Superman #375 (1982)

Superman #375 (September, 1982)
“The Stoning of Lana Lang”
“Last ‘Scoop’ on Krypton!”
Writers – Cary Bates & Bob Rozakis
Pencils – Curt Swan & Gil Kane
Inks – Dan Adkins
Colors – Anthony Tollin & Tom Ziuko
Letters – John Costanza & Gaspar
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.60

Welcome back… today we’re going to wrap up the three-part “See ya later, Lana Lang” story.  Will it live up to our (undoubtedly high) expectations?  Why, surely it will!

We open at Lana’s going away party… and the gang’s all here!  We even get Steve Lombard dressed in the most adorable li’l cowpoke outfit.  Actually, he looks rather foolish.  Anyhoo, figuring he’s got nothing to lose, Steve jams his tongue down Lana’s throat.  Lucky for him the next person to enter isn’t her betrothed, but… Superman!  Superman removes his shirt and… oh, that’s probably just a coloring error.  Good thing too, because Vartox is already steamin’ mad.

We know this because it only takes a few moments for our main man to burst in through the roof and challenge the Kryptonian dog to a fight!  If you recall… last issue a mysterious woman got into Vartox’s head and caused him to go batty with jealousy.

They fight for the next several pages… which is more like Vartox fighting as Superman tries to defend himself, while attempting to reason with his Hyper-Powered chum.  The skirmish comes to a close when Vartox unleashes a salvo of his “quadruple jolt”… which deflects off of Superman’s steely chest, and…

… hits Lana Lang in the back!  She falls to the ground… but that’s not the worst of it.  The blast has caused her to be turned to stone!

Vartox is then… arrested!  Hauled off in handcuffs… and Superman takes Lana’s brittle bod’ to the Fortress of Solitude for examination.  You’d almost figure the police might want the body too, right?

Anyhoo, Superman visits Vartox in the slammer… and they chat.  Var is coming to grips with pattern of mental instability… and, really… it’s about time, right?  This poor fella runs so hot and cold, I’m surprised he isn’t in the fetal position 24 hours a day!  Superman tells his chum not to worry… as he’ll get to the bottom of everything.  He might be able to get some help from, of all things, Jimmy Olsen’s camera.

Sure enough, Jimmy’s camera provides the answer we need!  Lucky for us, while everybody was running away in panic after Vartox’s “quadruple jolt” ricocheted off of Superman’s “S”… Jimmy was still snapping pictures!  Turns out, Lana was struck by an altogether different beam… at the very same time of the Super-Hyper struggle… as to make it look like Vartox was responsible for “stoning” his betrothed.  At the same time (in the present), Vartox busts out of jail.  The prison guards find an odd cluster of crystals in his cell.

Vartox arrives at a clearing and calls out for somebody to show themselves.  Looks like our man has figured everything out, because standing before him is Syreena… his just-mentioned “first love”!  He reveals that he knew she was there because the crystals he keeps in his pocket were glowing.  Those “crystals” by the way are just bits of that “love pendant” she had given him to siphon off his hyper energy.  We discussed that bit yesterday.

Syreena reveals that she survived the destruction of Valeron because she managed to break out of prison at exactly the same time as the planet went boom.  She stowed away on a Star-Flyer, and floated through space… with the one goal of having her revenge against the man who rejected her love.  Vartox tries to reason with her… but gets a faceful of poison gas for his troubles.  Oh, also… she was responsible for Lana’s “aura glow”, but, c’mon… we already knew that.

Then Superman arrives!  Using his heat-vision, he “burns off” all of the poison gas invading Vartox’s lungs.  Syreena lashes out… but simply bounces off of Superman’s chest… not unlike a quadruple jolt!  Vartox then gives her a stern talking to.

Syreena falls to her knees.  She doesn’t hate Vartox… she still loves him!  I mean, how couldja not?  Anyhoo, she agrees to de-petrify Lana… and so, we head off to the Fortress of Solitude so she can do just that.

Bingo-bango, Lana is back to being of the flesh.  Looks like the only way this was able to happen was for Syreena to transfer the petrification… into herself!  Now, without the Aura Glow, Lana Lang cannot return to Tynola with Vartox… and since he’s that planet’s champion… Vartox cannot simply relocate to Earth.  They part as lovers… and days later, Vartox leaves Earth (with the stoned Syreena).

Stop me if you’ve heard this one… we’re not done yet!  No sir, we’ve got a back-up… and… oh boy, it’s from The Fabulous World of Krypton collection… the boringest of the boring.  Let’s do our best to remain awake!  We’re in the final days of Krypton’s existence and we meet Fel-Kar who is getting a report from a detective named Par-Es about Jor-El’s secret rocket plans.

Par-Es suggests they report this illegal activity to the Council, but Fel-Kar ain’t havin’ it.  Par-Es is dumbfounded… after all, folks have been exiled to the Phantom Zone for far less serious infractions.

Time passes, and just as Par-Es is about to report his findings to the Council the ground begins to shake (thumbs up for not referring to this as an “Earthquake” as it sometimes is).  At this point, his “patron” Fel-Kar rushes off.  Par-Es decides to follow.

What he witnesses is Fel-Kar attempting to comandeer Jor-El’s experimental rocket in order to save himself!

Par-Es and Fel-Kar fight for a bit… with the Patron getting the upper hand.  Unfortunately for him, he picked the wrong rocket!  This one, the larger one, isn’t space travel ready!  Everything comes crashing down.

As they both lay dying, Par-Es dictates his final scoop into a voice recorder.  In the distance he hears another (smaller) rocket ship launch.  We wrap up with the reveal that the only beings to hear his “scoop” were some generic aliens that don’t speak the language.  Wonk wonk.

All’s well that ends…

I complain a lot today about stories lingering on long past their still having story to tell.  These days it’s to pad a trade paperback… and it’s kinda just the way business (whatever business is left) is done.  In these past three issues of Superman we’ve discussed… I’m sorry, there just wasn’t three issues worth of story here.

Hell, even making this a two-parter might be pushing it!  So much flip-flopping and repetitive scenes.  Vartox goes from good to bad and back again more times during this story than most characters do in a lifetime… just to fill more pages with a stalemate skirmish.

This wasn’t a bad story either… I feel like the main crux here is one worth reading… and had a lot of fun when the story was “on task”.  If you ask me though, it could’ve done with a fair bit of tightening up.

Let’s look at this story on its own.  Was Syreena banking on Vartox cutting loose with a “quadruple jolt” which would ricochet off of Superman’s chest… and nearly hit Lana?  Or was it just fortuitous timing?  It’s pre-Crisis, so your guess is as good as mine.

The conclusion, while convenient… was satisfying and for the most part “worked”.  It wasn’t likely that we’d be losing Lana to Tynola… and the way it all shook out was as good as any.

For the back-up… I gotta say, it was quite clever!  Having an “interested party” hire a P.I. to spy on Jor-El… not to report him to the council… but to attempt to steal away on his rocket to Earth… really great idea!  Still, if you ask me… it took up far too many pages.  There’s only so much investment I can give to a Krypton back-up… but, this was definitely one of the better ones I’ve read.

Overall… this was a pretty drawn out and repetitive little arc.  Maybe it would read better all in one go.  Unfortunately, DC Comics is keeping all of the OG Vartox stories uncollected!  Very likely worth a read if you’re not overthinking it like I am!

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