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Action Comics 369
"Superman's Greatest Blunder!"


Story: Unknown Art: Curt Swan and Jack Abel

(Originally Reviewed On 05/01/02)

On the cover, the shattered remains of a Sentinel chides The Man of Steel for destroying it and committing the greatest error in history, a mistake which he'll regret until the day he dies!

On the splash page, a group of young readers comment about the cover, one is certain that Superman never makes mistakes, while another believes that the story will turn out to be a hoax, and yet another figures that since he's like anyone else, The Man of Steel can make mistakes, while the wisest among them saws to stop talking and read the darned thing!

Superman is parachuting downwards on a planet with a red sun, having been forced into exile by a creature known as The Sentinel. Having returned from a trip in space, The Man of Steel came back to a world where crime has been erradicated, with repentant crooks returning their loot to the local precinct and asking to take their sentence, with the officers spending the day counting the recovered property. Natural disasters have ceased to exist, as folks have decided to have a picnic on a once-active volcano, and mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent finds himself covering a chess tournament... and yawning! Eager for some action (hence the title of the book), The Man of Steel orders his robots to attack him, but the automatons engage their self-destruct functions, instead, as the crystaline jewel-beings known as The Sentinel tells Superman that the time of violence on Earth has ended, and he is no longer needed.

The Sentinel is one of several crystaline jewels responsible for this paradise on Earth, and now the time has come for Superman to go into exile, which he reluctantly agrees to, and arrives on this world with a red sun, where he has no super-powers. Upon landing on the ground, he experiences pain like other men, and sees wild alien beasts which resemble a lion, and uses a large Green Kryptonite stone to drive it away, while noting the irony that elsewhere, it would be the Green K which would threaten his life. Time passes, as The Man of Steel walks the land of his new home, and feels the pangs of hunger.

Finding some oddly-shaped fruit, Superman climbs a stone wall to retrieve it, but is discovered by armored alien sentries who arrest him for eating the forbidden royal fruit. He is brought before King Thork, and Superman listens to the aliens' telepathic speech, as the king decides to have him joust against their champions... but without the benefit of armor, and if he should survive until noon, he will be executed! (Holy High Noon, Batman! I think Gary Cooper had it easier!) Mounting an alien steed, Superman barely manages to duck his opponent's mace...

Wishing for the return of his super-strength, The Man of Steel is surprised when he manages to knock his opponents large club with his small one! Suddenly realizing what has happened, he stalls for time by challenging all the king's champions at once in single combat! Regarding him as a fool, as well as a thief, he bids the champions come forth, only to watch in amazement as Superman is now strong enough to disarm his first opponent and use his fist as a "club!" With his heat-vision partially returned, he warms up his second opponent's saddle, putting him in the "hot seat!"

Now able to fly again, Superman easily defeats the rest of the knights and is knows that the king is unaware that it's now past noon! The king is now aware of the time and orders his death by pouring the contents of the fiery cauldron over him, but The Man of Steel just stands there, enjoying the impromptu shower, now being fully invulnerable. Not realizing it at first, but now Superman is aware that the planet's sun was half red and half yellow, and as it rotated on its axis, the yellow side was revealed, restoring his super-abilities, and enabling him to leave this world. It must be a fast flight before the sun turns red once again...

On the way back to Earth, Superman wonders why The Sentinel had him go to a red-sun world rather than one with a yellow sun, where he could still do some good. In Metropolis, The Man of Steel watches a group of policemen shooting their guns and wonders if crime has returned to the city, but they are merely getting rid of their bullets and collecting the lead so that it can be used for better purposes since guns are no longer needed. (Holy CGC, Batman! This makes no sense!) Deciding to head to his Fortress of Solitude, Superman is halted by a Sentinel, who wonders why he has returned to a world which no longer needs him, but The Man of Steel wants the truth, wondering how the world was made into a paradise and why? The Sentinel tells him that it is none of his concern and that the other four have been positioned around the world, with its mission to seal The Fortress, but Superman remembers that The Bottle City of Kandor is inside and if The Fortress is destroyed, millions of Kandorians will die! (Holy Aurora, Batman! What a model Kryptonian city!)

Intent on preventing this from happening, Superman grips The Sentinel, who brags of being powered by ultra-energy, which has the power of a million lightning bolts, and makes even The Man of Steel's blue hair stand on end! Superman could withstand a million if needed and using his x-ray vision, he knows that The Sentinel is not a living being, but inside the jewel are electronic parts, which may be the work of Brainiac or The Revenge Squad! Before it is crushed between two powerful hands, The Sentinel warns that he will learn the truth too late. Convinced that the siege on The Fortress is proof that The Sentinels are up to no good, The Man of Steel intends on finding the other four, and heads for the highest spot on Earth, that which is not Mount Everest, but another located on the equator.

Mount Kilmanjaro is where the other Sentinel is found, and Superman sees that it is beaming a sort of hypnotic beam around the world, most likely to control the populace, but it is cut short by his loosening of an overhanging cliffside, which cuts short the pleas of the jewel device not to be destroyed. Southward, the third Sentinel is found in the antarctic, and The Man of Steel sees that it is using electronic rays to control the weather, but it could probably be used to create them, as well. Figuring that the mind behind The Sentinels intended for a temporary paradise for the world to force Superman into exile, as well as putting the police and military out of business, he fashions a giant icicle into a "spear"...

The Sentinel's final words of warning go unheeded, and it "dies." Deep in the ocean, The Fourth Sentinel uses its electronic rays to prevent hurricanes, tidal waves, and other sea-related disasters. Finding a nuclear sub which was lost before The Sentinels appeared, The Man of Steel uses one of its polaris missiles to dispose of the fourth Sentinel, pleased that it didn't have a chance to spout out a warning.

In the desert, Superman bores underground, past the earth's core of molten iron and nickel, where he soon arrives in a subterranean chamber, and where The Fifth Sentinel is found, along with an equally giant computer, whose electronic brain is no doubt working to take over the world!

Intent on wrecking The Fifth Sentinel, Superman is held back by its super-energy barrier, as it is intent on enacting their great plan, but The Man of Steel is determined to destroy its computerized master. He is pulled back by The Sentinel's ultra blast-ray, but Superman knows that it's his duty to protect humanity from this evil mechanical brain, and figuring that if he enlarges the hole of the chamber where he entered...

The entire chamber will be filled with liquid iron, which will burn The Final Sentinel and its master machine. Calling him a fool, The Sentinel tells Superman of their arrival from the planet Sraghalni, located 500 light-years away, and whose inhabitants knew the secret of eliminating all evil and danger. (Holy Comics Code Authority, Batman!) Once they arrived on Earth, The Sentinels spread their golden rays, which caused all on Earth to abandon the way of violence and banish evil from their minds. The giant Correcto-Computer researched the world's stress points, and sent beams which would balance energies to eliminate all natural disasters.

Superman was sent to a world with a red sun in the event that he would grow suspicious of The Sentinels' intentions. The Sentinel at The Fortress of Solitude was sealing it to protect The Bottle City of Kandor until a method could be found to enlarge it on another planet, but now... it is too late! The Man of Steel now realizes what his actions have inadvertantly caused, as all the things he had sought and fought for were in his grasp, but for his acts, all is lost! Returning to Metropolis, he sees the results of his rash acts, as a plane has crashed against a mountain, and he must rush the survivors to a hospital, knowing that those who die will be on his conscience. None have survived, and if he hadn't destroyed The Sentinels, they would not have been in danger. Up in the sky over Metropolis, The Man of Steel continues his never-ending battle for truth and justice, aware that all which he'll face are the results of his greatest blunder.

I believe that this issue came out in August of 1968, when I was born.

A tantalizing cover and a surprisingly gripping story.

The young readers on the splash page of the 1968 issue have no doubt aged since then, and one wonders if any youngsters are reading comics in addition or in lieu of other sources of entertainment, such as movies, TV, Cable, Video Games, etc. Also, if said youngsters could afford to follow the hobby and are fortunate enough to find comics or have a comics shop conveniently in their neighborhood.

The Sentinels are also the name of The Mutant-Hunting Automatons in X-Men, while the number of Sentinels are similar to The Sleepers, of which there were five, I believe, and took Captain America and The Falcon to defeat, preventing "Der Tag" or The Day to strike.

Leave it to Superman to land on a planet where the red sun changes color for the sake of convenience and for an amusing joust with the alien inhabitants of this medieval world.

Mount Kilmanjaro was one of many places where The Man of Steel and The Amazing Spider-Man headed for in their desperated search for the whereabouts of Lois Lane and Mary Jane Watson, who were captured by Lex Luthor and Dr. Octopus in that fateful meeting.

Polaris missiles or rather Polaris Sky-Writers played a part in The 1966 Batman movie.

The desert has been the site for many a Silver Age Hulk story.

This Review Is Dedicated To Mike Kuypers

Steve Chung
"Superman's Greatest Review!"