Action Comics #499 (1979)

Action Comics #499 (September, 1979)
“As the World Turns… For the Last Time!”
Writer – Cary Bates
Penciller – Curt Swan
Inker – Vince Colletta
Letterer – Todd Klein
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.40

When we last left our heroes… the Man of the Hour, Vartox, deduced that he alone was (unwittingly) responsible for dooming his home planet of Valeron… and now, in coming to Earth… looks like he might be going two-for-two!

The Merriest of Vartox Weeks roll on with our dramatic (and surely senses-shattering) conclusion!

After an opening page comparing Vartox to, of all people, Jor-El… we hop right on in, where Superman and Vartox both are arriving at a Daily Planet storage room, where they change into their “civvies”.  Vartox reports that he has news most dire… and if you read last issue, you know exactly what that news is!  Before he can elaborate, however, they are interrupted by… Jennifer!  One of the finest secretaries in all of Metropolis!

They come up with a passable excuse for being found in a closet together, while straightening their ties… and she buys it.  Heading into the hallway, Vart gets a few more sentences into his tale of woe, before… Lana Lang sashays up and gets all up in Vartox’s space.  Before they can make out, Jennifer walks up on them too!  Poor gal might wind up pregnant from all of Vartox’ manliness in the air.

Anyhoo, “Vernon” and Lana head to Metropolis Park to have some lunch… and it’s here that our man decides to… come clean!  He tells Lana Lang, a woman he’s known for one whole day his entire secret origin.  Lana’s touched!  She even sheds a (single) tear for the fall of Valeron.

Back at the Galaxy Building, Clark receives a teletype about some strange goings on in the town of Corlyville, Wisconsin (doesn’t exist – saved ya the google).  The folks there believe that the world is about to end… and so, Superman decides to check out just how far-gone these people are.

Upon arrival, he is swarmed by scared Corlyvillians… they’re all certain that the world is about to end… and are quite annoyed when Superman doesn’t whisk them all away to a “safe” planet… like Mars or the Moon.  At that moment in Metropolis, Perry, Lois and Jimmy receive word that this mania is spreading worldwide!  People of faith are heading to Jerusalem… the U.N. Security Council just adjourned so members can be with their families… it’s quite the scene out there… just imagine the traffic!

Returning to Metropolis, Superman runs into Vartox, who finally spills the beans and what he’d learned during his research at the Fortress… he says that he doomed Valeron, and has now also doomed the Earth.  He believes the widespread panic is a result of his own telepathic suggestion getting into other peoples heads.

Then… then… in the skies over Eurasia, a jet with a red star on its side is getting ready to drop a gas bomb on a populated city to gently put the people below “to sleep”… permanently, so they don’t experience the end of the world.  Yikes.  Superman and Vartox put a stop to that.  Good thing it was only the one jet, am I right?

Back at the Fortress, Vartox attempts to prove his point.  Ya see, during the “grueling galactic patrol” from which Vart returned at the start of last issue, he wound up carrying a theoretical “X-Element”, which… upon coming into contact with oxygen atoms, starts a chain reaction akin to billions of microscopic atomic bombs… so, boom goes the planet.

Superman wants more proof than that… and so, he engages his microscopic vision to see if the oxygen is getting ready to “pop”.  Everything looks normal to him… and, ya know… this isn’t the first time Vartox has said something crazy.  Speaking of crazy, Vartox then headbutts Superman… and a fight is on.

The pair of supers struggle for a bit, before Vart nails Superman with a “hyper-brain blast”… which drops him like a stone.

As he comes to, he sees Vartox… however, he’s dressed as Jor-El!  Vart-El is trying to convince some Kryptonian manikins that the planet is doomed.  Superman kinda looses his stuff over this.

In fact, his reaction is far more extreme than Vartox ever imagined it would be!  Superman lashes out before bursting out a wall.  Luckily, once outside, he engages his microscopic vision again.  Wouldn’tcha know it, the oxygen outside the Fortress is gettin’ poppy!  Vartox was right all along!

So, why was the air inside the Fortress safe?  Well, you remember Vartox’s adorable little lunch pail full of radioactive Valeronite rocks, right?  Looks like those were the ticket to neutralizing the threat!  And so, Superman and Vartox head to the Sombrero Hat Galaxy to scoop up great big bits of the doomed planet… which they can pulverize inside of Earth’s atmosphere… and save the day!

We wrap up back in Metropolis, atop the Galaxy Building… where Vartox says his final (yeah right) farewells to Lana Lang.  She is shaken, but understands why he must go.

Man… this dude.

By now, we probably don’t need to recount just how sad’a sack this poor fella is… suffice it to say, the poor jamoke just can’t catch a break.  Even after saving the Earth (that he’d inadvertently endangered in the first place) he exiles himself to space in order to find a planet that needs him.  If you’ve been following this blog, you already know how this ends up.

For the most part, I dug this issue… suitably silly, love the use of the Kryptonian manikins… that always tickles me, both for the fact that these things exist in the first place… and how they actually trigger painful memories for Superman.  Why even have them if they might cause you to lash out?!  Hell, why even have them at all?!  That’s just weird!

Not to go all “suspension of disbelief” on ya, but… I mean… let’s discuss that scene.  While Superman and Vartox fly toward the Fortress, they come across a jet looking to “peacefully end” an entire bustling Eurasian city via a gas-bomb.  You really gotta figure there’s more than one jet out there doing this, right?  Like, sure, Superman and Vartox saved this one city… but, what about all the others?  Surely, more than one government gave this idea the ol’ “thumbs up”, right?  Maybe I’m… yeah, I’m definitely over-thinking it.

Thought it sorta made sense that “Vernon” came clean to Lana Lang… after all, Vartox never had a secret identity back on Valeron, so he’s not used to the whole dual-persona thing.  Also, he really seems to dig our green-eyed Lana… so, why not?  Letting her “in” facilitates future stories… which won’t be predicated on Three’s Company-esque misunderstandings and bumbling to protect the Vernon O’Valeron identity.  I mean, we’ve already got our fill with the Clark Kent/Superman struggle during the Bronze Age/pre-Crisis.

Overall, a pretty good issue… a bit convenient, but, that’s to be expected.  Worth a look if you come across it.  If you’re interested, you can do some Vartox Week “extra credit” and check out his next appearance (which we’ve already discussed, right here) before coming back tomorrow for the conclusion to that story.  Vartox Week rolls on!

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