Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: Action Comics #14 Back-Up Feature

I have been a very big fan of Sholly Fisch's back-up features in Action Comics, feeling they have added nice personal character flourishes to the Superman story that Grant Morrison has been weaving. Whether it is the Kents and their struggles, or Lana's love, or Steel's resolve ... they have always been inspiring and remarkably powerful for their short page count.

Action Comics #14 had a well-publicized story in which 'real life' astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson points Superman in the direction of Krypton in deep space. The story crossed over into mainstream media as plenty of my 'non-comic book' friends flooded my email with links to places like MSNBC for their coverage of the discovery of Krypton.

What's interesting to me is that this story lacked the usual emotional punch I have come to expect from Fisch's work. It is a fine story with a couple of exceptional moments. But I didn't get that same 'wow' feeling I have from his other stories. That could be considered great praise ... that very good is not the norm.

Chris Sprouse provides the art for the story and turns his usual solid art.

The story opens with the Justice League repelling some invasion by lizard men. During the fight, Superman is reminded that he has another commitment, one he can't miss.

I like how simply friendly the Leaguers are to each other, telling Superman they can handle this crisis and he should go. In particular, the panel of Wonder Woman simply saying go worked for some reason. Maybe it is that their relationship is closer now, that she knows how important this is for Kal and wants him to be there.

This had a different feeling than the back-biting paranoid antics we have seen in the main JL comic.

It turns out that Superman has a standing yearly visit to an observatory.

Fisch does a good job in locking the continuity up quickly. This takes place just a few days after the earlier battle seen in the main story of the issue. So this is happening 'now'.

Of course this means Superman will survive whatever is going to happen on Mars to get to this point. But we all knew that anyways ... right?

The observatory is one of an array of long-reaching telescopes which on this day are able to peer into deep space to see the red sun of Krypton.

So this looking back at Krypton shows a longing of Superman. He wants a 'glimpse' of his home world.

And yet ...

I know that at some point he is going to be ON Krypton in a black suit. He'll be on Krypton on the day it blows up.

And even if he wasn't going to be on Krypton, he could always ... gasp ... talk to his cousin about it.

So this looking into space just didn't have the same 'oomph' it should knowing what is about to happen.

One thing I did like was this picture of Superman's super-brain figuring out the math and science he needs to take all of the data from the telescopes and putting it into an image. That stern look as numbers and images wash over his face ... it is a look of determination and concentration.

I like that this Superman seems to be more like the Silver Age one in terms of intelligence.

And so we see that the light from Krypton's destruction have finally made it to Earth. Approximately 27 years after its destruction (putting Superman in his late 20s), Superman has a vision of the destruction.

That should be a powerful moment, with a sort of grieving Superman viewing the death of his people and his planet. And yet, for some reason, it didn't move me the way it should. I wish I had a good explanation ... but I don't.

So this is a nice story, with some nice moments (particularly the JL opening), but I didn't have the usual reaction to a Fisch back-up. If anyone else had the same response, I would love to hear why you think it didn't floor you.

Still, I will miss Fisch on back-ups here. He has really told some wonderful tales here.

Overall grade: B/B+


Martin Gray said...

I wasn't knocked out by it either, it was nice, but seemed to be a gimmick rather than a necessity - get the star astrophysicist (never ehard of 'im) in, find Krypton, move right along now ...

Anonymous said...

It was a nice story, but not one that really moved me. It was interesting to see Neil Degrasse Tyson (of Nova Science Now) show up in a Superman story, but it creates a rather flimsy connection between Superman and astro-science. I suppose it is nice to fans look up in the sky and say that is where Superman came from, but I prefer Superman remain completely fictional. Also Tyson used a red dwarf star for this story although Silver Age writers described it as a red giant (but, hey, they weren't real big on science).