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"Planet of the Angels"
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Murphy Anderson
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Penciller: Dick Giordano
Inker: Dick Giordano
Cover: Neal Adams and Dick Giordano
Reviewed by: James Lantz
It is midnight in Metropolis. After taking down some criminals they had been searching for the past week, Superman and Batman call it a night. Having not slept in four days, Batman decides to go to bed. Superman almost envies the fact that his friend and other humans need to sleep unlike the Man of Steel, who is constantly on the go.
Superman has gone to his Fortress of Solitude to work on a brain wave project that compares Kryptonian patterns to those of a human being in case he should ever want to marry and have children. Shortly after placing the helmet-like device on his head, the Man of Tomorrow finds it hard to keep his eyes opened. He then falls through a strange pattern of endless shapes and later finds himself surrounded by a raging, fiery inferno. A pack of demons suddenly attack him, but their pitchforks do no harm to the Man of Steel. His fighting back scares them back into the flames.
Winged individuals dressed in white have introduced themselves to Superman. Their names are Gabriel, Raphael and Michael. They tell Kal-El that he is in Heaven. However, to enjoy the tranquility, Superman has to prove himself worthy by performing a task for the angels. He must venture into the nearby hell fires and open a locked gate so that the doomed may know the might of Gabriel and his associates. The trio also promises that Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Batman and all of those close to the Last Son of Krypton will know the joys of Paradise.
Superman has made it across the barrier of fire to the bolted doors that he must open. He sees Lois, Jimmy and Batman being tormented in the flames, but he later understands that it is an illusion. Unable to open the gates with his tremendous strength, he tunnels under them. His path takes him to the same demons that he had encountered earlier. It is at this point things become clearer for the Man of Steel. Soot smudges on Gabriel's robes and other things do not make sense to him. However, one of the demons reveals the truth. Superman is under a hypnotic spell, and the devilish creatures are actually intergalactic law officers from the planet Beta U. Gabriel, Raphael and Michael are murderers that the policemen have being pursuing for quite some time.
The Man of Tomorrow has agreed to assist the space police in their task by giving Gabriel and his friends what they want - the opened gates. The winged being's weapons are superior to those of the Beta U law enforcement, but they are no match for Superman. The trio of fugitives have no choice but to point the blades of their swords at Lois, Jimmy and Batman. However, the Man of Steel sees through their trickery as our hero's friends are not really there. He makes short work of Raphael and Michael, but Gabriel has escaped with a bomb that he intends to use on the planet Earth.
Superman is pursuing Gabriel into the swirling nothingness with endless shapes from which he had arrived. Both emerge from the time warp in front of Earth. Gabriel hurls his weapon toward the Last Son of Krypton's adopted home world, but our hero's invulnerable body stops the explosion from reaching its target. He then knocks out Gabriel and turns him and his winged cohorts over to the Beta U authorities.
It is now dawn in the Fortress of Solitude. Superman has once again not slept, but he smiles thanks to his having a waking dream.
Story - 5: There is no sign of the sand creature in this issue, but it's still an entertaining story. Let's just call this a brief intermission from that mysterious being. Don't worry, he'll return in #237. Anyway, Denny O'Neil has given us a tale that puts new twists on the elements of good and evil by showing us that things are not always what they seem. Also, many things that seem far-fetched at first, such as the brain wave helmet, work well after reading this a second time. All in all, despite expecting another chapter in "The Sandman Saga," I really enjoyed this one.
Art - 5: Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson have this uncanny ability to mix genres in ways that make this book look absolutely astounding. They blend fantasy, science fiction and superheroes into perhaps the most beautiful visuals I've ever seen in a comic book. On a little side note, did Gabriel look like Gandalf the White in Lord of the Rings, or are my eyes in total fanboy mode?
Black Canary, Green Arrow and Superman are having a picnic. Seeing chemical waste being dumped in the river near a nearby factory, Green Arrow begins to lament about how humanity is destroying the Earth. Black Canary is tired of his complaining, but Superman understands his point as he begins to tell a painful story of his home world Krypton.
Surrus, a city on one of Krypton's southern continents which got its name from a flower that sang the most beautiful music in the world, was a lovely and simple area. Life for the people was easy, and they spent most of their days listening to the plants' songs. A scientist named Doctor Mo-De, however, didn't put the Surrus flowers to his ear. He was busy in his laboratory. According to his troubling calculations, tensions are building up in Krypton's core. Within twenty years, the planet will be destroyed, and all life will cease to exist. The only way to prevent this is to drill a shaft into the crust and redirect lava flow.
Mo-De has warned his people of Krypton's destruction, but nobody believes him. They only want to hear the Surrus flowers' music. Feeling that the singing plants are to blame for the citizens' apathy toward his predictions, Mo-De cuts them with a scythe. The shocked townspeople then lock him into a greenhouse full of the Surruses. Mo-De later comes out and only wants to listen to the music. Twenty years later, Krypton explodes.
Black Canary has taken Superman's story to heart. She now wants to speak with the owner of the factory that polluted the river.
Story - 1: There are many reasons why I don't like this story. Besides the fact that the environmental message is as subtle as a kick in the teeth, it feels like it was slapped into the book to fill the remaining pages. Reprinting an older tale of the Man of Steel might have worked better if O'Neil's main story wasn't long enough.
The singing flowers were ridiculous even for 1971. I honestly don't know how that concept was allowed to see print. There are many other ways to show that the citizens didn't care about Krypton's fate.
This back-up would have worked better as a Jor-El story. Having someone besides Superman's father predict the demise of Krypton kind of lessens the impact of Jor's discovery in my eyes. I realize that the powers that be might have felt that someone else saying that the planet is doomed twenty years before Jor-El would be a good concept, but it makes his predictions of doom less like a revelation and more like the ravings of a lunatic. This tale of Krypton should have been left untold.
Art - 4: The art is the saving grace of this story, but some panels do look like they were drawn in a hurry. Plus, I find it hard to believe that the people of the Krypton of twenty years ago looked like teenagers from the 1970s. The rest of the visuals were pretty good though.
Cover Art - 5: This is an unusual cover, but it works well to make the reader curious about what's going on within the comic book's pages. In my opinion, Neal Adams is the king of Superman covers.
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