Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Action Comics #491Cover date: January 1979
"A Matter of Light and Death"
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Cover: Ross Andru And Dick Giordano
Reviewed by: James Lantz
Thanks to the Krypton-Attacks forced onto him by Brainiac, Superman is on a collision course with the Justice League Satellite that is orbiting Earth. Only Hawkman is standing watch as the Man of Steel plows through the structure. With no hope of defeating him, Hawkman turns Superman's amazing strength against him and sends the Last Son of Krypton careening into a lead container in the supply hold. The box contains green Kryptonite used for experimental purposes. The dosage isn't enough to kill Superman, but it will leave the plummeting Kal-El too weak to launch another attack.
Hawkman is now having regrets about not helping Superman battle Brainiac. However, he remembers that the evil android will activate bombs hidden in various locations on Earth should the Justice League interfere with his challenge to Superman.
An unconscious Superman has landed in the woods of Northern Oregon. He's been found by Theodore J. Henkin and his robot companion Jerry. Henkin was the foremost expert in engineering and bionics until he was blinded while doing some last minute adjustments on Jerry. Some circuits in Jerry's neutronic power plant shorted out, and the flare from it had been so brilliant that thick cataracts had crystalized to the point where even the most advanced laser surgery could not remove them from his eyes. Henkin decided to live in seclusion because the noise of the city was too much for him after he had lost is sight.
Superman, who calls himself Kal in front of Henkin, has awakened, and Henkin tells him of how he became blind. The Man of Tomorrow then takes two pieces of coal from a bucket and crushes them into diamonds. He has an idea of how to help Henkin see again. He will use the diamonds to focus beams of his heat vision into the inventor's eyes. While Earth lasers may not be able to help Theodore's sight, Superman theorizes that his heat vision could easily burn the cataracts from the man's eyes.
Superman's plan to help Henkin also gives him a clue about his own visual troubles. The Krypton-Attacks are triggered by light. The first at the WGBS studios started after director Josh Coyle lit a cigarette, the Aurora Borealis caused the second, and the flashbulb from Jimmy Olsen's camera created the third one that made Superman attack the Justice League Satellite.
Superman has now put his plan into motion. Narrow beams of heat vision are focused through the two diamonds. The cataracts are being burned, and Theodore J. Henkin can see once again. However, Superman has left Henkin's cabin before the bionics expert can thank him. The Man of Steel now must stop his Krypton-Attacks and the evil Brainiac.
Brainiac is in his starship preparing a fourth Krypton-Attack for Superman. He is clearly disappointed by the results of the previous one. He had hoped to destroy both Superman and the Justice League with it.
Suddenly, something rams the spacecraft. It's Superman, and he's clearly trying to get Brainiac's attention despite the fact that nothing can penetrate the vessel's force-shields. The android with the 12th level intellect activates his ship's tractor beam.
Knowing that the beam attracts Kryptonian molecules, Superman finds it impossible to break free, but this is what he was counting on. The Man of Steel moves at tremendous speeds while pulling Brainiac's starship with him through space to a star that is going super-nova. Stretching Brainiac's tractor beam to its limits, Superman escapes directly into the heart of the super-nova.
Another Krypton-Attack has occurred within Superman. This time, the energy level in his body is very intense. He must expend it in the only way he can - by attacking Brainiac's ship. The Man of Tomorrow's powerful blows strike the force-shield over and over again until the impenetrable screens are eventually broken. Superman has smashed through the spacecraft's hull, captured Brainiac and learned the locations of the bombs that the evil automaton left on Earth. The Justice League will remove the explosives. Earth, the universe and Superman are now safe from Brainiac's malevolent plans.
Story - 5: While I did expect to see more of the Justice League during my first reading of this issue, I found as I read it a second time that more JLA would have probably made the reader lose track of what's really going on in the story. Had Batman, Wonder Woman or any other league member been in this issue with Hawkman, this comic would have been ruined for me. However, that's not the case. This issue is perfect.
The story itself is written well. We have Superman in a difficult situation with the Krypton-Attacks, and in the process of helping a man see again, he resolves his own problem. The scenes with Theodore J. Henkin were not just placed to give us a break from the rest of the action in "A Matter of Light and Death." They were written to show who Superman really is. No matter what's troubling him, he wants to help others before taking care of himself.
One thing I noticed about Action Comics #491 and the two previous issues that comprise the Krypton-Attack story arc is that there is a smooth continuity that makes perfect sense. I wish I could say the same thing about some of the Superman comics of today. Reading the new stories after Infinite Crisis makes me miss Cary Bates, Elliot S! Maggin, Curt Swan and Julius Schwartz more. They really knew how to keep things straight in Superman's universe.
Overall, from start to finish, I was left with a tale I enjoyed immensely. It had a lot of what the comic's title promised - action. There's also a great scene of Superman's altruism and a spectacular ending to an amazingly incredible story arc. My sincerest complements go out to everyone on the creative team, wherever they may be.
Art - 5: Every page of this comic has incredible art. I honestly don't know how Mister Swan pulled it off, but his art, by far, is the best in the Superman comics. There will never be another like him in my opinion. His style is sorely missed by this fan of the Man of Steel. Thank you, Curt Swan. You'll be remembered always.
Frank Chiaramonte's inks really work well with Swan's pencil art. Sometimes, you'll find an inking style doesn't seem to go well with the pencils. This was the case for my eyes when I saw how the Day of Doom mini-series was inked. However, Frank Chiaramonte's inks fit perfectly with Swan's artistic style. The artwork from the team of Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte is awesome and just leaps off the page. What more could a comic book fan ask for?
Cover Art - 4: It's not as dramatic as the previous issue's cover, but it is better than the one used for issue #489. It's great to see a Brainiac image, but the main reason I knocked one point off is the fact that positioning seems off. Perhaps if Brainiac was looming over Hawkman and Superman in a menacing manner, it would have looked better. Still this cover is well done. It just doesn't grab the reader's attention like some others do.
Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews
- Action Comics #1 (June 1938)
- Action Comics #2 (July 1938)
- Action Comics #3 (August 1938)
- Action Comics #4 (September 1938)
- Action Comics #5 (October 1938)
- Action Comics #6 (November 1938)
- Action Comics #7 (December 1938)
- Superman Archives: Volume 1 (1939)
- Superman #1 (Summer 1939)
- Action Comics #8 (January 1939)
- Action Comics #9 (February 1939)
- Action Comics #10 (March 1939)
- Superman #13 (November/December 1941) - The Archer
- Superman #19 (November/December 1942) - Case of the Funny Paper Crimes
- Action Comics #60 (May 1943) - Lois Lane - Superwoman
- Superman #30 (September/October 1944) - The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk
- Action Comics #80 (January 1945) - Mr. Mxyztplk Returns
- Superman #38 (January/February 1946) - The Battle of the Atoms
- Superman #42 (September/October 1946) - The Death of Clark Kent
- Superman #45 (March/April 1947) - Lois Lane, Superwoman
- Superman #53 (July 1948) - The Origin of Superman
- Action Comics #124 (September 1948) - A Superman of Doom
- Superman #60 (December 1949/January 1950) - The Two Identities of Superman & Superman Fights the Super-Brain
- 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
- Superman #134 (January 1960) - The Super-Menace of Metropolis
- Jimmy Olsen #42 (January 1960) - The Big Superman Movie!, Perry White, Cub Reporter!, and Jimmy the Genie!
- Jimmy Olsen #44 (April 1960) - The Wolf-Man of Metropolis
- Adventure Comics #271 (April 1960) - How Luthor Met Superboy
- Jimmy Olsen #46 (July 1960) - Jimmy Olsen, Orphan
- Superman #141 (November 1960) - Superman's Return To Krypton
- Superboy #85 (December 1960) - The Impossible Mission
- Jimmy Olsen #51 (March 1961) - The Girl with Green Hair
- Jimmy Olsen #52 (April 1961) - Jimmy Olsen, Wolf-Man
- Superboy #89 (June 1961) - Superboy's Big Brother!
- Action Comics #279 (August 1961) - The Super-Rivals
- Superman #147 (August 1961) - The Legion of Super Villains
- Superman #149 (November 1961) - The Death of Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #57 (December 1961) - Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl
- Superman #155 (August 1962) - Superman Under the Green Sun and The Downfall of Superman
- Justice League of America #13 (August 1962) - Riddle of the Robot Justice League
- World's Finest #129 (November 1962) - Joker-Luthor, Incorporated
- Superman #158 (January 1963) - Superman in Kandor
- Superman #160 (April 1963) - The Mortal Superman
- Superman #161 (May 1963) - The Last Days of Ma and Pa Kent
- Superman #162 (July 1963) - The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue
- Superman #163 (August 1963) - Wonder-Man, the New Hero of Metropolis and The Goofy Superman
- Justice League of America #21 & #22 (August/September 1963) - Crisis on Earth-One! and Crisis on Earth-Two!
- Superman #164 (October 1963) - The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman
- Superman #165 (November 1963) - The Sweetheart Superman Forgot
- Superman #166 (January 1964) - The Fantastic Story of Superman's Sons
- Superman #167 (February 1964) - The Team of Luthor and Brainiac
- Superman #168 (April 1964) - Luthor - Super Hero and Lex Luthor, Daily Planet Editor
- Superman #169 (May 1964) - The Man Who Stole Superman's Secret Life
- Action Comics #314 (July 1964) - The Day Superman Became The Flash
- Justice League of America #29 & #30 (August/September 1964) - Crisis on Earth-Three! and The Most Dangerous Earth of All!
- Superman #173 (November 1964) - The Triumph of Luthor and Brainiac
- Action Comics #318 (November 1964) - The Death of Luthor
- Action Comics #319 (December 1964) - The Condemned Superman
- Superman #175 (February 1965) - Clark Kent's Brother
- Superman #181 (November 1965) - The Superman of 2965
- The Legion of Super-Heroes - Archives Volume 4 (1965)
- Superman #184 (February 1966) - The Demon Under the Red Sun
- Action Comics #338 (June 1966) - Muto - Monarch of Menace
- Action Comics #339 (July 1966) - Muto versus The Man of Tomorrow
- Superman #189 (August 1966) - Krypton Lives Again
- Action Comics #346 (February 1967) - The Man Who Sold Insurance to Superman and The Case of the Superman Imposter
- Superman #194 (February 1967) - The Death of Lois Lane
- Superman #196 (May 1967) - The Star of Steel
- Superman #199 (January 1967) - Superman's Race With The Flash
- Superman #200 (October 1967) - Super-Brother Against Super-Brother
- The Flash #175 (December 1967) - Race to the End of the Universe
- Justice League of America #63 (June 1968) - Time Signs a Death Warrant for the Justice League
- Superman #211 (November 1968) - The Name of the Game is Superman!
- Superman #215 (April 1969) - Lois LaneŠ DeadŠ Yet Alive
- Superman #224 (February 1970) - Beware the Super-Genius Baby
- Action Comics #393 (October 1970) - Superman Meets Super-Houdini! and The Day Superboy Became Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #133 (October 1970) - The Newsboy Legion
- Action Comics #394 (November 1970) - Midas of Metropolis and Requiem for a Hot Rod!
- World's Finest #198 (November 1970) - Race to Save the Universe!
- Action Comics #395 (December 1970) - The Secrets of Superman's Fortress and The Credit Card of Catastrophe
- Jimmy Olsen #134 (December 1970) - The Mountain of Judgement!
- World's Finest #199 (December 1970) - A Race to Save Time!
- Superman #233 (January 1971) - Superman Breaks Loose!
- Jimmy Olsen #135 (January 1971) - The Evil Factory!
- Superman #234 (February 1971) - How to Tame a Wild Volcano
- Jimmy Olsen #136 (February 1971) - The Saga of the D.N.Aliens
- Superman #235 (March 1971) - The Sinister Scream of the Devil's Harp
- Superman #236 (April 1971) - Planet of the Angels and The Doomsayer
- Jimmy Olsen #137 (April 1971) - The Four-Armed Terror!
- Superman #237 (May 1971) - The Enemy of Earth
- Superman #238 (June 1971) - Menace at 1000 Degrees
- Jimmy Olsen #138 (June 1971) - The Big Boom!!
- Superman #240 (July 1971) - To Save a Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #139 (July 1971) - The Guardian Fights Again!!!
- Superman #241 (August 1971) - The Shape of Fear
- Superman #242 (September 1971) - The Ultimate Battle
- Jimmy Olsen #141 (September 1971) - Will the Real Don Rickles Panic?!?
- Jimmy Olsen #142 (October 1971) - The Man from Transilvane!
- Jimmy Olsen #143 (November 1971) - Genocide Spray
- Jimmy Olsen #144 (December 1971) - A Big Thing in a Deep Scottish Lake!
- Superman #247 (January 1972) - Must There Be A Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #145 (January 1972) - Brigadoom!
- Jimmy Olsen #146 (February 1972) - Homo-Disastrous!
- Jimmy Olsen #147 (March 1972) - A Superman in Super-Town!
- Jimmy Olsen #148 (April 1972) - Monarch of All He Subdues!
- Superman #292 (October 1975) - The Luthor Nobody Knows!
- Action Comics #458 (April 1976) - Make Me a Super-Hero! and Masquerade of the Nutty Kid!
- Action Comics #484 (June 1978) - Superman Takes a Wife!
- Superman #328 (October 1978) - Attack of the Kryptonoid
- Action Comics #489 (November 1978) - Krypton Dies Again and Where There's a Will... There's a Fray
- Superman #329 (November 1978) - I Have Met The Enemy... And He Is Me! and The Secret of the Talking Car
- Superman #330 (December 1978) - The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis!
- Action Comics #490 (December 1978) - No Tomorrow For Superman
- Action Comics #491 (January 1979) - A Matter of Light and Death
- Superman #331 (January 1979) - Lockup at 20,000 Feet
- Action Comics #492 (February 1979) - Superman's Secret Afterlife
- Superman #332 (February 1979) - The Eternity Cage
- Action Comics #493 (March 1979) - The Metropolis UFO Connection
- Action Comics #494 (April 1979) - The Secret of the Super S
- Action Comics #495 (May 1979) - Attack of the Ultimate Warrior
- DC Comics Presents #14 (October 1979) - Judge, Jury... and No Justice!
- The Superman Story (1979) - The Life Story of Superman
- DC Comics Presents #57 (May 1983) - Days of Future Past
- DC Comics Presents #67 (March 1984) - 'Twas the Fright Before Christmas
- DC Comics Presents Annual #3 (1984) - With One Magic Word
- Superman: The Secret Years #1 (February 1985) - Dreams and Schemes and Feeling Proud!
- Superman: The Secret Years #2 (March 1985) - Reach Out and Touch
- Superman: The Secret Years #3 (April 1985) - Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #80 (April 1985) - A World Full of Supermen!
- Superman: The Secret Years #4 (May 1985) - Beyond Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #85 (September 1985) - The Jungle Line
- Superman Annual #11 (1985) - For The Man Who Has Everything
- World's Finest #323 (January 1986) - Afraid of the Dark
- DC Comics Presents #97 (September 1986) - Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter
- Superman #423 & Action Comics #583 (September 1986) - Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?
- Showcase Presents: Superman Family - Volume 1 (October 2005)
- Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons (December 2007)
- Not Brand ECHH #7 (April 1967) - The Origin of Stuporman
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