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The Protocols of the Elders of Amazo – Superman Special #3

February 12, 2012

I remember quite vividly having this comic many moons ago, and it’s managed to hang around in the back of my subconscious for the last couple of decades. The contents haven’t been perused in those intervening years, which means that there was something that remarkable within had to make it tattoo itself onto the cerebellum. I can tell you that it wasn’t the standard classy cover from the recently departed Eduardo Barreto that locked this baby in (though it’s quite good). YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT A SECOND FOR THIS SHOCKING REVEAL. Sorry. Scumbag move, I know.

Having bought and re-read the book in recent weeks, I beg your indulgence that I might whinily complain for a moment. Lend me your eyes and ears. Here’s the moan: This comic is terrible. TERRIBLE. It’s the most unspecial Special I’ve ever read in my entire life, and believe you me, I’ve read some awful crap.

Why’s it so bad? One word: AMAZO. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t have any issue with the character, his origins, or his appearance. That’s all fine and dandy, though the look he sports here makes me think of a half-costumed Vulcan drag queen. The problem is that there’s a storytelling trap that goes along with the power-copying ability of the Justice League’s android nemesis, and it’s a big one. He makes writers feel that they have to take a checklist of the League’s roster and go down from character to character to make sure that Amazo employs, if not all, a substantial number of the members’ powers. The end result is always like reading a plot laundry list. “Look he’s screaming like Black Canary now he’s shrinking like the Atom OH MY GOD HE’S TALKING TO FISH.” The extra page count in this “Special” exists solely so that we can run the fantastically boring “Amazo’s Stolen Powers” gauntlet. Get it all in, boys!

There are other demerits here, make no mistake. That Superman comes off as a doofus is pretty bad (you’ll see). But Amazo is the worst. The interminable checking-off stretches the Superman vs. Amazo contretemps to unbearable lengths, so far it makes the Quiet Man fight seem like Mike Tyson’s 91-second K.O. of Michael Spinks. It’s the proverbial sawdust stuffed into meatloaf. It’s like reading the phone book, all the way from Aaronson to Zuckerman.

Join me, so that you might share my vexation! Or go completely in the opposite direction! Your choice!

“Amazo Means Mayhem!” (Plot: E. Nelson Bridwell, Script: Len Wein, Pencils: Irv Novick, Inks: Pablo Marcos) starts when Superman makes his first colossal bonehead move — or the last in a series of bonehead moves, depending on how you look at it. He’s rebuilt the previously destroyed Amazo and brought him to the impregnable Fortress of Solitude, where no one could possibly steal- OH SON OF A…:

Another proud moment in the career of the big blue banana.

Who pilfered him? It’s now that we come to the reason that I remembered this book — though not it’s mediocrity — for so many years:

Professor Ivo, Amazo’s creator. This. Guy. Grossed. Me. Out. Still does. I don’t if the scaley crap on his skin is worse, or the way his nose links up with his lower lip. Probably the latter. THAT’S NASTY. But the sight of him makes me want to throw up (really), though I guess that’s what you have to go for with the self-loathing, desperate for longevity Ivo. Misson accomplished. Big time. Congrats all around.

One final thing about the good Professor, because, though he appears again in the story, I won’t allow his mug to appear again in this post. I’ve long thought that his look here is close to what an anti-semite sees in their foul anti-semitic nightmares. Something like that frightful visage above probably kept Henry Ford up nights (…zzzzassemblylineszzzzjewszzzz…). Ivo is like an inadvertent avatar for the International Jewry bogeyman. I admit, I’m no expert in the dark world of Jew-hatred, so I could be off-base. Just an impression.

Anyway, Ivo has stolen Amazo so that he can drain Superman’s powers to help with Ivo’s never-ending quest to cheat death and get his non-ipecac face back. And Clark has more problems than the missing Amazo, as even his Ron Burgundy day job offers him no respite:

This one even follows him home after a night on the town with Lana Lang:

No paint left over for some extraneous “WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN” graffiti?

Clark opts to tackle one problem at a time, and changes into the cape and tights and to face off with Amazo (who had earlier called out the Man of Steel at the WGBS studios). This is when we get the 438 page laundry list. One. By One. We go through. The powers. Like counting sheep. In hour 47 of the battle, Superman finally immobilizes his foe when he uses Plastic Man’s (or Elongated Man’s — I didn’t really care at this stage) stretching against him. But Superman — as seen above — can also be a super-idiot:

Ohhhhh. The ring. Forgot about that. Even though it was used moments before. AMAZO EVEN USED IT ON THE COVER, YOU DOPE.

The fight is one big stalemate, so Amazo dashes off to the Fortress of Solitude to re-arm, planning to syphon off the collective powers of the Bottle City of Kandor’s denizens. He’s in for a rude surprise:

Superman has a thing about punching foes through the torso. That’s rather chilling when you think about it.

Supes then reprograms Amazo and uses him to trap Ivo, who will go on having a face that makes me want to vomit. Problem #1 solved. But there’s still the whole secret identity thing, which is the bigger logistical nightmare. Will Kal-El be outed like a superhero Rock Hudson? He’s already put two and two together and tied the notes to a magician/hypnotist named Presto, the nephew of the Daily Planet’s obituary editor, who had learned — but promised to keep secret — Superman’s identity when he hacked into the Fortress of Solitude’s computer. (I’m getting dizzy.) Here’s how that reveal went down:

So this douche was just leaving the taunting messages for a bit of “fun.” Superman resists the temptation to have a reprise of the Amazo climax and punch a bloody hole in this guy’s chest. I’m not sure I would have been so calm.

Instead he opts for one of his least used — and perhaps non-existent — powers:

Yes, super-hypnosis, which ranks right around the cellophane S-symbol from Superman II in the “give me a f–king break” index. But who am I to mock? SEND SOME OF THAT MY WAY, SUPES. I wish I could forget…forget…forget…

Some things are better left unsaid, and it turns out some things are better left un-reread. I still appreciate the Novick/Marcos work on Ivo, which retains its retch-factor over the course of years, but this is one of the weaker “Special” efforts from that time period. I can’t help juxtaposing it with the contemporaneous Superman Annual #10 that I reviewed here a number of months ago. That was extra-long as well, and it also had one of the dumbest plot devices ever unfurled (the astral Sword of Superman). But it was a fun, grin-engendering tale. This isn’t. This is dull.

With Amazo, though, and his de rigueur checklist, “dull” might be a congenital defect, and one that’s hard to overcome.

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