Action Comics #592 (September, 1987)
“… A Walk on the Darkside!”
Story, Pencils & Figure Inks – John Byrne
Background Inks – Keith Williams
Lettering – John Costanza
Coloring – Tom Ziuko
Editing – Mike Carlin & Andy Helfer
Cover Price: $0.75
During several of my recent USENET Fandom pieces over at DCinthe80s.com, I have been discussing John Byrne’s arrival on the Superman titles following the Crisis on Infinite Earths. One of the pieces of the Byrne Superman that seems to get overlooked is his run on Action Comics. I suppose when compared with Man of Steel and the second volume of Superman, Action was “small potatoes”. This stretch of Action Comics is a Superman Team-Up book, and featured a ton of fun stories and characters.
One of the more (in)famous is the team-up between Superman and Big Barda/Mister Miracle, wherein Supes and Mrs. Free wind up in a rather precarious position… people familiar with this era no doubt know what I’m referring to. Those new to the post-Crisis Superman are in for a weird little treat… tomorrow.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the story that leads into the more noteworthy issue. I guess this issue can be looked at as “foreplay”.
We open with a disoriented Big Barda stumbling through a particularly dingy Suicide Slum neighborhood. She happens upon a pimp who looks as though he’s about to take a piece out of one of his talents. Seeing Barda causes ol’ Huggy Bear to release his lady, and make an overture toward this statuesque brunette.
Barda bein’ Barda, ain’t havin’ none of it. She tosses our haggard li’l pimp into a nearby rubbish pile. With her attention squarely on this creep… another just happens to nab her messenger bag, which just so happens to contain her Mega-Rod.
The thief bolts down an alley, with Barda hot on his tail. He hops a fence, which she just tears out of the ground. He climbs down a manhole and continues to run until a slimy tentacle (tongue?) enters the panel and nyoinks him out of it.
We now meet this issue’s big(?) bad, Sleez. He looks through the bag, and is surprised to find the seemingly familiar Mega-Rod.
In the sewer, Barda is still searching for her Rod… only to nearly get nailed by a blast from it. She shifts into her armored form for protection, and continues her pursuit. She happens upon the corpse of her purse-snatcher, and with her focus split winds up succumbing to a surprise Mega-Rod blast.
A few days later, we join Daily Planet Reporter, Clark Kent as he takes a tour of a Suicide Slum Hospital. He is being guided by a Dr. Kincaid who has hopes that the Daily Planet can be of help to their facility.
Clark meets an older woman who goes by the name of Molly. After briefly speaking with her, he comes to the conclusion that she is quite “far gone”. Kincaid informs him that this Molly is in fact 121 years-old. As a matter of fact, several of the hospital’s guests are of an extremely advanced age.
Clark uses his super-sensitive vision to peek into Ms. Molly… he finds some rather strong traces of radiation inside her.
After taking his leave, he Supers up and tries to trace the radiation to its source. He detects an especially strong trace in a certain position in Suicide Slum… which just so happens to be where Sleez is being entertained by Dancing Barda.
Sleez recounts his secret origin aloud to Barda. He, at one point, was Darkseid’s right-hand on Apokolips. Eventually he fell out of favor with the big man, and was actually the first victim of Darkseid’s famed Omega Beam. The beam did not kill him, however… it only sent him to Earth… more specifically, the Suicide Slum section of Metropolis.
With his story told, he approaches a seemingly powerless Barda. He grips her by her face as she frantically protests. She says “No… Please… Not Again…” I’m not sure exactly what this is meant to relay, and would prefer not to think too deeply on the subject.
Luckily, Barda is spared as Superman enters the scene. The pair do a bit of a meet and greet, and Supes learns that the captive is the wife of Mister Miracle, Mrs. Barda Free. Getting her second wind, Barda armors up and reclaims her Mega-Rod.
Just as she’s about to wipe ol’ Sleez off the map, Superman steps in to stop her. Barda takes this rather poorly, and gives Supes a judo-throw before blasting him with the Mega-Rod.
In the confusion Sleez’s tentacle-tongue thingie swipes the Rod once more. With the pull of a switch, the floor below Superman and Big Barda falls out and the pair plummets into the pit below…
It’s difficult for me to give this an unbiased review, as it comes from an era that I hold quite dear. Of course I’m gonna dig this… and I think most Super-fans would too. Action Comics during this era kind of expanded Superman’s world… it afforded readers the opportunity to see how Big Blue interacts with those outside of his normal cast.
Sleez is a weird villain for someone like Superman, however, I really like how irredeemable he is. He really is his namesake… and that will be built upon in our next chapter. In an age where villains were being fleshed out almost to the point where they become sympathetic, it’s almost refreshing to see such an utter scumbag in Sleez. There’s no “if you squint real hard, he’s kinda got a point” about him. He’s scummy and gross, and I want to see Superman (or Barda) knock him the hell out.
This one’s a little silly and a lot of fun. It must be said that it looks fantastic. It’s pure John Byrne greatness, and you’d do yourself a service to check it out. This issue has been collected in the Man of Steel trade paperback series (volume 5), along with the next part in this team-up. Definitely recommended.