both of them are shocked to see another superman bust through the ceiling, followed by the Marauders. Yeah, it turns out the guy Justin was hanging out with is an escaped mental patient from the future, who believes himself to be the reincarnation of Superman, taking the delusion so far as to alter his voice and face and give himself limited super-powers. The Marauders take their patient back to the future and Superman tells Justin he can clean up the museum.

“Jor-El: Superman” – E. Nelson Bridwell/Wayne Boring/Pablo MarcosSuperman as Jor-El

This is a goofy back-up story about an evil scientist (Kru-El) on Krypton (in the past, obviously) switching Jor-El’s mind with Superman’s in the present. Jor-El has some culture shock living in 20th Century Earth, and Superman pounds the scientist and reverses the mind-switch.

 

Action 562 coverAction #562 – “Their Magnetic Majesties—King Alexander and Queen Bee” – Bob Rozakis/Kurt Schaffenberger/Dave Hunt

This one starts with a mysterious wave of magnetism shooting through a Metropolis street. It causes several people to be magnetized to a car by their accessories. Superman deals with that (and gets shit from a woman whose purse he broke to free her), but before he can figure out what caused the magnetic anomaly, it disappears. Unfortunately, Superman doesn’t stop to check the floating prison where some of his old foes are incarcerated, so he doesn’t realize that King Alexander (aka the Planeteer, who we last saw in Action 547) has been freed from his magnetic cell by the anomaly. The nextSuperman sees the miniature bees day, everyone at the Galaxy Building gets free tickets to see Steve Lombard in Damn Yankees … I guess that’s one way to insure a packed house. Another report of the “magnetic plague” comes in (this time on the corner of Wayne and Boring streets … nice), so Clark changes to Superman to check it out. When he gets there, Supes sees a swarm of bees heading skyward, but these “bees” are actually miniature humans. He follows them to a hive-shaped spaceship in the sky and finds the JLA’s old enemy, Queen Bee is behind the mini-bees. Queen Bee says the bees aren’t real, they’re just manifestations of the magnetic energy she’s stolen from their counterparts below, a process that Queen Bee magnetizes Superman's beltmagnetizes objects in contact with the unwitting donors. She demonstrates by conjuring a “super-bee” from Superman, with sends him flying against the wall of the ship when his belt magnetizes. (All this is Queen Bee’s way of regaining her immortality without losing her mobility, a dilemma first recounted way back in JLA #60.) Since the magnetic power is equal to the power she stole, Superman can’t break free, so Queen Bee gets away. When the magnetism wears off, he tries to track her, but she’s disappeared without a trace. As Clark and Lana do the nightly news, it occurs to Clark that King Alexander’s escape might be connected to Queen Bee’s magnetic capers, since Alexander also has magnetic powers. Morgan Edge wantsClark happy to lose the coin toss someone to stay at the studio in case there’s breaking news, which fits perfectly with Clark’s plans to isolate himself in case he has to become Superman. Everyone else heads out to see Damn Yankees (with Lois as Justin’s date, though she doesn’t seem thrilled about it). When King Alexander pulls the giant globe off the roof of the Daily Planet, Superman springs into action. He accidentally smashes the globe and has to collect the pieces before going after Alexander. Alexander encases Superman in a sheath of magnetic goo and Queen Bee shows up, proposing a team-up with Alexander. Superman flies off and try to get out of his gooey trap. At the theatre, Lois lets Justin know Superman tells Alexander not to trust Queen Beeshe’s not into him at all, and Perry helps the cops catch some thieves who were stealing stuff from people’s coats during intermission. Perry’s wife is quite impressed and it looks like whatever marital problems they were having are over. On Queen Bee’s hive-ship, she and Alexander toast their new partnership, but Queen Bee is just using him as a way to insure her immortality, by putting him in a temporary trance any time she wants to drain some magnetism from him. Superman shows up to clue Alexander in, but he’s already smitten and doesn’t believe the Man of steel, even after Queen Bee admits she does need magnetism to remain immortal. They encase Superman in magnetic goo again and renew their partnership (all the while planning toSuperman defeats the two villains betray each other). Superman takes advantage of their distraction to slip out of the goo and when they blast him with a double shot of magnetism, they’re both pulled against his invulnerable body and knocked out. Turns out Superman whipped up a new belt that reversed the polarity of his body, allowing him to slough off the goo and pull the villains toward him when they blasted him. The next day, we find out Lois stayed in the ladies room for the second half of the play to avoid Justin, Perry and his wife are definitely cool again, and Steve’s play closed after one night.

DC Presents 76 coverDC Comics Presents #76 – “Living Clay … Killing Clay” – Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn/Eduardo Barreto

This one starts with Diana (Wonder Woman) Prince supervising a test on some genetically-modified plants created by a scientist named Terhune. The GM plants are supposed to be able to regenerate damage, so Diana has some soldiers blast the plant grove with artillery. Sure enough, the plants regenerate, but something unexpected also happens … a worm-like monster (kinda like a D&D Carrion Crawler) with advanced weaponry embedded in its body bursts up through the ground and attacks, followed by four-armed humanoids in weird costumes that go after Dr. Terhune. Diana changes to Wonder Woman and snags one of theWonder Woman follows the trail humanoids, but gets blasted by a laser from the Carrion Crawler. The creatures disappear underground with Dr. Terhune and Wonder Woman follows, but finds the tunnel blocked with chunks of clay that look like they came off the creature itself. She manages to figure out that the creature was probably headed for Metropolis. Speaking of which, another creature (this one looking kinda like a Decapus … maybe Barreto had the Monster Manual?) is in Metropolis, attacking the office building belonging to CC Biotech. There’s only one woman inside and she isn’t too thrilled when Superman drags the creature away. Turns out she’s behind the creature that grabbed Terhune and this Superman fights pterandonsone as well, so she resents Superman interfering in her plans. As the Man of Steel flies the Decapus out over the ocean, it turns into unliving clay and disintegrates around him. When Superman returns to Metropolis, he’s attacked by pterandons with lasers on their backs. The lasers have a “CC” logo on them, which is the same logo as the building the woman Superman saved was in. She’s obviously new to the villain game or she’d know not to put her company’s logo on the weapons she uses to try and kill people. Wonder woman shows up and the two heroes take down the pteranodons, which melt into clay like the other creatures did. Supes and Wonder Woman bust into CC Biotech and find the woman, Christine Cade, who WonderCade's clay creatures attack Woman recognizes. Cade sends more clay after the two heroes, which Superman shrugs off with ease. But Wonder Woman was made of enchanted clay o Paradise Island, so she can’t slough Cade’s clay off so easily … in fact, the clay begins to absorb Wonder Woman’s essence. As she’s being absorbed, Wonder Woman tells Superman that Cade was a shipwreck survivor who lived on Paradise Island for a while and learned how to animate clay. When Athena warned her to stop her experiments, Cade left Paradise Island and returned to Man’s World, where she started a biotech company. Cade admits her claymation creations are unstable and she kidnapped Terhune because she hopes his recent experiments might make her creations more Wonder Woman pounds Supermanpermanent. As Superman fights off hordes of clay men, Wonder Woman is taken over and turned into a clay simulacrum, which Cade can control. She sends Wonder Woman after Superman and she slaps him around pretty good until he snaps her out of it by using her own lasso … and a little psychology, when he points out some civilians in danger. Wonder Woman gets her wits back and they go after Cade, who turns into a clay creature herself. Yeah, she used the process on herself, even though she knew it wasn’t perfected yet, which is why she was so desperate to get Terhune. Wonder Woman and Cade fight, but Cade’s fate catches up with her and she dissolves into a puddle of clay. Wonder Woman feels guilty for not being able to save her, but Terhune reminds her that Cade chose her own fate.

All-Star Squadron 40 coverAll-Star Squadron #40 – “The Rise and Fall of the Phantom Empire” – Roy Thomas/Richard Howell/Bill Collins

Last issue, some All-Stars came to Detroit to help their friend Will (Amazing Man) Everett fight a bunch of racist assholes called the Phantom Empire, who are being led by a guy in a jingoistic costume called Real American. The Phantom Empire is trying to prevent black people from moving out of their crappy neighbourhood into some new houses they’ve already paid for. Real American seems to have some kind of voice powers that sway people to believe whatever he’s saying; not a stretch for a bunch of racists, but some of the All-Stars were kind of affected, and even Amazing Man got his ass kicked because Real American compelled him toReal American uses his power on Hawkman and GL fight at less than his best. Amazing Man ended up in jail, along with his father, leaving black and white factions fighting in the streets, while the cops seem to favour the white side (surprise, surprise). Green Lantern and Hawkman show up to help and try to stop the riots and Real American’s voice affects Hawkman too, making him vaguely sympathetic to Real American’s racist rantings. GL isn’t affected, and once Hawkman flies away from Real American, he goes back to normal too. The two heroes run into Firebrand, who takes them to a church where a bunch of the dispossessed black families are sheltering. The other All-Stars (Liberty church riotBelle, Johnny Quick, Robotman, and Hourman) mention that they were affected by Real American’s voice last issue too. Before they can puzzle it out, Rachel Lindsay (Will Everett’s fiancée) freaks out, almost starting a riot in the church. The All-Stars leave and compare notes. Most of them figure the racists have the edge in this fight, but Liberty Belle says most Americans aren’t racist and will stand up for what’s right when it comes down to it. Her faith is undermined when the All-Stars find a lynch mob in front of the police station where Will is being held, listening to more hate-filled rhetoric from Real American. The All-Stars notice a Phantom Empire goon watching from a nearby hill, but can’t spare any time to worry about him. They talk the cop in charge (who actually seems somewhat reasonable) intoReal American's power sways everyone letting them see Will, who’s trussed up so he can’t use his powers. The All-Stars offer to try and disperse the crowd outside, but Real American’s bullshit has them too riled up. And when he really starts pouring it on, everyone is affected by his words: the All-Stars, the black prisoners In the jail, Rachel and Mrs. Everett watching from the corner … even Will thinks Real American might have a point. The only one not buying into the bullshit is Robotman, who realizes he’s immune because his electronic “ears” are filtering out whatever Real American is using to hypnotize people. Robotman goes into Amazing Man transformsthe jail, rips off his ears, and places them over Will’s head. At Robotman’s touch, Will uses his Amazing Man power to transform his body into living steel and thanks to Robbie’s ears, he can’t hear Real American’s crap anymore. Amazing Man starts pounding Real American, turning back to flesh and blood to beat him fairly. That impresses some of the mob (although some are inveterate racists who’ll never change), but they all get a surprise when Amazing Man’s beating causes Real American to explode. Yeah, turns out he was a robot, which explains his way with words … some kind of electronicAmazing Man pounds Real American hypnosis. The mob slinks away with their tails between their legs and so do the Phantom Empire goons … including the leader, the guy who was watching on the hill. With his superior speed, Johnny Quick follows the guy and finds out he’s the racist diner owner the All-Stars first ran into a couple issues back. (He got the Real American robot from the Monitor, in case you’re wondering.) Johnny decks the guy, kinda disappointed that he’s not a Nazi agent, just a home-grown asshole. The racial tensions are still there, but without Real American to fan the flames, things do calm Johnny decks Phantom Empire leaderdown somewhat. Will’s father (and everyone else) pledge to fight for the right to move into their homes, but they decide to use the law to win the fight instead of violence. Liberty Belle says they’ll talk to the President and extends another invitation to Amazing Man to join the All-Stars. He surprises everyone by accepting, saying their fight is basically the same as long as the war’s on, and when they lose sight of the people who are getting the shaft, he’ll be there to remind them.

Infinity Inc 9 coverInfinity Inc. #9 – “How Green Was My Victory” – Roy Thomas/Jerry Ordway/Mike Machlan, Tony DeZuniga

This one starts with Star-Spangled Kid and Brainwave Jr floating around in Limbo. Yeah, they weren’t killed by that avalanche a few issues ago, they were pulled into Limbo by Brainwave, who heard his son’s mental cries for help. Unfortunately, Star-Spangled Kid and Brainwave Jr are now trapped in Limbo with the original Brainwave, since he’s never figured out a way to escape. Back in the normal dimension, Jade, Obsidian, and Starman head into orbit to confront Green Lantern, who has commandeered a satellite to broadcast his crazed rantings (caused by exposure to the Koehaha, the Stream of Ruthlessness). We see GL’s old enemy HarlequinGL duels Jade in space (no, not Harley Quin) watching Jade and Obsidian from the shadows, almost as if she knows them. In space, Starman jumps Green Lantern but it turns out to be a hologram and the real GL blasts him. Jade sends Starman back to Earth in a protective bubble and she and Obsidian go after Green Lantern. They still don’t know if GL is their father or not, but now isn’t really the time to figure it out. GL brushes Obsidian aside and has an energy duel with Jade, but Obsidian bounces back and envelops GL, showing him the truth of the monster he’s become. That makes GL go nuts and he blasts Obsidian before heading back down to Earth. Jade figures GL is heading back for another dose of the Robin losing itKoehaha, since the effects wear off after a while (and the enchanted waters are apparently somewhat addictive). In fact, Robin is currently having pretty bad withdrawal symptoms in his cage in the Batcave. He curses Huntress and Alfred and begs to be let out, as the cravings for the Koehaha get worse. In Utah, Wildcat and some nuclear techs dig through the wrecked reactor, expecting to find Nuklon’s corpse. Wildcat is happy when Nuklon pops up, none the worse for wear. Apparently, Nuklon somehow absorbed the deadly thorium radiation Atom used against him last issue. Wildcat says he’ll take Atom on when he returns and Nuklon agrees because he knows Atom will be headed for the Koehaha to get another fix of the waters. And he’s not the only one: Hawkman breaks free of Northwind’s bonds andJSaers bust in looking for more Koehaha water heads west toward the Koehaha, and Superman leaves Metropolis to seek out the Stream of Ruthlessness again, followed by Power Girl, who has taken some Kryptonite from the Secret Citadel to use against her wayward cousin. In Fall Springs, Colorado, Silver Scarab and Fury realize the JSA members affected by Koehaha will all be returning soon for another dose, so they head for the Stream. In his nearby hideout, Ultra-Humanite gloats to Shiera Hall and Dr. Mid-Nite (who he captured last issue) about turning their friends and family into ruthless assholes. To prove Ultra-Humanite’s point, five of the affected JSAers (Superman, Hawkman, Atom, GL, and Wonder Woman) burst through the ceiling looking for more of the Koehaha. Next issue is the conclusion of this long saga (seriously, this storyline started in issue #1), so don’t miss it.

 

3 thoughts on “Comics Reviews: Superman 402, Action 562, DC Comics Presents 76, All-Star Squadron 40, Infinity Inc. 9”

  1. I actually have the Superman issue as well, but like always, I will comment on the Action issue. I personally LOVED this issue! The little wasp/bee people were cool! And I like how they were the “magnetic energy” of the people that were taken. You see, these nonsensical pre-Crisis plots are what I like in my comic books-entertaining without being dark. This is before the comics became violent or sexually indecent. Immoral sex and violence really have no place in entertainment, and this was made when this was generally understood.

    I do remember not liking the use of bad language in the name of the play Steve was in. Actually, I missed Steve-I liked him being the foil for Clark-always trying to bully him, and yet always getting his comeuppance

    Also, during these last dozen or so issues pre-Crisis, Clark is dating Lana, and I for one liked that. I think she is a better girl than Lois. I also wonder what they intended to do with Perry’s growing senility. I don’t think those things were sufficiently fleshed out. I will admit that a couple years ago, I started reading the post-Crisis books. I stopped reading these comics when the Crisis happened back in the ’80s. May I ask, are you going to review those?

    I just wish you refrained from foul language. I wonder if you would get more views that way. I’m not sure how other adults feel about it, but I am sure that younger readers and their parents would appreciate it. You really CAN express yourself very well, and you don’t need vulgar speech to “emphasize” or elaborate on your ideas

    1. Yeah, I agree with you about Lana; I like her better as a love interest, especially the way she was written in the early 80s; too bad they didn’t stick with that. I’ve never read any post-Crisis Superman (except the Man of Steel miniseries that rebooted the character), but I probably won’t review any post-Crisis Superman stuff because I’ve already got a number of books that I want to review and I just wouldn’t have the time to fit in the Superman stuff as well. I know the Superman line expanded quite a bit after Crisis, but I’m not all that curious about those books (except maybe Supergirl, since I’ve always liked Peter David’s writing), so I don’t think I’ll bother.

      Sorry you don’t like my occasional cursing, but I’m trying to do these reviews in something approximating my natural voice, and I do curse in my everyday speech. (Actually, I curse way more in everyday speech, so you’re already getting the censored version of me!)

      1. You aren’t missing much with the post-Crisis books. I mean, there are some things I like (for instance all the Superman comics are one continuing story, and since in the ’90s there were 4 comics, it was basically a weekly title), and some of the stuff is interesting, I still like pre-Crisis MUCH better. Supergirl was TOTALLY changed being no long Supes’ cousin, but a being of protomatter made from a good Lex Luthor from another dimension (no, I’m not joking)

        As far as the bad language, I am in my mid-40s and have never cursed in my life. I try to follow God’s law as seen in the bible which prohibits “abusive speech”, “obscene talk”, and other things. While it isn’t as serious as murder, it is still a VERY serious matter for me. I pray I would not curse under the most extreme conditions. I know it does not seem to be as dire a thing with you, and I thank you for making the effort to refrain (as you said you are doing)

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