Monday, April 16, 2018


Written & Penciled by: John Byrne | Embellished by: Dick Giordano
Colored by: Tom Ziuko | Lettered by: John Costanza
Edited by: Andrew Helfer & Michael Carlin

The Plot: In Gotham City, renowned occult expert Jason Blood and his entourage visit a curio shop. Jason’s friend Glenda opens a miniature glass city, and it immediately begins transforming everyone in the vicinity, and soon everyone in Gotham, into glass buildings. Blood changes into his alter ego, the demon Etrigan, and avoids the effect. Superman, passing by, has a brief scuffle with Etrigan before the demon explains the situation, then sends the Man of Steel back in time to stop the effect before it can start. Superman teams up with the Jason Blood of the Dark Ages, and together they stop the sorceress Morgaine Le Fay from enchanting the mini city in the first place. Superman returns to the present day to find that all is well.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Superman is familiar with Etrigan from past encounters, though he learns here for the first time that the demon is actually Jason Blood.

My Thoughts: Following from its installment of the LEGENDS/Darkseid storyline, ACTION COMICS returns to its established format as a throw-away team-up vehicle. Now, that doesn’t mean the story is bad; Superman’s team-up with Etrigan is fun, and Byrne’s fondness for time travel gets a quick demonstration here, but ultimately this is an entirely skippable affair.

We’ll note again that Byrne’s recent penchant for the gratuitous slaughter of bystanders is in full force, as Superman himself kills, or at least grievously injures, a few innocents when he smashes Etrigan against the crystal towers in Gotham. One of them even starts bleeding! Of course it’s all corrected via time travel, but even so, it’s a little much to see Superman himself causing such carnage — even if indirectly.

Written & Drawn by: Marv Wolfman & Jerry Ordway
Lettered by: Albert de Guzman | Colored by: Tom Ziuko
Edited by: Andy Helfer & Mike Carlin

The Plot: Superman stops a plane from crashing, while the Circle plots against him. Later, at his apartment, Clark is visited by Cat Grant, who takes him away for a weekend ski trip. When Cat sees her ex, Joseph Morgan, head of the Monarch Film Studio, on TV, she reveals to Clark that Morgan’s young son Adam is her son as well, but that she is prohibited by the courts from seeing him.

Clark changes to Superman and pays a visit to Morgan at his hotel in Metropolis, where he tries to talk the mogul into letting Cat see Adam. But the Circle’s agent, Concussion, attacks the Man of Steel. Morgan and Adam are injured and Superman is drawn away from their room by his battle. He eventually defeats Concussion and returns to the hotel. Later, Morgan allows Cat to visit Adam in the hospital.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: It’s revealed that the members of the Circle have vowed never to kill, but they’re willing to break that oath in order to eliminate Superman for his role in Prana’s death two issues ago. The Circle agents also change their forms to resemble normal humans and blend in throughout Metropolis.

Cat and Clark share a brief kiss which is quickly interrupted. Later, Cat tells Clark that after two years with Morgan, she “went out a lot” with multiple actors in Hollywood — though Morgan later tells Superman that even when they were a couple, she cheated on him regularly.

Morgan is in town to testify in the case of Jay Falk, the mobster who kidnapped Perry White’s son last issue. It’s said that Falk provided Morgan with drugs for his actors.

Superman realizes his feelings for Cat caused him to mingle his two lives, and decides he needs to go home to sort things out. Presumably this means he’s returning to Smallville, though we’ll find out for sure next issue.

My Thoughts: I just don’t buy Clark Kent and Cat Grant… hard to say why; there’s nothing wrong with giving our hero a love interest other than Lois Lane, but Cat just doesn’t seem the right fit — though maybe Wolfman intends to go that route, and reveal that they just aren’t meant to be as a couple. But at this point, at least, he’s really laying it on thick with regards to Clark’s burgeoning feelings toward Cat, and vice versa.

Of more interest to me is the fact that Wolfman was in some kind of Jim Shooter mood when he wrote this story. Wolfman doesn’t like Shooter one bit as far as I understand it, but here he utilizes Shooter’s favorite form of internal conflict, something he reportedly hammered into his writers all the time at Marvel: “I can’t — but I must!”

To be fair, it’s not like the concept was Shooter’s idea; it’s a pretty common trope, especially in superhero stuff, which is why Shooter liked it so much. I just find it interesting that this issue features no less than two such moments, first as Superman realizes in the story’s opening pages that he needs to move the crashing plane out to sea in order to save Metropolis, even though it means the passengers will inevitably be killed since he can’t control the craft’s descent… until, of course, he finds the strength to do exactly that and save everyone.

Then, later, as he battles Concussion, Superman hangs the proverbial lampshade on the whole thing by literally quoting the “I can’t — but I must!” philosophy as he thinks, “…nothing I can do… can’t fight back… can’t… can’t… but… but I have to…”

So, unexpectedly, the Jim Shooter editorial style makes its way into a DC comic written by one of his arch-nemeses!

Next Week: Superman teams up with Hawkman and Hawkwoman, then with the Green Lantern Corps, in two more issues of ACTION COMICS.


  1. I remember picking up Action #587 off a spinner rack in a bookstore because, the year before, Matt Wagner had written and drawn a pretty good Demon miniseries that had shaken up Etrigan's status quo and even killed off a long term supporting character, and I wanted to see what was happening next.

    Well, apparently the answer was nothing, seeing as this story completely ignored the Wagner mini. DC had a habit of that back then-they gave Aquaman a pretty cool new costume in a mini-series and promptly never used it again-so I was less than shocked, but as a young guy into indie comics, seeing Wagner get ignored was a bit annoying.

    1. DC may have had a habit of that sort of thing, as you note, but compound that by the fact that John Byrne has made a habit of that sort of thing for his entire career! He routinely ignores continuity he doesn't like. Sure, sometimes he'll try to "fix" things, but just as often he won't even mention them.

    2. Byrne could be said to be the proto Bendis, who turned ignoring continuity he didn't like, with a touch of getting continuity just bloody WRONG, into an artform. And hey, they're giving Action to Bendis after #1000, so there's that 30 some year cycle again!

    3. Good observation! Personally I like Byrne much more than Bendis (who I generally can't stand at all), and I'm sure Byrne would chafe at the comparison, but you do have a point there.

  2. That Action issue was my first exposure to the Demon (other than the house ad for that mini mentioned above) and I thought he was cool. Then I picked up a back issue of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing Annual #2 and that made me love well as his appearances in the first Swamp Thing trade I got shortly thereafter. I admit, Moore's giving him rhyming dialogue added to the charm.

    I eventually picked up that Matt Wagner big memory was that supporting character Jack mentioned above getting taken was chillingly nasty (involving not just death but damnation...spending eternity as a damned throw pillow, if I recall correctly). I think that fate may have finally been reversed in Demon's 90s ongoing series, but I'm not certain.

    Anyway, after all that drama, I can only vaguely recall that very first Etrigan exposure in this Byrne issue, but just remember it being fun (and I don't even recall the crazy bystander collateral damage, must've slipped past me).

    -david p.

    1. That character was indeed turned into a throw pillow for a demon. I can't remember sometimes where I left my keys, but I can remember a thirty year old plot point in a comic book.

    2. I like Matt Wagner's artwork, though I haven't read much by him. I did check out BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN and BATMAN AND THE MAD MONK some years back, and I recall really enjoying those. Maybe I should look for this Etrigan miniseries you guys are talking about!

  3. Also, I just finished reading all your reviews of the John Byrne Fantastic Four run: terrific stuff. I find my view of his FF run and this Superman run slightly similar in that they're both characters I never had particular affection for (esp. Superman and DC in general) but I liked the issues for the Byrne art and the innovative plots and uses of the characters.

    As favourite runs go, the FF definitely has the edge on this one, being a team book with its group interactions (the Superman issues don't have the most interesting supporting cast...although the Action Comics issues benefit from the team-ups), as well as great uses of the Thing, Dr. Doom, Galactus...and the virtue of being tied to the Marvel Universe in general.

    Byrne's Superman does some neat things with Lex Luthor and some of the villain revamps, but Superman himself isn't a hugely entertaining character (as cool, wisecracking heroes go, definitely too much a Reed Richards type, not enough Ben Grimm).

    But that's all just my opinion. Of Byrne's many writer/artist runs, I've got the biggest soft spot for Alpha Flight. (go, Canada!)

    -david p.

    1. Thanks, David! I'm glad you enjoyed my FF coverage. I really wish I could get into that run and the series in general more, but for whatever reason they just don't do a whole lot for me headlining their own series. As a concept, as the first family of the Marvel Universe, and as guest-stars in other characters' comics, sure -- but on their own, I just find them kind of boring.

      That said, and bearing in mind I haven't yet finished Byrne's Superman stuff, I do agree with you that I think his FF run is superior to his Superman.

  4. Incidentally, it's kind of telling that even when I do a combo post like this, with a quick capsule review of a Byrne story and a much longer review of a Wolfman story, no one has anything to say about Wolfman. That's pretty much in line with my own thoughts -- writing anything about his stories always feels like a chore!

    (Fortunately, I just finished his last issue a couple days ago, though of course that post won't go up for a while yet. But for me, at least, Wolfman is in the rear-view mirror.)

    1. In my case, while I didn't read much of Byrne's Superman work, my friends did, so I kept up with it that way. None of them kept reading Wolfman's work after his first issue. It really wasn't that good.

  5. I must admit I never bought Adventures of Superman, I was only interested in picking up the other two series by Byrne. So I don't have anything to add to those reviews.

    It's probably mostly sentimental, but I think my favourite work by Marv Wolfman is actually his Fantastic Four stuff, particularly his storyline with the Skrulls, the Sphinx and Galactus. Much of which was drawn by John Byrne. Kind of a funny footnote to the FF topic addressed above.
    -david p.

    1. I have more to say about Wolfman in upcoming posts, but in short: I've come to realize that I don't really think he's a great writer. I've read a limited sample size from him -- these Superman stories, the initial sixty or so NEW TEEN TITANS he did with George Perez, his 18-ish issue run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and some of his FANTASTIC FOUR, including the Galactus v. Sphinx story you referenced above -- and of all that, the only thing that truly entertained me was TEEN TITANS, where he shares plotting credit with Perez.

      I do really want to read TOMB OF DRACULA someday since it's so acclaimed, and I'll probably read at least some of his post-Perez TITANS eventually, but aside from those, I doubt I will actively seek out any more Wolfman at this point. He just doesn't do it for me.