BHOC: SUPERMAN #317

As I understand things, the Neal Adams image that was used on the cover to this issue of SUPERMAN was sitting around in editor Julie Schwartz’s flat files, an inventory piece or just something that Neal had done to amuse himself. Writer Marty Pasko saw it and wanted to use it on one of his issues–so he came up with the idea of adding the green coloration and the cover copy and making it fit the story in this issue. Either way, it’s a very strong piece, and I can see why Pasko would want to have it on the front of one of his books.

I bought this comic at my local 7-11 as usual. It was the middle of Pasko’s tenure as the regular writer on SUPERMAN, a run that’s mostly been forgotten today but which I really loved. While hewing to the core principles of the character, Pasko constantly tried to push things forward in terms of the relationships and the drama. he also invented a few lasting villains and friends for the Man of Steel–or reinvented them in the case of Metallo here. There had been a one-shot villain by that name in the 1940s, but this Metallo referenced the one from the 1950s–himself a one-shot villain who died at the end of his one outing against the Metropolis marvel. This new Metallo was the brother of the original, whose artificial body was powered by green kryptonite.

Last issue, Metallo had struck Superman down, and now in true super-villain fashion, he leaves Kal-El to die amidst fragments of kryptonite while he goes off to attend to other business–even though his ultimate game is to take Superman’s indestructible heart for his own. Falling dew awakens the Man of Steel, and he’s able to crawl to an underground river which whisks him away from danger. But on his way back to Metropolis, he happens across a team of SKULL agents–the criminal organization that’s been plaguing the city–and in order to get Superman off their tail, they fire an anti-matter missile towards the city.

Superman is ultimately able to catch and dismantle the missile before it can do any harm (he indicates that it’s an anti-matter missile potentially capable of wiping out all positive matter, a hell of a weapon to fire off indiscriminately to cover an escape attempt.) But the SKULL agents are felled in Superman’s absence by Metallo, their hearts replaced with lumps of kryptonite through teleportation, his signature move. And when Superman returns to teh scene, he discovers what the SKULL men were up to–they’ve been stockpiling kryptonite, clearly to use against him–their truck is full of the stuff in ingot form. So Superman has two conflicting problems to deal with.

Superman returns to WGBS and his identity as Clark Kent, where his associate producer Martin Korda hands him a bulletin for Clark’s news program that he could only have written with advance knowledge of Superman’s battles with Metallo and SKULL. Clark tosses Korda’s office and find enough evidence to lead him and Lois Lane to a secret SKULL lair, where Metallo is in the process of attacking the few remaining SKULL operatives. Superman jumps into the middle of the fight.

Unfortunately for Superman, this is just what Metallo has been waiting for, and he uses his teleportation ray to swap out his kryptonite heart with the man of Steel’s indestructible one, causing Superman to instantly turn green and fall to the floor, dead. Metallo then turns his rage towards the SKULL men, but all of their weapons melt before they can be used, and the police outside use coordinated broadcasts on their car radios to create interference waves that jam up Metallo’s artificial body and keep it from working. 

Then Superman stands up, still alive obviously, and explains the climax to Lois: having deduced that Korda was Metallo and also that his body was vulnerable to certain radio waves, Superman went to Kandor, got the heart of a recently-deceased Kandorian citizen, kept it in a lead box on his person, then swapped it into the path of the teleport beam that Metallo used on him, while simultaneously painting himself green to fake kryptonite poisoning. Then, he arranged for the police to attack using the frequency tat would stymie Metallos body. Simple, right? This way, all of the villains were taken out, and Superman also saved Metallo’s life by giving him the heart that he needed. In the wrap-up, back at WGBS, Clark Kent is dumbfounded to learn that his new co-anchor is going to be his old childhood sweetheart Lana Lang–which will definitely mean difficulties for Superman’s relationship with Lois Lane.

And the Metropolis Mailbag this time out includes a letter from Peter Sanderson, who would go on the assist with the research for CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTH and it’s follow-up the HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE. But he is probably better known as Marvel’s master historian for many years, where he worked with Mark Gruenwald in writing the OFFICIAL HANDBOOK TO THE MARVEL UNIVERSE.

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