Saturday, May 27, 2017

Action Comics #456 (1976)


Action Comics #456 (February, 1976)
"Jaws of the Killer Shark!"
"Bail Out the Nutty Kid"
Writers - Cary Bates & Elliot S! Maggin
Pencillers - Curt Swan & Mike Grell
Inkers - Tex Blaisdell & Mike Grell
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.25

Wouldja look at that cover?  It's almost as though they're piggybacking paying homage to something... who says comics couldn't be (sorta) topical?

Whatever it is, I think we can all agree... This time it's Personal...

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Well, blow me down... we're starting with our old friend Captain Strong.  He's enjoying a day at the Metropolis Aquarium with a few young people... or maybe he works there, that would be a bit less weird.  Anyhoo, his young pal Jayson appears to be positively enchanted by the sight of a tiger shark... though, some helpful exposition informs us that this isn't an ordinary tiger shark, it's actually The Shark... the lazily-named Green Lantern villain, regressed back into his natural state.  Jayson creeps ever closer to the glass, when... uh-oh, he's transformed into a puddle of jelly!



The shark then blasts through the roof of the Aquarium in a funnel stream of water.  We shift scenes to a ferry ride across the lake, where Lois and Clark are discussing a recent documentary the former had just seen regarding the ozone layer.  If you ever have a conversation with someone after they see a documentary, I'm sure you can relate to just how bored Clark is... luckily, the discussion is cut short by a giant waterspout appearing out of the drink.  Clark uses his super-suction to draw it close to the ferryboat so he might throw himself overboard to investigate the situation.



He's not the only guy to go overboard... several passengers are also making the leap of faith, because... the Shark has arrived on the boat!  Lois remains on board so she might snap a few cool-pix of the fish-face... but passes out due to her uncontrollable fear.  Now, this is probably not Lois' soft constitution at work... the Shark happens to have mental powers.  As the baddie kneels over the prone Lois, Superman arrives to slow his roll.  The Shark nonchalantly shoves Superman back into the wash.



A shocked Superman falls back before redoubling his efforts.  The Shark flees in another waterspout, and Superman winds up and throws one helluva punch... which misses the mark!  Not only does it miss, it causes a "liquid comet" to sour toward the city.  Superman is able to outrun it, and take its brunt with his chest.  At this point, he heads to S.T.A.R. Labs to confer with some nerds (including Captain Strong).  WGBS-TV is reporting that Superman was able to save Clark Kent... not sure how they figure this without a body... but we'll allow it.



Captain Strong shows the lab-rats his puddle of Jayson.  Superman deduces that the Shark... get this, "extracted the human evolving factor" from young Jayson.  Is that a thing?  Do we all have that in our bodies right now?  Is Jayson a radioactive mutant?  Anyhoo, Superman knows he's gotta catch that Shark and make things right.



And so, Superman vows to fly the skies of Metropolis non-stop until he finds the baddie... and he does!  During the next round of battle, Superman blasts the Shark's water funnel with heat vision... and, again... misses!  The heat beam refracts through the funnel... and, again... soars toward the city!  Poor form, Supes.  He has to race away from the fight to grab the giant refracting mirror from the Mount Olympus telescope to reflect the blast into orbit.



He rushes back into battle, and the two engage in wet and wild combat over the Metropolis skyline... bashing through an abandoned construction site to boot!  At the Daily Planet, Lois notices that everyone suddenly appears to have a Sunburn.  Hmm.  Anyhoo, after a time, Superman seems to have beaten the Shark soundly.



Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, the Shark is fitted with a fishbowl-type helmet, and it's explained that Superman was keeping the Shark inside the water-spout in hopes that they would use all of the oxygen in it... oof.  Anyhoo, The Shark is wearing his helmet... and is threatened with suffocation, unless he gives Jayson back his "human evolution thingimabob".  The Shark agrees... and is later dropped into the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Superman leaves to deal with the damage to the Ozone Layer the Shark did.  Ya see, The Shark breathed up all the Ozone over Metropolis... hence the Sunburns.  Yeah, sure pal... I'm sure the Ozone damage had nothing to do with you sending your heat vision blast into space!



Our back-up story... or, as the cover puts it "Action-Plus" features Green Arrow and Black Canary.  At this moment, Ollie's held up at a telethon being hosted by Jerry Lew... er, Danny Harris.  A group of clowns have infiltrated the studio, and demand people continue to pledge money... only it will go in their pockets instead of to the needy... or disabled... or whoever this telethon is for.



Dinah Lance is watching the telethon, and despite Ollie's words to the contrary, suits up to perform a daring rescue.  She zips over to the station on her motorcycle, and delivers one helluva kick to a guard-clown.



At that very moment, Ollie tricks the clowns into letting him go into another room by faking a panic attack.  Seems silly, right?  I mean, is that all ya gotta do to get away from armed hostage holders?  Anyhoo.  He Arrows up, and leaps into action for some emerald justice... or something.



The clowns attempt to escape to the helicopter they have parked on the roof... however, when they lift off they learn that their driver is actually... Black Canary!  The chapter wraps with Dinah staring down the barrels of a few guns.



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Well, this was kinduva dud wasn't it?

You get the feeling that it wasn't Lois Lane, but Cary Bates who just watched a program on the Ozone Layer... and he really wanted to tell people about it.  I get that... there are times I learn about stuff, and really want to share it... but, I don't.  Especially when all I know is the inch-deep/mile-wide version.

Such a waste of Captain Strong, I mean, what was even the point of including him here?  It could've been any aquarium employee/passerby.  Don't get our hopes up that the Popeye stand-in is going to do something fun and not deliver.  All he does is scoop the Jayson protoplasm into a beaker... if he brought him over in an empty spinach can, all would be forgiven.

The Shark is probably the poster-boy villain for what kept me away from DC Comics as a kid.  Just so lame, and interchangeable with any other animal-themed baddie.  I usually use the example of "nameless lizardmen" as my go-to generic DC villain, but The Shark fits the bill.

I will say that I thought it was cool when Superman goofed by punching the water stream into a liquid missile and had to outrun it so it wouldn't destroy the city.  It's not often he makes such a mistake.  When it happened again a few pages later, however, it really didn't have the same impact... just felt like they needed to kill a page or two.

The back-up felt much shorter than they usually do.  So often the back-ups are a plodding drag... however, this one was relatively breezy... I'd almost swear it was a few less pages than they normally are, but I neglected to count.  The story here was pretty neat, and featured some early Grell-Arrow, which is always neat to see.  He also contributed the cover, which is perhaps the high-point for this issue.

I was a bit disappointed that the telethon host wasn't Jerry Lewis... especially seeing as though Jerry Lewis very clearly exists in the DC Universe.  I dunno, probably rights issues got in the way.  Too bad though, it's a missed opportunity to show the Nutty Professor Kid back in action.

Overall... this is a skippable issue, though one with a very fun cover.  It doesn't look like this issue has been collected in trade, nor has it been made available digitally.  I'd say this one isn't worth any sort of hunt... however, if you happen to stumble across it for a buck or below, you'll probably get your money's worth.

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