Comics Reviews: Superman 407, Action 567, DC Comics Presents 81, All-Star Squadron 45, Infinity Inc 14

Superman 407 coverSuperman #407 – “Peril of the Pass-Along Powers” – Gerry and Carla Conway/Irv Novick/Dave Hunt

This is another goofy Superman story that seems like it belongs back in the Silver Age. Mr. Mxyzptlk casts a spell (while invisible) on Superman so Supes will pass on 75% of his powers to the first friend he touches, who will pass some of that power on to another friend, and so on. Superman notices something destabilizing the bedrock of Metropolis and finds a giant metal worm underground, eating through the city’s foundations. The worm has a metallic hide and drill bits in its mouth, but Superman can’t damage it no matter how hard he tries. The worm knocks him around and tosses him back to the surface, where he runs into Jimmy Olsen. Mxyzptlk’sSuperman gets pounded by metal worm spell takes effect, transferring three-quarters of Superman’s powers to Jimmy. Superman feels weak all of a sudden, but doesn’t know why yet. He goes back to fight the giant worm and really gets his ass kicked. Meanwhile, Jimmy knows something’s up when he accidentally smashes his camera and puts out a fire with a super-sneeze. Naturally, Mxyzptlk is watching all this and laughing his ass off. Superman finally figures out what happened, but assumes the worm had something to do with the power transfer. Jimmy bolsters that theory by mentioning a scientist friend of Perry’s (Dr. Stone) who needed help with an experiment gone wrong. Superman and Jimmy go to Stone’s Jimmy's super sneezeoffice and learn that the “worm” he created was a small mechanical device intended to help with mining, especially in dangerous areas. Stone doesn’t know how the worm got so big, but he warns Superman that he designed it to be indestructible. Jimmy touches Perry, transferring some of his powers. Jimmy thinks the powers must’ve returned to Superman, so Supes goes out to fight the worm again. But Perry soon demonstrates that he has super-powers now, though Jimmy still has his super-sneezing ability (which almost blows Lois’s clothes off). Superman soon realizes his powers haven’t returned, but he does manage to knock the worm out by luring it into smashing its head intoMxyzptlk warns Superman about the falling rock the wall a few times. Mxyzptlk is impressed with Superman’s ingenuity and when a big rock falls toward him, Mxyzptlk tries to warn Supes. But Superman is crushed under the rock and Mxyzptlk realizes he might die unless he regains his powers. Mxyzptlk is kind of a dick, but he’s no killer, and he knows he’d miss tormenting Superman if he died. Back at the Daily Planet, Perry uses his super-hearing to hear what his employees really think of him before passing on some power to Lois. Mxyzptlk shows up to tell them about Superman being in trouble and Lois flies the others to the tunnel where the revived worm is Superman's super friends rescue himabout to kill Superman. Lois, Jimmy, and Perry use their powers to stun the worm and when they touch Superman simultaneously, he regains all his powers. Superman ties the worm in a knot and takes it into space where he throws it into Halley’s Comet (which it starts to eat!) Back in Metropolis, Superman fixes the fissure in the streets and tricks Mxyzptlk into saying his name backwards by pointing out that the cracks in the fissure spell something. As soon as Mxyzptlk reads it, he vanishes back to his own dimension.

Action 567 coverAction #567 – “Peri(l) in Paradise” – Bob Rozakis/Kurt Schaffenberger/Dave Hunt

And we get another Silver Age story, this time with the Yellow Peri. What’s with all the magic-based stories lately? Anyway, this one starts in a little place called Coaltown, where Superman attends the dedication of a statue of himself, which Coaltown’s residents made to thank him for saving the town. Lois is there covering the story, but is moving on to a nearby town to investigate a possible real estate scam in a place called Paradise Pines. Clark is with her for the assignment, where they’re pretending to be a married couple looking to buy a house in Paradise Pines. Turns out Paradise Pines is run by Alvin Grant and his wife Loretta (aka theSuperman freezes the flood Yellow Peri, who we last saw in issue 559). Clark knows Alvin is a swindler from way back, but this time he seems to be on the up-and-up … sort of. Alvin is using Loretta’s powers to demonstrate the advantages of living in Paradise Pines; to start with, he has her whip up a blizzard and enclose everyone in a protective bubble. Unfortunately, the snow melts and starts a flash flood, so Clark has to slip away and change to Superman to deal with it. Later, Alvin has Loretta magic up some fruit and vegetables from the ground to show how the community would be self-sufficient. Clark is still suspicious, but Lois wedding interrupted by vegetablespoints out that using magic isn’t illegal, especially when it’s used in a beneficial way. Clark says Alvin’s scams always backfire and he’s about to get confirmation of that. After eating the magical vegetables for lunch, everyone starts acting weird. It looks like the magic food is forcing everyone to tell the truth, so Alvin admits he’s running a scam, Lois admits she still has feelings for Superman, and Clark reveals his secret identity in front of everyone and asks Lois to marry him! Alvin also admits he only married Loretta to win a bet and is sticking around to exploit her magic. Loretta decides she’d rather be married to Superman, while Lois gets mad when the vegetables go nuts and Superman stops the wedding to fight them. Yeah,Superman masters the magic book you heard me. Lois and Loretta argue over Superman, who gets Loretta’s magic book and tries to destroy it. After numerous capers worthy of the Three Stooges, he finally figures out how to read the book. He cancels the magic by coating the book in galena ore (which contains lead) and things go back to normal, with everybody conveniently forgetting everything that just happened. Unfortunately, Clark also forgets about the magic book and leaves it behind … where Loretta finds it. A blurb promises more Yellow Peri shenanigans, but I don’t think she ever appeared again.

“The League of Superman Watchers” – Michael J. Wolff/Alex Saviuk/Dennis Jensen

This is a story about a guy named Philip Strick trying to join the League of Superman Watchers, which is basically a big Superman fan club for adults. The club doesn’t want to let Strick join because he’s blind, even though Strick says he’s working on something big that’ll wow them. Superman Strick meets Supermandoesn’t approve of the club’s ableism, so he goes to check Strick out. Turns out Strick has built a machine to record data about Superman’s flying speed and density, enabling Strick to “see” Superman in a way. Strick’s neighbour is a crook named Perkins, who realizes the interference on his TV caused by Strick’s machine will allow him to track Superman to where he lives and figure out his secret identity. Superman doesn’t want to screw up Strick chance of joining the League (or let Perkins know his information is valid), so he gets the League to send bogus info on Superman’s identity to Perkins’s mob boss. So when Perkins tries to give his boss Superman’s identity, it looks like he’s just another crackpot who’s been getting messages through his TV. That makes Perkins figure his info is wrong, so he goes after Strick, but Superman and the cops are there to stop him. Strick ends up getting into the League after all.

DC Presents 81 coverDC Comics Presents #81 – “All This and Kobra Too” – Robert Loren Fleming/Keith Giffen/Bob Oksner

As you can tell from the cover, Superman’s co-star this issue is Ambush Bug, so all three Superman titles this month have goofy stories in them. I’m not a big fan of Ambush Bug (or maybe I just don’t get that type of humour) and this is like most of the Bug’s stories … a series of jokes wrapped inside a paper-thin plot. This one starts when Ambush Bug is golfing and accidentally finds a chunk of Red Kryptonite. Of course, Ambush Bug doesn’t know it’s Red Kryptonite, he just thinks it’s a pretty rock, but he decides to have it cut and polished for a pendant to give to Superman. Red Kryptonite has unpredictable effects on Kryptonians, which usually last for 48 hours; this time it switches Superman and Ambush Bug’s minds into each other’s bodies. Ambush Bug decides he’d better use Superman’sAmbush Bug fights Kobra powers to be heroic, but he can’t handle the power so he keeps screwing up. Kobra gets involved because he was watching Ambush Bug (possibly interested in his teleporting technology), but after the body switch, Kobra is surprised to find himself facing “Superman”. By sheer dumb luck, Ambush Bug captures Kobra (while setting the entire Metropolis waterfront on fire), but loses him when the mind-switch wears off. Superman has to let Kobra go to stop the fire and the huge wave he brings in to extinguish the blaze ends up swamping Ambush Bug … which Superman finds hilarious. Kobra acts (and talks) like a real goof in this issue, which is weird because a few years ago DC was trying to make him into a credible villain. Now he’s pretty much a joke.

All-Star Squadron 45 coverAll-Star Squadron #45 – “Give Me Liberty—Give Me Death” – Roy Thomas/Arvell Jones/Pablo Marcos

This one starts with Liberty Belle having a very vivid dream about her heroic ancestor (Miss Liberty) fighting Hessians during the Revolutionary War and being crushed by the actual Liberty Bell. Belle wakes up screaming, which disturbs the other passengers on the train. (Belle and Johnny Quick are heading to Philadelphia to see Belle’s old friend Tom Revere and to investigate why Liberty Belle gets a super-powered rush of adrenaline whenever Tom rings the real Liberty Bell.) Belle says this isn’t the first time she’s had that dream, but isn’t sure what it means. She andLiberty Belle fights Baron Blitzkrieg Johnny go to Independence Hall and see Tom Revere, which makes Johnny nervous since Tom is like Belle’s family and she and Johnny have been getting pretty serious lately. Before Johnny can get too freaked out meeting Belle’s father figure, they’re interrupted by some uninvited guests … Baron Blitzkrieg, Zyklon, and a dwarf named Zwerg (which is German for dwarf). Blitzkrieg is still blind and says he wants the Liberty Bell. Tom tries to stop him but gets smacked down. Johnny tries to catch him, but Zyklon turns out to have super-speed too and blocks Johnny, so Tom smashes into the wall. When Belle sees he’s not breathing, she freaks and attacks Blitzkrieg, pounding Zwerg on the Zyklon and Johnny fight at super-speedway. Even blind, Blitzkrieg is super-strong and has honed his other senses to perfection, so Liberty Belle can’t get the advantage over him (although some collapsing debris does bury Zwerg). Blitzkrieg ends up tossing her through the air, but this time Johnny makes the catch. He runs outside with Zyklon right on his ass and tries to fly away. Zyklon generates a whirlwind to pull him back, so Johnny tosses Belle toward the river and has a super-speed punch-up with Zyklon. Zyklon wins (by cheating) and knocks Johnny out before heading back to his master. Belle hits the river hard, but isn’t in the water long before she’s pulled out by Flash. Green Lantern and Wonder Woman are there too and the four of them head back to Independence Hall, but they’re too late … Blitzkrieg and Zyklon are gone with the Liberty Bell.Liberty Belle freaks out and quits Liberty Belle blames herself for Tom’s death since Blitzkrieg followed her and Johnny there and she swears she’ll bring Blitzkrieg to justice … but as Libby Lawrence, not Liberty Belle. She throws her mask away and says she’s resigning from the All-Stars. Johnny can’t talk her out of it and he blames himself, since he wasn’t able to prevent Tom’s death, or kick Zyklon’s ass. Blitzkrieg and Zyklon move the Bell to his hideout and Blitzkrieg says the Bell can help cure his blindness … and destroy an American city at the same time.

Infinity Inc 14 coverInfinity Inc. #14 – “Concert … in the Key of Chroma” – Roy Thomas/Todd McFarlane/Tony DeZuniga

This one starts with Todd (Obsidian) Rice and Norda (Northwind) Cantrell standing in line for a movie with their dates, Sharon and Marcie. Todd’s sister (Jade) set up the blind dates and while Marcie’s pretty into Norda, Sharon has no interest in Todd whatsoever. This is the beginning of Obsidian’s “girl trouble” which becomes an ongoing thing in the comic. Years later, Obsidian will be revealed to be gay; I doubt that was Roy’s intention here, but it certainly makes these issues read a bit differently in hindsight. Before they even get into the theatre, some gang-bangers (the Cobras) drive by and toss a bomb at their rivals (the Panthers). Norda ends up catchingNorthwind gets ready to fight gangs the bomb and tosses it away before it explodes. The Panthers are ready to retaliate right away, so Northwind and Obsidian have to change to their super-hero identities and stop both gangs from fighting. After the gang-bangers are hauled away, Marcie is pretty stoked to find out she’s dating a superhero. Sharon isn’t quite so impressed, thinking she’s out with a “damn mutant”. When the guys drop off their dates, Marcie invites Norda to a free concert in the park (by a band called Stone Dead). Todd asks Sharon if she wants to go with him, but she’s not interested. When Todd and Norda get back to Infinity Inc headquarters at Stellar Studios, they’re just in time to meet the others returning from their island adventure last issue. Jade introduces Rose Canton to Todd and Jade calls Brainwave JrNorda and tells them what happened on the island. Jade insists Rose spend the night at the studio before she heads home. Jade gets a mental message from Brainwave Jr. and calls a number he implanted in her head. They talk briefly and Brainwave says he’s not ready to come back yet. The Infinitors get a call from the mayor asking them to act as security for the Stone Dead concert and since they’ve advertised themselves as Los Angeles’ official superhero team, they accept. The next night, the crowd gets restless when Stone Dead are late, but once they show up and start playing, everyone’s cool. Unfortunately, a weirdo named Chroma flies out of the sky shooting rainbow-coloured energy around, which shorts out all the amps and almost crashes the police helicopter onto the crowd. Chroma takes over the microphone, sending out a “song” that the crowd feels more than hears, a song that evokes a sense of despair and mortality in everyone. I guess Chroma was Emo/Grunge before it was popular. Chroma's depressing songBut the crowd loves it; even the Infinitors are somewhat mesmerized by the gloomy song, except Obsidian. He uses his powers to absorb Chroma’s light energy and decks him, which kinda pisses off the crowd. The Infinitors take off with Chroma’s unconscious body and Obsidian wonders if getting captured was part of Chroma’s plan … along with the TV cameras that recorded his emotive performance. This is Todd McFarlane’s first issue of Infinity Inc and it’s actually quite good. His art isn’t nearly as stylized as it’ll be a few years later and the storytelling is pretty good. He does stick a lot of images in between panels, which clutters up the pages a bit, but overall it’s pretty good.

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