Superman #236: "Planet Of The Angels"

Superman #236
"Planet Of The Angels"
April, 1971

Story: Denny O'Neil
Art: Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson
Editor: Julius Schwartz

The World's Finest Team come crashing through the door, startling a pair
of would-be safecrackers. The Man of Steel's invulnerable body protects
the Batman from gunfire. As the Darknight Detective punches out one of
the crooks, Superman delivers a delicate super-slap to knock out the
other. After a long week, they have caught the pair, and the Man of
Steel congratulates the Batman on his fine detective work. When asked by
Superman if he'd like to celebrate by having coffee, Batman begs off, and
heads home to hit the sack.

Being on the side of angels is exhausting, but bringing in devils gives
the Masked Manhunter some satisfaction. The Man of Steel can almost envy
Batman being able to sleep. He does not have to sleep and is constantly
on the go. With no emergencies on this night, and hours until dawn, the
Action Ace decides to do some lab work in his Fortress of Solitude.

The brain-wave project involves a device to compare his Kryptonian
brain-electricity to the regular pattern of Earth people. It would be
good to know if he ever decided to marry, and have a family. As he dons
the device, the Man of Steel feels himself slipping away, and falls
through an endless sea of shifting shapes. He comes to a halt and finds
himself in the midst of an inferno.

The scent of sulphur is accompanied by the sight of a pack of demons
emerging from a fiery wall. When their pitchforks fail to have the
desired effect, Superman hurls them backwards, and causes them to retreat
back to the flaming barrier. A rich voice congratulates him on the
maneuver. When he turns, Superman blinks at the aura of pure light
surrounding him.

They are Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael. To his eyes, it appears that he
is in Heaven, and below is the pit of the condemned. The place where
those who do not follow the paths of virtue reside. Gabriel insists that
he has past from one state of being to a far more glorious one. All of
Heaven can be his forever. He must prove himself worthy to stay here.

They ask him to descend into the pit, where he will find a gate held with
a great lock, and which must be opened. It will demonstrate their might,
for they shall slay the doomed tonight. Superman hesitates, for he
cannot get over the thought of being a spirit. His friends, Lois Lane,
Jimmy Olsen, and Batman will share his joy. The Angels await his
triumphant return. The Man of Steel knows that he is being swept by
events he doesn't fully understand. The gate does not appear to be
anything he can't handle.

One good pull will tear it loose. In the flames are three familiar
shapes. Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, and Batman grin in mock anticipation of
his actions. They vanish from view. Superman strives to rein in his
emotions and think. If the Angels spoke the truth, he may be endangering
his very soul by disobeying them. Before he does anything, the Action
Ace will take a look at what's on the other side. His x-ray vision
cannot penetrate the weird metal, and he tunnels beneath it.

Their barrier is withstanding the assault. Perhaps they will escape the
trap, but the Earthling is most formidable. Behind them, the sly
Earthling has found them, and their cause seems to be hopeless. They
must do themselves honor by perishing in battle. The fire bolts don't
even tickle their target.

Their attempts at hand-to-hand combat is pitiful. He admires their
spirit, but they wonder why he stays his hand. It turns out that
Superman may not be on the side of the Angels. There is much that does
not make sense. The Angels spoke of killing, the presence of three
people who shouldn't be here, and the soot smudges on Gabriel's robe.
These should not be found in a spiritual world.

The Man of Steel has seen through the illusion. He is not in a hell
which is near a heaven, and these beings before him are not devils.
Superman is under a hypnotic spell, and this place is a wandering world
at the edge of the solar system. When asked who they really are, one of
the "devils" asks him to concentrate on seeing them as they truly are.
The focus narrows and the being before him changes.

They are law officers from Planet Beta U and the Angels are murderers who
they have been pursuing over half the galaxy. Their engines damaged, the
lawman erected a wall of nuclear flame around their ship. Their enemies
were unable to penetrate the barrier, for they are less resistant to heat
than the lawmen are. The "Angels" telepathically searched the solar
system until they found someone who could get past the fiery barrier.
Having found him, they were able to convince him of what they wished him
to do. The "Angels" wanted the gate opened, so he'll oblige. The
murderers have superior weapons, but none superior to Superman!

Their ruse discovered, the three "Angels" threaten to end the lives of
his friends beneath their flaming swords. Having seen them in the
inferno, the Man of Steel knows that they are just illusions. These
images were plucked from his subconscious mind, but their sheer brute
force will surely vanquish him. Superman doesn't place much faith in
their "force".

Their foe is more formidable than they could have imagined. Their
flattery will avail them naught, but a swift knockout. The ship's solar
radar shows that Gabriel is heading through a space warp towards Earth
with a bomb. The lawmen ask that he help them repair their motors so
that they can continue the chase. If he has figured it out, a space warp
brought him to this wandering planet, and he can return through the same
route. Once more, the Action Ace passes through the swirling void.

Now near Earth, he sees Gabriel flying nearly as fast as him. The
"Angel" plans on destroying his world. Having lost one home... Krypton,
he will not lose another. A searing flash of light and a soundless
explosion occurs in outer space. With unbelievable speed, Superman
catches up with his winged quarry.

A swift super-punch puts an end to the pursuit. After another trip
through the space warp, the lawmen thank him for his aid. Having noted
that they have changed in appearance when the hypnotic spell was broken,
he wonders why the "Angels" did not. This is their appearance. Evil
comes in many forms... some of these may be considered beautiful. An
important lesson which is worth remembering. Dawn in the Fortress of
Solitude finds the Man of Steel smiling. He may not have slept all
night, but he had one heck of a dream.

On the cover of Superman #236 by Neal Adams, a pair of demons with
pitchforks dare the Man of Steel to pass through the gates of Hell.

Batman is another character who has had stories written by Denny O'Neil.

Steve Chung
"Planet Of The Reviews"