Thursday, June 01, 2017

It's an "Attack of the Ultimate Warrior," but not that Ultimate Warrior.

We saw the previous issue a while back, and while I didn't have it as a kid, I did have this issue which spends a good four pages recapping the prior: from 1979, Action Comics #495, "Attack of the Ultimate Warrior!" Written by Cary Bates, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Frank Chiaramonte.

In Smallville, former police chief Parker and current reporter Lois Lane have both been visited by a mysterious spirit in the old Kent house, that appeared to Parker as a Revolutionary War soldier and to Lois as a WWII general. And to Clark Kent as a seven-foot-tall Dwalu warrior from Krypton's past! While the spirit didn't hurt Lois or Parker, it walloped Superman, and left him in the river.

That night, as Clark tries to sleep, a mysterious energy rises from one of the old, alien trophies Superboy had left in the house, years ago. Dreaming, Supes remembers his visit to the planet Zoltam, which was under its annual attack by the giant dragon Gnmod. Flying into the beast, the impact is so loud it's even hard on Superboy, but it does cause a "power-spire" to overload and explode, seemingly obliterating the Gnmod. The citizens of Zoltam explain, as they give Supes a trophy, their power source converted sound into energy, and that impact had overloaded it. As Clark dreams that flashback, the Dwalu attacks him in bed; and Lois and Parker find a smoldering mattress and no Clark!

The Dwalu has taken "Su-per-boy" outside for a duel to the death; claiming, in English, to be his "ultimate enemy" and that this was a rematch. Because the Dwalu is actually the Gnmod, whose "indestructible astral essence" had survived, inside the Zoltams' trophy until it could regenerate a physical form. And it's a pretty good physical form, too: based on Superman's memories of the Dwalu legends, Gnmod brags that he's impervious to all weapons, except his own "Xaka sword." Using his cape to entangle the sword, Superman throws them both over the horizon, but that leaves him open to a crushing bear-hug that even he couldn't break! It's looking bad for Superman...for about five seconds. He threw the sword around the world and caught it, which immediately forces the "Dwalu" to self-destruct. The Gnmod seems all right with that, though: his spirit couldn't advance to its next incarnation with the "unresolved outcome" of their previous fight hanging over it. Watch your back next life though, Supes...

Meanwhile, Lois is still crying over the mattress, not noticing Clark was just under the bed, where he "hid" after his visit by the ghost. Superman had not only come back in at super-speed, he also burned a message into a throw-rug that the "ghost" had to go back to his home planet had to leave forever, closing the book on that one. Parker does notice Lois seems extra-happy that Clark wasn't dead, and she has to try to spin that as concern for "a valuable colleague," which neither Parker nor Clark seem to buy.

So I had this issue as a kid, and I think I read it until it fell apart. But with the previous issue beside it, man, there's a lot of build-up to a three-page fight with the Dwalu. (Charitably, it's like three-and-a-half pages.) And while I think I've read more about the history of Krypton than I have of my actual planet, I'm not sure the Dwalu ever come up again. Seven-foot-tall berserkers in purple helmets and thigh boots? Get this issue to the producers of that new Krypton show! And ever since reading this, I've always known what a googol was, as well as often thought "Oooffffff!" to myself.

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