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"How to Tame a Wild Volcano"
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Murphy Anderson
"Prison in the Sky"
Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Curt Swan
Cover: Neal Adams
Reviewed by: James Lantz
Morgan Edge has ordered television newscaster Clark Kent to get video footage of a volcano eruption on Boki Island out in the Pacific. This is the first time in one hundred years that Mount Boki has acted up. Boysie Harker, owner of the island, will not permit the natives that work on his plantation to evacuate because he is too greedy to see the danger. He even goes as far as shoot at the canoes carrying the people. Superman's arrival stops this, but Harker orders the Man of Steel to not interfere with him. Otherwise, the planter will have him removed by the authorities for trespassing. Superman must find a way to save innocent lives without Harker seeing him.
While using a modified camera and a microphone in his cape to make it seem like Clark can broadcast Mount Boki's eruption, Superman goes to work on an underground tunnel that will divert the lava flow in a safer direction. Meanwhile, a lumbering sand creature in the form of Superman flies over the island. Before the new pathway can be finished, the Man of Steel loses his powers. They return shortly afterwards, but Boysie Harker orders our hero to go away. Superman will have to think of another method of stopping the angry volcano.
An airplane carrying United Nations delegates is about to crash as Superman ponders what to do next. He carries the craft to an atoll, and the passengers tell the Man of Steel that they want to declare a state of emergency for Boki within the hour. Unfortunately, the island has only twenty minutes before the volcano erupts. However, the storm that damaged the U.N. ship may provide Superman with the very thing both he and the officials need.
Superman has used his tremendous abilities to move the rainstorm clouds to Boki Island. This will give the U.N. time to do what they must, and it will delay the eruption of the volcano. Unfortunately, as Superman flies to help the natives, his sand double is above him. This causes the Man of Steel to lose his powers once again. His fall breaks the cannon that Boysie Harker had fired from his boat. The plantation owner is angry and attacks Superman, who has suddenly regained his powers. Boysie's confrontation with the Man of Tomorrow only results in the greedy man getting a head injury and being arrested by U.N. officials.
Clark Kent is now reporting on the volcano eruption and Boki Island's evacuation. Despite all ending well, something still nags at the mild mannered reporter. The sand creature, who now "sleeps" inside the dormant volcano," still poses a problem for Superman. As long as it is free to approach him, the Man of Steel's powers and very life may be in jeopardy. Our hero can't help but worry about their next encounter.
Story - 5: Before reading this portion, you might want to see the review for the previous issue that I posted in UNCLE JAMEY'S COMIC RACK on my MySpace page.
Now that the shameless plug is over, let's get on with the review of Superman #234.
This is a pretty basic story, but it works well. There's the "Superman versus the Forces of Nature" plot device with the added elements of the greedy plantation owner and the U.N. All in all, this one was simple, yet enjoyable.
One thing caught my attention as I read this and the previous issue. At this point in the comic books, Morgan Edge seems to be similar to J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man. He distrusts Superman because he believes absolute power corrupts absolutely. Too bad he never took that phrase to heart. Edge would later be exposed as the leader of Intergang.
Let's talk about the sand creature, shall we? I'm really finding its first two appearances well-placed into the comics. It started as a final page cameo in the last issue and evolved into a subplot for #234. I get the feeling we'll just be getting little tastes of this character until he confronts Superman. We'll just have to wait and see how "The Sandman Saga" progresses to be sure of this.
Art - 5: The Swanderson team has spoiled me. Their art is by far what helps make the story so great. They raise the bar of my standards when it comes to Superman visuals. Everything looks amazing, especially the sand creature. Like Boris Karloff in Frankenstein and The Mummy, there is something scary, yet sympathetic about him. I can't wait to see more of him in the next chapter.
"Prison in the Sky"
It is Council Day on the planet Krypton. A new member of the Science Council is to be elected. Two scientists are to demonstrate their inventions. The one with the creation that has most votes will be given the job. Picto-casts of the event are being broadcast throughout Krypton. Jor-El and Lara are watching from the Kryptonopolis Space Complex. Lara thinks Jor-El should be on the council for his anti-gravity work, but this year may be the final one in which Ken-Dal, Jor-El's chief, can be up for a council position.
Ken-Dal and another scientist named Tron-Et are showing the Science Council what they have created. The former has made a warp fuel that can take a vessel 17 light-years from Krypton in less than fifty seconds. It's composed of rare elements, but Ken-Dal hopes that manned space flights will be possible within two to three years. Tron-Et's device is called a Dissolver Beam. It can dissolve a cloud without harmful radiation, and it leaves a rainbow effect when it comes in contact with its target.
The votes have been cast, and Tron-Et has been elected. Upon being placed in the Kryptonian Science Council, he proposes that his dissolver beam be used to rid the planet of its condemned criminals in an effect to create more living space for the population. Feeling that this solution is barbaric, the remaining members must hear of other solutions to Krypton's overcrowded prisons when they next meet.
Jor-El has shown the Science Council a new suspended animation gas that he has discovered. It cannot only place a person in a form of stasis, but it can also wipe away the memories of his or her criminal past, making the person a functional member of Kryptonian society. All that needs to be done is shoot the sleeping criminal in space to serve his or her prison sentence. Upon the council's approval, Jor-El and rocket scientist Jax-Ur work on putting the system into motion.
Life-term prisoner Nali-Ilv has volunteered for Jor-El's first test flight. He is part of a criminal combine and won't reveal its leader's identity. The rocket is launched in order to begin its one lorax (seventy-three days) long trip. On the seventy-second day, the ship disappears. It is later found in orbit near the Vathlo Tracking Station area. The vessel then returns to Krypton the next day without a scratch on her.
Jor-El and Jax-Ur have landed the prison ship. Suddenly, Nali-Ilv punches Jor-El. He should have still been in suspended animation, but he has somehow gained superhuman strength and the ability to fly. Thinking that he must fix his blunder, Jor-El confronts Nali-Ilv only to discover that his adversary is actually Nali's twin brother Ed-Ilv. His "super powers" came from his using an anti-gravity belt like the one Jor-El used to end Ed's career as a supervillain. Upon his being captured, Ed-Ilv reveals that he was in the same criminal organization as his brother, and its leader is Tron-Et. The newly-appointed councillor used his position to spy new technology, including the anti-gravity belt designed by Jor-El. He also wanted his Dissolver Beam to kill any jailed members of his gang so they don't talk. Tron-Et even destroyed the ship carrying Nali and placed Ed in a duplicate.
A new Science Council election has been held. This time, Ken-Dal has won, and Jor-El's suspended animation space prison is approved. It's first inmate: Tron-Et, who will awaken in twenty-five years.
Back-up Story - 4: I took off one point for the far-fetched voting system of green squares and blue circles in the sky. Plus, the story starting more slowly than the previous issue's back-up. However, once it took off in the right direction, it became more interesting. So far, I'm enjoying these untold tales of Superman's home-world. I can't wait to read more.
Art - 5: Like Murphy Anderson's art in the last issue's back-up, the images provide the reader with some stunning science fiction visuals. In addition to that, Swan's Jor-El is very well done. You can really see how similar he is to his son.
Cover Art - 5: Another great Adams cover that grabs the reader's attention. It makes one wonder how the creature can make Superman lose his powers and screams to the buyer, "Read Me!" Why hasn't the comic book industry come to its senses and given this man more work?
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