Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: Action Comics #904

And so ends this volume of Action Comics.

Action Comics #904 came out a couple of days ago, ending the 73 year run of this incarnation of Action.  Written by Paul Cornell with art by Axel Gimenez, the issue ends the Reign of Doomsdays story arc. As with much of the Doomsday story, that portion of the issue ends with crazy plot discoveries, with things happening fast and with loose explanations. I shrugged my shoulders at that stuff. This arc has been a silly loud smash-em-up which was sometimes incoherent. I think it was meant to be high action like a loud summer movie release.

But there was much to like in this issue. Much much much to like. Because, knowing that this is the closing chapter in this version in Superman, Paul Cornell uses the issue to show us his thoughts on the Man of Steel. It is a reminder of all the things Superman is right now, all the things he should be, and maybe a reminder to the upcoming creators of the DCnU to not lose sight of what makes Superman special. And for those final pages, I want to openly thank Cornell. He said on page a lot of the things I have been thinking.

I would even like to think that he does the same with Supergirl. Kara had some big moments in this Action issues of Doomsday, showing what a hero she is. Maybe this was Cornell letting the upcoming Supergirl team know that they don't need to scrap all of her core identity.

And those pages elevate this comic into rare air of excellence.

Axel Gimenez art is very stylish and works well with this story. It is a little cartoonish at times and a little manga-like at times. In a story with such over the top action, that works well. I would definitely look to get a commission from him if I saw him at a convention.

Last issue, Superman was apparently incinerated in Doomslayer's ship. It turns out that he was no disintegrated, but instead transformed into 'information' and taken into the ship's database.

In a quick explanation (finally) of what has been happening in this arc, the ship turns out to be sentient and gives Superman some much needed exposition. The ship was an intelligent probe sent from another universe to explore ours. When here, it was first corrupted by Luthor for his purposes. And yes, Doomslayer is the evolved form of the Doomsday that Kara through down the cosmic rabbit hole a couple of months ago. He also took over the ship for his own evil purposes.

Luckily, the ship's sentience was able to grab Superman this way and teach him how to fix the ship and set it to teleport back to it's home destination. In fact, it will teleport away in a timely fashion so Earth won't implode.

Easy and quick answers to a tough plot.

Now if you are a Supergirl fan, you have to love this scene. Leading the charge against the Cyborg-Doomsday and shows some serious determination.

But her words resonated more with me than her right cross! "You don't get past me and you don't get to hurt my home!" This is the Supergirl I want to read, stepping into the role of Superman when needed, honoring the S-shield, and defending Earth as a hero should. Earth is her home!

Contrast that to the upcoming Supergirl, angry with no affection for humans.

Which Supergirl sounds right?

On the Doomslayer ship, Superman is able to fix the ship and set the warp field on a three minute timer. And Doomslayer, full of self-loathing, full of the rage of a Doomsday, does his best to get past Superman to stop that teleportation.

Is this panel another nod by Cornell to the 'old' DCU? Superman talks about being taught the 'rope a dope' style of fighting by an old friend. Of course, Muhammad Ali was the boxer whose specialty was the old rope-a-dope. And, in the pre-Crisis DCU Superman actually boxed Ali once. Is this referencing that story? I hope so!

The actually Doomsday, barely under the control of the Eradicator consciousness, is sent to the ship to help Superman while Supergirl and Superboy fire the defeated other Doomsday clones into the impending event horizon of the Doomslayer ship teleportation wake.

There is a nice little discussion by Superman here, that sometimes life is complicated and doing the right thing is tough. It is far easier and far more destructive to simply think of the world as a nail and hammer away at it.

Doomslayer is no different that Doomsday, always falling back on violence and death as a solution rather than a problem.

Realizing that the ship is about to leave this universe, and knowing that Doomsday is about to reclaim his body, the Eradicator tells Superman it was an honor to be his friend and throws Superman off the ship. The Eradicator sacrifices himself knowing the world needs Superman. And with that, the Doomslayer probe ship returns to its home dimension.

All that's left is the wrap-up. But most of it really is a credo on Superman as a character.

First off, Superman seems almost angry that the Eradicator sacrificed himself, angry because he thought he should have been the one to do that. Supergirl states the obvious - 'your example let him be a hero to the end.' And look at the look on her face. You just know that she would do the same thing.

That is part of Superman. He should be an inspiration to all super-heroes. They should strive to be like him.

And finally, finally, we get a prolonged scene with Lois, the reconciliation scene that we didn't see at the end of Grounded.

Cornell uses this quiet dinner to again state the basic tenets of Superman.

First off, Cornell (I think) comments on the citizenship fiasco from the Goyer story in Action Comics #900. Lois says that China wants to make Superman an honorary citizen and Clark simply doesn't want to go there again.

Nor should he.

And then, Clark again talks about how much he loved fighting alongside the Superman Family but not if that means the Family will sacrifice themselves. Clark thinks he is just 'some guy', not someone people should be following to their deaths.

Again, Lois (like Supergirl), reminds him that his example ... that his thinking that way ... is why the Superman Family strives to do the same. The Eradicator would have sacrificed himself for anyone just as Superman did.

And this, perhaps, was my favorite panel in the whole book.

I always say that it is the Kents that made Superman what he is. And Lois comes right out and says the same thing. Superman is a 'decent guy', someone old-fashioned, who lives a whole human life. Someone raised with the right values. Someone who puts others before himself.

All that reads 100% right to me. These are the reasons Superman is who he is.

Will he be like that in the DCnU? Without the Kents? While embracing his alien origins? Without Lois by his side?

Morrison seemed to grasp all these concepts in All-Star Superman. 'Kindly couple' being a key part in his short retelling of the origin. I hope he remembers them in the new Action.

And then, Lois asks Clark to take her home. Clark's a lucky guy.

Funny how that short speech seemed to answer all the nonsensical questions that led Superman to walk across America.

The last panel shows Superman simply as a man, someone in the crowd, not above it all. But grounded.

So this chapter of Superman comes to a close. And like many of these last chapters, the book has a sense of closure, ending on a high note.

But it also comes with the sadness of finality. Goodbye Clark and Lois as a couple. 

It is clear, based on this last issue, based on this last scene, that Cornell has a great grasp on just who Superman is. But we didn't really get to see him write a Superman story. We got the end of the Luthor arc and this Doomsday arc. I want to read more Cornell on Superman.

I want to read more of the Superman described in that last scene.Will the DCnU Superman have that feeling of hope, optimism, and inspiration? Will the new DCnU have a Supergirl that fights to defend her home? I can only hope so.

I can only hope so.

Overall grade: A


Dr. Thinker said...

I hope DCnU is an epic failure!

mathematicscore said...

I agree with you here. Cornell handled this near perfectly. I'm excited for Stormwatch!

Anonymous said...

Supergirl towing Kal El to safety is a welcome homage to the silver-bronze age Kara who routinely rescued her cousin from all sorts of predicaments, from the embarrassing to the near fatal. Her last act in 1985, was simply more of the same as far as that trope was concerned.
Of course this time she survived, and thus avoided being a blood sacrifice to Superman's sales. Hope that trend continues...



Anonymous said...

I haven't read this arc yet (I'm waiting for the trade), but I'm a huge fan of Paul Cornell's novels, TV scripts, and comics work. I would have loved to see him continue as writer, since he probably had so much more to say. There is something rather blasphemous about renumbering "Action Comics." I get the fact that the comics industry is not what it once was, and a gimmick is needed to increase sales. But renumbering "Action" is not the gimmick that's needed here. This title has a long, long history, and to throw that all away for a temporary bump in sales is silly, to say the least. (Especially since the first arc seems to deal with yet another "World Against Superman" story.)

Anonymous said...

I'm going to miss both Clois and this Supergirl incarnation. Just wonderful writing by Morrison, here-and I barely get to read his work on a daily basis. :)-ealperin .

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I also wish Action maintained its original numbering.

I am glad Supergirl had such a great role in this arc.

And I have enjoyed Cornell here enough to probably sample Demon Knights (over Stormwatch). But he'll need to grab me to keep me there.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Anj!

Just wondering if you seen this yet....