Monday, September 17, 2018


Writer: John Byrne | Penciller: Jerry Ordway | Inker: John Beatty
Letterer: Albert T. de Guzman | Colorist: Anthony Tollin | Editor: Michael Carlin

The Plot: While at the circus with Cat, her son Adam, and Jimmy, Clark Kent changes to Superman to stop a rampaging elephant. Soon after, the circus psychic, Brainiac, manifests telekinetic powers and an alternate personality, and begins to wreak havoc. Superman stops him, and he is placed into medical care.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Adam is frightened of Superman when they cross paths, believing the Man of Steel injured his father during the fight with Concussion a few issues back, but Cat assures the boy that Superman is a friend.

Though his doctors don’t believe him, Brainiac (a.k.a. Milton Fine) says he was possessed by an alien named Vril Dox during his rampage. Earlier in the issue, he explains Vril Dox’s backstory to Cat and Jimmy.

Lois meets with the parents of Combattor, revealed to be named Lawrence Chin, at their son’s funeral and attempts to convince them that Lex Luthor was behind the young man’s death—but while the Chins refuse to believe it, Lawrence’s younger brother agrees with Lois and passes her a note.

My Thoughts: The artwork looks much nicer in this issue than in other recent installments of ADVENTURES. It’s crisper somehow, and while Ordway still isn’t as good as Byrne, this is about as close as he gets to that level.

The story is fun, too. Up until the point where Brainiac cuts loose with his TK power, it’s like an old episode of the TV series. Superman fights an elephant, Clark investigates a circus… all very "primetime TV" material, which I’ve noted before that I like a lot of the time. And the idea of setting up Brainiac with this tease is fun, too. It’s the sort of long-term plotting that I really like, though I don’t believe Byrne will last long enough to follow it up himself.

Penciller/Co-Plotters/Scripeter : John Byrne & Paul Kupperberg | Inker: Ty Templeton
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Petra Scotese | Editor: Mike Carlin

The Plot: The Defense Minister of Qurac visits Metropolis, where Lois interviews him at his hotel. Perry White sends Clark to shadow Lois and make sure she doesn’t get into trouble, but before he reaches the hotel, she and the minister are kidnapped by Quraci revolutionaries. Meanwhile, Clark changes to Superman to help a U.S. aircraft carrier which has been hijacked by members of the same group.

Lois attempts to escape her captors and is aided by an armored man dressed in a super-costume. On the carrier, Superman receives assistance from an identically-garbed individual. Later, the Quraci minister is escorted to his jet by one of the costumed characters and takes off. Later still, the jet is blown up by Checkmate, a clandestine government organization.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Superman recaps some of his recent storylines in one of the issue’s early pages, including his rocky relationship with Lois, Lana’s Manhunter brainwashing, the crippling of Gangbuster, the feud with Booster Gold, Lex Luthor being an all-around jerk, and his crush on Wonder Woman.

Despite their recently being depicted as pretty close in ADVENTURES and even a recent issue of SUPERMAN, Clark notes here that Cat isn’t his type and that she comes on too strong. Meanwhile, Jimmy has a crush on her and tries to ask her out on a date.

Even though the Man of Steel explicitly calls out his problems with Lois early on, by the story’s end, she seems fairly chummy with Superman and is on a first-name basis with Clark (though she does make a sarcastic remark about his getting the story on Superman’s aircraft carrier mission). It’s possible, however, this is guest-scripter Paul Kupperberg not quite grasping the depth of Lois’s rage as previously presented by Byrne.

My Thoughts: I gotta say, I like Checkmate’s style. The credits note the were co-created by Bryne and Kupperberg, presumably as DC’s answer to SHIELD. They protect the Quraci minister from harm while he’s on U.S. soil, honoring the government’s commitment to safeguard a visiting diplomat, but once he’s left U.S. airspace, they straight-up assassinate him because he’s evil. Also, for some reason, Harvey Bullock is a member of their team.

Maybe I’m just a heartless jingoist sometimes, but I always liked seeing Jack Bauer torture and murder terrorists on 24, and I feel the same about Checkmate assassinating a foreign dignitary here. Much as I love and admire superheroes with strict moral codes, at the same time I’m also totally on board with off-the-books government agents killing bad guys in the name of the United States.

Lastly, I need to touch on the artwork in this issue: it’s gorgeous! Probably some of the best-looking material since the reboot began. Karl Kesel does a fine job of inking Byrne on SUPERMAN, and he’s been my favorite of the regular inkers all along, but Ty Templeton does a beautiful job here of making everything look clean and smooth. The characters are still clearly Byrne, but Templeton cleans up a lot of the roughness that I don’t generally like in his pencils, and gives us a really nice-looking issue.

(Mind you, knowing Byrne’s taste in inkers, he was probably not pleased with Templeton overpowering his pencils, but I love it.)

Next Week: The Prankster debuts in SUPERMAN #16!


  1. The Brainiac story was another reprinted over here but I found it probably the worst story of the period, utterly confusing and chaotic, made worse by Brainiac being nothing like what I knew of the classic character. It may have been intended as a prologue to later things but with just one Superman story a month (later reduced to one every two months), there was no further sign of the character by the time the title ended over two years later. (A glance at the cover suggests he appeared in the subsequent Adventures of Superman but that dropped the Justice League so was less attractive to me.)

    We didn't get the Checkmate story at all, so on the one hand we skipped the problematic Lois scenes but on the other hand Superman's feelings about Wonder Woman were not flagged in advance, making the first moments of their forthcoming meeting unintentionally creepy.

    1. I suspect if you already knew Brainiac well and were expecing something at least resembling the pre-CRISIS incarnation (either the green guy or the robot), this story probably would've been disappointing. For me (as noted above), I like that it reads like an old episode of the George Reeves TV show, so that saves it.

      Honestly, whether you knew about Superman's feelings or not, the opening to his and Wonder Woman's "date" is a little creepy regardless!

  2. Today marks the 30th Anniversary of the Ruby-Spears SUPERMAN Animated Series that aired on CBS that Saturday Morning fall. With designs by Gil Kane and scripts by Marv Wolfman, Martin Pasko, and others, the series followed the Pre-Crisis Byrne revamp version (CEO Luthor, the surviving Kents) and had a one episode appearance by Wonder Woman (with Perez Hippolyta). I remember watching the series back then. Too bad it ran one season.

    1. Happy 30th birthday to Ruby-Spears' "Superman" cartoon!

    2. I remember watching the Ruby-Spears show on Saturday mornings. I didn't catch every episode, but I saw a lot of them. I think I was a little disappointed that Superman no longer had his SUPER FRIENDS voice actor, Danny Dark. (Not that I knew who the actors were at the time; I just knew what they sounded like.)

      On the other hand, I thought it was cool that Luthor was voiced by Michael Bell. Bell was, I'm pretty sure, the first voiceover guy I learned to recognize in multiple roles. (As in, "Hey -- Prowl sounds like Duke sometimes!")

      The background music for that SUPERMAN cartoon was by Ron Jones, who also composed for the original DUCKTALES and for STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION for four years. A CD of his SUPERMAN stuff was released some years back in a box set that covered all the music of the Christopher Reeve movies. It's really good music!

  3. Your super-senses are totally on point here. The Brainiac plotline I couldn't grasp because it indeed felt hokey, but the Checkmate plotline was a very good one.