BHOC: ACTION COMICS #443

Pretty sure that I traded my next door neighbor Johnny Rantinella something for this comic, as it guest-starred the Flash, and was one of those great 100-Page Spectaculars that I loved. It’s got a fun Nick Cardy cover as well.

The story opens as, inexplicably, Superman is in Clark Kent’s usual place, reading the news for WGBS. We follow the Man of Steel for several pages as he lives through Clark Kent’s usual shtick: being pranked by Steve Lombard, and told he needs to be more assertive by Lois Lane. It’s then that his super-senses detect Queen Bee’s minions plundering a bank, and he swings into action…

,,,as Clark Kent. During the battle, Kent’s internal monologue mentions that his fellow Justice League members have all vanished. He makes quick work of the Drones, then returns to life as humble newscaster Superman, who has once again gone missing when dynamic Clark Kent went into action.

Meanwhile, in her satellite headquarters, Queen Bee and the all-star team of villains that she’s organized are as confused as the readers at this point. Like them, she remembers that Superman is meant to be the hero, rather than Clark Kent, so she’s mystified by his actions. We do learn that this evil consortium has waylaid and captured all of the other Justice League members, but Superman has so far eluded them.

But they’re done messing around. Regardless of what game Superman is playing with his dual identity, the villains choose to engage him. But not before the Man of Steel can work out the location of their satellite and beam himself directly to their headquarters for a showdown.

Superman smashes his way through villain after villain in a battle sequence that takes up several pages. Despite their greater numbers, the villains look cooked (and the need for the other heroes of the JLA is in doubt.) Finally, though, Brainiac is able to freeze Superman in place through “The Meson Effect”, a deus ex machina power that allows the bad guys to maintain the upper hand.

As he can no longer move, Superman instead exposits, his internal thoughts telling us that he bceame aware of the other League members disappearing, and some research told him that the greatest foe of each one was also on the loose. Through a process of elimination, he reasoned that the foe who’d be after him was Brainiac, and so he used a Kryptonian Brain-Wave Machine to reverse the attitude of everybody on Earth towards Superman and Kent. To confuse Brainiac. Because, you know, that makes sense. In any event, while Superman has been stopped, he did manage to crack the Flash’s cocoon, and now the Scarlet Speedster takes over, freeing both himself and his fellow JLA members. It was this page in particular that made me crave this comic book when I saw that my neighbor had it.

The freed JLA beats the hell out of the villains, again over several pages. They free Superman, use Queen Bee’s wand to erase the villains’ knowledge of Superman’s Kent identity, and then show up at WGBS in civilian garb so that Clark, having restored everybody’s opinions of himself and Superman, can one-up Steve Lombard one last time. It’s kind of a mess of a story, but it has its charm–mostly in seeing the JLA do it’s thing, and also watch Superman tear through the worst malefactors in the DC pantheon of the time.

And then, it was reprint time. But just as with the previous ACTION COMICS 100-Pager that I had bought, most of the reprinted material left me cold. First up was a Sea-Devils story beautifully illustrated by Russ Heath. But I didn’t really care about deep-sea exploration–I wanted super heroes! No better was the Matt Savage western tale that followed, despite some lovely Gil Kane artwork.

The next two stories were more my meat. The first featured Adam Strange, who was close enough to a super hero to count. In this story, he is transformed into a man of the future with the prerequisite enlarged cranium. More importantly, at the end he returns to Earth with a Rann-Stone that’s been exposed to strange radiations. In the following Hawkman tale, that stone is stolen by the villain I.Q., and grans him mind over matter abilities.

The final reprint was a really early Black Pirate story, which again was of little interest to me. Shelly Moldoff’s dark, scratchy artwork held little appeal (not at all helped by inconsistent reproduction) and I wasn’t much engaged by derring-do on the high seas. So on the reprint front, this book was a bit of a bust for young me.

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