BHOC: SUPERMAN #320

Another issue of SUPERMAN that I bought at my local 7-11. It’s got something of a strange cover image to it–I’m not certain how intrigued a potential reader would likely to be by the notion that Solomon Grundy was stealing Superman’s cape. It’s not exactly a big stakes question, after all. But what do I know? I bought it! This was the middle installment in a multi-issue storyline, in the midst of a run that I liked overall, so I was happy to find this new release.

That run was helmed by writer Marty Pasko, who brought humanity and heart to the Man of Steel, while not taking anything too seriously. His tenure on SUPERMAN treated the character respectfully and brought a modicum of issue-to-issue continuity to the series, something that was becoming increasingly important for me as a reader. I wanted to feel as though these stories mattered, that they were all going somewhere. The artwork, as usual, was contributed by iron man Curt Swan, then a mainstay and the quintessential Superman artist of the era.

We pick up where the last issue left off, with Superman in a death-duel with the newly-born Solomon Grundy of Earth-1. This battle has all been arranged by Superman’s old enemy the Parasite, who is using his Power-Prism to increase Grundy’s strength, a reversal of his usual M.O. of draining the strength from his enemies. But despite this, Superman still retains his greater intelligence and skill, and this is enough for him to counter Grundy’s repeated attacks.

During the course of their battle, Superman has noticed that Solomon Grundy seems to be attracted to his cape. His primitive brain reasoning that this is the source of the Man of Tomorrow’s ability to fly. So to placate him, Superman wraps Grundy up in a spare non-super cape before heading off to his appointment with Military Intelligence, set up in the previous issue. Te Parasite realizes that his Power-Prism couldn’t properly empower Grundy because the creature wasn’t truly alive, so the Parasite changes up his strategy, and instead surreptitiously bombards Superman with rays from it as he flies off.

From there, we segue to the Daily Planet newsroom, where Pasko takes an astonishing two pages out to focus on a scene characterizing Lois Lane and Perry White. (Astonishing because this entire story is only 17 pages long, so that’s a significant amount of real estate.) It’s a good investment, though, as it helps to make Lois feel more sympathetic, as she’s caught between her feelings for Clark Kent and for Superman, and her renewed rivalry with Lana Lang. This is the sort of moment that Pasko did best, and what makes his run so much more memorable than a lot of the other Superman material of this period.

Lois’s moment is interrupted by news coming in over the teletype of Superman in battle with a mechanical octopus-ship out by an old lighthouse. This was the mission that Military Intelligence gave him last issue, but they were cagey about what the importance of the lighthouse was, giving Superman a cock-and-bull story about buried treasure. As the fight rages on, Superman finds himself growing stronger, easily handling the hurtles thrown at him. But he’s also becoming a bit unhinged, as though all of this extra power has him running wild.

Superman’s uncontrolled power and his mood-swings almost spell finito for Lois and Perry, who have entered the combat zone in the WGBS helicopter, which is damaged by flying shrapnel. Superman moves to save them, but he’s so strong, he almost destroys their helicopter while trying to catch it. This all works out fine, and the attacking enemy agents are routed, but Superman is pissed about the deception Military Intelligence played on him, and he breaks into the lighthouse to discover that it’s actually the secret hub of a planetary laser defense system designed to defend Earth from alien aggressors. Superman loses his cool at this point, wrecking one of the control panels. And things get worse as soldier stream into the room, telling Superman that he is under arrest for illegal entry into a restricted installation and destruction of government property. Yeah, good luck enforcing that, soldier-boys. Anyway, that’s where the story is To Be Continued!

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