Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Post-Crisis Superman Comics

Action Comics #584 (1987)

Action Comics #584

Cover date: January 1987

Writer: John Byrne
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Dick Giordano


Reviewed by: Christopher Evans

A news crew is filming in Metropolis for the 'Skyline' show, when there is a commotion amongst the crowd. Voices raise, fingers point and eyes turn to the sky, to see... Superman! To the dismay of the onlookers, the Man of Steel is smashing through the skyscrapers above! As debris rains down towards the crowd, a lone figure springs forward; Cyborg of the Teen Titans. Cyborg uses his grappling line to swing closer to the debris and blasts it to dust with his white sound disruptor before scaling the building to find out what's wrong with Superman.

Superman hovers in the air, laughing maniacally at the crowd below and exalting in his power. To get Superman's attention, Cyborg rips a section of metal from the roof and hurls it into him. The Man of Steel is infuriated by Cyborg's subsequent offer of help and attacks, ripping off one of the Titan's arms! Cyborg catches Superman off guard with a blast between the eyes from his finger laser. Enraged, Superman smashes off one of Cyborg's legs and hurls him from the roof. The Titan manages to survive the fall by digging his fingers into the side of the building to slow his descent. Systems malfunctioning, he is forced to use a phone to contact Titans' Tower.

Changeling takes the call, goofing around until Wonder Girl snatches the receiver from him. Cyborg fills her in on what is happening and the two Teen Titans mobilize.

Superman brandishes a bus in the air, challenging any heroes to face him. Changeling, adopting the form of an elephant, charges into him, but is picked up and smashed into the ground, reverting to human form and lying winded in the street. Wonder Girl smashes Superman over the head with a car, driving him into the ground. As he emerges, blasting her with a jet of water from a broken pipe, she ensnares him with her lasso.

Meanwhile, at a school for the hearing impaired, Teen Titan Jericho helps young children practice their sign language. A woman rushes in with a radio. Listening to the reports of Superman's rampage and the defeat of some of his fellow team members, Jericho leaves to help, or die trying.

Cyborg watches as Superman breaks Wonder Girl's lasso and lifts her into the air by the throat, threatening that there are other things he can do to her before killing her. Cyborg leaps (hops?) into the Man of steel, causing him to drop Wonder Girl. Superman attempts to kill Cyborg, who barely rolls out of the way in time to avoid the blow. Jericho arrives at the battle and catches Superman's attention by pelting him in the face with a tomato, before using his mutant ability to take control of the motor reflexes of living beings. As Superman rages helplessly, Jericho makes him sign to other Titans that he can't get total control of Superman's alien body and can't stay in there indefinitely. As the Titans debate what to do, a frail man using crutches and wearing leg braces hobbles forwards, telling them that it will be easy to imprison the man responsible for all the destruction, but that Superman is not responsible, as the man in the familiar red and blue uniform isn't Superman - he is!

En route to the solution to their problems, the crippled Superman tells the Titans what happened. Clark Kent received a phone call from David Gundersen (we saw this in Adventures of Superman #424), a scientist who claimed to need Superman's help to complete an experimental pollution-free energy source. Entering Gundersen's lab Superman fell victim to the scientist's true experiment; a mind-transfer device. Now in Superman's body, Gundersen left to begin his rampage, locking Superman in a storeroom. Superman picked the lock, heard about the battle on the news and took a taxi to the scene.

Now back in Gundersen's lab, the simple nature of the machine means that with the flick of a switch, both Superman and Gundersen are returned to their proper bodies. As Gundersen rants about being trapped again in his 'useless body', Superman reminds him of the men and women though history that have overcome their incredible handicaps to go and achieve great things, telling him that it isn't his body that cripples him; it's his mind.

Ten hours later, in Paris, France, Lex Luthor reads the latest edition of the Daily Planet and the report on Superman's battle with the Teen Titans, written by Clark Kent. Musing over the fact that Kent always seems to get the best Superman stories, Luthor decides that there must be some connection between the two and decides that he is just the man to find out what that connection is!

4Story - 4: Well the first issue of Action Comics to feature the revamped Superman does what it says on the tin. It provides plenty of action, and a simple story. You can argue that the story is overly simple, but I feel it's only fair to quote John Byrne from the column at the end of this issue where he explains how he wanted to make 'Action' a team up comic, a "...very basic, primal comic. ... I realized I was building a comic that would be less "cerebral" than the stories Marv (Wolfman) and I planned for the non-team titles. None of these were going to be great mind-benders... it would be in 'Superman' and Marv's titles (The Adventures of Superman) that we would explore Clark Kent's place in the universe, his attitudes towards the world and Superman. In the team-up title, then, the key would be... action."

Fair enough then. Action Comics was designed to provide just that; action. In that sense, this issue succeeds well. Superman/Gundersen's battle with the Teen Titans is fast paced and exciting, the crux of the story, a mind control device that operates on the simple flick of a switch, is a pure, good ol' fashioned comic book device. The story makes a worthy point about disability, ties up a loose end from AOS #424 and sets up Luthor's investigation of Clark Kent, the results of which we get to see in the (in my opinion) classic Superman # 2. I feel I've got to knock a point off, as although the story is satisfactory, for me, it doesn't go beyond that. I didn't read it and think, 'man, that was great!', so I intend to save the five out of fives for when I feel an issue really deserves it.

Now, then; nit-pickin' time. What caught my attention in this issue? Hmm, yeah. Does Cyborg own exploding trousers? I ask as, when he steps forward from the crowd, to save them from the debris on page 3, he's ripping off his sweatshirt, his baseball cap has fallen off and his pants are just, well... shredding. I guess he was flexin' those chrome muscles of his, or maybe, just maybe; they were special, Teen Titan issue exploding pants. $14.99 a pair from your local Wal-Mart.

I sometimes find myself thinking, 'Chris, you're taking this stuff way too seriously' but whenever I see a hero or villain smashing another hero or villain with a car, cycle, truck etc, I always think 'what about the poor sod who's just lost their vehicle?' When it's a hero that's just reduced the family five door saloon car to a twisted pile of junk, I wonder- after the issue has ended, do they ever seek out the owners and buy them a new car/cycle/truck? Or at least apologize to them?

Trying to think of a 'that must have cost him an arm and a leg' gag with reference to Cyborg having one of each ripped off in this issue, but the bag is empty. I had a Darth Vader moment looking at the panels where Superman/Gundersen is hoisting Wonder Girl aloft by her throat. Keep expecting the writing in the speech bubble to say 'If this is a councillor ship, where is the ambassador?!" On a serious note, I thought what Gundersen said to Donna in those panels was pretty ugly. "Perhaps I won't kill you. Not just yet, at least. You're very beautiful, Wonder Girl. There are other things we can do before you die." Somehow, I'm not thinking he's talking about taking her to the theatre, is he? Eww, we've got a not very thinly veiled threat of rape here. For me, it fits in the context of the story and so doesn't come across as gratuitous, but nonetheless... brrr.

I liked Superman's comment, as he is trapped in Gundersens's body and is flying over the city being carried by Superman/Gundersen/Jericho, about finding the experience 'unnerving'. Nice touch. Now then, pop-quiz-role-play time. Bear with me. You're a scientist. You're crippled, bitter and you've just invented and created a mind transfer device that works on the flick of a switch. With me so far? Good! Now then, your evil plan has just worked - you've tricked Superman into coming to visit you, you've stolen his body and locked him, in yours, in a store room. Do you;
A) Head off on a power drunken rampage through the city?
B) Smash the mind-transfer device into a gazillion itty-bitty pieces, stomp them into dust so that there's no machine left to possibly reverse the procedure, then head off on a power drunken rampage through the city? Yeah, I thought so. Me too. Not to worry. Let's keep what Johnny B said about the intended nature of the Action title in mind here, eh?

My favorite sound effect this issue was 'KONG!' as Cyborg bounced the metal panel off Superman/Gundersen to get his attention. Kinda reminds me of a giant ape, somehow. No, wait, that's Superman Annual #1. Now, where the heck are those bi-planes heading to..?

3Art - 3: Byrne's pencils are his usual high quality in this issue, but I find Dick Giordano's inks look scratchy and in places; rushed. Many panels have a lack of background detail, with some having absolutely none at all. The art in this issue of Action isn't up to the quality over in the Superman title, but kudos to Byrne for managing to produce pencils of this quality for two books a month. Overall, good, but could have been better.

3Cover Art - 3: I feel pretty much the same way about the cover as I do the interior art. Good, dramatic poses, let down by rushed looking inks and a total lack of background detail. There's just a big, blank, white space for a background. Okay, so too much detail would have detracted from the dramatic image of Superman throttling Wonder Girl and holding Cyborg's severed arm, but at least some shading, or color could have been used.

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