This one starts with Superman saving an alien planets from a meteor swarm, then gets kinda esoteric, musing on why Superman’s name is the same in so many alien languages. We get a story about a strange sword (the Sword of Superman) forming spontaneously out of the matter left over from the Big Bang. So, Superman is less a man than a universal concept? Whatever. On Earth, Clark Kent runs into Jimmy Olsen, who’s rushing out to do an interview with a reclusive media billionaire named Oswald Mandias (that’s cute … maybe that’s where Alan Moore got the idea). But two days later nobody’s heard from Jimmy, so Clark changes to Superman and goes looking for him. He finds Jimmy tied up on Mandias’s yacht and Jimmy tells him Mandias had himself smuggled aboard the space shuttle Magellan to make some kind of big announcement from space about his media empire. Superman follows the shuttle into space after it launches and finds Mandias in suspended animation in a container inside a satellite the shuttle is due to deploy. Unfortunately, Superman can’t open or remove the container Mandias is in without screwing up the shuttle’s payload schedule, so he has to chill with the astronauts until it’s time for the satellite to be deployed. While they’re waiting, the shuttle is hit by a strange energy wave that Superman likens to the electrical energy of someone’s brain projected into space. The energy infuses into Mandias, waking him up and taking over his body. Mandias busts out of his container and attacks Superman, using telekinesis and telepathy to let him know what’s going on. Apparently the neural energy that’s controlling Mandias belongs to King Kosmos (who we saw in last year’s DC Presents Annual), who has escaped the time-stream where Superman imprisoned him. Kosmos blasts Superman, sending him plummeting toward Earth. By sheer coincidence (or maybe not, depending on how much stock you put in fate), the Sword of superman tumbles out of space and right into Superman’s hand. Superman revives and heads down to Metropolis, but everywhere he goes people freak out, reacting as if he’s some kind of hideous monster. That continues even after he changes to Clark Kent, with Lois fleeing in fear from him. He changes back to Superman, wondering if the Sword is causing the weird reactions (and wondering why his “S” logo is carved into the hilt). The Sword starts flaking apart and pulls Superman to a library, showing him a book about King Arthur and Excalibur. Superman figures he has to earn the right to wield the Sword like Arthur did, but he soon gets distracted as he leaves the library and people flee in terror again. He sees a TV interview with Jimmy and Kosmos (still in Mandias’s body) where Kosmos says there are aliens on Earth threatening the human way of life and they need to be eradicated. Superman busts into the studio and gets in a fight with Kosmos, but when he realizes everyone hates him and wants him to lose, he loses heart and Kosmos kicks his ass. Superman wakes up in a park, surrounded by frightened civilians. Even Jimmy is scared of him and when he tries to explain who he is, no one will listen. Superman takes off to brood on an asteroid and examines the Sword more closely, remembering a kid on Regulus-4 mentioning a sword like that. Superman can’t identify what the Sword is made of and figures it’s constructed of the primeval matter of the universe. He gets an idea how to defeat Kosmos, which starts with a little self-hypnosis. In Congress, Kosmos (in Mandias’s body) is making a speech about eliminating aliens when Superman busts in. Everyone freaks out and runs away, but because of superman’s self-hypnosis, he sees the crowd cheering and showering him with acclaim. He exposes Kosmos by blasting him with the Sword and they start fighting. Kosmos is strong but can’t counter the Sword’s power, so Superman eventually drives him from Mandias’s body without killing the billionaire (who seems to have had a crisis of conscience about kidnapping Jimmy). Superman wishes he could banish evil like Kosmos from the universe forever and the Sword starts to glow, almost overwhelming Superman with its power. The Sword shows him the entire history of the universe and offers him ultimate power to combat evil, but Superman rejects the power, choosing to fight evil in his own small way for now. He throws the word (which is just the hilt now) into deep space and we get an epilogue of some alien storyteller recounting this tale. Apparently when Superman rejected the Sword’s offer to become all-powerful, he heard a voice telling him he’d earned the title of hero, just as King Arthur did. The storyteller says the Sword’s hilt still tumbles through the cosmos, untouchable except by Superman … who earned the right to wield the Sword by rejecting it.
This issue seems vaguely familiar to me, so I may have had it as a kid. We start with Superman taking on a giant robot in Metropolis, which his x-ray vision shows is being controlled by someone inside the robot’s head … Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. I’m not sure how Superman recognizes Sivana, or why Sivana came to Earth-1 to go on his robotic rampage, but Superman smashes the robot pretty quickly. Sivana zooms away in the robot’s head, distracting Superman by knocking a building over toward an innocent woman. Superman saves the woman, but Sivana is gone, so Supes changes to Clark Kent and heads to work. Sivana has crossed the dimensional barrier to the Rock of Eternity, which allows access to any time or place; I guess that’s how Sivana got to Earth-1 in the first place. If you’re wondering why the Rock’s guardian (Shazam) didn’t stop Sivana, it seems Sivana has used his scientific knowledge to mesmerize Shazam, casting the wizard into a deep trance. Sivana knows Billy Batson can still access the magic lightning that transforms him to Captain Marvel, but Sivana has a plan for that too. He broadcasts a threat over Fawcett City and when Billy changes to Captain Marvel, Sivana’s machines hijack some of the magic lightning, transforming the evil scientist into he super-powered Captain Sivana. He and Captain Marvel pound the crap out of each other, but Cap’s powers are at a low ebb, so he gets his ass handed to him. When Mary and Freddie transform to try and help, Sivana distracts them by sending his ship crashing toward the crowds below. Sivana takes Captain Marvel to the Rock of Eternity to show him the slumbering Shazam and to point out that Sivana has taken all of the best qualities Cap’s patrons infused in him, leaving Cap only a handful of undesirable traits to call on. Sivana traps Captain Marvel inside the Rock of Eternity and Cap’s too weak to bust out. Mary and Cap Jr. come looking for Sivana, who realizes they’re too strong for him. He tricks them into thinking he used the Rock to time travel, so Cap Jr. heads into the future to look for Sivana and Mary goes back into the past. Sivana celebrates his triumph, but recalls that Superman might have the power to challenge him, so he heads to Earth-1 to confront the Man of Steel. But he soon realizes he’s on Earth-2, fighting that Earth’s Superman. Sivana doesn’t hesitate, pounding Superman and dragging him out into space where he chains Supes to a Kryptonite meteor and leaves him to die. Sivana also harvests some Kryptonite from the meteor to use against Earth-1’s Superman. On Earth-1, Sivana busts into the WGBS studio to issue a live challenge to Superman, not knowing that the news anchor Clark Kent is Superman. Clark pretends to be knocked out and changes to Superman, taking on the super-powered Sivana. Supes does better than Captain Marvel or his Earth-2 counterpart … until Sivana lures him to the trainyard and exposes him to a carload of green Kryptonite. Inside the Rock of Eternity, Captain Marvel sees Superman getting pounded and despairs, but remembers the power he received from his godly patrons. Cap rallies and busts out of his rocky prison, zooming to Earth-1 just in time to save Superman. Cap warns Superman about his Earth-2 counterpart, so Supes flies across dimensions and saves his Earth-2 analogue just as he’s about to be annihilated by an asteroid. Meanwhile, Captain Marvel beats Sivana so hard the shockwave wakes Shazam and the wizard takes back the power Sivana stole, turning him into his powerless asshole self again. Cap Jr. and Mary return from their time jaunt and the three Marvels take Sivana back to their Earth to face justice, after the two Supermen thank him for saving their lives.