Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Post-Crisis Superman Comics

Action Comics #586 (1987)

Action Comics #586

Cover date: March 1987

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

"The Champion!"

Reviewed by: Christopher Evans

New Gods Lightray and Orion are on their way towards Apokolips. Their mission - to save a fallen hero.

Superman/Saviour, 'son of Darkseid', is put through his paces by Granny Goodness. Amazing Grace and Darkseid watch from the shadows, Grace voicing doubts about what they are doing, for the amnesia that has put Superman into their power has also robbed him of his strength. Darkseid tells her that Granny Goodness will restore that strength and asks if Grace questions his actions. Grace apologizes, Darkseid telling her that she is pathetic and her cringing manner reminds him of her brother; Glorious Godfrey (AKA G. Gordon Godfrey, main protagonist in the Legends mini-series). Darkseid reveals to Grace that when Superman arrived on Apokolips as Clark Kent he saw through the disguise and the two discuss recent events (as shown in Superman #3 and AOS #426).

A guard informs Darkseid that Lightray and Orion have been sighted. The Lord of Apokolips orders the guard to prepare, and ignoring Granny's protests that Saviour is not fully prepared, asks him if he is ready to fight. Saviour offers his 'poor power' in service. Eyes blazing, Darkseid tells him his power is the greatest on Apokolips, that he can resist all injury and break the bonds of gravity. Saviour feels power flooding through him and takes to the air, crashing through the walls of the building and soaring into the sky to destroy his enemies. Granny Goodness expresses her confusion - if Darkseid could return Superman's powers with a mere glance, why has he not done so before? Darkseid replies that what he has done is dangerous. Superman's powers have returned through his belief his strength is that of the son of Darkseid, yet he has gone to battle Orion - Darkseid's true son. An encounter that could prove to be their undoing.

Above Apokolips, Saviour crashes into Orion. The two New Gods immediately recognize Superman and attempt to stun him. Proclaiming himself the son of Darkseid, Saviour crushes Orion into the surface of Apokolips with a huge stone column. An alarmed Lightray rushes to his comrade's side, but Orion shrugs off the blow and claims his warrior's right to single combat. Exchanging blows and knocking Saviour to the ground, Orion removes his helmet, showing his face as an example of what it truly means to be a son of Darkseid.

Soaring above the battle, Lightray spies the corpse strewn battlefield from the Hunger Dogs futile uprising (see AOS #426). Wondering who could have spurred the Hunger Dogs to such folly, he lands and is approached by Amazing Grace. Using her powers, she begins to seduce him, drawing a fearsome blade and preparing to strike. Yet Lightray is not so easily duped, and temporarily blinding Grace with a searing flash of light, he heads back to Orion, to voice his growing and terrible suspicion.

Lightray returns to find the battle over. Saviour sits, head in hands, looking shaken to his core. The shock of seeing Orion's twisted visage allowed the true son of Darkseid a chance to use Mother Box to calm Saviour and open his mind to what has happened to him. As the New Gods debate how Superman has been used to betray the Hunger Dogs, Mother Box eases the hero's mind, fully removing the amnesia and lies implanted by Darkseid and reweaving the fabric of his Saviour garb into the red and blue of his Superman uniform. With a roar that makes the New Gods clap their hands to their heads to protect their ears, Superman shouts Darkseid's name.

In his quarters, Darkseid is throttling Amazing Grace. Superman's roar makes him pause and, looking out of a window, he sees buildings in the distance toppling as Superman makes his way to confront the Lord of Apokolips. Realizing his plan has gone astray; Darkseid admits that he has overreached himself in using Superman to crush the spirits of the Hunger Dogs. He sends forth his omega beams to rectify his errors.

The beams streak towards Superman, who twists and turns in the air, leading the beams on a chase through the towers and buildings of Apokolips and finally back to their very source. Crashing through the walls of Darkseid's personal chambers, Superman flies straight at him, veering away at the last possible moment so the awesome power of the omega beams strike Darkseid full on. Brought to his knees, smoking and charred, Darkseid counter attacks, blasting the Man of Steel with energy beams tuned to his Kryptonian molecular structure. The pain causes Superman to buckle under the onslaught, before he lashes out with a vicious backhand blow. Telling Darkseid that compared to exposure to kryptonite, anything that he can dish out is like a walk in the park, he rains blows on the Dark Lord, knocking him from his feet and sending him crashing against a wall. As the Last Son of Krypton takes flight, hurling himself at Darkseid to finish him off, the Lord of Apokolips ends matters on his own terms; summoning a boom tube in front of Superman that teleports him away.

Orion and Lightray arrive, demanding to know where Darkseid's star gate has sent Superman. Getting to his feet, Darkseid admits he was beaten fairly and so sent Superman home, back to Earth. He tells the two New Gods that if they will choose not to fight today, he will not force the issue. The New Gods depart peacefully. Soaring away from Apokolips, Lightray muses that Superman will have to carry the guilt of his actions for the rest of his days. Orion replies that Mother Box did not restore Superman's memory of his betrayal of the Hunger Dogs, as it would not be fitting for him to have to carry such grief. Lightray doesn't understand. Orion has had to bear worse in his time. Does he consider himself a lesser hero than Superman? Orion replies it is his lot as a warrior to bear such things, but that Superman is more than a warrior. He is special - he is a champion.

4Story - 4: A humdinger of an issue, just let down a little for me by the deus ex machina at the end, but more on that later. Good characterization, with pleasing interaction between Darkseid and his minions, such as Granny Goodness and Amazing Grace - G. Gordon/Glorious Godfrey's sister eh? Makes sense! Also interesting to find out that Darkseid wasn't fooled for a moment by the whole 'my-omega-beams-transported-a-puny-human-and-not-Superman-to-me'schtick back in Superman #3. Hurling Clark out of the window actually served two purposes; testing the Phantom Stranger's neutrality (where is ol' tall dark n' grim anyways?) and getting Superman out amongst the masses so Darkseid's plan to control him could commence.

I like that Darkseid is portrayed as a thinking villain - brain as well as brawn. He knows he's taking a risk in sending Superman to fight Orion and is quick to realize things have gone wrong and abandon his plan, cleaning up the resulting mess by trying to wipe Superman out via his omega beams. Nice to have a logical reason given here as to how Darkseid can survive them hitting him - his body can contain the omega power, so it's able to withstand it. 'Nuff said. And at the end, he admits being beaten and almost in a gesture of goodwill, sends Superman back home. Of course, it could be that Superman had nearly beaten him and getting rid of the Man of Steel ASAP was the only course of action that could save the day for ol' granite face. He does go on to tell Lightray and Orion that it's a time to bind wounds, rather than fight.

At the same time though, why would such a scheming, obviously intelligent villain take such a risk as sending a-not-quite-ready Saviour against his son and a fellow New God in the first place? The answer could be wrapped up in the whole prophecy about Orion and Darkseid being due a big, final battle which only one shall walk away from (I'm not too clued up on Kirby's New Gods, but I think this is correct...). Perhaps Orion truly has the power to defeat Darkseid and, knowing that, sending a brainwashed Superman out to battle him could have been an act of self preservation on Darkseid's behalf.

Interesting to note that during the battle between the two, Orion took everything that the Man of Steel could dish out and gave back just as much in return. Now yeah, yeah, okay. Superman was most likely not fighting at his full power due to the brainwashing, but even if he were at full strength - would he be able to take Orion down. Really? Especially as Orion boasts in this issue that the Astro-Force he wields (cool name for a power by the way) can shatter worlds. Yikes. And what a battle it was too - a proper knock down, slam bang bout of fisticuffs, well befitting a book with this title.

I loved Superman's roar of anger as he realizes he's been manipulated by Darkseid and the fact that he's tearing down buildings in his path to get to him?! Brrr. It's only a minor point in the story, but it gave me shivers. The big blue cheese was p, *ahem*, pretty angry! It helps set up expectations for the coming battle. You know he's mad and can't wait to see what he's gonna do to Darkseid when he gets his hands on him.

So, why not a 5 outta 5? The whole Mother-Box-saves-the day-thing. Yes, it makes perfect sense within the context of the story, yes it uncomplicates matters in a title called 'Action' very nicely, but, c'mon now, it's a huge deus ex machina. One helluva big red reset button (the likes of which I've watched being used in various Star Trek series over the years until I'm sick of it). *Sigh* Superman's actions, although not fully his own, led to the deaths of thousands. Think about that for a mo'. Thousands of people. At least 16,000 from the information given in AOS #426. And Superman gets to walk away from that without even a twinge of angst? H'm. Personally, that's just a little too clean cut and convenient for me.

Although to play devil's advocate for a moment, did Superman get away without suffering at all for his actions? Perhaps suppressed guilt about what he did on Apokolips may have been a contributing factor to his mental breakdown after what he does to the phantom zone criminals in about 2 years' worth of continuity's time? I'm dancing around the specifics here, for those of you who don't know what he does. I'll eventually get around to reviewing that story, but as there's over 50 issues of continuity to go through before we get to that particular chapter on Clark's life, I reckon that review is just over a year away at best. Regardless, perhaps you could argue Superman doesn't get away completely unscathed with what he did after all...

(My favorite sound effect this issue was the very decisive EEEEEEEEEEE-BOOM! As Darkseid star-gated/boom-tubed Superman back to earth.)

4Art - 4: Good, solid work from Byrne again, as always back in the day. Superman/Saviour does look a little short n' chunky in some panels, such as the splash on page 3, but all the characters leap off the page at you - Granny Goodness, Amazing Grace, Orion - they all look great. Darkseid again looks very ominous and I love the last panel on page 17, as he sends his omega beams to destroy Superman. Cool shadow-work in that panel. This gets 4 out of 5 again, because I think it's good, really good, just not quite great. There's a touch more background detail than usual, but still many large empty gaps on panels and the inks begin to look increasingly rushed as the book progresses. Still a treat to look at though.

5Cover Art - 5: I love it. I think this is a really striking cover - the pose of Orion and Supes, the heavy shading and the excellent crackling energy effects. I like the way the S shield is made both prominent and slightly obscured, giving you the sense that those Astro-Force blasts are really powerful. And Darkseid gloating in the background, too. It happened in the issue (although Superman was dressed as Saviour then, but I'll go with the artistic license on this one). This cover grabs my attention, the colors work, there's background detail and it makes me want to see what's inside the book. Everything for me that a cover should be. Great stuff!

Classic Post-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews

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