Monday, April 23, 2018

ACTION COMICS #588 & #589

Words & Pictures: John Byrne | Embellisher: Dick Giordano
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Michele Wolfman (issue 588) & Tom Ziuko (issue 589)
Editors: Andrew Helfer & Michael Carlin

The Plot: (Issue 588): Superman responds to a summons from Midway City, where he meets up with Hawkman and Hawkwoman, then accompanies them into space to help stop an invasion fleet from the couple’s home planet of Thanagar. Eventually Hawkman and Hawkwoman trigger an override which forces the fleet into hyperspace in random directions, dispersing it across millions of light years — but Superman is sucked into hyperspace as well.

(Issue 589): Arisia of the Green Lantern Corps finds Superman adrift in space and brings him back to the Lanterns’ citadel in space. Superman assists the Lanterns in investigating a large spaceborne creature which turns out to be the remnant of the graveyard the Man of Steel flew out of Earth’s atmosphere weeks earlier. Working together, Superman and the Green Lanterns defeat the malevolent force.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: We first encounter Hawkman and Hawkwoman, in the bloody aftermath of some great battle in Midway City, and they have two beings — a Thanagarian named Ved and a shapeshifter named Byth — in custody. Clearly all of this, plus the arrival of the Thanagarian fleet, is continued from some other comic, but there are no footnotes indicating where the prior stories took place.

Hawkwoman notes that it was pursuit of Byth which brought Hawkman and her to Earth some time back, and that Byth impersonated Superman during that encounter. Again, no footnotes, so I’m not sure if this was a pre- or post-CRISIS tale. Though I do know that, at least when he guest-starred in NEW TEEN TITANS, pre-CRISIS Hawkman was a human named Carter Hall, rather than an alien named Katar Hol.

(Hawkman apparently has a painfully convoluted and frequently ret-conned backstory which I’ve never bothered to try and unravel.)

The Green Lantern Corps here are identified by Superman as the “Earth-based members” of that august organization: Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Katma Tui, Arisia, Kilowog, Ch’p, and Salakk. Now, as usual, I’ll plead ignorance to the workings of the DC Universe, but I’ve always wondered why there were seven Lanterns (plus Justice Leaguer Guy Gardner, for a total of eight) stationed on Earth. I know that at one time or another, there was one single Green Lantern per “space sector”, though there were also backup GLs on deck in case the primary was unable to fulfill his duties. Obviously that had changed at this point — but even if the number of Lanterns assigned to a sector has been increased, why do they all live on Earth? Hal and John (and Guy) are humans, sure — but the rest are all aliens; shouldn’t they be stationed on their own home planets?

Arisia and Hal are shown to be a couple. I seem to recall reading someplace that Arisia is actually a prepubescent girl in the body of an adult, which makes this exceedingly creepy, but I could have my facts wrong on that note.

There’s a sub-plot in issue 588 in which the Green Lanterns are searching for a new home for a race of microbial organisms they saved from the destruction of another world. By the story’s end, the graveyard entity has been reborn as a planet ideal for the little creatures, and the Lanterns leave them there before heading back to Earth.

Oh, and of course the space-cemetery monster was created as a result of the Superman/Phantom Stranger adventure in ACTION COMICS #585.

My Thoughts: Aside from the Darkseid issue, which tied into LEGENDS and formed a trilogy with that month’s issues of SUPERMAN and ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, ACTION COMICS has been a series of one-off team-up stories so far — and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that concept, it also leads to issues that feel disconnected from the ongoing saga and, ultimately, inconsequential.

Now these two installments are still disconnected in that they don’t tie in with any of the goings-on in Superman’s other titles, but on the plus side, they build on an event depicted in a prior issue of this specific series, and together they form a two-part story with a little cliffhanger in between (and still manage to feature two distinct and unrelated team-ups, which is pretty impressive).

As for the stories themselves — the first one is pretty fun and fast-paced. I know little about Hawkman and Hawkwoman, as noted above (pretty much all my knowledge of Thanagar comes from the JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon), but I love intergalactic space cops in general, so I have a predisposition to like them based on that. The second story, however, is a bit of a dud for me. It’s odd; I really like the Green Lantern mythos, and I like Hal Jordan as a character, but of the admittedly few Green Lantern tales I’ve read, none have ever really floated my boat.

Also, issue 588’s resolution features the Lanterns using their power rings against the space-creature with little success… until Superman joins in, clasping their wrists in his hands and adding his willpower to the effort. This added boost gives the rings the power they need to finish the job. But… is that how power rings work? Again, DC ignorance and all that, but I always just sort of assumed one needed to be wearing a ring in order to have any sort of effect on its power levels. It seems… weird that somebody could just hold hands with Green Lantern and give them a willpower boost.

Next Week: Superman must stop a "Rampage" in SUPERMAN #7.


  1. Actually, both Hawks existed in the Pre-Crisis. The 'normal' Hawkman Carter Hall (or as normal as a reincarnation of a slain Warrior Prince can be) was of the Earth-2 universe, where the superheroes came from the WW2/Golden Age era (Its Superman is the one who debuted in ACTION COMICS#1 in 1938; its Batman is the one who debuted in DETECTIVE COMICS in 1939). The space alien cop Katar Hol is from the Earth-1 realm (Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, Teen Titans), coming to Earth with his wife and passing himself as 'Carter Hall.' Yes, the Byth origin is canon, although I don't recall him shapeshifting as Supes (according to the reprint from my vintage SECRET ORIGINS OF THE SUPER-HEROES). I do know the two Hawks co-existed for a time (at least in acknowledgment, since the Earth-2 Hawks ended up in a Limbo with the other E-2 heroes). And then in the early 90s they pulled a Wonder Woman and just rebooted E-1 Hawkman and said 'all association with Katar Hol before the time of this reboot never happened.'

    1. Thank you for the Hawk-history! Looking back, it appears I misread the panel where Hawkwoman talks about Byth. She actually that pursuing him was what brought the Hawks to Earth, but it was only more recently that he impersonated Superman, so your recollection is correct!

  2. These comics continued my enjoyable intro to comic characters I was familiar with from cartoons, but not necessarily in their comic book forms (I recall taking a shine to Kilowog right away, got a nice Ben Grimm vibe to him...). Although that first cover reminds me that I found it strange that Hawkwoman had the familiar mask but Hawkman had more of a beak-visor thing going on, with shadowy eyes. I recall being kind of annoyed by that...where was my Superfriends version?!

    -david p.

    1. I hear you, David -- Hawkman wearing his mask with the beak-visor will never look right to me thanks to SUPER FRIENDS, though I assume -- knowing that Joe Kubert is John Byrne's favorite artist -- this is probably how he was originally drawn.

  3. Arisia used her power ring to age her body to adulthood, so, yeah, it is exactly as creepy as it sounds. Never understood why any editor would sign off on that story at all. Someone was asleep at the switch there.

    1. Thanks, I thought that was what I had read. I agree, I can't understand how something like that could've been approved by editorial.

  4. I'm going out on a limb here, and collecting what I recall from the Millennium mini series, the Green Lantern Corps were disbanded after the first Crisis and a group led by Hal Jordan set up on Earth as its homeplate.

  5. I find issues 588 and 589 of "Action Comics" to be pretty good after reading them.