Action Comics #405 (1971) classic comic review Superman Bodyguard or Assassin ?

January 29, 2021
Louie Fecou 0
Comics
4

Summary

Weird and infused with fear and paranoia, it is so tonally strange that you can’t help feel off-kilter when reading it. It seems like something Alan Moore would have come up with rather than Cary Bates.

4

Summary

Weird and infused with fear and paranoia, it is so tonally strange that you can’t help feel off-kilter when reading it. It seems like something Alan Moore would have come up with rather than Cary Bates.

This classic comic review of Action Comics #405 contains some minor spoilers.


Suspense, paranoia, and an epic meltdown make this one of the oddest Superman tales ever.

It must have been difficult coming up with stories for Superman every month. During the 70s, DC had been moving away from the camp silliness of the Silver Age and were embracing a new era of greatness with titles such as Green Arrow and Green Lantern taking on social issues, and Batman becoming the Dark Knight Detective, but what could they possibly do with the Man of Steel?

Superman was a hard nut to crack, and there were only so many times he could thwart Lex Luthor. However, every now and then, there would be a hidden gem sandwiched in between the usual Superman fare, and Action Comics #405 must surely be one of the strangest stories ever.

It would appear that editorial thought so too, so the story is set “some years in the future, what you see on these pages may never happen!” which is just as well, as this thing is nuts. Superman is summoned to the office of The President of America. The Prez has been threatened by an unknown assailant called Marsepun, who tells him that he will kill him before 9 pm that night.

The head of security, General Travis, wants POTUS to stay safe in Tonacom, an impenetrable safe house, and Supes agrees to stay with him, just in case. The base is protected by jets of molten steel, lethal gas, and radioactive isotopes, so nobody can get in, and Superman takes POTUS there and they hunker down for the night.

However, it’s not long before a blip appears on the radar, showing an intruder, and the lead walls prevent Superman from seeing what has entered the base.

On the CCTV, they see a handprint where the tunnel has been ripped open, and to his horror, Superman recognizes that the print matches his own. The radar shows that the killer is now moving closer towards them, like that scene in Alien, and the name of the assassin is also a clue to what is going on.

A cut-away scene reveals that General Travis is indeed a double agent, and his plan is to convince Superman that he is in fact the killer!

A “thought scrambler” is directing beams straight into Superman’s head, slowly convincing him that he is the assassin. As the radar shows the intruder approaching closer and closer, Kal seems to be having a complete breakdown, so when the door of their safe house is broken down revealing a mirror, all hell breaks loose. Superman turns on the President, but he has taken precautions and pulls a gamma gun on him. However the death beam deflects off Superman, and he ends up being his own killer.

There are, of course, more twists and turns by the end of the story, and I won’t spoil them here, but if you pick this up you will see why the editor chose to make this an imaginary tale.

Written by Cary Bates, with art from Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, this is more like an episode of The Twilight Zone than a Superman story. Weird and infused with fear and paranoia, it is so tonally strange that you can’t help feel off-kilter when reading it. It seems like something Alan Moore would have come up with rather than Cary Bates.

The art is what you would expect from this book at this time, solid and dependable, and the issue has a stunning cover too. If you enjoy those odd Bronze Age gems, try and grab a cheap copy of this on eBay and let me know your thoughts.

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