Last issue, the Forever People–utopian, super-powered teenagers from space–chose to thwart Darkseid’s expeditionary force on Earth before he can discover the Anti-Life Equation which gives total control over all thought. Cue culture clash!
Meanwhile Darkseid recruits a narcoleptic bug-man named Mantis to go on a rampage. This was 1971, when the Comics Code Authority which had forbidden portrayals of occult monsters since the mid-50’s, was beginning to give way. So Mantis, though he lives in a crypt underneath a church, does not sleep in a coffin. He sleeps in a “power pod” which is totally different you guys. Plus, he isn’t any kind of blood vampire, he he’s a “power vampire” so nothing to see here, censors. But mainly you know he’s not a vampire because he is a big green electric bug creature.
As the 1970’s wore on, comics would stop playing coy about vampires, but at this point there’s gotta be some deniability.
if only there was a super hero version of tiny tim
The Forever People meanwhile have moved into a deserted slum, where they meet Donny. Donny is crippled, and roughly 11 years old. He lives amid “blocks of empty apartment buildings” and “most of them are just rotting, dangerous shells“. Donny apparently has no friends or family, except for Uncle Willie, who is completely senile but heavily armed. (Uncle Willie claims to be a security guard, but this is probably a delusion.)
Naturally Donny is absolutely overjoyed to find teenagers from outer space, and begs them to move in with him. The Forever People thank him by dosing the child with LSD.
That ain’t right, Kirby!
The cosmic cartridge also can repair broken electronic equipment, implying that your television functions a lot better when it is high.
two super-people punch each other in the kidneys
The tripping TV informs them that Mantis is going on a rampage. Therefore:
The Infinity Man really doesn’t have much personality, which I guess in the context of super hero comics is kind of a personality in itself. Mantis is this whiny, taunting, arrogant dude who is just overjoyed to be smashing things apart in the big city–and then freezes the Infinity Man with his energy-manipulation powers. (“I can transmit cold and frost, the likes of which can hold giant worlds in the grip of icy death!“) The Infinity Man’s response to this: “Uh–my temperature drops with terrifying rapidity!” which I think I will use next time a certain someone steals all the covers.
In the mid-1960’s, Stan Lee’s super hero dialogue was frighteningly generic: Iron Man, Giant-Man, Spider-Man, and Daredevil all more or less talked the same way. But they at least displayed (the same) attitude. The Infinity Man is weirdly formal and dispassionate–“my life functions have dwindled to microscopic minimum!”–and Mantis is a lot more fun to root for, even if he is just Darkseid’s stalking horse.
(That crazy maniac is DeSaad, Darkseid’s mentat/torturer/psychological warfare minister, making his first appearance.)
Fortunately the Infinity Man gets out of the ice-block,
And clobbers Mantis with an “infini-beam” that “will release your stored energy in one vast rush“. Depleted of
blood voltage, Mantis retreats back to his coffin power-pod and the day is saved.
have we learned anything here?
Not really! But we’re getting glimpses of characters and their agendas. For one thing, Darkseid isn’t after physical conquest: that’s Mantis’s game, and Darkseid holds it in contempt. Instead, he seeks to seize power by exploiting a terrorized population.
We also get to see more of the Forever People themselves, who were eclipsed by Superman in their debut issue. They find Twentieth Century Earth an absurdly amusing and arbitrary place, which is a pleasant shift from Stan Lee’s Silver Surfer comics, where the titular hero was always moaning about man’s inhumanity to man.
Also, the Infinity Man (who dwells beyond the universe) equates himself with Justice itself. And he’s summoned by idealists who are joined together by figurative brotherhood (i.e., all revering the same mother-figure). Matthew 18:20 – “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” So if you ever wondered what would happen if YHWH fought a bug-vampire, now you know!
But it’s also interesting that, while the Forever People have chosen to bring the fight to Darkseid, they’re letting their faith fight in their stead. I’m trying to recall if we ever see the Forever People themselves get into a scrap, and I don’t think we do. They’re using their powers to avoid fighting, or to overcome a challenge, rather than punching dudes in the face. So they’re not pacifists–but they seem to be committed to non-violence, aside from praying for the Infinity Man to do the heavy lifting.
There’s also an emphasis on slums, but I need to save something to talk about for later.