Superman #389 (1983)

Superman #389 (November, 1983)
“Brother Act!”
Plot – Cary Bates
Script – Paul Kupperberg
Pencils – Curt Swan
Inks – Dave Hunt
Letters – Ben Oda
Colors – Anthony Tollin
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.60

I’ve lost count at how many Vartox Week Miracles we’ve bumped into during this, Vartox Week.

Today we’re going to be discussing an issue which I described yesterday as being “for Vartox Completionists only”… and you’ll see why by the end.  Another thing I said yesterday was that I checked with a few local shops about taking a peek in their back rooms to see if they might find those two issues of Power Girl we so desperately need…

… and I got that fateful callback yesterday afternoon!  The books were located and I’m pleased to say that Vartox Week will roll on.

We open with a man in a phone booth trying to get a hold of Clark Kent’s office at the Galaxy Building.  The operator can’t really make out what he’s trying to say… perhaps because he’s making the call outside of a noisy construction site.  Speaking of construction… our man in the box is very nearly clobbered with a wrecking ball!  Luckily, Superman just happened to be in the neighborhood… and managed to save the stranger from a squishin’.

Before they get a chance to chat, Superman checks on the wrecking ball operator… only to learn that the poor fella’d been hijacked.  Somebody bonked him on the head, and took over the controls… this was no accident!  During the distraction, our mysterious man in the box removes his phony goatee and leaves the scene.  It’s gotta be Vartox, right?

Later, at the Galaxy Building… Lana and Lois look at a picture of the two of them after dousing each other with fruit punch.  Yeah.  They see a rather dapper looking fellow enter the floor… and, wouldn’tcha know it, he’s trying to contact Clark Kent.

Only, he’s not in.  Jimmy Olsen and Terry Long’s little brother turn the corner… and they recognize the man.  He’s just gotta be Vartox, right?  This freaks dude out… so he, um, jumps out the window!  Don’t worry though, he is using his jacket as a parachute.

He attempts to make his getaway on a nearby roof… but runs smack-dab into the chest of steel.

After some questioning, the man removes his disguise… revealing himself to be Vartox Secret Agent Cory Renwald!  If you’re asking yourself “Who?”… you’re not alone.  Turns out this fella was, at one time, another foster child to the Kents.  He spun out of a single issue of the New Adventures of Superboy, which… I dunno… kinda feels like a cheap way of introducing actual unseen elements of “history”.  I mean, Clark Kent having a brother seems like it should’ve been a bigger deal.  Anyhoo, Cory’s got amnesia.  Last thing he can remember was waking up in an alley… with pockets full of cash.

Superman decides to drop Renwald off at Clark Kent’s apartment… so his “brother” can explain who he is… and how they’re “connected”.

Back at the Galaxy Building… everybody seems to be looking for “the elusive” Clark Kent.  During the hunt, Lana chats up Perry… and he’s super-jazzed about having dinner with his wife that evening… as their relationship is kinda on the rocks at this point.

We rejoin Superman at the Pentagon, where he’s learning a bit more about what’s been going on in Renwald’s life of late.  I mean, he’s your own brother… you never think to pick up a phone?  Oh well, I suppose it’s a two-way street, right?  Anyhoo, he learns that Renwald has been selling secrets to the enemy!

Superman’s all “no way”… to which, the F.B.I. is all, “yuh-huh”.  He asks for a few moments to try and get to the bottom of the situation… but the F.B.I. ain’t havin’ it.  Unfortunately for them, you really can’t threaten Superman.  He leaves anyway.

Back at 344 Clinton, Clark and Cory reunite… and we get the quick and dirty on how they’re sorta-kinda brothers.  The sight of a photo of the Kents is enough to bring Cory’s memories back.  Clark cuts through the chatter and gets down to the nitty-gritty… what’s all this about him being a traitor to the United States Government?

Cory reveals… it was all a set-up, see?  He’s bein’ railroaded by some mooks to take the fall, see?  Clark’s all “okay, cool”… and suggests he turn himself over to the authorities… and together, they’ll get to the bottom of this.  To which, Cory karate chops Clark.  Yup, that explains the cover.

Cory rushes out of the apartment and flees the scene.  Clark “supes up” and goes to give chase… only, at that very second, Lana Lang reports that a tanker had flipped over spilling toxic nastiness all ova da place.  Superman decides that’ll have to be priority one.

Which is rather unfortunate for Cory… because, he only gets a few steps outside of 344 Clinton before being struck in the neck with a poisoned blow-dart.

Upstate, Superman takes care of business… dropping a, get this, city-sized dome over the affected area… then sucking up all of the toxic fumes, and rushing into outer space to exhale.

Back in Metropolis, an unconscious Cory Renwald is loaded into a remote control jet.  The baddies admit straight away that they framed him for treason… and plan on having him take a “kamikaze” flight… crashing directly into the President of the United States.

And, they might’ve gotten away with it… if they didn’t spend the last half hour explaining their plan to an unconscious man, and just got on with it!  Superman arrives, and diverts the jet into the drink.  He then pulls Cory from the cockpit and carries him to safety.  Cory hopes that this is enough to convince the authorities of his innocence.  Since this is his final appearance ever… I’m guessing it was not.

We close out with a pair of epilogues.  First, Perry White is stood up by his estranged wife at the posh eatery.

Second, and more importantly… a comet is rushing through space, and in it’s flamin’ head… well, there he is… Vartox!

See… toldja this one was for Vartox Completionists only.  That epilogue, of course leads into a three issue arc which we’ve already discussed here earlier during Vartox Week.  If you’re interested in following that thread, click’em the covers below.

Gotta just love how Vartox is the cliffhanger… I wonder what the difference between cheers and groans was from the readership at the time!

Now, for the actual issue… it wasn’t a bad one, it was just a strange one.  You might get the feeling like Bates was trying to legitimize some of the Kent-history he was spinning over in New Adventures of Superboy by carrying Clark’s never-mentioned foster brother into the “main” books.  It reminds me of when John Byrne brought elements of Spider-Man: Chapter One over into the main Spidey books (post late 90’s relaunch).  It always comes across as cheap… and might actually de-legitimize the entire thing in the minds of the reader.  I feel like it kinda did for me.

Unfortunately, not much more to say about this one.  It marked the final appearance (and likely the final mention) of Clark’s “brother” Cory Renwald… so, I guess it’s got that going for it.  There are some interesting “soapy” bits with Perry White’s dysfunctional marriage.  Overall though, if you’re looking for Bronze Age/pre-Crisis Superman stories… there are tons out there that are better than this.  I say it again… if you absolutely need every appearance of Vartox… then you’re going to want to pick this one up too!

Letters Page (featuring Kent Phenis… again and always!):

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