Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Back Issue Box: World's Finest #258

We are just a couple of weeks from Supergirl Rebirth #1, the reintroduction of a Supergirl book into the new DCU as well as the reappearance of Lar-On the Kryptonian werewolf! I am really looking forward to what writer Steve Orlando and artist Emanuela Lupacchino will be delivering. The brief glimpses of the book we saw at San Diego Comic Con looked incredible.

I have been taking a look back at Lar-On's brief history in the DCU starting with his first appearance in World's Finest #256. While that was Lar-On's only true appearance, his story sort of continued in World's Finest #258. As this story included an interesting wrinkle about Lar-On's lycanthropy, I thought it was worth sharing here. I am hoping that Orlando explores that bit of 'The Krypton Curse' but we'll see.

Lastly, I remember having this comic as a kid. I must have bought it right off the rack. Unfortunately all sorts of books from that time simply disappeared, meaning I was on a hunt for this one in all the comic stores I came across. Hard to believe that I found it while on vacation earlier this summer.

On to the story.

"The Curse of Krypton" was written by Denny O'Neill with art by the dream team of Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and Dick Giordano. This story takes place about a month after the first Lar-On story, perhaps explaining why it came out 2 months later.

If there is one thing that I will say about this story it is that the art is absolutely amazing. No big surprise given Garcia-Lopez (praised be his name) is penciling. It is really beautiful.

The book opens up with a were-unicorn centaur creature tearing its way through Gotham City. Batman arrives to try to literally corral it but the creature is too powerful. At one point it tries to gore Batman and it is only by his incredible skill that he avoids being skewered. Everything he tries is futile as it breaks bat-lines and stampedes away.

You have to love the opening splash as it is not only a great action scene but includes nice touches like the Superman The Movie ad and the bat signal.

Batman has little choice but to follow the were-unicorn through the streets of Gotham and run interference so it doesn't kill anyone. In addition to its great strength, it has tremendous speed, galloping at an approximate speed of 40mph.

After following it for hours, with dawn's rays spilling over the horizon, a completely exhausted Batman sees the unicorn disappear into a dead end alley. But when he turns the corner, he is surprised to see a near naked woman standing there.

It is clear, this woman was the were-unicorn and with the coming of the day, she has transformed back.

The chase scene with Batman is nicely done here, showing how hard he has exerted himself to stay on her tail.

It turns out the woman is Sandy Terry, the scientist who was in World's Finest #256. She was present in her father's lab when Lar-On was first released from the Phantom Zone.

Given her transformation into the were-unicorn under the full moon, she must have been infected with Lar-On's lycanthropy. But we knew that! There was a panel in that issue showing how her hand got scratched.

Realizing she needs to be in a safe environment while a cure was being worked on, Batman sends her to the Gotham branch of STAR Labs.

Now I might question some of this. After all, she has near-Kryptonian power when she transforms. Maybe the Fortress of Solitude might be a better place for her Kryptonian disease to be investigated?

On the night of the next full moon, with Batman, Superman, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane and the STAR Lab scientists looking on, Terry once again transforms. The attempts at a cure have failed. There is a very slick set of panels by Garcia- Lopez showing her turn from woman to creature.

Unfortunately, it seems no one was prepared for the transformation. Terry dashes out of the lab! I mean really ... an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Set up a force field or something!

A suddenly ill Batman can't help chase her this time. Instead Superman has to grab her and fly her to the sunny side of the planet. But why is Batman sick? Hmmm....

Over the course of the next month, Batman becomes more and more agitated. We hear that he has been thrashing criminals nearly nonstop. He yells at Superman, saying he won't help solve Terry's condition because it is a disease from Krypton and therefore Superman's problem.

And then we see him throttle an innocent man. But it is more than the usual combat. It is vicious ... sadistic. And his foe? An accountant. Even when told the man is innocent by a police officer, Batman doesn't believe him.

Something is wrong.

Sure enough, the next full moon, with the same attendants on hand at Star Labs, Terry once again changes. But this time Batman changes as well! He becomes a were-bat. At some point in his chase with Terry, he must have been scratched.

And once again, the staff isn't ready for either beast. Superman has to skirmish with both to keep everyone safe. Come on people! Be prepared!

Again, Garcia-Lopez is dazzling, showing Batman twist into this monstrosity. What a great splash page!

These Bronze Age books can sometimes be wonky. Every so often you stumble across something glorious.

In the middle of this insane story O'Neil gives us these three panels where we hear how the moon calls to Terry when she is in this form. It really is a beautiful little passage, made that much more wonderful when placed with Garcia-Lopez's panels.


Superman again takes Terry to the Eastern hemisphere where the sun returns her humanity.

But Batman has fled and can't be found. Instinctively, he knows Gotham and has fled to places where he can't be tracked.

With nothing concrete to go on, Superman decides he has to be the detective. Heading to Terry's apartment, he sees that she is obsessed with unicorns. The lycanthropy turns you into the animal you identify with. For Lar-On a wolf. For Batman, a bat.

But not just any bat ... a bat bent on fighting crime.

This is a fascinating wrinkle to the Kryptonian lycanthropy. I hope Orlando comments on it.

If the  were-form is the ultimate version of the avenger against crime, there is only one place it would go. Crime Alley.

But you also need to remember this is feral form with near Kryptonian strength. Batman nearly kills these two vagrants.

Luckily Superman again streaks in and carries Batman off before he can do anything horrific.

Whisked to a sunny country, the bat again becomes the man. But he remembers what he did during his time as a brute. 

Look at that second panel. It is clear that Batman is thinking of killing himself as a way to never lose control. Garcia-Lopez does a great job conveying that sentiment. Batman's head is bent down, defeated. Rubble is falling off the cliff. This feels precarious ... as it should.

Luckily, comic book science comes in to save the day.

Somehow Superman deduces that if Terry and Batman give each other a transfusion, their 'germs' will counteract each other. 

Wait, what?

First off, good thing their blood types are compatible. But how does this make any sense?

And yet, it works.

The following full moon, Batman is able to watch without transforming.

But then he gives a speech that Zach Snyder should read. Batman states that in his were-bat form, he was brutal. In his human form, he needs to  occasionally be brutal. But he must always remember to balance that with mercy.

I thought this was a very enjoyable story, with fun moments and superior art. Yes, the ultimate solution is a bit crazy. But the revelation about Lar-On's lycanthropy was very interesting. The idea of a Batman so consumed with vengeance he might kill was a great thread especially when matched with the human Bruce vowing to do better. And Garcia-Lopez just brings it.

Overall grade: B+

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

Wow, sounds like a gem. You're so lucky to have had access to these dollar comics growing up - they rarely came to the UK.