Another issue picked up from the 7-11. This issue of ACTION COMICS was the second part of a two-part story, but I don’t think I really realized that at first–it was only when I later got the previous issue that everything came together and made sense. This is how I learned how the world of comic books worked, by trial-and-error and wisdom gained from experience.
It’s another Cary Bates story, which I liked. But the ragged inking by Vince Colletta detracted some from the appeal of Curt Swan’s pages. Forget the later-era controversies concerning Colletta erasing and simplifying Jack Kirby’s work, I knew that I didn’t like his line even as a little kid.
So this issue weirdly begins with Clark Kent changing to Superman because he’s got an irresistible compulsion to destroy the Earth. That’s a pretty strong hook! To accomplish this, he creates a gigantic tuning fork, activating it by creating a sonic boom at super-speed–and the ensuing vibrations will shatter the crust of the planet.
Before things can get out of hand, Superman comes to his senses in a real Bugs Bunny, “WHAT AM I DOING?!” moment. He drop-kicks the tuning fork into airless space, where its fatal sound waves will have no medium through which to be conducted. Then we cut to the villains of the piece, old Superboy enemies from Krypton, Dr. Xadu and his wife, Zeda. Somehow, I love the idea of a married villain couple. Xadu and Zeda decide to pass the time by obligingly flashing back to explain the previous issue.
It seems that the Kryptonian couple contrived to give the Man of Steel a toothache, and when he went to a dentist to have it looked at (forget about the fact that he’s indestructible, something that would become readily apparent under an ordinary dentist’s drill) they mesmerized him and implanted a subconscious command into his mind to destroy the world–a command that Superman continues to struggle against.
He comes close twice, though–once by turning himself into a human bomb laced with Psonic Torpedoes, and the second by unleashing an alien Astral Germ on the planet. But here, the tables are turned, and when Superman makes no move to stop the Astral germ, Dr. Xadu and Zeda are forced to break cover and destroy it themselves. But since this was their plan all along, why?
Seems that it’s actually Superman’s resistance to their implanted commands that they’re counting on. As Superman pushes back against the impulse to destroy the Earth, he’s generating energy that Dr. Xadu and Zeda will eventually use to transport the Earth to a Red-Sun solar system, where they can craft it into a New Krypton under their rule. Now that he knows what he’s up against, the Man of Steel is able to thwart their plans by throwing a rock at them–one he’s charged with static electricity such that it will break the Kryptonian Duo’s power-grip by making them repel one another.
This is followed up by a lovely but inconsequential Atom back-up story in which the mighty mite decides to reveal his identity to his long-suffering fiance Jean Loring and quit the super hero business completely, because there’s no money in it.
But, of course, before he can do so, criminals take over the courthouse where Jean is litigating, and the Atom must come to the rescue of the hostages, convincing Ray that he’s still needed despite his lack of fiscal success. It’s a strictly by-the-numbers affair, but the Dick Dillin artwork is very nice.