What do you do when you wanna use Thanos but he belongs to the competition? Enter: Mongul! Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of DC Comics Presents #27 awaits!
Writer: Len Wein
Penciler: Jim Starlin
Inker: Dick Giordano/Frank McLaughlin
Colorist: Jerry Serpe
Letterer: Todd Klein
Editor: Joe Orlando
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 50 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $30.00
Previously in DC Comics Presents: The creation of Darkseid in 1970 was less of a big deal than it might historically seem. For one thing, he first appeared in an issue of ‘Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen’, which many people will try to tell you means something bad. (Jimmy’s book ranged from not half-bad to entertaining and goofy, with stops along the way at ingenious, so… y’know.) The creation of Thanos in ’73 was clearly heavily influenced by Darkseid, and he quickly became a major threat to the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, providing both a physical and intellectual threat to the most powerful heroes of the Marvel Universe. So, who needs a powerful physical and intellectual threat more than anyone in the known universes?
At the quiet apartment of Clark Kent, a holographic message suddenly arrives, greeting the Man of Steel (and coincidentally making it clear that his secret identity is compromised, at least by those from deep space) with a casual command to go and find his lost Maguffin. With the lives of his closest friends at stake, Superman sets off for the distant Cygnus system, where a particular crystal key is hidden. By a strange, cosmic coincidence, Superman is already familiar with that world, as he helped an old friend establish a colony of Martian refugees there. When he arrives at the specified crypt, though, Big Blue discovers that J’onn j’onzz is already aware of his approach…
It’s kind of weird to see a Jim Starlin-drawn Martian Manhunter, but I like it, especially the pronounced alien beetle-browed shape, which is his default shape now but wasn’t always done back in the day. (After his origin story, he’s often just a big bald green dude.) J’onn explains the background of the device he’s seeking, and the alien Warzoon who created it: A combative people, they were all destroyed, leaving behind Warworld, a massive satellite world bristling with weaponry, an arsenal that could make anyone the master of it. And the crystal key is the only way through the impenetrable barrier keeping Warworld out of the hands of would-be tyrants. J’onn announces that he’s sworn to protect the secret, but Superman shoves past him arrogantly with a prideful, “I’m Superman, remember?”
To which J’onn has the perfect retort.
It’s a very important reminder, for both Superman and the reader, that even the last son of Krypton has peers in power and courage. The Martian Manhunter slaps Superman around for several pages, even resorting to Kryptonite-tipped missiles, but Superman rallies and smashes him into the dust before claiming the key. When Mongul arrives, Superman has a change of heart, realizing that he can’t give the key to the enslavement of the galaxy to a big
rock-faced purple-ridge-chinned lumpy yellow would-be conqueror.
Mongul responds predictably.
With his friends freed by the Martian Manhunter’s sneaky invisibility powers, Superman is free to contemplate his own weaknesses, realizing that his arrogance led to this terrible result, and now Mongul has the key (literally) to the universe’s most powerful arsenal. Fortunately, his friend is there to assure him… that he IS in fact a big, arrogant jerk!
It’s a nice lesson for the Man of Steel to learn, and a rare appearance by the Martian Manhunter during his New Mars exile days, paired with an interesting script by Wein. For a title not known for having a lot of big moments, DC Comics Presents #27 is a solid issue featuring strong layouts (although the finished art feels a little bit rough, as evidenced by the used of “Quickdraw”, the alias for Dick Giordano and his studio associates, known for fast team inking) and an intriguing setup, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall. If you’ve ever complained that Superman is too powerful, which makes things boring, this issue and the arc that follows may be for you.
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DC COMICS PRESENTS #27
The first appearance of an important player in cosmic DC, combined with a lesson in humility for Kal-El, making the best of the limited page-count, setting off the multi-part Warworld story.