Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, October 1980 (wk 2, pt 1)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around July 24, 1980.

Action Comics #512: I have to hand it to Bates and Swan on this one. Here's one of the Bates "conundrum" plots where the ending works just as well as set-up. In fact, I think this is the sort of story (in basic concept) I could see someone like Grant Morrison doing (in their more Silver Age homaging moments), though the execution would have been different in their hands. Anyway, Luthor's reform is a ruse, as we knew all along. When Luthor's new bride asks to give Superman a kiss at the wedding, Luthor's robots show up and whisk him away. They take him back to the Nefarium where they remind him of the plan he made himself forget: Luthor cloned a dying woman in an overly elaborate plot trap Superman forever in the Phantom Zone. He even excised his own memories of the plot to pass any test Superman applied. Callously, he "disposed of" the young woman and cured her clone of the disease. Luthor sits impassively as these memories are returned to him and the robots explain to the reader. We do not see his expression.

Superman comes busting in, of course. He had seen through Luthor's plot when he noted the cells encoding Luthor's memories of his marriage to Ardora of Lexor were severed (so Luthor's a bigamist too!). Supes played along in the hopes that the young woman might still be alive, but when he heard she wasn't, it's time to end Luthor's game. In the end, we find that Luthor played himself. When we finally see Luthor's expression, he is in tears as he watches his clone bride forever trapped in the Phantom Zone--his sacrifice to trap Superman. He's forever separated from the woman he tricked himself into falling in love with.

Adventure Comics #476: DeMatteis and Giordano have not yet hit their stride (I'm being optimistic that they have one). Aquaman is still, I guess, on a quest to find Mera but he continues to he get sidetracked. This time he tangles with Neptune-or as he insists, Poseidon--merely so DeMatteis can give the story a clever title. It turns out that Poseidon's power to control sea creatures comes from his trident. When it's destroyed, he disappears without us finding out whether he was really Poseidon on not. The point of this story seems to be contrast Poseidon's manipulative control of sea life (including Aquaman) with our heroes friendship and cooperation. Considering the last two issues, the point of these stories seems to be rehabilitating the idea of Aquaman. A laudable goal, but it would be nice to have a better story as its vehicle.

In the Starman feature we reach a sort of climax with our hero confronting the throne-usurping Oswin. He's in a bit of a bind, though, because if he wins his sister the Empress (unaware of his identity) wants to marry him. When he reveals his identity, she might order his death as a threat to her throne. Starman makes a shrewd move and fakes his death after defeating Oswin. Plastic Man's goofy adventures from Pasko and Staton continues as he tangles with Cheeseface who has been killing execs in companies that manufacture nondairy creamers for revenge. 

Brave & the Bold #167: Wolfman teams up with Cockrum for what the splash page calls a tale of the "Golden Age Batman," which means a tale of a Batman active in WWII, because he meets the Blackhawks. It's interesting they say "Golden Age" instead of the diegetic "Earth-2." Is this indicative of Wolfman's dissatisfaction with the multiple Earths idea he'll get rid of in Crisis, or merely him not wanting to pin himself down since the most commonly appearing Blackhawks are the Earth-1 version? Regardless, the story is fun with Batman entering a boxing match as it's being broadcast over the radio to ruff up and interrogate a German boxer. There's also an appearance by the Hidalgo Trading Company of Doc Savage lore. Cockrum draws a good Golden Age Batman and Bruce Wayne that pays homage to Sprang's without aping the style. He also is good with the Blackhawk planes.

Detective Comics #495: The Crime Doctor story by Fleisher and Newton continues, picking up with Thorne realizing that Batman is Bruce Wayne. Batman gets knocked out by one of the thugs, but Thorne keeps them from killing him because "he's still a doctor." The cops are on the way, so they all run out, leaving Batman to wake up and rescue a doctor before a bomb goes off. Later, the thugs fill in crime boss Sterling Silversmith that the Crime Doctor may know Batman's identity and Sterling decides to have a chat with the doctor. Thorne is in disguise and trying to get out of the country, but gives himself away when he can't help but save a woman's life. Silversmith forces Thorne to drink some mercury ("quicksilver"--it's thematic!) and won't get him to a hospital if he doesn't give up Batman's identity. Thorne won't break confidentiality. Batman shows up to save him, but not before Thorne's mind is completely destroyed by mercury poisoning. A good, solid story.

The "Tales of Gotham" feature by Rozakis and Spiegle has a numbers runner desperate to get his mattress full of money out of a burning building. It's sort of clever, but I wonder who the audience was for this sort of thing? Burkett and Delbo continue the adventures of Batgirl, or the "Darknight Damsel" as this story puts it. This storyline isn't bad, but it suffers a bit by comparison to the better stories around it, which include the DeMatteis/Forton Black Lightning yarn. "Animals" has Black Lightning trying to resolve a hostage situation with a teen gang within the school without any of the gang members loosing their lives. It's 70s heavy handed, sure, regarding life in the ghetto and how it shapes youth, but it works pretty well. In the last story, Robin takes down a drug ring that is shipping the drugs to the campus under the guise of being an academic book publisher in Gotham. I bet the pricing was ridiculous.

Green Lantern #133: Wolfman and Staton get Carol and Hal back together around their mutual desire to not see Ferris Aircraft go under after several mysterious plane crashes. Things are complicated by Dr. Polaris whisking Green Lantern to the North Pole to try and kill him. Based on the trouble Polaris gives GL and the dialogue about the ring's power and magnetism, Magneto would be a deadlier foe for Jordan than Sinestro! The backup story by Laurie Sutton and Rodin Rodriguez has Adam Strange and friends fighting to save Ranagar from Kaskor the Mad. There's a lot of action, but it still feels kind of dull.

House of Mystery #285: Great cover on this one courtesy of Joe Kubert. I don't think any of the stories live up to it. The cover story by Wessler and Henson (in that it has a clown, otherwise it's unrelated) is sort of a Murder on the Orient Express riff set in a circus where the clown arrested for stabbing the lousy circus owner was actually the only member of the circus that couldn't have killed him because she stabbed him after he was dead at the others' hands! Kupperberg's and Cruz's "Cold Storage" has a soldier freaking out due to isolation in the arctic and committing murder, only to wind up infected by a deadly disease careered by a quarantined astronaut that will keep him isolated and in the extreme cold. Barr and Patricio deliver a tale of an overzealous vampire hunter who, after the accidentally murder of a boy just pretending to be a vampire, has a curse put on him by the child's mother. It causes him to develop a phobia that leads to his death when it manifests at a crucial moment: a fear of pointed objects.  Barr takes another swing, this time with Garcia, in a slightly better story of a robber and who plays his boombox at an annoying volume. The music allows the woman he injured in a jewelry store robbery to guess his identity. The woman's husband ultimately traps him in a basement under debris--and turns up his radio so that no one can hear his cries for help.

1 comment:

bombasticus said...

Always great.

Anticipating the footsteps of Crisis approaching is super interesting . . . which writers signed on first, how was consensus manufactured that they were going to kill the entire multiverse model, who resisted or tried to ignore it and just keep writing funnybooks.

But that Action might be the real star of this pull list. Yeah, Morrison in a nonbinary mode would make big hay of Luthor's femme clone and forgotten true love. I guess she's technically still in the Zone somewhere. Maybe we imagine her happy.