Review: Action Comics #544

Action Comics #544 cover
Cover by Gil Kane and Dick Giordano

Action Comics #544
Published and © by DC, June 1983

Title: “Luthor Unleashed!”
Synopsis: Lex Luthor’s latest plot for revenge against Superman ends with the destruction of a planet – and some serious, burning hatred!

Writer: Cary Bates
Penciler: Curt Swan
Inker: Murphy Anderson

Review: While many anniversary issues are content to celebrate the status quo, this issue shakes things up with a pair of supervillain revamps. Beyond a new look, Lex Luthor gets additional motivation from Cary Bates’ well-crafted, tragic tale. The art is typical “Swanderson” – technically solid, but bland.


Title: “Rebirth!”
Synopsis: An evil plot and a journey through time and space see Brainiac reborn as a living, conquering machine.

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Gil Kane

Review: Marv Wolfman’s Brainiac revamp is convoluted but promising. Gil Kane’s art is dynamic, but his Superman is a little off.

Grade (for the entire issue): B+

Second opinion: “(Wolfman’s) effort must be counted as a failed masterpiece . … (Kane’s) depiction of Superman is awesome, and every page, every panel is charged with verve and originality.” – Kevin McConnell, Amazing Heroes #24, June 1, 1983 … Recommended by The Slings & Arrows Comic Guide (second edition), 2003.

Cool factor: Both of the villain revamps have some juice to them. And this is one of those cool DC anniversary issues where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Not-so-cool factor: This reviewer has never been a fan of the “Swanderson” art team. There’s no question the duo is technically proficient, but both their rendering and storytelling come off dated and dull.

Notable: First appearance of the armored Lex Luthor and the more-robotic Brainiac. … This issue includes pinups by George Pérez (designer of the new-look Luthor), Ed Hannigan (designer of the new-look Brainiac) and Joe Shuster (drawing Superman for perhaps the last time). … Also includes a “Happy 45th Anniversary, Superman!” essay from co-creator Jerry Siegel.
Collector’s note: According to the Grand Comics Database, there is a $2.00 Canadian variant of this issue.

Character quotable:I’m coming for you Superman … and I have only just begun to hate!” – The new-and-“improved” Lex Luthor, getting his internal mad on

Editor’s note: This review was originally published by Comics Bronze Age on Nov. 3, 2010.

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