Comics Reviews: Superman 405, Action 565, DC Comics Presents 79, All-Star Squadron 43, Infinity Inc 12

Superman 405 coverSuperman #405 – “The Mystery of the Super-Batman” – Craig Boldman/Alex Saviuk/Karl Kesel

This one starts with some crooks robbing a set of gold pan-pipes from the Metropolis Museum, knocking a homeless dude aside on the way out. They’re stopped by a Batarang slamming right through their car engine. The Batarang wasn’t thrown by Batman, but by Superman … wearing a Batman cape and cowl. Later, Clark calls Wayne Manor to assure Batman he has a good reason for (semi-)impersonating him and we get some flashbacks showing what happened up to this point. Clark and Lana were at the Museum to look at the latest acquisition, the Golden Syrinx (which is a fancy name for pan-pipes). When Lana blew theClark has horns pipes, Clark heard a piercing noise and got a major headache, almost passing out from the pain. At home, Clark noticed he now had horns growing from his head and went to the Fortress of Solitude as Superman to check his computer. Superman found out that the Syrinx is magical and the horns are supposed to mark the herald of the god Pan, who’s meant to be a liaison for Pan when he returns to Earth. Superman realized the Syrinx could cure his condition, but his telescopic vision showed that it was being stolen from the Museum. To hide the horns on his head, he put on a Batman costume he had lying around the Fortress and zoomed to Metropolis to stop the thieves, which is where we came in. Superman takes the thieves to the cops, but when he plays the Syrinx at Superman on patrolhome later, the horns don’t disappear. Lana drops by to see Clark (who hides the horns with a huge icepack on his head) and reminds him that he has to start a series of special reports tomorrow and Morgan Edge won’t listen to any excuses. After Lana leaves, Clark notices that the gold paint is flaking off the Syrinx, which means it’s a fake. But why would a fake Syrinx cause the horns to grow? Superman goes out on patrol, Batman-style, to clear his head and catches some muggers, who aren’t intimidated by his pseudo-Batman costume at all. The next day, Clark goes to an airfield do his first report (on skydiving) and decides to go full immersion, jumping out of the plane himself (which gives him an excuse to wear a helmet to hide his horns). Later, Superman uses his super-Superman gets info from thievesmemory to think back about the Museum robbery and figures out what must’ve happened: the “homeless man” on the Museum steps was a plant. He switched the real Syrinx with the fake so the thieves’ boss could rip them off and move up in the mob hierarchy, while they got caught. When Superman informs the thieves how they were double-crossed, they tell him who their boss is, a mobster named Wood. Superman goes to Wood’s office and finds out Wood stole the Syrinx to give to another mobster named Forest from Gotham. Forest is superstitious and attributes all his success to the god Pan, so Wood figured he could curry favour by giving Forest the Superman freaks Forest outSyrinx. Wood uses the Syrinx against Superman and it almost knocks him out again, but he uses a Batline to grab Wood. Superman takes Wood to Forest’s hotel and scares the shit out of Forest, who freaks when he sees the horns on Superman’s head. Superman brings Wood and Forest in and the cops figure the horns are just a trick Superman used to scare Forest. Later, Superman tells Batman the whole story and we find out the second Syrinx blast did make the horns disappear, it just took a couple hours. The story ends with Clark getting a raise for his unauthorized skydiving report, which impressed Edge a lot.

“Yes, Lowell, There is a Superman” – Bob Rozakis/Kurt Schaffenberger

This is a cutesy little story about a kid who doesn’t believe Superman is real (or Santa Claus, for that matter). The kid is visiting the Daily Planet with his family and Perry tries to convince him Superman’s real, but the kid justSuperman makes a believer out of Lowell won’t believe it. Clark changes to Superman, intending to show the kid what’s what, but gets delayed by a bunch of incidents. When Superman finally does show up and takes the kid flying, he’s forced to admit Superman’s real … but still refuses to believe in Santa. The way the kid and his family are introduced (Dave and Margaret Constable and their son and daughter, Lowell and Shannon, who are friends of Perry’s from Canada) makes me think this is one of those contests for the readers they used to have back then where the winners would get included in the story.

Action 565 coverAction #565 – “The Wizard City Warrior” – Mort Todd/Kurt Schaffenberger

Between Schaffenberger’s art and the goofy concept, this is a very Silver Age story; in fact, I actually thought it might be a reprint when I first started reading it, but it’s a new story based on an old Superboy tale, so I guess that explains it. It starts with a dude named Vedders escaping prison with another guy (Dexter) in the fake African country of Kurtiswana and ending up at the chasm containing Wizard City. Back in Metropolis, Clark stops by the Daily Planet to lend Jimmy a holo-projector he supposedly got from superman. Jimmy’s not in a great mood because Perry just assigned him to go to Kurtiswana and investigate Wizard City … if it even exists. But when Jimmy has dinner with his professorDexter pounds Superman father, he finds out Wizard City does exist and figures he might have quite the scoop on his hands. But when Jimmy gets to Wizard City, he falls into the chasm and meets … someone. (We don’t see who it is, but I assume it’s one of the fugitives from earlier.) Back in Metropolis, a huge dude wearing high-tech armour robs a bank and when Superman shows up to stop him, Supes gets his ass kicked. He wonders if the armour might be Kryptonian in origin, but when Professor Olsen tells Clark about Jimmy’s assignment (and that Jimmy has fallen out of contact), Clark figures the armour might’ve come from Wizard City (which is apparently a Kryptonian city that survived that planet’s destruction and crash-landed intact on Earth). Superman assumes Vedders was the one wearing the armour, since Vedders Superman fights Dexterfound Wizard City years ago and tried to use its Kryptonian tech against Superboy. But we see Dexter, the guy who escaped with Vedders, going to see his mother with a wad of cash, so he must be the armoured guy who robbed the bank. Dexter’s mom knows he’s a criminal and doesn’t want his dirty money, so she tells him to go to hell. Superman heads to Kurtiswana and checks out Wizard City, finding Jimmy and Vedders captured. Dexter has returned, wearing the armour, and uses a Kryptonian ray to blast Superman, weakening him. Dexter says he’s going to blow up Metropolis and then the whole world and takes off. Jimmy helps Superman, putting him in a catapult and shooting him into the air. Superman shows up in Metropolis and tackles Dexter, whose armour gives him an advantage until Superman uses a Klurkor hold to knock him out. Superman collects the explosives and detonates them out in space, then heads back to get Jimmy and Vedders out of Wizard City before sinking it down toward Earth’s core so no one can use its technology again.

Ambush Bug – “Sellout” – Robert Loren Fleming/Keith Giffen/Bob Oksner

Yeah, it’s more Ambush Bug and once again, it almost defies description. It’s just a few pages of jokes with Ambush Bug annoying various super-heroes. There are actually some funny bits, like Ambush Bug reminding Superman of all the stupid things he did in the Silver Age, or Wonder Woman pounding Ambush Bug when he calls her “sweetcakes”. There’s ablack panel gag cool page where most of the panels are done in black (although with dialogue balloons), a variation on John Byrne’s infamous all-white panels in Alpha Flight 6 which had a cover date of January 1984. (You can read a bit about that issue on Supermegamonkey.) Like I said, some of this stuff is actually funny, but I’m not sure why this belongs in a Superman comic. Maybe they figured Ambush Bug couldn’t sustain a comic on his own and that piggybacking him on Superman would at least get him in front of people’s eyeballs. Unfortunately, I think it’s stuff like this that contributes to the general fall in quality of Superman stories of this era. It certainly didn’t seem to help sales much.

DC Presents 79 coverDC Comics Presents #79 – “Superman—Meet Clark Kent” – Paul Kupperberg/Curt Swan/Al Williamson

This one starts with a couple of aliens from Ventura (Rokk and Sorban) discussing a bet they recently made that has something to do with Superman. Speaking of Superman, he’s fighting a villain called Erg-Master, whose high-tech suit lets him absorb energy from practically any source. Erg-Master’s suit generates a force field that keeps Superman from harming him, while allowing him to knock Supes around pretty good. After getting blasted with his own heat vision, Superman falls into a truck on the street below. Before he can regroup, he starts changing back in Clark Kent; no matter how much he tries to stop himself, he just keeps switching into Clark’s clothes, so he figures he’d better get out of there beforeErg-Master thinks Superman ran away someone notices. Erg-Master blows up the truck and when he finds Superman is gone, he assumes Supes was scared of him and ran away in fear. At the Galaxy Building, Clark is still wondering what compelled him to change back to his civilian identity in the middle of a fight (and what’s keeping him from changing back to Superman). He doesn’t think Erg-Master is responsible, but before he can ponder it too much, he has to do a TV interview with the chairman of OPEC. That sounds like a pretty topical reference for 1985, but the chairman is said to come from the fake country of Tunya, so I guess DC wasn’t trying to be too realistic. Apparently Clark has worked to line this interview up for Clark walks out on the interviewweeks and Lana expects him to ask some probing questions, but before he can, he gets up and walks out, leaving Lana to finish the interview. Clark has been overcome with another irresistible compulsion, this time to change into Superman, so he knows he has to get the hell out of there. He heads down the hall, stripping off his civilian clothes, and flies off out the window before anyone can see him. The OPEC chairman is highly insulted and it doesn’t help matters when Clark wanders into the studio acting like he has no clue what he just did. Since we see Superman flying over Metropolis at the same time, I’m thinking Clark really doesn’t know what just happened. Meanwhile, Superman happens across a recent battle scene and learns (by watching a cameraman’s video) that he defeated Erg-Master by shorting out his suitSuperman defeating Erg-Master with negative ions … none of which he can remember. Supes heads back to the Galaxy Building and has another irresistible compulsion to change to Clark Kent. He finds Lana and tries to explain why he walked out on the interview, but she tells him he already explained and she believed him. Lana sits down for an interview of her own and Clark is stunned to see it’s with Superman. Supes is shocked to see him too and they quickly examine each other with x-ray vision to confirm they’re both identical. (Well, at least now Lana can’t say she’s never seen them together.) After the interview, Clark and Superman head out to figure out what’s going on. They find an Superman and Clark confront aliensenergy trail and follow it to a cloaked area of space, fighting their way past some robots until they bust into Rokk and Sorban’s ship. They recognize the inveterate gamblers, who inform them they have a wager on who would solve the mystery of their split bodies. Clark bluffs Rokk into showing him how the aliens caused the split by pretending he’s going to kill Rokk. As the aliens argue whether Clark solved the mystery or not, Clark and Superman destroy the machine that split them and they’re re-integrated. Rokk and Sorban head home, still arguing over who won the bet.

All-Star Squadron 43 coverAll-Star Squadron #43 – “Ultimate Victory” – Roy Thomas (plot), Mike Baron/Arvell Jones/Bill Collins

Last issue, three Japanese super-villains (Kung, Samurai, and Tsunami) attacked All-Star Squadron headquarters under the command of Prince Daka, who wants to steal objects of power, starting with Starman’s Cosmic Rod. The intruders managed to take down Firebrand, liberty Belle, Starman, Amazing Man, and Tarantula while Daka captured the Cosmic Rod ordered his minions to kill the All-Stars. Tsunami and Samurai hesitate to kill helpless opponents, but Kung isn’t bothered and Samurai finally decides to obey Daka’s orders. Before he can slice Amazing Man, Guardian comes barreling in and deflects the blow, starting aGuardian takes on Samurai brawl with Samurai and accidentally knocking Tsunami out. Daka tries to use the Rod, but Firebrand blasts him and Starman retrieves the Rod, giving the All-Stars a chance to regroup. But Kung still holds Liberty Belle captive, so Daka tells them he’ll trade the Rod and Tsunami for Belle at the Bronx Zoo later that night. The All-Stars have no choice but to agree and Daka uses his invisibility ray to disappear, taking Samurai, Kung, and Liberty Belle with him. As the All-Stars tie up Tsunami (who’s contemptuous of their “weakness” in wanting to save their teammate), Guardian reveals he got an emergency signal that something was wrong at HQ. Turns out Robotman (or what’s left Firebrand and Tarantula disagreeof him after Samurai sliced and diced him) sent the call for help. The All-Stars start arguing over whether or not to hand over the Rod to save Belle, with most of them thinking they should keep the Rod out of Daka’s hands no matter what. Starman is all angsty, blaming himself for not defeating Daka in Hawaii last issue. I think this might be the first sign of Starman’s eventual nervous breakdown. Firebrand decides to stop talking and act, grabbing the Rod and Tsunami and taking off. The others (except Starman and Robotman) chase after her and she and Tarantula end up scuffling over the Rod. When Amazing Man and Guardian back Firebrand, Tarantula gives up and chooses to stay behind. Tsunami sees all this and realizes the Americans aren’t as dishonorable as she’d thought. At the Zoo, Liberty Belle isn’t expecting herTsunami saves Liberty Belle teammates to trade the Rod for her, and when they show up she tells them not to do it. But the exchange goes ahead, after Guardian makes Daka swear on his honour as a samurai that he won’t try anything funny. Liberty Belle and Tsunami (who’s holding the Rod) walk toward each other to make the exchange. Tsunami notices a suspicious-looking rock on the path and realizes Daka and Kung plan a double-cross. Tsunami knocks Belle down and kicks the rock away before it explodes. That starts a big fight and Daka ends up getting the Rod from Tsunami, who doesn’t like Daka’s double-crossing tactics, but still can’t turn against her country. Daka gets ready to blast the All-Stars with Samurai disarms Dakathe Rod, but it’s knocked out of his hands right to Firebrand … by Samurai, who’s pissed off that Daka broke his promise of no treachery earlier. Daka orders Kung to bury the All-Stars under rubble and by the time Firebrand blasts it away, the villains are gone … except for Tsunami. She says she couldn’t let Daka kill the All-Stars treacherously, but she also can’t fight against her own homeland, so she has to take off and figure out her next move. The All-Stars let her go, thinking it the honourable thing to do.

Infinity Inc 12 coverInfinity Inc #12 – “Press Conference” – Roy Thomas/Don Newton, Tim Burgard/Joe Rubinstein, Tony DeZuniga

As the title indicates, this issue deals with Infinity Inc holding a press conference in Los Angeles to officially announce the formation of the team. Roy is kinda leaning into the whole West Coast thing, with Infinity Inc being more media savvy and concerned with public image than the older super-hero groups (they even have merchandise); I guess they were a team just made for the 80s. We see the various Infinity Inc members arriving before the conference, including Sylvester (Star-Spangled Kid) Pemberton, whose secret identity seems to be public knowledge. We see Ultra-Humanite watching from prison and promising revenge on the Infinitors,Power Girl and Huntress arrive and most of their family members are also watching from their respective homes. Power Girl’s old friend Andrew Vinson is one of the reporters covering the press conference and he tries to make a date with her for afterwards. After an introduction by then-mayor of L.A. Tom Bradley, Sylvester opens the press conference by telling everyone that he’s leasing the land for Infinity Inc’s headquarters from the city in exchange for helping out when needed. Sylvester introduces the other Infinitors (Brainwave Jr, Obsidian, Jade, Nuklon, Northwind, Silver Scarab, and Fury), but before he can mention Power Girl and Huntress, they both announce that they’re not joining the introducing the Infinitorsteam and are heading to their homes back East. After they take off, Sylvester fields a question about his goofy name (Star-Spangled Kid) and promises he’s thinking about a change. An older lady asks Jade and Obsidian who their mother is (apparently rumours of them being Green Lantern’s kids are already spreading), but they evade the question … mainly because they have no clue who their mother might be. Some anti-superhero protesters disrupt the conference, going on about how much collateral damage tends to pile up wherever superheroes congregate. They single out Nuklon because of his name (and the atomic symbol on his chest), but he shuts them down fast with his “aw-shucks” humility and honest answers. The next questions come fromYolanda's questions Yolanda Montez, who’s destined to become an important character in this series (and who looks pretty damn good). Yolanda works for Rock Star magazine and asks Nuklon about his pseudo-punk haircut and Northwind about the hidden city where he was raised. A reporter (and I use the term loosely) from the National Inquisitor asks about Brainwave Jr’s father, a known super-villain. Seeing as how the elder Brainwave gave his life to save his son (and the other Infinitors), Brainwave Jr gets pissed off and gives the guy shit, accidentally sending out some psychic waves that affect the audience. Jade drags Brainwave Jr away and he says he isn’t ready to join the team yet and takes off. Back at the press conference, the National Inquisitor guy outs Silver Scarab as Hector Brainwave Jr gets madHall, Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s son. Hector doesn’t bother denying it and takes his mask off so everyone can see his face. Apparently Ultra-Humanite figured out Scarab’s secret while they were fighting and this is his way of getting some petty revenge. Unwilling to let Hector be the only one outed, the others take their masks off and reveal their real names too. Before the press can really react, the conference is interrupted by Green Lantern’s old enemy Harlequin (no, not Harley Quinn) … except she doesn’t seem to have aged at all in the last forty years. She spouts some cryptic lines about Jade and Obsidian and points out that the ceiling is about to collapse. As Nuklon tries to hold it up long enough for everyone to evacuate, Sylvester remembers Harlequin’sHarlequin escapes power was to create illusions. She gives Jade a whack in the face and creates a blinding burst of light to cover her escape. As soon as she’s gone, everyone realizes the ceiling was never in danger of collapsing … it was another illusion. (I guess that explains how she looks so young too.) Jade wonders why Harlequin seemed so interested in her and her brother and jumps to the conclusion that Harlequin might be their mother. So, the team’s first press conference wasn’t exactly a resounding success, but at least nobody got killed.

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