Welcome to the part two of my look at DC Comics Presents #27-29 & 36.
DC Comics Presents #28 features Superman and Supergirl in a story titled “Warworld!”, where they face off against Mongul from last issue. I love this cover. Jim Starlin did a great job with this, although the way Superman’s legs are shown looks really awkward and is something that Starlin does a lot. But it does what a comic cover should do: entice someone to buy it. It’s too bad Starlin didn’t ink himself on the interior art as well.
Speaking of inking, the opening splash page shows Superman and Supergirl flying through space. Here you can really see the difference in how an inker can transform the same penciler’s work. For this issue, the inker is Romeo Tanghal (and again we get a New Teen Titans reference: Mr. Tanghal inked several issues of that series), and the way Superman looks compared to last issue is quite obvious. Tanghal’s Mongul, too, is a bit different looking, with a lot more, shall we say, definition to Mongul’s face.
The second page gives a pretty succinct synopsis of the previous issue (just in case the reader hadn’t picked up the previous issue–ahh, comics back then…), told from Supergirl’s point of view, though, since Superman obviously told her the story, why would she then regurgitate that information back to her cousin? Wouldn’t it have made better sense for Superman to relate the story to Kara? I do take issue with one image that is shown. In referencing the fight near the end of last issue between J’onn J’onzz, Superman, and Mongul, they imply that Mongul hit Superman after J’onn has been defeated. That’s not at all what happened. Wouldn’t it have been just as easy to reference Mongul teleporting away as he actually did? Oh, and how are the superfolks talking in space? I know, I know, there goes that logical part of my brain again. They are Superman and Supergirl after all, right? :)
So, the duo arrive where Warworld was supposed to be, but of course it’s gone, but Supergirl comes up with an idea to track the exhaust of Warworld’s massive nuclear engines. In fact, now that I think about it, Len Wein must have really liked Kara, because he showed her coming up with a couple good ideas in this story, as well as being the more observant of the two. I really liked that aspect, and point it out because usually it’s the star of the book that is usually shown to come up with all the good plans.
Oh, and just so you get how big Warworld is, Wein and Starlin provide this as a reference:
The next few pages depict Kal-El and Kara as Super Peeping Toms as they find Warworld and then spy around the place looking for Mongul. And here’s where Kara’s observant quality comes into play:
Of course, this takes up precious time and allows Mongul to take control of Warworld. Way to go, Supes! Mongul takes control and then reminisces about why he seeks this all-powerful weapon. You see, Mongul was just your down on his luck tyrannical ruler who was deposed by a religious fanatic, and he only seeks to restore order in the universe (“I’ll show them!”). Mongul: poster child for misunderstood dictators.
Then Mongul attacks by sending one huge-ass missile at Superman. And again we get a shot of just how big these weapons are:
Curious: the missile doesn’t appear to be guided, yet Superman just stands there waiting for it. And why is Superman standing on that piece of rock? He’s in space! Notice Superman’s thoughts in those panels. He’s actually worried. No more of that bravado from last issue. Superman appears to have learned his lesson of humility. I also like how Starlin used some simple hand and arm movements in those panels to convey certain things. First, Superman stands hands on hips in the classic pose. But as the missile gets closer, and Superman’s thoughts turn to doubt, one hand comes away from his body and outstretches, but just before impact, Superman’s hand clenches into a fist: he may have doubts as to the outcome, but he is Superman, after all, and will do what must be done. I like that a lot.
The missile explodes, and of course Superman survives, though he claims just barely (again, to show us just how potent Warworld is). Funny, if the explosion was enough to almost kill Superman, then why wasn’t his costume affected in any way? Mongul sends more missiles and “macro-lasers” at the superduo, and it’s during this exercise in dodging that Superman comes up with the plan to defeat Mongul. You see, earlier on, Superman saw a graveyard on Warworld and he deduces that the builders of Warworld died off because their bodies couldn’t handle controlling the massive Warworld: “One by one they died–victims of massive cerebral hemorhage” (sic). As they talk of this, Starlin shows Mongul staggering away from the controls and then collapsing to the floor. Wait. Superman figures out what happened to the previous owners of this planet-sized weapon, and then engineers a hasty repetition of that event with Mongul. Did Superman murder Mongul? Sure, it’s not like Superman held a gun to Mongul’s head and pulled the trigger, but if not murder, then Superman certainly played a direct role in the death of another being. Wow. For the Bronze Age, this is pretty wild, especially for Superman.
Anyway, now the Kryptonians can dismantle Warworld–wait! Kara saves Superman’s bacon by shoving him out of the way of a macro-laser beam. It seems that once the controls are activated, the satellite maintains the defensive capabilities, so Superman comes up with a plan. Oh, and here on page 14 we finally find out just how the superfolks have been communicating in the vacuum of space: super-ventriloquism. Uh huh.
What is Superman’s plan? Well, he’ll keep the planet’s defenses busy while Supergirl flies “a galaxy away” (man, the pre-Crisis superduo sure were powerful!) and then flies back to Warworld, exceeding the speed of light, moving too fast for the defenses to detect her, and take out the computer core in the middle of the planet (“like a bullet through a snowball”). Kara succeeds, and allows Superman enough time to reprogram the weapons systems to turn on themselves and destroy Warworld once and for all. Good thing the pre-Crisis Superman has that super brain of his and could read and understand the alien language, as well as the computer programming code, of the former owners of Warworld. Superman is then left to ponder if J’onn J’onzz will be able to forgive him some day. Oh, and what happened to Supergirl? Well, find out next time on Retro Review, where I’ll examine DC Comics Presents #29, where Superman doesn’t exactly team up with the Spectre.