Action Comics #579 (May, 1986)
“Prisoners of Time! (1986 A.D. to CCLIII A.D.)”
Writer – R.J.M. Lofficier
Penciller – Keith Giffen
Inker – Bob Oksner
Letterer – Milt Snapinn
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.75
For today’s jaunt through the world of #Action100, we’re going to take a look at an… interesting… issue from the very-very late pre-Crisis era.
I’ve complained in the past about everything that goes into a reboot/relaunch. Once a “brand new era” is decided or announced, we seem to move into a “lame duck” period, where we’re just killing time and filling pages.
So… could an issue of Action Comics featuring a clear pastiche of Asterix comics be of any consequence? Or are we in “lame duck” “just do whatever” mode?
Guess we’re about to find out…
We open with Jimmy Olsen on a date with his lady-friend Karen, at the Metropolis Museum of Art. After cutting himself with a Gladius (who goes into a museum thinking they can just touch everything? I guess Jimmy Olsen does!). His eye is then caught by an Arverne Shield… which, looks like it might be a reference to that weird cameo on the cover.
Just then a pair of goons enter the scene… and they’re looking to steal the shield. Jimmy is able to sneakily zeet-zeet his signal watch… and, after a moment, Superman arrives.
Superman takes out the would-be robber (with hair)… while the other (without hair) sneaks up on Jimmy with the shield. Jimmy spins around and shatters it with the Gladius blade. This whole scene is pretty awkward (and we’re only just getting started!). Anyhoo, when the dust settles… Karen is rather annoyed that Jimmy broke the shield.
Jimmy turns to Superman, hopeful that he might be able to repair the busted relic… to which, Superman’s all “nope.” Then Jimmy, really not knowing how to quit while he’s behind, suggests Superman simply go back in time and fetch him a new shield. Superman doesn’t appear to be all that keen on the idea of changing history. We now jump… well, back to Gaul in the year 253.
As if the story hasn’t been a bit awkward to follow up to this point… it’s about to get worse. It’s here we meet Prolifix… a soothsayer in search of the only Gaulish that the Roman Empire did not overtake. He blames the Gaul’s resilience on a magic potion concocted by a Druid. He figures that if he could get his hands on it, he could rule over the land himself!
At just that moment, he notices a troop of Roman Legionaries out on patrol. He uses a smoke pellet and presents himself to them, claiming to be a warlock… who brings with him a message from the Gods.
He wishes to meet with their Centurion to explain his plan for overtaking the Gauls… and he does just that.
We next shift to that Druid… who is accompanied by the massive Columnix. When the Roman’s reveal themselves, Columnix makes short work of them. The Druid wonders just what has gotten into them to make them attack. The defeated Roman’s slink back to their camp and report their, well, defeat.
Prolifix heads back into the Centurion’s tent… and pitches another plan. This time he uses his Astrolabus… which looks kind of like a mirror… disc… plate… thing. Anyhoo, he flips it on, and it shows their new champion… Superman!
Prolifix uses a bit of hoo-doo, which causes Superman (and Jimmy) to be pulled back to the past. Superman lands (with a thud) among the Roman’s… Jimmy lands (with a splash) near the Gauls. Superman is “drugged” with the “vapors of Epona” to do the bidding of the Roman Empire.
Jimmy is brought back to the Gaulish village where he meets the Druid (Picturix) and the village chieftain, Flipmybix (who stands atop a very familiar shield). They plan to speak with the Romans the following day to try and sort this mess out.
And so, the next day Jimmy, Picturix and the giant Columnix head off. The Romans attack on sight… but are taken down pretty quickly by the giant (and Jimmy, who had been given a super-strength potion). Actually… all but one of the Roman soldiers are taken down.
Prolifix demands Jimmy stand down, otherwise he will command “Superix” to kill Columnix. He then turns his attention to Picturix… and threatens to kill Jimmy if he doesn’t hand over the magic potion. Knowing when to call it quits, Picturix agrees… but, he has (oh no) a plan.
After mixing up a batch, Jimmy goes to hand it over to the Romans. Not trusting the Gauls… Prolifix insists that his new charge Superix taste it first.
Wouldn’tcha know it… this potion breaks Prolifix’s control over the Man of Steel. There’s a bit more fighting before everything gets straightened out. Superman forces Prolifix to spill the beans about the shape of the world outside of the Gaul village. Turns out the Roman Empire fell a long time ago… and there’s really no reason for there to be any conflict.
We wrap up with Flipmybix giving Superman and Jimmy the Arverne Shield… and everything’s cool in the world.
Wow… I really didn’t like this. That might be due to my having no frame of reference for the Asterix characters and didn’t get the references… or maybe it was just a lousy story. Perhaps a little bit of both.
You ever read anything… like for school or work… or heck, even for fun… where you finish a page, and realize you haven’t the foggiest idea what you’d just read? And you have this almost “defeated” feeling, where you need to make the decision of whether you turn the page and hope to “catch up” or go back and re-read the mess you just read? That was nearly every page here. Hell, for a few of the pages I wasn’t entirely convinced I was even reading English!
This was a nightmare to follow, and required three readings to make any sense out of… and, ya know what… I’m still not sure I’ve got it right! Add to that Keith Giffen’s more avant garde style at the time, and I may as well have been reading braille… or hieroglyphics.
This is the very definition of a “lame duck” story… where we’re just filling pages and time waiting for “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” and John Byrne’s Man of Steel. Not that every story needs to “mean something”, but this almost aggressively meant nothing.
Again… I have no frame of reference or affection for Asterix… so, I suppose mileage may (and likely will) vary. I just know that if I waited four-weeks for the next issue of Action Comics, and found this in my mailbox/at my newsstand, I’d be pretty bummed out.
Letters Page (featuring The Mad Maple and… Ambush Bug?):