Superman 299 (May 1976) concludes the four part Mr. Xavier story, by Bates, Maggin, Swan and Oskner, and was also the third issue of Superman that I bought. The big grouping of villains on the cover appealed to me, and even though I had not read the previous three issues, I found the story completely fulfilling on its own, and would start collecting Superman regularly from this point on.
Xviar has teleported all the villains eitherout of jail, or to Earth, scattering them around the globe to send Superman running (or flying, I guess) hither and yon, too busy to figure out that the alien’s plan to destroy the Earth is reaching its culmination. The villains seem to have no issues with being shuttled around either, and are more than happy to work together, which leads me to think that Xviar is mind-controlling them to a degree. Superman first has to deal with Terra-Man, the now Toyman, and the Prankster in Egypt. Aside from a cameo in an issue of World’s Finest in the 60s, this is the first time the Prankster has appeared in twenty years. Not that he gets to do much.
With the Inter-Gang boss about to go free, Superman decides to become Clark Kent one last time, to testify at his trial. He grabs a spare suit from his offices at WGBS, and heads to the courtroom, only to find that he has not lost his powers when dressed as Clark.
Before he can follow upon that, he has to race off again, this time to deal with Lex Luthor, the Parasite and Mr. Mxyzptlk. Luthor shows none of the animosity towards the Parasite that he had the last time, even though the Parasite once more messes up his plans, which is what leads me to think that Xviar is controlling them.
After disposing of them, Superman has time to think, and, analyzing his Clark Kent clothes, sees that they have been infected with some alien tech that serves to nullify his powers. Only someone who had access to his apartment could have done this, but who? Meanwhile, we see that the energy Superman is expending in fighting his foes is being harnessed by Xviar, and Superman himself is the weapon with which he plans to destroy the Earth.
Brainiac and Amalak, who are fairly similar anyway, are the next villains that Superman has to deal with, as the story nears its conclusion.
Xviar, ready to be taken back to his home planet, seems to be in a trance as Superman checks the various suites in his building, and finds the alien tech. He figures out that Mr.Xavier is behind his power loss, but does not seem to have put together the entire plan. The story builds the suspense quite well as Superman faces off against the Kryptonite Man, the adult version of the Kryptonite Kid that he had faced as Superboy. But when Superman hits Kryptonite Man with a punch that ought to destroy the world, nothing happens. Beneath his costume, Superman was wearing the power-nullifying Clark Kent clothes, and took down Kryptonite Man with nothing more than normal human strength, which dissipated the built up energies.
Mr. Xavier gets sent to a galactic prison, and is never seen again.
The story has a bit of a downer ending. Superman is Clark Kent again, but this means that he is back to being meek, giving in to Steve Lombard and Morgan Edge, and losing the admiration of Lois. But that’s the price of being a hero.
I would say this is by far the best Superman storyline to date, and I am amazed that these tales have never been reprinted.