Saturday, September 24, 2016

Action Comics #329 (1965)

Action Comics #329 (October, 1965)
"The Ultimate Enemy!"
"Drang, the Destroyer!"
Writers - Edmond Hamilton & Leo Dorfman
Artists - Al Plastino & Jim Mooney
Cover Price: $0.12

Going way back for this one.  Over a half-century old... who says I'm stuck in the 80's... well, besides everybody.

This is just another piece of proof that you never know what you'll come across when you peruse the cheap-o bins.  Give 'em a dive, today!


We open on a splash page of Superman lying under the boot of a mysterious sword-wielding knight.  Superman has been outfought and feels as though he's a simple sword-slash away from the great hereafter.  But, before that... we watch as the crazy knight walks the streets of Metropolis while pedestrians look on.  The knight lifts a car and just starts slashing away at a bank vault.  The nearby Superman is on the case... however, finds himself no match for the walking tin-can.

The knight knocks Superman into the side of a building, causing it to nearly topple to the ground.  Superman has to support the structure with his own body... which allows the knight to get away.  He doesn't go far, however... just over to a nearby bridge, where he starts slicing and dicing the support pillars.  Once Superman is out of the "holding up a building" gig, he has to listen to some Metropolitans comment on the strength and prowess of the knight... causing the Man of Steel to feel insecure, to the point where he needs to redeem himself.  Wow... c'mon Superman, you can't expect folks to like you if you don't like yourself.

And so, Superman tracks the knight down to a train... in the desert?  The two engage in a titanic train tug of war.  It's a stalemate, and the knight shortly loses interest... instead deciding to use his sword to carve into the side of one of the cars.  Superman sees this as his opportunity to reengage... which isn't that great of an idea.  The knight literally throws him all the way back to Metropolis... where several more douchey city folk give him lip... including one Jimmy Olsen.  Superman tells Jimmy to buzz off... nice!  During Jimmy's spoo, Supes tries to use his telescopic vision to track the knight, but finds that a nearby hill is heavily lined with lead, hmm...

Not knowing where to go from here, the Man of Steel retires to the Fortress of Solitude to have a think.  He comes to the conclusion that, since the knight is equal to him in strength... he'll have to best him with his swordsmanship.  Now, this is a wacky bit... that is spoiled by the cover.  Superman returns to the streets of Metropolis holding a blade and a rainbow emblazoned shield... which is apparently the flag of Krypton.  Whodathunkit?  He, get this, challenges the knight to a duel... to the death!  This ain't is your daddy's Superman!

Finally, the knight reappears to answer Superman's challenge... while a police officer comments that "Superman's gone mad with rage!"  Now tell me, why in the hell is Superman risking life and limb for these unappreciative jerks?  Just let the knight have his way with them!  Anyhoo, Superman and the knight duel on the docks until, after Superman notices something familiar about the knight's sword, they both fall into the murky depths below.  Moments later, only the knight reemerges.

We follow the knight as he walks to it's cave hideout... in an area concealed by lead, hmm... Inside we meet the most terrifying villain yet, Jon Smatten!  He's pleased to see that his knight (who is now revealed to be a... dun dun dun... robot) killed Superman, ya see... Smatten's long hated the Man of Steel.

Flashback time!  Many years ago, when Smatten was in reform school, Superboy was able to stop him from setting off a bomb.  Years later, Smatten had a not so dissimilar run in with Superman, which landed him in jail.  While incarcerated, Smatten decided to use his nebulous scientific abilities to gather enough Green-K to make a weapon strong enough to kill Superman once and for all.  He uses his nebulous radio antennae to locate Kryptonian meteors... which lead him to a pile of metallic wreckage rather than any glowing green rocks.

Along with the wreckage is a pile of notes written in Kryptonese.  Smatten conveniently remembers that Superman conveniently gave a translation guide to Kryptonese to Metropolis University.  Using the guide, he is able to translate the notes... which brings us to a flashback within a flashback.  We watch as Jor-El and his young son meet with a man called Hab-Rull, who keeps a generator in a room encased with the super-hard Kryptium metal.  Jor-El warns him about the power of nuclear force... but Hab doesn't pay him any mind.  Obviously, there's an explosion... which sends the super-hard stuff Earthbound.  This all occurs before the destruction of Krypton, which is why it has not become Kryptonite.  You might need to read that more than once... I know I did!

We wrap up our tale with Superman revealing that it is he who is wearing the robo-knight's armor... and now he can arrest his old foe Smatten... again!  He reveals that he was the young boy from the Kryptonese notes, and he knew where Smatten was hiding out by the concentration of lead in the ground.  It's all wildly convenient, but whattayagonnado?  Superman decides to keep the Kryptium sword for safe-keeping... not sure if it ever makes another appearance.  The End.

Our backup feature stars the Maid of Might herself, Supergirl.  We open with her about to go on a date with a fella called Dick Malverne who picks her up at Stanhope College.  They pass the Pop Bottle Lounge where a sandwich board outside promises a show by the queen of "super magic"... Well, she had Ms. Danvers at "super"... and so, they go inside.

During the show... well, Kara's a bit of a jerk toward the magician, a woman who goes by the name Fantasta.  She damn near heckles the poor illusionist, talking down her tricks to her male companion.  Well, Fantasta doesn't dig all that, so she challenges Linda to assist in the next trick... the disappearing woman!

Linda enters the box, and finds herself whisked away to a spaceship... where she is face to face with a creepy-ass bird.  Shortly she is joined by Fantasta, who reveals that she knows Linda Lee Danvers is, in reality, Supergirl!  She continues by divulging that she is part of an organization of space-criminals from Gotha called the Circle of Evil... oooooh... and, get this... the whole "super-magic" thing was a ruse tailor made to lure Supergirl in.  That's mighty convenient, eh?

Suddenly an alarm sounds signalling that there is a water-asteroid (just go with it) nearby.  Fantasta panics, and changes course.  This causes a lightbulb to go off for Supergirl.  She decides to escape... with her captor's full blessing... only to return moments later.  She is no longer in the Milky Way galaxy... and had no choice but to rejoin her foe.  Once inside the craft, Supergirl reveals a chunk of asteroid she popped into her cape-pouch.  She squeezes the rock until water seeps out from it.  Ya see, she realized that water is Fantasta's weakness.

Supergirl starts waving her bossy finger in Fantasta's face, and describes how she figured it all out.  This causes Fantasta to... get this... use the homely bird... now identified as an "Execution Bird"... to kill herself.  Wow, that's hardcore.

Supergirl, not missing a beat, dons her wig and styles it like Fantasta's own hairdo, and puts on her captor's spare set of clothes.  With execution bird Gnomo on her shoulder, she decides to report back to the Circle of Evil in her stead.  Ay yai yai.

Soon, we meet the goofy gang whose headquarters are hidden inside a spiky asteroid.  Inside, Supergirl finds that all of her superpowers have been negated.  The Circle conducts a meeting, wherein another member commits birdie-seppuku for failing in their mission.  Supergirl decides it is now time to shed her disguise... sorta.  She reveals herself in the Supergirl get-up, but still claims to be Fantasta.  This impresses the geeks, and they decide to pit her against the greatest criminal in the cosmos... Drang!  To be Continued...


Now here we have a couple of pretty fun stories.  One perhaps a bit more fun than the other, but I can't say I didn't at least sort of enjoy both.  Very silly Silver Age fare, not the kind of stuff I'm used to reading... let's get right to it.

I gotta say I dug the first story a bit more than the backup.  It was almost astonishingly silly.  I mean, Superman wielding a sword and rainbow shield... that's bananas.  And, come now... the menace of Jon Smatten!  How nuts was this?  This goofball held on to his disdain toward Superman since he was Superboy.  That's some Silver Age dedication!

We also get Superman performing a bit of super-photographic memory, recalling events from when he was Superbaby!  While on the subject of the Man of Steel himself... boy, was he a jerk to poor Jimmy.

The art was as good as one would figure, but I can never get used to Superman looking so old.  I'd say my Superman is, I dunno... mid-thirties?  This Superman appears to be late-forties at youngest... don't dig that too much.

Our backup story is even nuttier... the entire thing is predicated on Supergirl being lured into a magic show... because it was advertised as "super-magic".  Really?  I mean, would Wonder Woman be drawn into a preseason baseball game if it was advertised as "Wonder Baseball"?  Hell, maybe in 1965 she would!  Shoot, maybe even today, what do I know?

I was surprised that the backup ended on a cliffhanger... and what a goofy one at that!  I expected it all to be wrapped up, done in one... it's cool that they dropped a multi-part Supergirl tale in here, regardless of whether or not it's an "imaginary story".

I enjoyed this issue quite a bit... likely more for the novelty than any other kind of qualifier.  If you can get your hands on any Silver Age Superman, do yourself a favor and at least give it the ol' flip-thru.


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