Comics Reviews: Superman 403, Action 563, DC Comics Presents 77, All-Star Squadron 41, Infinity Inc 10

Superman 403 coverSuperman #403 – “The Greatest Thief in the Universe” – Paul Kupperberg/Curt Swan/Bob Oksner

This one starts with an alien drone ship flying down toward Metropolis, seemingly about to crash. Superman stops it, but before he can figure out where it came from, the ship takes off into space and disappears. Turns out the drone belonged to the Monitor, who was gathering information for a client, the Thief-Master of Ramox. Thief-Master traded info on his own planet for the data from the Monitor in preparation for a series of heists. Using space warps and a matter transporter that condenses all the goods onto a computer chip, Thief-Master hits his first few targets that night. The next morning, Jimmy Olsen tells Clark Kent about four strange robberies (aThief-Master escapes match factory, an auto scrapyard, STAR Labs, and a chemical supplier) in different parts of the city, with no apparent means of entry and no clues left behind. As they’re talking, a report comes in about a light bulb factory being robbed of its tungsten filaments. Clark figures there’s a pattern to the weird robberies and decides to investigate as Superman. On Thief-Master’s ship, we see him dreaming about the past and learn that he’s a kleptomaniac and is looking for a way to cure his shameful condition. Superman can’t find any evidence at the robbery sites and wonders if alien technology is involved. He uses his super-vision to scan for teleportation energy and finds Thief-Master ripping off selenium from another company. Thief-Superman catches Thief-MasterMaster’s space warps allow him to escape, but Superman figures out where he’ll strike next … a spark plug factory. Superman realizes Thief-Master was stealing elements from the same group on the periodic table (Oxygen, Sulfur, Chromium, Selenium, Tellurium, Tungsten, Polonium, and now Molybdenum), so he lays a trap for the master thief. He sets up a couple of big tuning forks, whose vibrations keep Thief-Master from using his warps unless he wants his body to shatter. Now we get an arbitrary, one-page wrap-up as Thief-Master suddenly loses his compulsion to steal and tells Superman the cure for his kleptomania was getting caught. Yeah, that somehow cured him of his compulsion to steal. Thief-Master returns all the stuff he took and Superman believes he’s reformed, so he lets him go.

Johnny almost exposes Clark's secret“Clark Kent—Superhero from Krypton” – Paul Kupperberg/Alex Saviuk/Pablo Marcos

This story is about an old acquaintance of Clark’s from Smallville (Johnny Webber) who shows up in Metropolis and keeps calling Clark “Superman”, while referring to Superman as “Clark Kent”. Apparently Johnny was a telepathic villain way back in an old Superboy issue and he’s come to invite “Superman” to their 13th class reunion (which I guess means Clark is supposed to be 31 years old). Apparently the reunions double as charity fund-raisers and Johnny figures they’ll raise a ton of money with Superman there. Clark can’t figure out why Johnny sees him as Superman when he’s wearing civilian clothes and seesClark hypnotizes Johnny Superman (even in photos or on TV) as Clark Kent. Clark goes to the reunion (and invites Jimmy and Lana) to make sure Johnny doesn’t blow his secret. Naturally, crooks show up to rob the charity money and after Superman pounds them, he realizes that when he and Johnny fought years ago, Johnny’s telepathy must’ve gotten a hint of Superboy’s secret but it got jumbled in his subconscious. Clark uses super-hypnosis to wipe the secret from Johnny’s mind, so Johnny sees Clark as Clark again.

Action 563 coverAction #563 – “Black Beauty” – Robert Loren Fleming/Keith Giffen/Bob Oksner

Yeah, it’s another Ambush Bug story. As usual, the plot (and I use the term loosely) is razor-thin; basically, Ambush Bug is trying different outfits and gets stuck in a black suit, then runs into Superman and tells him the suit’s origin story, which is pretty much a mirror of Superman’s origin. (For the record, Superman thinks it’s a pretty stupid origin.) The usual hijinks and non-sequiturs abound, although there are a few good jokes, like a cameo by Bethany Snow to get Perez/Titans fans to buy the book, or Ted Baxter announcing the death of Chuckles the Clown. There’s also a Secret Wars reference and a somewhat risque joke when Ambush Bug yells “I can’t get it off!” and a drunk guy says “It happens to a lotta guys.” (Bug was talking about not being able to remove his suit.)

“Mr. Mxyzptlk, Media Star” – E. Nelson Bridwell/Alex Saviuk/Dennis Jensen

Looks like they were going all-out on goofiness this month in Action. Again,Mxyzptlk sabotages media events the plot is almost non-existent (Mxyzptlk wants to be a media star and when Morgan Edge turns him down, Mxyzptlk starts sabotaging media events with his magic), since the main point of the story is seeing how Superman will get Mxyzptlk to say his name backwards and send himself back to his own dimension. The twist in this story is that Mxyzptlk casts a spell that prevents anyone (including him) from saying or writing a person’s name backwards. Superman gets around the spell when he realizes he can say Bizarro-Kltpzyxm’s name properly, so he writes that name on a cue card and tricks Mxyzptlk into saying it.

“Jimmy Olsen—Blob” – Craig Boldman/Howard Bender/Pablo Marcos

Well, we’re three for three on the weird stories this month. This one starts Jimmy the Blob freaks out his datewith Jimmy Olsen showing off some mementos of his adventurous life, including a metal ball from an alien planet and his Elastic Lad serum. On the way home, he drinks the serum to save a kid who’s falling out of a window, but instead of changing to Elastic lad, he just turns into a blob (though he still saves the kid). Just like in the movies, everyone freaks out about the blob, either running from it or trying to kill it. After the blob causes havoc around town (including scaring the shit out of Jimmy’s date), Superman figures out that the alien metal contaminated Jimmy’s serum, so he takes blob-Jimmy to the planet the metal came from and reverses his condition.

DC Presents 77 coverDC Comics Presents #77 – “Triad of Terror” – Marv Wolfman/Curt Swan/Dave Hunt

This story brings back a number of one-shot villains as a team to fight the Forgotten Heroes, another group of B-listers. The story starts with a forgotten villain (Mr. Poseidon) shrinking and shooting himself out of a cannon (!) toward the Fortress of Science outside Metropolis. Poseidon is there to release Ultivac, a giant robot who Poseidon controls by using a power dampener. Under Poseidon’s control, Ultivac proceeds to rampage through the facility, destroying most of it. Poseidon and Ultivac head toward Metropolis, where the Forgotten Heroes (Rip Hunter, Cave Carson, Dolphin, Immortal Man, Animal Man, Rick Flag, and Congo Bill) are holding a luncheon to introduce themselves to the public. Naturally, the Heroes try to stop Poseidon and Ultivac, but getEnchantress puts Poseidon in his place blasted for their trouble. Poseidon takes Ultivac back to his cohort, Enchantress, who looks kinda weird here; she’s got blonde hair and isn’t wearing her usual green outfit with the witch hat. Anyway, Enchantress seems to think she’s in charge of this little enterprise, but Poseidon reminds her they’re supposed to be partners. Back in Metropolis, Superman runs into Atom Master knocking over a bank and figures he’ll be an easy take-down. But Atom Master has refined his technology and manages to get away from Superman, although Supes goes after him right away. Meanwhile, Enchantress has made contact with another mage (Kraklow) to discuss their schemes. In order to carry out Ultivac forced to fight Supermantheir plan they need a third member, but Enchantress says she knows where to find him. Ultivac wants Poseidon to release him from his control, but Poseidon knows Ultivac will attack if he’s freed. Ultivac senses Superman chasing Atom Master nearby and Poseidon figures he can use Atom Master’s psionics to gain an advantage over Enchantress, so he forces Ultivac to teleport Atom Master to the hideout. Superman’s vision allows him to follow the energy trail and he busts in on the villains just as Enchantress is talking to a hologram of Kraklow about Rip Hunter. Poseidon forces Ultivac to fight Superman, giving Enchantress time to whisk everyone away via her spells. Suerman goes to warn Rip about Kraklow and Rip figures they should use his time bubble to go back to Kraklow’s era. Animal Man mentions that EnchantressAnimal Man beats the dragon used to be a hero, so he’s wondering why she’s with the bad guys now. They head back in time to the Middle Ages to look for Kraklow, but Enchantress has already warned him. He uses his mystic clay to turn Superman into a dragon (apparently Rip forgot that Kraklow could do that) and he attacks the time bubble. Animal Man heads out to face the dragon and the time bubble disappears. Luckily, the dragon doesn’t have Superman’s powers, so Animal Man beats it (while making the obvious jokes about Puff, Ollie, and Anne McCaffrey). The others return in the time bubble; I’m not sure where they went, but they do have Dane Dorrance (of the Sea Devils) with them now, so maybe they went forward in Superman turned back to himself in Kraklow's throne roomtime to get him. After chaining up the dragon, Dane, Dolphin, and Animal Man head for Kraklow’s castle by swimming underwater through a lake. Rip, Rick, Cave, Immortal Man, and Congorilla use Cave’s Mighty Mole to burrow up under the castle, coming out right in Kraklow’s throne room just as the other three bust through the doors. But the dragon has busted loose and Kraklow orders it to defend him. Rick destroys the clay dragon, returning Superman to normal, but before they can grab Kraklow, he casts a spell that sends them to the future … where another moldy oldie, the Faceless Creature from Saturn, is waiting to attack them.

All-Star Squadron 41 coverAll-Star Squadron #41 – “Catch a Falling Starman” – Roy Thomas, Paul Kupperberg/Arvell Jones/Bill Collins

This is the first of the “secret origins” issues of All-Star Squadron, where Roy re-tells the origins of certain superheroes with some new material and a more modern sensibility. This one kinda reads like filler (since Roy doesn’t script the actual origin), but as the Crisis screws up All-Star’s continuity, we’ll get more and more of these “origin” issues. The framing device for the story is Starman falling out of the sky unconscious and being rescued and taken to the Perisphere by some of his fellow All-Stars. While they’re trying to revive him, Tarantula reminisces about Starman recounting his origin story a while back, which leads us into the bulk of the story. It all started back in 1941, when socialite Ted Knight tookTed's helps an ungrateful Batman his girlfriend Doris to a club for dinner. Ted had been growing increasingly bored with being rich and having nothing to do, so when Doris kidded him about becoming a superhero, he actually started considering it. The club they were at was held up by thieves and when Batman and Robin showed up to pound them, Ted helped batman out by stopping one of the thieves from shooting him. Instead of being grateful, Batman warned Ted not to play hero, which kinda pissed Ted off … especially when Doris wasn’t in the mood for any lovin’ that night. Ted went to Washington to visit his cousin Sandra (who would later become Phantom Lady) and she told him he didn’t have to be a useless Sandra shows Ted the gravity rodlayabout, encouraging him to find something to occupy his time. Sandra showed him a project she was working on (a black light projector) that was started by a friend of her father’s, Professor Davis. Sandra wanted Ted to help her finish the black light, but Ted was more interested in another of Davis’s projects, a Gravity Rod. He took the Rod, hoping to make it work so he could become a superhero. He used a fancy telescope to capture cosmic rays and charged the Rod with the rays, imbuing it with energy. Ted’s dream came true as the Rod gave him the power to fly and shoot energy beams, although he wasn’t exactly proficient right off the bat. He called Sandra to tell her theTed gets the hang of using the rod good news, but she was too upset that someone had just tried to kidnap her father. She’d fought them off, but was pissed off at Ted for not helping her with the black light. So Ted decided to keep his secret and make himself a costume. He did let the FBI know that there was a new hero around and he was planning on telling Doris the truth, but was interrupted by a blackout. Apparently, Dr. Doog was leading a bunch of bandits in siphoning power from various sources, so the FBI called Starman to look into it. He found Doog’s hideout and in one of those coincidences that happened all the time in the Golden Age, Professor Davis was being held there. Davis thought Starman destroys Doog's hideoutStarman had stolen his Gravity Rod, but after Starman rescued him and kicked the shit out of Doog and his minions, Davis gave the hero his blessing to use the Rod. Ted decided not to tell Doris his secret yet and went back to playing the bored playboy. In 1943, Tarantula finishes his remembrance just as Starman wakes up screaming about some terrible new menace that’s going to destroy them all. But we’ll have to wait until next issue to see what it is.

 

Infinity Inc 10 coverInfinity Inc. #10 – “A Dark and Deadly Place” – Roy Thomas/Jerry Ordway/Mike Machlan, Tony DeZuniga

This is the finale of the long (since issue #1) storyline of Ultra-Humanite exposing the JSA to the waters of Koehaha, the Stream of Ruthlessness, which turned them evil. The effects have begun to wear off, but Koehaha’s waters are addictive, so the affected members have returned to Ultra-Humanite’s hideout to get another dose. Ultra-Humanite has an antidote to the Koehaha’s effects, but has no intention of sharing it with them. He revels in his enemies being evil, but he’s booby-trapped the access to the Koehaha, telling the JSAers they can get their fix of Ruthlessness if they do something for him … eliminate Infinity Inc, who just happen to beInfinity inc fight the JSA the JSA’s family members. Outside the hideout, Infinity Inc are gathering to fight their parents and mentors. Power Girl and Huntress are the last to arrive (Power Girl with some Kryptonite to use against Superman), although Star-Spangled Kid and Brainwave Jr are still missing. The Infinitors bust into the hideout to confront the JSA, who are so desperate for another hit of Koehaha they attack immediately. Superman melts the lead casing around the Kryptonite, exposing Power Girl to it, just as Atom decks Huntress. Luckily, the JSAers are too selfish to team up effectively and Silver Scarab exhorts Infinity Inc to rely on teamwork to fight their emotionally-addled foes. The Infinitors manage to Infinitors get the upper handwork together, defeating their more experienced rivals after a hard fight. Silver Scarab saves Northwind (of whom he’s been jealous for years) and they come to a truce, while Nuklon uses his new intangibility power (acquired at the nuclear plant last issue) to take down Wonder Woman. Obsidian tries to use his darkness power to affect Ultra-Humanite’s mind, but Ultra feels no guilt over his evil ways, so Obsidian can’t affect him. After the JSA are beaten, Ultra-Humanite tries to open the door to the Koehaha, planning on turning the Infinitors evil just like the JSA. But when the doors open, a strange darkness pours through instead of the enchanted waters and everyone is pulled through the door into Limbo. The Infinitors and JSA are all knocked out, but Ultra-Humanite remains conscious and quickly realizes his oldBrainwave and Ultra-Humanite's mental duel partner Brainwave is responsible for bringing them all to Limbo. Brainwave used his mental powers (with a boost from his son and Star-Spangled Kid’s cosmic belt) to drag Ultra-Humanite into Limbo where Ultra left Brainwave to rot. Ultra-Humanite blasts Brainwave Jr and Star-Spangled Kid before engaging in a mental duel with Brainwave. Brainwave’s concern for his son distracts him and Ultra-Humanite blasts him. Before he dies, Brainwave transfers his mind powers and memories into his son, who goes after Ultra-Humanite, overwhelming him with his amped-up mental powers. The Infinitors have revived and Brainwave Jr takes them (and everyone else) back to the real world, where they administer the antidote to the JSAers. The Brainwave Jr mourns his fatherKoehaha’s waters seem to have flowed down a deep hole, so the heroes all leave the hideout and bury it under tons of rock, hoping no one will ever be able to access the waters again. The JSA thank their young counterparts for saving them (and saving the world from them) and notice Ultra-Humanite is crying. Apparently, Brainwave Jr forced Ultra’s mind back in on itself, canceling Ultra’s powers and leaving him with the realization that his mind will be trapped in the body of an ape forever. But Brainwave Jr can’t spare any tears for Ultra … he’s too busy mourning his father.

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