Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Superman #236Cover date: April 1971
"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
"Planet of the Angels"
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.
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 Laneä Deadä 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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