Monday, September 28, 2015

DC Comics Presents #52: Superman and the New Doom Patrol – Just For the Hell Of It Mondays Review and *SPOILERS*

Written By: Paul Kupperberg
Art By: Keith Giffen, Sal Trapani, Gene D’Angelo and Ben Oda
Price: $0.60
Cover Date: December 1982

*Spoilers ahead, score at the bottom*


Last week, reported that actor Stephanie Corneliussen was cast as Valentina Vostok in the new CW television show Legends of Tomorrow! Wow! That means a member of the Doom Patrol is going to be on a television show, and that makes me very happy. To celebrate, I’ve decided to review issue number 52 of DC Comics Presents where Superman meets the NEW Doom Patrol! Look, it’s complicated, okay? The original Doom Patrol died at the end of their run in 1968 but a new one showed up in the late seventies for three issues of a revived DC Showcase magazine with the team depicted in this issue that came out five years later. Then, Grant Morrison took over and…just head to Wikipedia if you want to know the strange story of the Doom Patrol or listen to the fine fellows at the Waiting For Doom podcast. If you want to know what I think of this particular comic book, read on!

It seems a New Jersey power plant has gone kablooie and is emitting dangerous levels of Kirby Krackle. Superman swoops into action, saves everyone’s lives and sucks all the fire up because he’s Superman, damn it. This exposes the cause of the power plants overheating, a charged black stripe with a human shape at its leading edge that zips around at the speed of light and destroys shit. It passes through Superman, infusing him with more Kirby Krackle which I understand isn’t fatal but can leave one feeling woozy. The mysterious stripe gets away so Superman takes off for work at Galaxy News because Kryptonians gotta eat, too.

While at work we see, via monitors, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen preparing to cover a nameless parade for WGBS News. I assume it’s an analog of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade since it includes giant balloons of popular cartoon characters like…Judge Dredd and David Sim’s Cerebus? We see Metropolis’ District Attorney, also nameless, in the VIP stands at the parade, when suddenly Ambush Bug appears from nowhere and throws him off the stands, killing the D.A. instantly! Whoa! It’s the debut of Ambush Bug folks! We all know who Ambush Bug is, right? Because we all read my swell review of Stocking Stuffer #1 from a few weeks ago, right? Riight? Ah, to hell with youse.

Clark busts open his Brooks Brothers shirt and takes off to the parade grounds, but then he’s intercepted by the same crackling stripe that wrecked that power plant earlier in the issue! It must screw with his inner ear a little because Superman goes unconscious and plummets to the ground. This is observed by two figures in shadow who quickly reveal themselves to be two members of the NEW Doom Patrol: Joshua Clay aka Tempest, and Arani Desai aka Celsius. They’re on the scene, they tell us, because the mysterious stuff-wrecking stripe is actually Negative Woman, the weird, ethereal energy that has infused fellow member Valentina Vostok—more on her later!

While Supes is taking a nap, Ambush Bug pops up again and announces his intentions as a villain, but then he has to teleport away quickly as Cliff Steele aka Robotman busts through the wall in an attempt to grab him. Hear, hear, the gang’s all here! Cliff takes off after Negative Woman while telling Lois she can catch him at Studio 54, which pisses her off because she’s just sort of annoyed at everything in this issue. Meanwhile, across town, Arani and Joshua wake up Superman and attempt to enlist his aid, when Ambush Bug pops in and makes it seem like the Doom Patrol are in league with him, then vanishes off to parts unknown. It’s a pretty good prank, when you think about it. Superman is about to knock their blocks off when Cliff Steele walks on to the scene. Supes recognizes Cliff, who then tells the story of Valentina Vostok. Clip and save the panel below!

Having heard the skinny on Negative Woman, Superman sets his sights on Ambush Bug. Using his microscopic vision, he examines one of the strange bugs that always seem to hover in the wake of Ambush Bug’s teleportations, and discovers that they are…teleportation devices! From there, it’s nothing for him to disable all of the robot bugs, so when Robotman goes to clock Ambush in the jaw, Buggy finds he can’t ‘port outta there and gets knocked cold. Then Supes takes off to get a lead-lined case to contain Negative Woman, and saves the day pretty quickly after that. Hooray! Only one District Attorney dead and tens of millions of dollars in property damage. Most successful Thanksgiving Day parade ever!

Though this is clearly some of Keith Giffen’s earlier work, it’s still pretty good and definitely gets the job done in conveying the action. This is a great book, not only does it feature a team-up between Superman and the NEW Doom Patrol, but it also introduces Ambush Bug to the world and sets forth a new status quo for Valentina Vostok where she will need to contain Negative Woman by being wrapped in treated bandages, just like Larry Trainor did for the original Negative Man. There’s a touching epilogue where we see Val is none too happy about this. This story even contains a running gag where Jimmy Olsen is rushing to the scene to photograph the action but keeps getting covered by deflating parade balloons. This issue is jam-packed with story and action, and for sixty cents it was probably a great time in 1982. It’s a pretty dang good time now, though I don’t think you’ll find it for sixty cents anymore.

Bits and Pieces:

I enjoyed the heck out of this comic and it’s got plenty going for it. The art is very good and the characterizations are interesting right down to Lois Lane who probably has five or six panels in the whole story. You get the introduction of Ambush Bug, a condensed origin for every member of the Doom Patrol, and—oh yeah! Superman! All for sixty cents! What can you get for sixty cents these days, a sip from a cup of coffee? I don’t think this would ever go down as anyone’s most favorite comic book ever, but it’s a pleasure to read and that’s about as good as you can expect from your four-color superhero fodder.

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