Monday, October 24, 2016

Superman #372 (1982)

Superman #372 (June, 1982)
"Superman's History-Changing Mission!"
"Kidnappers in ths Sky!"
Writers - Cary Bates & Bob Rozakis
Pencillers - Curt Swan & Gil Kane
Inker - Frank Chiaramonte
Colorists - Anthony Tollin & Tom Ziuko
Letterers - Todd Klein & Ben Oda
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.60

Ooooh, a Phantom Superman!  That's scary, right?  Okay, not really...


It's a beautiful afternoon in Metropolis as we join the airborne traffic chopper on its PM-Drive patrol.  All's well until they almost collide with a strange black mass!  They veer off course to avoid contact just as Superman hits the scene.  The black mass is on the move, and Superman has to get in front of it to ensure it doesn't slam into the Melsley Building.  Luckily, it's set to hit it at the 12th floor... which is only used for maintenance!

Superman deduces that the mass is made of antimatter, and should it collide with anything... even a super-Kryptonian... it would make the unwitting target cease to exist!  Superman follows it for awhile, when it changes course... flying straight up into orbit.  We get a super-hearing exhibition as Superman tracks a strong radio signal back to Earth...

... all the way to a small tropical island.  The home of a solitary man who is lounged out with a cute little glass of lemonade.  He isn't surprised to see Superman, in fact... he expected him!  He introduces himself as astrophysicist, Mason Strath and takes credit for that crazy ball of anti-matter.

Ya see, he's got a proposition for the Man of Steel.  He wants Superman to go back in time to August 23rd (presumably of 1981) to stop his young children from being swept away to their deaths by a massive tidal wave.  If Superman refuses... that anti-matter mass will transform into a black hole that will swallow the Earth.  If Superman chooses not to act quickly enough... well, that anti-matter mass will transform into a black hole that will swallow the Earth.  Superman pleads with Strath, claiming that not even he can change the past (hmm... I think we're getting fast and loose with the laws of Super-time-travel here, but we'll go with it).

Left without much of a choice, Superman takes the gig.  He creates a special bubble with which to carry a (randomly mustache-less) Mason Strath back in time with him.  Upon arrival on August 23, Superman demonstrates that he is nothing more than a phantom out of time... he is unable to stop the tidal wave nor sweep the children out of its path.  Knowing that the fate of his children is sealed, Strath buries his head in his hands and sobs.

Not content to just return to the present with the poor fella, Superman flies them to Metropolis where they watch the Superman of that time repairing a falling skyscraper.  This proves that there can only be one Superman in a given time... keeping in mind that this is pre-Crisis, ya gotta chuckle a bit here, right?

Now finally, Superman and Mason return to the present... only to find that the console that controls the anti-matter suffered a short circuit... the black holing is about to commence.  Strath falls to the ground... he admits that the entire affair was meant to be nothing more than a bluff... and now there's nothing he can do to save the world.  Luckily, Superman can go some super-stuff...

... Like travel through time!  He flies up to the burgeoning black hole, and takes it with him to a time in which the Milky Way galaxy has moved... letting it detonate well out of harm's way.

Returning back to Earth, Superman reveals that when he went back to August 23rd, he only heard one heartbeat... Mason Strath's.  His children didn't have any.  He claims to have used his x-ray vision to learn that the children were, in actuality, androids.  Wha--?  That's pretty convenient, no?  Plus... if he was just a phantom, would his vision powers even work?

Now knowing that the kids were dupes, Superman heads of to Washington D.C. to check in with his C.I.A. contact, Cory Renwald.  Ol' Cory spills the beans.  Strath was sent to the island as he'd become radioactive during a lab accident... only thing is, nobody told Strath.  He thinks he was sent to the island to continue his research in complete privacy.  His kids were replaced with androids as to not catch the radioactivity.  Superman's all "screw that", and offers to bring Strath's real children for a visit... using some nebulous form of superpower to keep them from catchin' the crud.  He then vows to find a permanent cure for Mason... who, I doubt we ever hear from again.

Now... after that wacky romp through the past, let's visit the far-flung future of 2021!  Five-whole-years from now!  Did you know... that in five years, we will be living in floating cities?  That we will be driving aircars?  That we will get our news on-demand through a scrawl that appears on the dome of our floating cities?  Man, I can't wait!

Anyhoo... we join the head of the Universe New System, James Bartholomew Olsen.  He mentions that Perry White is now dead, and laments that it's not so fun to tease a computer.  Before he can get too deep in thought, a bald goon with a gun shows his face.  He demands Jimmy insert an item into the day's financial news.  Jimmy, being the virtuous sort we all know he is, refuses.  Baldy then reveals that the Olsen twins have been kidnapped!  Not those Olsen twins, but Jimmy's grandkids... Lois and Clark.  And honestly, I don't know if they're twins... just wanted to make the gag, and they really do look alike.

Jimmy agrees, but triggers a switch that mimics the effects of his old Superman signal watch.  The Superman we know and love appears to be AWOL, however, his grandson Jon Hudson is here, and hears the SOS.  We get some super-ventriloquism, where Jon tells Jimmy he's on his way.

He makes a half-hearted excuse to his gal pal and Supes' up.  He rescues the tots with the quickness... and gives "Uncle" Jimmy the "all clear".  Jimmy then socks the creep, the kids are returned... and everybody has ice cream.


Hmm, I thought phantoms were supposed to be scary!  Guess not always...

Let's start with the opener.  This was a weird story that really played with the rules of time travel in the DC Universe in ways that were awfully convenient.  Having Superman be a phantom "out of time" when he goes swimmin' in the time stream makes sense... but it's seems to only be a rule for this story.  I'm pretty sure there have been stories where Superman (or another hero) traveled through time and was able to make contact with others, or change outcomes.

Also, I touched on this briefly during the synopsis... I get that Superman can still fly when he's in the past... and can technically use his powers... but, if his heat vision didn't work on the tidal wave... how did his x-ray vision (and super-hearing, while we're at it) work on the Strath kidroids?  Seems like we should never sell short the power of super-convenience!

The back-up feature was equally forgettable.  Just a silly vignette where Superman 2021 gets a distress call... and saves the day.  No fuss, no muss.

Overall, I'd have to say this a bit of a stinker.  The art is nice... at least in the main feature... in the back-up, Jimmy's grandkids look like maniacal puppets whenever they're featured.  Really off-putting.  Almost like a demonic red-haired Sugar & Spike!  If you've got a hankering for some fun pre-Crisis Man o' Steel, there's far better stories out there... that are more worthy of your time.


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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Young Justice #3 (1998)

Young Justice #3 (December, 1998)
"The Issue Before the One Where the Girls Show Up!"
Writer - Peter David
Penciller - Todd Nauck
Inker - Larry Stucker
Letterer - Ken Lopez
Colorist - Jason Wright
Separator - Digital Chameleon
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

Hey I promised a visit to a Hallow-Teen Party hosted by Young Justice, right?  Was it worth the trip?  Let's find out...


It's Halloween night, and the streets are full of trick-or-treaters, but they're of no concern to us... no, instead we will go deep... deep down into, well... probably somebody's mother's basement, where a group of cult members are performing a cyber ritual.  This is really great, their computers are at the points of a pentagram as they try and summon techno-magic.  We get a cute Abort, Retry, or Fail gag before what appears to be a young Mr. Mxyzptlk is printed out of their inkjet.  He peels himself off the page, and looks to learn the lay of this strange new land.

Speaking of strange, we now join the boys of Young Justice (and, 
yes... as the title states, it's just the boys for now) as they chaperone the Hallow-Teen Party at the community center.  Kon is running his yap about his tactile telekinesis and Bart gets all up in everybody's business.

A girl dressed as a cheerleader starts puttin' the moves on our man, Robin... which gets the attention of her boyfriend, a larger boy dressed as a football player... which is pretty much exactly what she wanted.  He starts giving Robin some lip, but rather than fight back, Robin apologizes and backs off.

The goon and his pals start razzin' Robin, which gets Superboy and Impulse involved.  Kon gets pretty hardcore, breaking the goon's hand with a steel-high-five and Bart strips the man naked.  I mean, not down to a pair of heart-covered boxer shorts... really naked.  Well, he did leave him his shoes and socks... but close enough.  Our 5th Dimensional buddy is watching from afar and taking notes.

We shift scenes to the Red Tornado.  He is in flying the skies of Chicago in search of somebody.  On this night his target is his adopted daughter, Traya... who is trick or treating as a witch.  It is here that we learn that even an android can cry... or something.

Back at the party, Robin lambastes his teammates for their assault and humiliation of the bully.  He tries to remind them that as the hosts, they need to act more responsible.  He's also upset that by their actions, it appears as though Kon and Bart don't think he can take care of himself.

As Robin goes on... and on... and on, Bart notices that there's something strange going on.  Half the teens at the party have been transformed into old people while the other half are dancing out of control.  Then they see our visiting 5th dimensional imp...

There's a bit of a tussle... mostly comedy spots.  He ties weights to Superboy's feet and negates his vaunted tactile telekinesis before Bart runs him into a window, and Robin whistles for the Super Cycle... which crashes through the wall and crushes poor Mxy.  So much for being responsible, eh Tim?

We rejoin young Traya as she trick or treats... at night... by herself.  I mean, she's gotta be under ten years old... that's just not a good idea.  I think here we learn that she's not quite in Chicago... but Springfield, because she runs into some very familiar bullies who want her candy.  These doofs give chase... it's really pretty sad.  As she runs, she finds herself swept up in a tornado... she flies away in it while sitting on her witches broomstick.

Back at the party, the boys try to figure out just what is going on with this younger Mxy.  Robin concludes that he'd been plucked out of the time stream sometime in the past.  They decide to take advantage of this by informing him what he is to become in the future.  This Mxy is shocked and appalled, after all... he's a scholar, not a trickster.  He vows that he will devote his life to the sciences and learning... and never turn to being a devious little twerp.

All's well and good until the boys peek outside and realize what changing Mxy's past does to the Earth.  Outside of the school the world is absolutely destroyed.  Now they gotta undo what they just undid... but how?

Well, that's easy.  They show Mxy some Three Stooges shorts.  Easy peasy, right?  Well... it works in a pinch.  He gets all goofy, and his black hair turns the paler shade we're all accustomed to... and he vamooses.  But... did it work?

Well, sure... I guess.  Outside, the work is almost back to normal.  There's no more dead Earth... but the immediate area is now a Mr. Mxyzptlk-themed amusement park... not sure what's worse... okay, the dead Earth is probably worse.


It's funny that this book is Halloween themed, because reading it was like eating candy.  This is such a fun book... the kind we just don't get anymore.  It's almost a shame that when people see or hear the name "Young Justice" anymore, the first thing they think of is the animated series rather than this wonderful comic.

From beginning to end, this was a weird and fun ride.  We get a geeky computer cult, Superboy boring everybody with his tactile telekinesis, the bullies from The Simpsons picking on Red Tornado's daughter Traya, and Mxy "finding himself" while watching Three Stooges shorts.  What's not to love here?

Not much more to say... the dialog is David, and therefore... ya know, very good.  The story is fun... and the art is exactly what we've come to expect from Todd Nauck, also... ya know, very good.

I'd definitely recommend this... and much of this entire run.  This truly filled a Teen Titans-sized hole in many fans hearts... even keeping in mind that there was a Titans title being published alongside this... Great book, great fun... one to keep an eye out for.


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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Impulse #44 (1999)

Impulse #44 (January, 1999)
"All Hallows Gettin' Even"
Writer - William Messner-Loebs
Penciller - Craig Rousseau
Inker - Barbara Kaalberg
Letterer - Janice Chiang
Colorist - Tom McCraw
Assistant Editor - L.A. Williams
Editor - Paul Kupperberg
Cover Price: $2.25

Heyyy, it's Halloween in Manchester, what could possibly... well, ya know...


Trick-or-Treat... it's Halloween night, and this being the DC Universe, we see that several of the neighborhood tots have taken to dressing up like their favorite superheroes... even the Golden-Age Sandman.  I mean, I love the character, but I dunno if a six-year old would share that opinion.  You gotta figure he was disappointed when he saw his friends in their bright colorful outfits... and his mom gave him a gas mask and gloves.  Anyhoo, the kids get their booty, and turn to leave... only to get heisted by some... and I say this as unironically as I can... street toughs... *snicker* okay okay... 

Meet the Tigers... and Evil Eye.  The Tigers are the *ahem* toughest gang-bangers in town.  There names are Raffles and Steelboy... Oh Lord, I'm not gonna be able to get through this... Evil Eye is sort of like a pledge to the gang... and is the son of the former supervillain Invisible Weapon.  As we opened our titanic tale, we learned that Evil Eye left home that evening wishing his father was dead.  Raffles tells Evil Eye he needs an "edge" if he ever wants to be a Tiger.  Well, our cyclopian friend's got "edge" for days.  He runs to his house, and digs out one of his dear ol' dad's pistols.

We return to the Junior League of Trickortreaters as they head to their next house... the home of Max Mercury.  Well, rather than hand out candy... he *plops* unwrapped popcorn balls in their bags.  It's pretty gross... they're sticky, they stink... and might just be filled with poison and/or razor blades... probably even hypodermic needles.  The kids are not pleased... even going as far as to suggest Max Mercury is a "perv".  Luckily... well, kinda luckily... Max's daughter Helen is there to hand out "fun" coupons... $5 off their next dental cleaning.

After the kids split, Max turns his attention to his young ward Bart Allen.  He calls to him, but he's busy playing with what looks like a Tiger Electronic game... hey, Tiger... Tigers... hmm... Anyhoo, Max and Helen try to get Bart into the Halloween spirit... after all, this is his first Halloween.  There is apparently a Halloween party at Bart's school... and the growed-ups are able to get him to go by telling him he can wear a "costume" and tell "secrets".  It doesn't dawn on them what this could mean until Bart's out the door.

And so... Bart bolts to school, decked out in his Impulse duds.  When he arrives, the first thing he does is announce that he is Impulse!  Luckily... at this Halloween party, there are about 45 Impulses already present.

We shift scenes to the local Save*Mart where there ain't a whole lot going on.  The proprietors lament the fact that the shop is empty, and celebrate that Halloween will soon be behind them.  Just as they wish something interesting would happen (famous last words, right?) a bunch of t-shirts appear to levitate and walk out of the store... b-b-but how?  Why, it was those lovable scamps, the Tigers.  I guess the gun Evil Eye stole was some sort of invisibility ray.  The geeks celebrate their thievery until they realize they left the store with t-shirts instead of cold hard cash.  I'm tellin' ya, they're hopeless.  Oh well, next stop the only other 24-hour joint in Manchester... Zimm-Zamm's.  Evil Eye seems a bit trepidatious.

Speaking of Zimm-Zamm's... let's go there.  Here we meet a pair of... I dunno, soda jerks?  Anyhoo... one of them is called Butler, and he is bragging about his son... straight A's, star athlete... you know the deal.  Max Mercury zips in and gets in Butler's face... nearly outing him as the former supervillain Invisible Weapon.  He tells him about the goings-on at the Save*Mart, and wants to make sure he's not involved.  Max is really kind of a jerk to this poor guy.  I mean, dude's wearing a paper hat... and Max is waggin' his finger in his face.

Well, Max is somewhat satisfied that Butler is innocent... and so he leaves.  As he leaves, Impulse enters... looking for something to eat... because he's Impulse.  Just then, the mighty Tigers approach their next heist.  After zapping Impulse with a slow-down ray they go invisible, and proceed to empty the cash register.  This is a rather stupid thing to do, as the man who designed the invisibility-thingie is standing right there... and he has a diddlybop on his keyring to negate the powers.  All the while here, Evil Eye is pleading with his gang-bangin' heroes not to hurt the burly soda jerk.

Boy is he surprised to see his son, Eddie "Evil Eye" Whatshisface dancing with Steelboy... while Raffles drops a stack'a dough.

The mighty Tigers don't pay any heed to their one-eyed pledge, and a sad little skirmish ensues.  Butler soundly beats down the punks, and soon finds himself staring into the business end of Steelboy's pistol.  He pulls the trigger... but a blue blur catches the bullet before it hits its target.

Max Mercury arrived just in the nick of time.  The effects of slow-down ray wear off, and Impulse quickly ties the Tigers down.  Just then, Superboy calls to remind him that he and Robin are waiting for him at the Hallow-Teen Party they are hosting at the community center.  Hmm, a Hallow-Teen Party... that takes place in Young Justice #3?  I think I just found our invite...

We wrap up with Impulse jamming Superboy-bound... and Max Mercury slumping to the ground in a puddle of blood.  He caught the bullet alright... but he appears to have done so with his chest!  Obviously we are... [to be continued...]


Now this one could'a went one of two ways... and I was afraid it was heading down a direction I didn't wanna go.  For a moment, I really thought we were gonna do the "kid steals his parent's gun" route... which, we kinda did... with a supervillainy twist.  I was hoping the gun that ol' Evil Eye swiped was of the super-powered variety, though I couldn't quite tell with the stylized art.

Helluva twist ending here, right?  I remember the first time I read this one, I'd missed the last page.  Like I got to Impulse taking off to join up with Superboy and Robin, and for whatever reason just shut the book... it was a total shocker when I opened the next issue.  So, we still do get a shooting... but not from the gun I'd expected.

Now for the way to evade an awkward conversation in Detroit... howsabout dem Tigers, eh?  I mean, have you ever seen a geekier "gang"?  It would be adorable if it weren't so sad.  I mean... Raffles and Steelboy???  Come now... are these gang-bangers or pound-puppies?  And we open with them literally stealing candy from little kids... dudes be hardcore!

We get some Impulse naivete that could've outed his secret identity.  Luckily, Walmart Save*Mart had some wicked hot deals on Impulse costumes this year.  I really dug how pre-kneecapped-and-read-the-entirety-of-the-San-Francisco-Library Bart would take things literally.  Wear your costume... share secrets... sure!

A scene I particularly liked was with Invisible Weapon.  Here we have a... retired? supervillain, who from the looks of it is trying to start over.  Best he can do is working overnights at a sorta-grocery store, sorta-malt shoppe... and still if something goes down, he gets his chops busted.  You gotta feel for the poor guy... probably barely making minimum wage... I mean the man's wearing a damned paper hat here... just trying to keep on that straight and narrow, only to have Max Mercury up in your business.  That's gotta be rough.

Overall, fun issue of Impulse... most of them are.  I'll always say if you come across any odd issues of Impulse in the cheap-o bins, you could do far worse.  They're often a lot of fun, in that late-90's kinda way.  Anyhoo... I hear there's a Hallow-Teen Party going down, maybe we ought to crash it tomorrow!


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