Comic Book Review – Action Comics #543 (May 1983)

“With These Hands..Power”

Writer – Marv Wolfman

Artist – Curt Swan

It’s a hot time in the old town tonight…as Neutron stands triumphant over a defeated Superman, with Metropolis burning in the background.

In this issue, Superman is at the parole hearing for the supervillain Neutron. The Man of Steel has great misgivings about the possible release of Nat Tryon aka Neutron from prison. Superman believes that Neutron will go back to his villainous ways and pose a deadly and serious threat to the safety and well-being of the citizens of Metropolis. These reservations fall on deaf ears as the parole board grants Neutron’s parole.

The next evening, Clark and Lana are enjoying a hansom cab ride in the park, when a large explosion is heard outside the city. Using his super-vision, Clark sees Neutron laying waste to the city. Clark tells Lana to get to safety. A quick change of clothing later and Superman flies to confront Neutron. Superman is able to make quick work of Neutron and drops the villain off at the nearest jail.

A few days later, Neutron once again tears apart the city. As Superman faces off with Neutron in round two, the onlookers witnessing this battle are ashamed at what Superman is doing to Neutron. How can Superman instigate a fight with the newly reformed Neutron?

How can this be? Why have the citizens of Metropolis turned their back on the Man of Steel? Neutron…the conquering hero? Have we entered the Bizzaro World?

I purchased this comic years ago from Fat Jack’s Comic Crypt and I have only gotten around to reading it now. As I scanned the credits before diving into the story, I had to do a double take – Marv Wolfman AND Curt Swan… together on this issue!?!

When you talk about THE Superman artist…a lot of people place Mr. Swan number one as their favorite. To see Curt Swan drawing a Superman comic in the early 80’s astonished me. He didn’t miss a beat bringing Superman and Metropolis to life in this story. Marv Wolfman crafts a tale most avid comic book fans of his are used to, just with different characters. Mr. Wolfman ramps up the Clark-Lana-Superman-Lois love square in this issue. Clark finds his friendship with Lana blossoming into something more, as Superman feels guilt for the mistakes he previously made with Lois. It wouldn’t be a Marv Wolfman comic if he didn’t add a dose of treachery and deceit to the plot as well. You’ll find out how the tables were turned to cast Superman as the bad guy. It’s all thanks to the Abraxas Corporation.

One part that was a bit confusing to me was that Lana was unaware that Clark and Superman were the same person. I have always known that Lana and Clark grew up together in Smallville and that she knew Clark’s super-secret. It was weird to see Superman trying to keep his identity a secret from Lana in this issue.

There is a funny exchange between Clark and Perry at the Daily Planet. Perry is upset because the story he wrote on his VDT computer was erased after he spent an hour working on it. Perry shakes his fist at this new technological wonder replacing his good old-fashioned typewriter.

This issue was a lead-in to Superman’s 45th Anniversary and it does a good job framing Superman’s place in the world on Earth. He has a conversation with Lois about how he must do what he can to protect others, while not influencing the course of human history. A nice callback to Superman: The Movie.

I give this issue 3 flapping capes out of 5.