Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Action Comics #489

Action Comics #489

Cover date: November 1978

"Krypton Dies Again"

Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte

"Where There's a Will... There's a Fray"

Writer: Bob Rozakis
Penciller: Alex Saviuk
Inker: Vince Colletta

Cover: Ross Andru And Dick Giordano

Reviewed by: James Lantz



Years ago, the planet Krypton was destroyed. Kal-El, the child of Jor-El and Lara, arrived on Earth mere days after the death of hishome-world. The burst of light from the explosion will arrive in the Earth's skies tonight at 10:17 PM Metropolis time. The special effects crew of WGBS Television is recreating the destruction of Krypton for tonight's newscast. Clark Kent is supposed to be broadcasting live from the observatory on Mount Olympus for WGBS. The transmitting equipment has arrived, but Kent has not shown up yet.

A commercial jet has come in for a landing at the Metro International Airport. The engines won't stop, and the craft is about to plow right through the airport's terminal. The timely intervention of Superman stops the plane and saves the lives of hundreds of people. In fact, the Man of Steel has relentlessly rescued close to a million people in the past six hours. Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White are worried about Superman. Even the Justice League has expressed concern for their comrade's recent obsessive behavior, but he tells them in the Kryptonian language (Kal-El is speaking his native language out of respect for hishome-worldon this Day of Mourning) that this is something he must do on his own.

Kara Zor-El, known to us as Supergirl, is in the shrunken city of Kandor. The Kandorians and Kara are wearing black headbands to honor Krypton on the Day of Mourning. Drygur Moliom, head of the Kandorian Science Council, shows his distaste for what he believes is Kal-El's lack of respect for Krypton. He believes Kal should be in Kandor mourning for his ancestors. However, Kara tells Moliom that Kal-El is saving lives on Earth in order to bring out into the open the menaceresponsiblefor Kandor's being torn from Krypton, miniaturized and placed in a bottle that is now inside the Fortress of Solitude. Superman is answering a challenge from the android with a 12th level intelligence - Brainiac.

Superman and Brainiac are now engaged in a heated battle. Neither combatant seems to be gaining ground. However, Brainiac has an ace in the hole. As Superman tries to hurl the android's ship out of Earth's solar system, Brainiac activates a special magnet that only attracts Kryptonian molecules. Superman is now attached to the roof of Brainiac's spacecraft.

It is now 10:17 PM Metropolis time. The entire world is watching as the vision of Krypton's destruction comes into viewing range of Earth's solar system. Many are wondering what Superman is doing on this solemn occasion. Had their eyes been able to see far into space, the people would see a horrifying sight. Brainiac is exposing Superman's unprotected superhuman eyes to the light from the Man of Tomorrow'shome-world'sdeadly demise. As Superman is being tortured by Krypton'sdestruction, the android with a 12th level intelligence theorizes that the light will have the same effect on Kryptonian eyes as a solar eclipse would have on unshielded human eyes. However the damage from watching the explosion will be a million times worse for Superman.

5Story - 5: WOW! I have to say that I was blown away by this story. After being bombarded by events like Infinite Crisis and continuity issues in the recent comic books, it's good to go back to the tales of my childhood and read a good solid adventure that centers around Superman without having to buy twenty different titles to understand what the heck is going on. Some things may seem dated or hokey by today's standards of storytelling, but this issue is what a Superman comic book should be like. It's fun and full of what the title promises - action.

I was just a boy when this comic book came out. Reading it made me feel like a kid again. Perhaps this can color my opinion of the story somewhat, but even as I got older, I found the work of Cary Bates and Curt Swan extremely enjoyable. They had a gift for telling a fun story that few creative teams have had in recent years. Sure, there is nostalgic value in "Krypton Dies Again". There's also a darn great story inside the pages.

Brainiac has always been one of my favorite villains in the comic books. This issue shows Brainiac at his most vicious. His plot to expose Superman to the light ofKrypton'sexplosion is downright devious and evil. Had General Zod been in this issue as well, this Superman fan would have been an even happier comic book geek seeing two of his favorite foes battle the Last Son of Krypton.

4Art - 4: Now before you flame me for giving Curt Swan's art a four out of five, let me point out that I said that some things seem dated in this comic. Well, the exterior and interior of Brainiac's ship look like they belong in a 1950's science fiction movie, and it doesn't look all that fearsome. One thing I love about the story "Panic in the Sky" was Brainiac's skull-ship. That sucker looked like it could destroy a city before Superman could blink. It showed the true menace of Brainiac. This is why I gave the art a four. The ship in "Krypton Dies Again" is hard to take seriously. One would expect that alien from The Flintstones to come out of the darn thing.

Aside from a campy looking spacecraft, the rest of the artwork is incredible. It's Curt Swan. What more could a Superman fan ask for in his or her comic book art? Swan is the king of Superman and Action Comics artists.

"Where There's a Will... There's a Fray"

Writer: Bob Rozakis
Penciller: Alex Saviuk
Inker: Vince Colletta

Ray Palmer, alias the Atom, is hidden inside a chandelier with a platinum watch. A thief is grabbing the watch along with the shrunken superhero. The Atom is dropped to the floor. The thief is about to step on the Atom, but the pint-sized hero shrinks down to a size in which his foe's shoe cannot make contact. The Atom then pushes the burglar with all his might. This results in the thief grabbing the Atom's head and flinging him against a bookcase.

We now flashback to earlier in the day. Attorney Jean Loring Palmer, wife of the Atom, is reading the last will and testament of Joseph Rakowski, one half of the comedy team of Rak and Rooney. Most of the people at the will reading are not happy with what Rak has given them. The comedian's platinum wristwatch, Oscar and photo album go to his agent Lou Edwards, his chauffeur Robby Thornton and his secretary Stephanie Majors respectively. Only Rak's former partner David Rooney seems to benefit from the will despite the fact that he and Rak never got along off-stage and off-camera. Rooney will receive the bulk of Rak's estate and one million dollars in cash. He'll receive everything in a week after a secret portion of the will is read to him.

Suddenly, Stephanie Majors' cat becomes agitated, and everyone in the room is chasing it. Once things are calm, Lou Edwards discovers that his platinum watch is missing. Everyone is searching for the watch, but nobody has it.

Ray Palmer is now nursing his head injury and discussing the watch's disappearance with Jean. Someone had thrown the time piece in the chandelier, where the Atom had been watching the reading of the will at his wife's request, while everyone was chasing Ms. Majors' cat. Now, that same person has taken the watch after knocking out the Atom.

Just then, Jean receives a phone call from Stephanie Majors. Someone has stolen Rak's photo album. Thinking that the Oscar inherited by Robby Thornton will be the next target, Ray asks Jean to call the chauffeur while he shrinks to the size of the Atom. The Atom travels through the telephone's connection and gets to Thornton's disorganized, messy home in no time. He finds the Oscar and the thief after Thornton leaves for a disco.

Thinking the Atom is the Oscar in the darkness, the thief grabs him. The pint-sized hero changes his weight to one hundred and eighty pounds. This takes the burglar by surprise. A flashlight is shined in Ray Palmer's face, and the fight begins. The thief subdues the Atom with a blanket and a bowl of mush. This doesn't last long. Through various size changes, the Atom makes his escape and knocks out the criminal just as Jean Loring Palmer arrives with the police. They turn on the lights and reveal that the thief is David Rooney.

Joseph "Rak" Rakowski suspected that Rooney would steal these mementos of his career. He left a stipulation in his will that his estate will be divided equally between Stephanie Majors, Robby Thornton and Lou Edwards if Rooney should try to take the Oscar, watch and photo album, and Jean Loring Palmer reads this part of the will to Rooney one week after while the comedian is taken to prison.

4Story - 4: I'm ashamed to admit it, but I know very little about the Atom. He's not a character that sticks out in my mind from when I started reading comic books a little over thirty years ago. I've seen him in Superman and Justice League stories, but I am completely ignorant of his adventures beyond the casual viewing. Perhaps this is the reason I gave this back-up tale a four out of five. It does merit a five because it's a good and simple story. However, I had to knock off one point for feeling like I came into the middle of Ray Palmer's life with no back story. Some background information would have helped new readers like myself get to know the Atom better. I was left with questions about Ray and Jean for which no answers are given in "Where There's a Will... There's a Fray."

Now, my complaints about no background information on Jean and Ray Palmer don't change the fact that Bob Rozakis wrote a good story that's worth checking out on a rainy afternoon. Sure, it seems more like an episode of Ellery Queen than a superhero comic book, but I like Ellery Queen. If you want a decent back-up saga that goes from beginning to end without continuing in a million issues, read "Where There's a Will... There's a Fray." You'll be glad you did.

3Art - 3: I've always loved Alex Saviuk's artwork, and he really did a fine job in this back-up tale. However, there is really nothing that stands out in this section of the comic book. It tells the story and nothing more. I guess I expected more from the art when I saw Alex Saviuk's name attached to the credits. Perhaps that's why I'm only giving it a three out of five. It wasn't the worst art I've ever seen, but Saviuk has done better.

2Cover Art - 2: The background colors seem to be off on this. They just didn't look right for some reason. Superman also seems like a Polaroid that's out of focus. This makes the cover look strange. The side panels and narration captions also ruin what could have had the potential to be an eye catching cover. It isn't pure crap, but it could have used a lot of improvements. A single image of Superman in space surrounded by the explosion of a planet might have had more of an impact with the words "In This Issue... Krypton Dies Again!" at the bottom of the cover. Ross Andru is an amazing artist, but this cover doesn't really show off his true artistic skills.


Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews

1938-1949

1950-1959

  • Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - “The Mightiest Team in the World”
  • Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - “Superman's Lost Brother”
  • Superman 3D (1953) - “The Man Who Stole the Sun”, “Origin of Superman” and “The Man Who Bossed Superman”
  • Superman #87 (February 1954) - “The Prankster's Greatest Role”
  • Superman #88 (March 1954) - “The Terrible Trio”
  • Superman #89 (May 1954) - “Captain Kent the Terrible”, “Superman of Skid Row”, and “One Hour to Doom!”
  • Superman #91 (August 1954) - “The Superman Stamp” and “Great Caesar's Ghost”
  • World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - “Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes”
  • Superman #115 (August 1957) - “The Midget Superman!”
  • Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - “The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse”
  • Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - “The Super-Duel in Space”
  • Superman #123 (August 1958) - “The Girl of Steel”
  • Superman #127 (February 1959) - “Titano the Super Ape”
  • Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - “The Menace of Metallo” and “The Supergirl From Krypton”
  • Superman #129 (May 1959) - “The Girl in Superman's Past”
  • Superman #130 (July 1959) - “The Curse of Kryptonite!”, “The Super-Servant of Crime!”, and “The Town that Hated Superman!”
  • Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - “Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal”

1960-1969

1970-1979

1980-1986

Compilation Volumes

Miscellaneous

Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.