Comics Reviews: Superman 408, Action 568, DC Comics Presents 82, All-Star Squadron 46, Infinity Inc. 15

Superman 408 coverSuperman #408 – “The Day the Earth Died” – Ed Hannigan (plot), Paul Kupperberg/Curt Swan/Al Williamson

This one starts with Clark Kent having a nightmare about the world being ravaged by nuclear war. When he wakes up, Clark starts wondering why he hasn’t done something (as Superman) about all the nukes that are present on Earth. With his power, he could easily destroy them and make the world a safer place. He contemplates that while flying around as Superman and helping various people. He ends up over the Atlantic Ocean and notices a huge bubble of air bursting from beneath the surface. He traces the bubble to Tritonis, where his old friend Lori Lemaris lives. Superman notices fissures in the ocean floor nearSuperman ruins the experiment outside Tritonis Tritonis that are giving off super-heated air bubbles. He figures it’s a seaquake waiting to erupt, so he seals the fissure. Unfortunately, the Tritonians were experimenting with geo-thermal heat and Superman just screwed it up for them. He apologizes and realizes his judgment isn’t always perfect, so maybe he’s wrong about destroying the nukes. He goes to a missile base to think things over and wonders if he could sabotage all the nukes on Earth instead of destroying them (since the nations would just make more nukes if he destroyed them). His thoughts are interrupted by some kids playing ball near a junkyard. One of the kids volunteers to climb down between some wrecked Superman saves the kidscars to get a lost ball, but he doesn’t know there’s a rattlesnake under the car. Superman saves the kid from the snake (and his friends from a bunch of falling cars) and tells the kid he shouldn’t be so reckless. The kid tells Superman that if you want something, you sometimes just have to go and get it, but promises to be more vigilant next time. Superman figures most people are like that kid … they’re more cautious after they’ve been burned a couple times. Superman thinks the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were probably a hard enough lesson for most people, so he decides to let them find their own way as far as nukes go.

“Warship” – E. Nelson Bridwell/Curt Swan/Joe Rubinstein

This is a brief story about Superman running across a generational starshipSuperman stops the alien war full of aliens in space. The aliens left their planet before it was destroyed, but their search for a new homeworld has taken so long they’ve broken into factions and started fighting amongst themselves. Superman brings their ship through a space-warp to a habitable planet, figuring the colonization efforts will force the aliens to work together, just as they did to build their starship in the first place.

 

Action 568 coverAction #568 – “Disappearing Act” – Elliot S! Maggin/Curt Swan/Al Williamson

This one starts with a famous stage magician named Jinx Turner musing about a meteorite strike while traveling by train to Metropolis. A meteorite actually does hit the train tracks, but Superman is there to keep the train from crashing. In Metropolis, Clark notices Jinx and tries to interview him, but Jinx isn’t interested in publicity, which doesn’t sound like any stage performer I’m familiar with. Jinx is in town to do a show for some kids, including Perry White’s grandchildren. Jinx has a trick where he makes an elephant appear, but his revolving platform doesn’t work right and the kids start heckling him. Jinx panics and wishesSuperman confronts the elephant the kids could see the elephant. When Perry and his wife arrive (with Clark) to pick up the kids, they’re gone and Jinx thinks he might’ve wished them away. Apparently he did, because the kids are in India outside a palace where a rogue elephant is trying to bust in. The palace guards let the kids in and the Maharajah figures they—Perry’s grandson in particular—were sent by divine providence to help with his elephant problem. He shows Perry’s grandkid his lab but when the elephant smashes into the palace gates, a bunch of chemicals spill all over the kid. Superman shows up with Jinx and tries to drive the elephant off, but it keeps coming back. When the elephant goes after Perry’s grandkid, Superman realizes it’s the chemicals that are making it crazy and tells the Maharajah to cleanse the palace of all traces of the chemicals. That gets rid of the elephant and Superman takes Jinx and the kids home.

Superman catching the thiefThe Amazing Matchmaker of Metropolis” – Craig Boldman/Howard Bender/Alex Nino

This is another goofy story, of the sort that seemed abundant in the Superman comics at the time. It starts when Superman gets a call from the Legion about a time-traveling thief who’s due to show up in Metropolis that day. He takes Jimmy to get photos of him catching the thief, which doesn’t take long. Superman hauls the thief away, but one of the gadgets he stole is left behind and Jimmy takes it home. After being stood up by a date, Jimmy puts on the device the time-thief dropped (a weird headband) and starts wondering why he can’t meet the perfect woman. He gets a mental flash about going to a specific corner at a specific time and when he does, he meets his perfect mate (who looks like a female version of Jimmy, which is kinda creepy). Jimmy figures he can open a foolproof dating service, using the headband to match people up with their perfect mates. Jimmy demonstrates by using the device on Lois,Superman meets Nova Woman directing her to a scruffy-looking dude outside the office. She reluctantly talks to the guy, who turns out to be an undercover cop in disguise and a total hunk (because of course Lois would never fall for an ugly dude). Jimmy uses the device on Clark next, sending him a mousy woman at the library, who turns out to be a superhero in disguise (Nova Woman) just like Clark (although of course, Jimmy doesn’t know Clark’s identity). Through all this, we see someone following Jimmy and it turns out to be Shvaughn Erin of the 30th Century Science Police. Shvaughn tells Jimmy the device he’s been using isn’t a Love-Finder, it’s a Thought-Actualizer, so he’s been conjuring up these dream partners from thin air. When Shvaughn takes the device back to the future, all three dream lovers disappear. For me, the most interesting part of this story is that neither Clark/Superman nor Lois apparently consider each other their ideal mate.

DC Comics Presents 82 coverDC Comics Presents #82 – “The Ghost of Krypton Past” – Cary Bates/Klaus Janson

This one starts on Rann, with Alanna Strange having a nightmare about the planet being destroyed. Apparently, she’s been having these dreams a lot lately, but she can’t remember them when she wakes up. Her husband (Adam Strange) and father (Sardath) have been monitoring her and notice that she’s mumbling in Kryptonese while she’s dreaming. Adam sends a message to Superman and Sardath sends the coordinates of the next zeta-beam so Superman can get to Rann immediately. When Alanna sees Superman, she starts acting like an asshole toward him and loses control, shouting something in Kryptonese that freaks Superman out. Before he can translate, Alanna transforms into aZazura attacks crazed she-demon named Zazura and goes wild. She attacks Adam and only Superman’s quick intervention saves him from burning to death. Zazura takes off and Superman tells Adam and Sardath she’s a space succubus who drains the life force from people. She was something of a legend on Krypton, which is why Superman is so freaked out to see that she’s real and has possessed Alanna’s body. Superman recounts how Zazura lurked in space near Krypton, preying on early Kryptonian astronauts until the Kryptonians seeded a special fire crystal into the atmosphere that drove her away. Sardath figures Rann is currently passing through the space sector where Krypton used to Adam shoots Zazurabe, so that’s why they ran into Zazura. Meanwhile, Zazura goes to a deep magma mine and causes an earthquake that gets Superman’s attention. When he goes to investigate, she grabs him. Sardath has been collecting some red space dust and Adam wonders if it might be what’s left of the fire crystals Superman told them about, the ones that can defeat Zazura. Adam goes to the magma mine to look for Zazura and finds her holding Superman in a stasis field. Zazura explains that she wants to recreate Krypton’s destruction on Rann, except this time she intends to gorge herself on all the dying souls (having missed out during Krypton’s destruction because it was so unexpected). Adam realizes he may have to sacrifice his wife to save Rann, so he shoots Zazura with a beam of the fire crystals and she goesSuperman says goodbye to his people's souls nuts. She loses control of Alanna and Superman and reverts to her true monstrous form. Superman tells Adam he knows the real plan and urges Adam to get Alanna clear while grabbing Adam’s rocket fuel pod. Zazura recovers from the ray blast (which was relatively weak) and gets ready to kill Superman, but he crushes the rocket pod, detonating a huge charge of fire crystals and completely obliterating Zazura. Superman flies up into the atmosphere and Alanna explains to Adam that her dreams were caused by the souls of millions of dead Kryptonians. They used her to summon Superman, knowing he could defeat Zazura, and now they’re communing with him one last time. The art on this story is a bit too stylized for my taste, but it does fit the story’s tone pretty well.

All-Star Squadron 46 coverAll-Star Squadron #46 – “Philadelphia—It Tolls for Thee” – Roy Thomas/Arvell Jones/Pablo Marcos

This one opens with some All-Stars holding a meeting to discuss what to do about Baron Blitzkrieg, who stole the Liberty Bell last issue and killed Tom Revere, Liberty Belle’s oldest friend. Belle ended up walking away from the All-Stars, so everyone’s worried about her, as well as what Blitzkrieg wants the Bell for. Johnny Quick lives up to his rep as a hothead and takes off before the meeting’s over, but he’s got an idea on how to track down Blitzkrieg. He goes to the hospital where Blitzkrieg’s henchman Zwerg is being held; apparently, Zwerg wasn’t killed by the collapsing wall last issue, just injured. When Johnny gets to the hospital, he finds LibbyLibby threatens Zwerg Lawrence (Liberty Belle’s civilian identity) threatening to pound Zwerg. Johnny puls her off, but tells Zwerg he’ll let her go if he doesn’t start talking. Zwerg spills his guts about Blitzkrieg’s plans for the Bell, which have something to do with curing his blindness. Before Johnny and Libby can figure out what to do, they notice a bus on fire outside the hospital. Johnny uses a whirlwind to douse the fire, but ends up getting knocked out by flying debris. Libby doesn’t stick around to help him, catching a lift with Hawkgirl to Philadelphia to confront Blitzkrieg. He’s holed up in an abandoned church, tied below the Liberty Bell which he claims is full of some kind of power that can cure his Hawkgirl takes out Zyklonblindness if he can filter the power through his body. He’s strapped to the Bell, which is connected to a lightning rod. Blitzkrieg’s minion Zyklon is getting things set when Liberty Belle and Hawkgirl show up and attack. Belle tries to smash Blitzkrieg’s machine, but Zyklon uses his super-speed to pound her. Hawkgirl isn’t fast enough to stop Zyklon, but she suckers him into running at her with all his speed, knocking both of them out. Liberty Belle tries to tear Blitzkrieg’s wiring harness off, but lightning strikes before she can finish, channeling power through the Bell and curing Blitzkrieg’s blindness. Liberty Belle gets a dose of the power too and when the Bell falls toward her, she thinks she’s about to be crushed like her ancestor (Miss Liberty) in the dreams she’s been having. But she throws her hand up instinctively andLiberty Belle's new powers finds she has a strange sonic pulse power, which she can direct anywhere she wants. She hurls the Bell at Blitzkrieg, knocking him on his ass, and sends Zyklon flying when he comes after her. Flash and Johnny Quick show up just in time for Johnny to deck Zyklon. Before they can secure the villains, Blitzkrieg and Zyklon take off through some underground tunnels. Belle thanks Hawkgirl for her help and ends up making out with Johnny just as the other All-Stars show up.

Infinity Inc 15 coverInfinity Inc. #15 – “Song Without End—Amen” – Roy Thomas/Todd McFarlane/Tony DeZuniga

Last issue, an alien weirdo named Chroma showed up at a free concert in the park to sing about his philosophy of nihilism, telling everyone that death is inevitable and life is basically empty. I think he may be responsible for all the emo music in the 90s, but I digress. Chroma isn’t just some crackpot though; he projects a rainbow of light that makes people take his words to heart, so everyone who heard his angsty speech and saw the light show now believes life is meaningless. Infinity Inc was at the concert and most of them fell under Chroma’s spell too, except Obsidian.infinitors argue about Chroma Obsidian’s darkness power absorbed Chroma’s prismatic lights (suggesting Chroma’s powers are visual as much as voice-related) and he ended up punching Chroma out. Infinity Inc took Chroma to the hospital and are now at their headquarters discussing things. Well, they’re actually just watching Chroma’s speech on TV, since the networks keep broadcasting it every hour; I guess Chroma’s powers can also work second-hand. As the team is arguing, Star-Spangled Kid returns from New York, wondering what’s going on. (He slept on the flight home, so he hasn’t seen Chroma’s performance yet.) Obsidian tries to explain that he got a weird vibe from Chroma when he absorbed his colours, Jade does crowd controlbut Obsidian can’t put into words what’s freaking him out so much. Star-Spangled Kid watches Chroma’s performance on TV and they all decide to go to the hospital and talk to him. A crowd of adoring fans has gathering outside the hospital and they get worked up when they see Infinity Inc arrive, thinking they’re there to mess with Chroma again. Jade uses her powers to erect a wall to keep the crowd back and the rest of the Infinitors head inside to see Chroma. They find out he’s awake, but hasn’t uttered a word since he woke up. The police detective in charge tells them the doctors pronounced Chroma healthy, but can’t figure out what sex he is (which mirrors an earlier discussion between Fury and Obsidian, were they disagreed on whether Chroma was male or female).Chroma forces his way out of the hospital Chroma decides he wants to talk to the people outside (and the TV cameras), but the cops don’t want him stirring things up again. Before Infinity Inc can do anything, Chroma uses his prismatic powrs to knock them around and heads outside. Obsidian goes after him, although his teammates seem to be under Chroma’s spell again and try to stop him. As the Infinitors fight each other, Chroma addresses the crowd with more of his dire warning bullshit. The other Infinitors end up defeating Obsidian to keep him away from Chroma, who says if Obsidian had attacked him again he would’ve faked his own death and become a martyr, his words staying with humanity forever. As it is, Chroma has decided to go back to his own planet, having concluded his experiment with humanity. Chroma disappears and Obsidian Infinitors fight each otherpronounces him an overgrown kid poking at the anthill of humanity to see what kind of reaction he’d get. As the crowd breaks up and moves off, Obsidian points out that humans have always been aware of their own mortality, they just choose to ignore it because otherwise they’d never get anything done. Throughout this issue, there’s a television crawl above the main story with various interviews and features, so I get the feeling Roy was trying to make a point about how TV distracts people from reality and how it takes over everything we do. At the end, we see a couple of banal TV commercials, suggesting that people will forget Chroma’s song as soon as they immerse themselves in mindless entertainment again … the modern day equivalent of bread and circuses.

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