Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Action Comics #903

It was a very busy comic week for me with many books coming out to review.

One of those books was Action Comics #903 by writer Paul Cornell and penciled by Axel Gimenez.  This is the penultimate chapter of the Reign of Doomsday storyline (I think DC should have trademarked 'penultimate chapter' as a phrase given the relaunch). I have to say I am still somewhat confused about everything that is happening here, the motivations of some of the characters. But given the high energy, high octane action of this arc, I have been willing to go with the flow. It is sort of like seeing a Michael Bay movie in that respect.

Still, this is really the last storyline for this Superman in Action. So in many ways I was glad to see him flying into battle, risking his life and saving the world. I was happy to see him show his love for Lois. And I really loved seeing him inspiring the Superman family here. In fact, it is these moments of characterization that work best here, more than the crazy smash-up of the main story. Cornell does a fantastic job with those moments, with that dialogue, saying a lot in a few words.

But I still don't know if I quite get all that is happening here. So Lex created the Doomsday clones with their adapting powers to keep the Superman family busy while he searched for the black ring energy. Lex also dumped them onto the Doomslayer satellite/pocket universe which just happened to be floating in our solar system )how did he break in when Superman has a hard time doing the same?). And Lex was able to figure out some of the tech on the satellite. But Doomslayer is the captain of this ship and he hates Doomsday. So he allowed Lex to do all that despite his hatred of Doomsday? He let Doomsday stay imprisoned on the ship? And his hatred of Doomsday extends to the Earth? But then he sends the Doomsdays to Earth to fight for him despite his hatred of them? I don't know if that is all internally consistent. Or comprehensible. But this arc so far has been more about the battles.

There is no Kennth Rocafort here other than this great cover. I think Axel Gimenez does a great job on interiors. In particular, I thought his Supergirl was great.

As I said above, last issue ended with Doomslayer sending the three remaining Doomsday clones (imprinted with Steel, Eradicator, and Cyborg Superman powers) to Earth to run rough shod on the planet. I did like Doomslayer sending the clones to 'doomsday' sites, nuclear reactors, virus labs, etc. What better way to unleash mass destruction. It is at least quicker that Doomsday killing people by himself.

So we see Steel and Superboy doing their best to each slow up one of the Doomsdays. And we get this great shot of Supergirl, strong and determined, lashing out at the Cyborg Doomsday. It is just a fantastic shot and I love the snarky quip. Great work by Gimenez there.

While the Superman family deals with the clones, Superman himself has the original Doomsday in STAR labs, hoping some weakness can be discovered. Now just last issue, Supergirl tossed the 'real' Doomsday into orbit. The heroes knew Doomsday was awakening. And they know he is invulnerable. So taking him to Earth seemed like a bit of a risk, and off given the 'orbit' idea last issue.

Luckily, when Doomsday awakens we find out that the Eradicator 'possessed' Doomsday via the Luthor tech on the monster. And now he can join the fight as Doomsday. Okay ... it seems a stretch for that to happen. But I'm an Eradicator fan so I'm glad he wasn't outright killed.

Superman figures out that the Doomsdays are a feint and the real threat is the Doomslayer ship which is now floating in our atmosphere.

And Doomslayer confirms this. On his satellite (complete with expandable pocket universe), we hear him plan to send his ship to the Earth's core and have it grow until the planet cracks. The thing here is our lack of understanding of the Slayer and this ship. Who made it? How does it have such properties like an expandable pocket universe?? I hope we learn this stuff.

Now one of the odder moment of the book is Superman playing human cannonball to get into the Doomslayer satellite. We don't hear any discussion of this anywhere. We just see Superman climbing into this gun, stating he needs the extra speed to slip through the ship's defenses. It is weird.

But around that moment is a better moment as Lois again admit to be afraid of losing her husband, wondering if he can wait for back-up, but knowing that he is doing what he must do. I love Superman's response. There is no fear in his voice. He says something as banal as 'I'll be back for dinner', such an everyday response as if he was going for a walk, a simple way to assure Lois he will be back.

In the mean time, the Erad-doom-cator joins the battles on the ground. I am a sucker for team shots, so I thought I would include this splash page.

This is a good team to fight off a Doomsday. Fate, Zatanna, Alan Scott ... big guns. And Hawk, Dove, Cassie, and Jessie Quick are decent super-powered brawlers. I don't know the impact Batman and Ravager will have. But still, a very good squad.

The human cannon works and Superman bursts into Doomslayer's satellite. But rather than fighting the Slayer, Superman flies off into satellite, presumably to stop the ship from functioning.

Doomslayer's response is intriguing. What does this mean? What is he? More on this later.

Again, the book is filled with great battle scenes. Supergirl has really shined in this storyline and here looks fierce as she leads the charge. She has always seemed to rise to the challenge when Doomsday is involved, even as far back as World of New Krypton. That is a great panel. I love the battle cries, rallying the troops.

And this is another good anti-Doomsday team: Supergirl, Captain Atom, John Stewart.

But the other team fighting the other Doomday? The Dick Grayson Batman, Congorilla, Raven, Rocket Red, and Steel. That is definitely not a good anti-Doomsday team. That sounds like a recipe for disaster.

It turns out that Superman is trying to get to the ship's engines and shut them down. But as he is flying around he sees the Superboy-based Doomsday clone that Supergirl tossed into a bottomless tunnel in this internal universe last issue. Now time is weird inside this place so Superman sees that the clone has been falling for a million years raging away. Could Doomslayer be this clone? Eventually this clone will hit some exit, emerge perhaps evolved from the million year fall, and filled with self-hatred?

It is no easy feat to beat Doomsday, even clones of Doomsday. The Era-doom-cator certainly helps, but he feels he is losing control as the real Doomsday's mind tries to assert control.

But this is such a great sentiment. The team needs to be like Superman, to strive to be worthy of Superman's name and shield. And with that rallying cry, the heroes fly again into the fray. That is the legacy of this Superman (and most Supermen) ... to be the inspiration for other heroes.

And the plot thickens. Near the engines, Doomslayer worries Superman will figure out what the Slayer is. Afraid of that, Doomslayer fires up the engines of the ship, immolating Superman.

I will say that while the motivations of the Slayer and Luthor's part of this plot is pretty muddy right now. And the cannonball scene was somewhat strange. But the upside of this issue, the small moments of characterization, the fun bruising fights, and the Superman Family team in action (with some wonderful Supergirl moments) made this a very enjoyable issue. It really felt like a summer blockbuster movie with crazy battle sequences and scenes of mayhem. Cornell does a great job of showing us these characters, these individuals in action rather than simply the action. It adds much to the story.

And, as I said, I liked Gimenez' art here, shining in the big moments of destruction and the quieter moments.

I hope all my questions get answered next month. I did not think I would like this arc at all. Despite the difficult holes in the plot, this has been a lot of fun. This is Superman, until the next incarnation.

Overall grade: B+/B


Anonymous said...

This has been a crappy summer for Supergirl, last month she got jobbed out to LiveWire and the Tattooed Man, this month she successfully slugs it out with Doomsday.
So I'll take my karatharsis where I can find it.

John Feer

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I'm interested in picking this up, either. I think it's basically been a crappy 3-4 years for Supergirl.

Here, once again, she is going to lose to make Superman look good. Basically, whenever they get together recently, the whole idea seems to be Supergirl and the others get their butts kicked so that Superman, the white alpha male, can swoop down and save the day. The blurb for the next issue reads : "Earth has fallen. The multiple Doomsdays have defeated Supergirl, Superboy, Steel, and the Eradicator. Now it all comes down to a weakened Superman versus the monster known as Doomslayer in this, the epic finale of "Reign of the Doomsdays"!" This sounds terrible for all except Superman fans who, once again, get to the superiority of their character emphasized.

This is one of many things I've disliked about Supergirl since issue 20. I hope they separate her more from Superman in the revamp, she seems to suffer as a character whenever they bring the two close together. I'm sick of her gender and age looked at as handicaps. I'm sick of everyone looking up to/trying to be Superman. And I'm very sick of badguys defeating Supergirl et al. so that a "weakened" Superman can save the day and prove he's so much better than the rest.

Anonymous said... Kal gets fried by a Doomsday clone's spaceship engine? What the-?

Great art, though.

Might pick this up. -ealperin

Dave Mullen said... Kal gets fried by a Doomsday clone's spaceship engine? What the-?

...and needs a particle accelerator(?) to supply him with enough speed to penetrate Doomslayers ship. Despite surely being fast enough under his own power and having done just that previously.

It was a pleasant enough read all in all but as you and Anj agreed the number of plotholes and gaps in logic frequently threatened to bring me out of it. If I had to sum the issue up I'd call it one big runaround where lots of people do stuff but it doesn't really advance the plot. I was fully expecting some real answers this issue but at least we got a very clear hint as to who Doomslayer is, I thought that a clever bit of plotting though am mystified as to the way time passes in thaat ship and the convenience of the 'cosmic clock' that fills superman in on that detail. It's all too convenient.
Nontheless the art is memorable, It's very didtinct to look at and the colorist deserves some praise too for complementing it so well and delivering sharp distinctive tones.

I do hope to see Superman actually do something SUPER next issue though, so far he seems a little too unimpressive in this arc physically though the characterisation is overall quite distinct and with a lot of crisp dialogue.

Anonymous said...

In that panel with Supergirl, John Stewart and Cpt. Atom, Miss Martian is there too. With Heat vision or lazer vision, that's not one of her powers, is it? It could be telepathy I suppose.