Could Have Been Epic
(This review is of the longer two part cover story only)
Here's a story that could have been one of the greatest Superman stories ever. It had a great setup - Luthor escapes from prison, and challenges Superman on TV to a fight without superpowers (cleverly breaking into shows like a western where the sheriff removes his badge to fight an outlaw man-to-man, and a heavyweight boxing match between two evenly matched fighters - a nice detail). It also has a great ending that reveals real growth on the part of Luthor. But sadly, those are the few pages at the beginning and the end.
Why is it so bad? Well for one thing, we have Superman trusting Luthor in a way that can only be described as naive - even for Superman.Then we have Luthor acting inconsistently throughout - is he a dishonorable cur who will kick a man when he's down? Or is he an honorable but bitter opponent to Superman? Part of this is what the story is all about, but even within the framework, they never seem to treat Luthor consistently, resulting in a fairly schizophrenic character.
Next, the planet they go to seems to have evolved exactly the same as Earth and/or Krypton at various times, complete with indigenous flora and fauna and humans. Including some animals that seem to exist only to be drinking glasses for a parched Superman. No explanation for it. Then of course, Luthor brought along all the right gadgets for the job, like plant growth powder (how did he know there would be plants there - never mind how silly the effects are), and when he and/or Superman don't have the gadget they need, they whip one up in seconds, resulting in a battle of deus-ex-machina vs. deus-ex-machina for about a half dozen pages.
There are plenty of other things like alien technology, and alien language presenting no problem for either character, and Luthor just giving away his advantage by letting Superman learn the alien language and technology (or is this in character for him? Keeping the fight fair? I really wish some consistency in the character of Luthor would be enforced).
Of course the ultimate groan moment is when we get to the scene foreshadowed in the splash page, where Luthor uses an "automaton bloodhound devised by ancient-scientists for trailing law-breakers" that he happened to find and fix on this world of similarly evolved humans, who evidently also had bloodhounds and then made robot versions of them. What the Hell?!?
All-in-all, a sad waste of the hotshot new artist Curt Swan, who was fast becoming the definitive Superman artist of all time.