Sunday, 2 October 2011

Adventures of Superman #427

Hello there. Whew, it’s dark in here. Where’s the light switch? Ah, got it. Close your eyes, I’m turning the lights on… now.

Hello, it’s been a while!

I’m not going to insult you with long tales of woe describing many reasons why I’ve not been active over here. There’s a very simple reason for the lack of activity on this blog. For two months, I’ve not felt like writing about Superman. I’ve been having a great time working on my podcast, 20 Minute Longbox (itself suffering from a lack of time to put an episode together), and for a while, I toyed with the idea of shutting the door on this blog and letting the dust gather.

So, why did I change my mind? Put simply, I’ve been missing Superman. With new blood and, indeed, a new Superman hitting the stands as part of the New 52, I’ve been feeling strongly about the Man of Steel again. More than ever, a project like this seems like something worth doing, celebrating the comics that made many of us Superman fans at a time when, hopefully, many people are finding similar things to celebrate in the new Superman. Oh, and I miss arguing with myself over which order to do the comics in!

I’d like to think that this is a return to regular posting, but if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that this isn’t a promise that I can keep. The best way to keep up to date with happenings over here is to subscribe, either through Google Friend Connect or Networked Blogs, both of which are over on the sidebar. That way, if I have another absence (hint: I work in retail and Christmas is a-coming), you’ll know when I pick up this project again.

Enough procrastination. If you’ll join me, I’d like to take you on a journey to Qurac.

Mind Games

Brought to you by Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway
Lettered by John Costanza
Colored by Tom Ziuko
Edited by Andy Helfer and Mike Carlin
Cover Art: Jerry Ordway
Cover Date: April 1987
Release Date: 15/01/1987

Superman invade Quraci airspace, attacking Quraci defences. He fights his way to the palace of President Marlo, bursting in and confronting the dictator. He accuses Marlo of orchestrating the recent attacks on Metropolis, but the dictator denies this, suggesting that rogue elements in his country are responsible. Superman demands information, but suddenly collapses as a result of a psychic attack from Prana, a feline-looking member of a mysterious group called The Circle. Prana falls to his knees, his mind connected with Superman’s.

Superman sees a vision of his parents on Krypton, instructing him to conquer and rule the Earth. Superman attempts rejects this, causing psychic feedback to Prana, who carries on with the illusion. The two battle further with their minds, before Prana retreats. A drained Superman leaves the palace, confused by the vision of his parents and their oppressive instructions. He returns to the hotel he’s using as Clark Kent and falls asleep, allowing Prana to re-establish contact with him.

Superman awakes in costume, confronted by Bizarro, Metallo, Synapse and Lex Luthor. The villains attack him, demanding to know his true motives, whilst Luthor works to undermine Superman’s confidence. Superman fights back, denying Lex’s words and dispelling the illusions again. Prana is once again weakened and pained by the contact, but he has become determined to mentally defeat Superman. As Clark takes a shower to recover, Prana once again makes contact.

Superman finds himself in Japan, where a Godzilla-esque monster is attacking a city. Refusing to be bowed, Superman quickly defeats the monster, shrugging off Prana’s attack. Prana, weakened by the final assault, dies in the sewers beneath Qurac. His wife, Zahara, steals his powers and combines them with her own, launching one final assault. Superman is confronted by Lana, Lois and Cat, all of whom accuse him of being fickle with his love and lying to them about his origins. Superman is able to withstand this assault, and drifts into a restless sleep. In the sewers, other members of the Circle find Prana’s corpse and Zahara’s unconscious body.

This is a different and interesting issue of Adventures of Superman. Initially continuing the story of the assault on Metropolis, the issues turns into something else, taking some interesting turns and leading us in a far more character-driven direction than the awesomely action-filled cover would suggest.

Prana and Zahara assault Superman’s psyche from four different and relevant angles – his heritage, his villains, force of nature, and his women. I find it amazing that so early on in the life of the post-Crisis Superman, Marv Wolfman lays out the four origins of almost every Superman story. Whilst the vision of Lara and Jor-El and Lex’s gang of villains contain accusations that are easily rejected, the accusations of Lois, Lana and Cat strike much closer to home. Superman does lie to those he loves. At this stage in his life, with Lana not-quite behind him and with Lois and Cat as potential partners, he is fickle with his affections. Frankly, this is a far more realistic and chilling potential outcome of Clark’s alien nature than we saw in Action Comics #794.

Superman taking overt action against a foreign state is a big moment. We saw in The Dark Knight Returns a potential future where Superman is a weapon for the United States Government, covertly assaulting America’s enemies, the fear of his intrusion being as great as the his presence. In his run on Adventures of Superman, Greg Rucka would use the concept of what Superman’s presence in a war-zone would do to the conflict as the driving force behind his story. It’s great to see the sheer power of Superman unleashed against an army, something we’ve not really seen before, and the callous nature of his entrance into the palace, smashing down the doors with a casual flick of his finger, hints at a darker side to his rage that is manipulated by Prana. Thankfully, Qurac would remain in the comics through this run and beyond, and the consequences of Superman’s actions here would be felt in future issues.

As normal, Jerry Ordway’s art is great. The cover is one of the early favourites, and his renditions of Prana’s attacks are just otherworldly enough whilst remaining grounded. I particularly like how he draws the illusion of Krypton, with Zahara and the sewers breaking through into the illusion. Even the panel borders reflect this, become much rougher and unfinished. Once the assaults start, Superman appears shaken and disturbed, pale and sweating, and thin in the face. Although it’s Prana who ultimately dies, Superman is taking a toll from the battle and it’s showing on his face throughout the night.

The Geeky Bits: Qurac was for many years the fictional middle-eastern state used by DC whenever they needed a stand in for countries like Iraq or Afghanistan, that is, a state that supports or condones terrorism and an anti-West stance. It's no coincidence that President Marlo bears more than a passing resemblance to Saddam Hussein. The country once named the Joker as an ambassador, although this was a retcon as in the original storyline, it was Iran. Cheshire once decimated the country with a nuclear weapon. Over the years, more fictional middle-eastern territories, including Bialya, Khandaq and Umec would appear to give more texture to this region in the DC universe.

If, like me, you're wondering who the guy in the orange armour in the villains hallucination is, then you'll be pleased to hear that according to his name is Synapse, and his only other appearances were in three issues of Extreme Justice in 1995. And now you know!

This issue was reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Steel vol. 3 in 2004.

Coverage of this issue can be found in Episode 6 of From Crisis To Crisis

Next on World of Superman: Superman goes a-time-travelling.


  1. "Synapse" is actually the result of Project Synapse. He's Henry Chin aka "Combattor" who appears in a later issue, AoS #437 (same costume and everything). I guess Prana was channeling Luthor's subconscious by conjuring up this nightmare? This occurs way before Project Synapse even becomes a plotline, oddly.

  2. Yesssss! Like Anonymous said Combattor and Synapse are the same characters, but I think that it was a reuse of a character design by Ordway.