Friday, October 25, 2013

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez's Man of Steel -- Superman 308

Superman #308 (February 1977)
"This Planet Is Mine!"
Gerry Conway-Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Frank Springer (cover by Neal Adams)

Doug:  That's a sweet cover, isn't it?  And that dude on the kickboard looks far more interesting than the chump from Superman IV.  But, does this issue's review come to you in a more glowing fashion than did our inaugural foray into the Superman of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez?  Let's check it out.

Doug:  When we left Superman and Supergirl, Superman had just defeated the Protector in a battle that took place immediately after Supergirl had revealed that there never was a Krypton.  Superman was under quite a bit of mental duress in dealing with Kara's revelation, and was not at the top of his game as the pollution-loving Protector had come to call on the Man of Steel in the Fortress of Solitude.  We open today with Kara flying about the Fortress destroying all of Superman's mementos, shrines, and displays honoring his homeworld.  Superman begs her to stop -- well, warns her actually, and as the two cousins argue the Protector begins to emerge from the funk he was left in several minutes earlier.  Kara tells Superman that she has film of his birthday, and of their fathers working together on atomic experiments.  But as the soap opera runs on, the Protector fires up his molecular powers and blasts between the two Kryptonians -- and out the door!  Supergirl wants to take after him, but Superman stops her.  What's the point, he asks?  Maybe the guy is right in wanting to destroy Superman.  And with that, Superman flies off to be alone and to meditate on the bombshell his cousin has dropped.  As he flies away, Supergirl pulls out a small transmitter and tells someone that the plan seems to be working -- and that she hopes it's the right thing to do.

Doug:  Superman doesn't go back to the mountain on which he'd sat in the last issue.  This time he heads to Metropolis, where he does one of the coolest costume changes I've ever seen.  You just know that suit and shoes was all tucked into his cape!  Clark Kent emerges from the taxi cab and makes his way to his apartment.  Lois Lane waits inside, cooking the dinner she'd mentioned to Clark last issue, when he headed out with a much younger woman!  Clark's a little melancholy as the dinner begins, but soon warms to Lois's intentions.  After all, if he's not an alien or outside, then why should he hold back his feelings?

Doug:  We jump to a high-tech building in the Rocky Mountains -- not all that hidden, actually -- to see the Protector land and then get his brains blasted.  A new costumed criminal, Radion, greets last issue's baddie with a jolt nuclear energy.  Radion calls him a traitor, and I'm pretty sure he intends to kill the Protector.  Until the Protector asks him for help.  Radion does a 180 and says that the Protector should come on inside.  Weird...  As they walk, the Protector narrates the origin of Radion for us (it's your typical "you were in a nuclear disaster but somehow came out of it with these awesome powers, dude!" backstory) and how they first met.  It seems as though the Protector was always meant to be a pawn.  Radion is still ticked that the Protector's gone public, because that's gonna screw up the "master plan" -- because all of these super-dopes have a master plan.  But the Protector says that he is not the problem... Superman is the problem!  We then get a quick 2-panel vignette of a Professor Pepperwinkle (really?  I'd change my name) looking through his "hyper-spacial telescope" and giving us an exclamation.  And we have to wait to find out why.

Doug:  Back in the Kent apartment, Clark wakes for the day and mills around his digs.  He goes into his secret closet and checks out more Kryptonian relics.  He fires up the Phantom Zone Projector, but it just shines a light -- no criminals jump out.  Clark's almost disappointed.  But as he grumps, he hears the radio come on, with an alert about trouble at the nuclear power station.  Whoosh -- he gone!

Doug:  Superman flies over the grounds of the Hooley Nuclear Power Station, located near Niagara Falls, New York.  Radion had arrived earlier, and looks to being just a general pain in the butt.  But as the Man of Steel arrives, Radion goes into attack mode.  He first blasts Superman -- an energy burst that dumps Superman into the water at the bottom of the Falls and carbonizes the oxygen molecules around him (turning his Superman costume to a gray hue).  As Superman recovers, Radion peels up a huge chunk of earth, right in Superman's flight path.  Stunned, Superman is then trapped in a "proto-nuclear globe" and his atomic mass is increased.  Like all megalomaniacs, Radion must then reveal the "master plan".  He's come to Hooley to overload it, unleashing nuclear energy and radiation throughout the nation and the world.  People will succumb to the poisonous rays, but some will mutate.  Whatever form they take it won't matter -- Radion will control them all!  Superman of course thinks this cat is beyond loopy, so schemes to find a way to stop him.  Using his heat vision, Superman is able to locate the control rods in the main reactor, melt them, and drop them into the pile.  This ends the chain reaction that Radion had begun.  Then the Man of Tomorrow gives it his all and bursts from his globe-like prison.

Doug:  Superman is ready for battle, but Radion chooses not to fight.  After receiving cheers from the assembled security forces at Hooley, Superman makes his way back to the Fortress of Solitude.  He broods in a chair, still considering what Supergirl had told him.  He finally comes to the conclusion that he's going to pursue this new path... after he finishes up some unfinished business.

Doug:  Back at the Rocky Mountain way of Radion, he and the Protector argue.  This time it's the Protector who's angry, calling Radion a quitter.  As the two squabble and threaten, they are startled by the arrival of Superman.  Radion warns him that he should not have come to his home base.  Superman tries to take out the Protector first, but his heat vision is reflected due to a change in the Protector's molecular structure.  Radion tries to blast Superman, but the Man of Steel is now flying pellmell.  There's a method to the madness.  Radion keeps blasting until Superman flies directly in front of the Protector -- where Radion's blast strikes his ally full-on.  But remember, the Protector had changed his structure -- and reflects the powerful blast right back at his originator.  Kayo two super-baddies, without working up a sweat -- that's our Superman!

Doug:  We are shown a large control room, or the deck of a space ship.  Shrouded humaoids watch a vid-screen, as warships streak toward the planet Xonn.  These "men" lament that their plan to have Superman abandon his Kryptonian heritage may now backfire.  Where this was once a "job for Superman", it may now become the death of Xonn... and later, of the Earth!

Doug:  This issue was a little better than the last.  As I mentioned last month, I've read to the conclusion of this 3-parter.  The third issue certainly won't have the pay-off that you hope for -- at least in my opinion.  I thought Gerry Conway was OK in this ish, and I'll stand by my supposition that this yarn is more in Julie Schwartz's wheelhouse than in Conway's.  That is, until I asked the man himself.  Back on October 7th, the very first day I opened our BAB Twitter account, I also wrote the framework for today's post.  I tweeted about it when I was done, and included Conway in the tweet.  You can see below that he answered us -- just a couple of hours after he'd enjoyed a Dodgers victory against the Braves in the NLDS!  Garcia-Lopez's art was again very good.  I thought the single panel of Lois toasting with Clark was just beautifully rendered.  Images of Superman and Supergirl in flight also seem to be a specialty of Garcia-Lopez, as these scenes are ever-dynamic yet original each time.  He really is a very good penciler, and does seem to be made for these characters.  I've said before that when I think of the Man of Steel, it's generally an image from the great Curt Swan that shows up in my noggin.  But after seeing some of the Supes art from this era, I could become a convert!

Doug:  Check back in about 30 days for the conclusion of this story -- and judge its merits for yourself.

Doug:  And, a special note to those of you curious about these hardcovers that I've used for these Superman reviews, as well as various Batman reviews.  DC has announced a Tales of the Batman: Carmine Infantino volume that will ship at the beginning of June.  You know I'll be getting my hands on that one!


david_b said...

Just a few quick comments..

OUTSTANDING REVIEW, Doug. I now want to buy this issue. Period.

First off, awesome cover by Neal Adams.. I've been posting some of the 1976 DC pics up in my cube here at work, can't get enough of Adams work sometimes..

(JUST HATE those *#$&#* UPC symbols on covers, 'nuff said on that..)

The story looks great, nice to see Conway using Supergirl to nice extents here, weaving her into the entire larger conflict. Jose's interiors here are very polished (typical Jose..) and really raise the bar.

As for Carmine's Batman book..? Yes, yes, YES, it's a must for my collection. Carmine's Adam Strange, Flash and Batman are my all-time favs. It was wonderful to see his interviews on the PBS series, which I watched the Silver Age portion again last night.

Doug said...

Thanks for the kind words, friend!

My apologies for the blurry look of that last full page scan in the post. If you click on it, you'll get a large clear image.

And David, there is an Adam Strange team-up later in the Garcia-Lopez book -- I may come back to that in the New Year.


Garett said...

Nice review Doug. Yes Garcia Lopez is I think a romantic at heart, as his scenes with Superman and Lois are always special. It'd actually be good to see him do straight dramatic stories...except that he's also so good at superhero action, like the scene with Supergirl busting the glass case. So, pollution man, radioactive man...who will be in the third part? Non-recycling man??

I also enjoyed listening to Infantino in the PBS special. I've never been a fan of his work, except in the last year I looked at his early Flash work that I liked, and then his even earlier Black Canary work that had a jaunty yet sexy look...very good!

Hey Doug, I'd love to your review of the Adam Strange/Supes teamup.

MattComix said...

Garcia Lopez actually defines my childhood/Bronze Age idea of Superman more so than Swan does. I loved the character but it was DC Comics Presents that I gravitated to more than the Action or Superman titles because of the artwork. Swan was an artist that I didn't really appreciate until I was older and even now I like his stuff but Garcia Lopez just more fun to look at to me.

I really have to wonder why there never came a point where the company had him take over the main title for the then foreseeable future and in effect making him the direct successor to Swan.

Edo Bosnar said...

Nice review, Doug - enjoyed it as much as the first in the series. Again, I have to say, beautiful art. Although the story still doesn't sound like much, I suppose if I ever find a cheap copy of this Garcia-Lopez HC, I wouldn't mind giving it a go.
And here's another vote for a review of the Supes/Adam Strange team-up. I actually have that issue of Whitman Comics, er, I mean DC Comics Presents.

Speaking of cheap HCs, Zagreb's annual comics and graphic art festival is being held this weekend, and I was most of yesterday and into the evening, and among other things landed a roughly $5 copy of one of those Dan Dare albums (Safari in Space), and reasonably priced copies Super Friends (Truth, Justice and Peace) and Dr. Strange tpbs (Montesi Formula) and Batman: Reign of Terror (drawn by none other than Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez). And now I'm rushing off to work on a Saturday morning, because I have to put together a radio report on the festival that airs this evening.

Marc P said...

I read Marvel & DC but didn't appreciate Marvel until I was older. DC was going for a different audience. A younger one. To look at this story today with fresh eyes it probably does seem overly simple. If this story was being done today though it would be 6 issues long & it would end with us learning Superman really is a mutant!!

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