Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: Action Comics #23

Scott Lobdell's brief period on Action Comics came to an end last week with the quick ending to the Pax Galactica story. Action Comics #23 was a quick read, filled with massive panels by artist Tyler Kirkham, which read like a summer blockbuster action film. I suppose that is fitting for the title. In looking over the book there are 2 2-page splashes, 4 1-page splashes, several 1/2 page splashes, and plenty of 2-page spreads with a handful of panels. It is big and loud and brash and sometimes I want popcorn and not elegant pastries.

All that said, I am a bit split on my feelings for this issue.

The overall pluses: It read a bit like a Silver Age group where a group of intergalactic heroes show up on Earth, announce the arrival of some massive threat, and Superman and the heroes stop the villain. And then those space heroes recognize the greatness of Kal, expanding his universal presence. Even though done in 2 issues, this felt a bit one-and-done-ish. I suppose in the current market, a 2 part self-contained story is 'one and done'. How many books did I read in the 70s and early 80s where this story played out. In the story, Superman is defined as being someone above revenge or murder, something which seems silly to need to spell out but needs to be done these days. And Kirkham's art is energetic and a treat for the eyes.

The overall minuses: Despite being defined as he was, Superman still doesn't necessarily act like Superman. He seems just a bit too quick to pick up a mace or a sword and jump into combat.

As seen last issue, the Pax Galactica has arrived on the moon to form a beachhead to battle Lexus, a universal threat. Of course, they didn't tell anyone who they were or what their intentions are. That catches the attention of Superman. And, as often happens in comic, the good guys think the other is a bad guy and a skirmish erupts. Even that sounds like a Silver Age plot.

There is only a small amount of dialogue before Superman decides to lay the smack down, kicking throats, wielding maces, and trying to bludgeon Lourdes, the Queen and leader of the Pax. It seemed a bit too brutal for Superman, just a bit.

This is basically a 2 page splash, although I cut off the second page showing the size of Lexus.

I will admit I chucked at Superman tells Lourdes that next time she should open with saying that her enemy is 'The Devourer of Life Throughout the Universe'.

And just like that the heroes team up.

Perhaps no panel better encapsulates my torn feelings about this issue than this one.

Lexus fires a direct blast at the members of the Pax and Superman can tell they wouldn't survive. So he throws himself in front of the beam. That is pretty noble and what I would want Superman to do. So that is a positive.

The dialogue box is fine but nothing special. I will say hearing he fought a pan-dimensional army more than once (I assume talking about the Multiplicity seen in Morrison's run) caught my attention. A hint at a future story?

But the dialogue is rough. Would Superman ever comment on a villain's monologue by saying 'blah blah blah'? I don't know. Maybe? It felt off to me.

The blast is magic, sending Superman for something of a loop.

While he is recovering, Lourdes gives a brief origin of Lexus. He is/was her brother. Raised by their king father, Lourdes followed his path becoming a warrior in the Pax. Her brother succumbed to evil, dabbled in the dark arts, and became a scourge in the universe. Without any other choice, Lexus father killed him, throwing Lexus' heart into space.

But his evil was so great, it lived on, and formed the current behemoth of a body.

I am a sucker for that sort of origin - an evil or madness so great it had it's own consciousness.

Armed with that knowledge, Superman knows how he can defeat Lexus.

Here is that page that says Superman is above revenge and murder. Lobdell at least makes the statement that there is no life in Lexus. Without life, there can be no murder.

I don't know. This thing exists, acts, is sentient. It seems to be 'alive' in some sense of the word.

And I don't know if I necessarily like how quickly Superman (literally) picks up the sword and heads to battle. Two instances of Superman using a weapon is two too many.

I did like this panel. Nice construction by Kirkham putting us as the 'first person' in this battle.

I couldn't bring myself to scan the end of the battle where an enraged Superman skewers Lexus' heart with Lourdes' sword. It isn't the sort of image that should be associated with Superman.

But with the heart punctured, the evil held within disperses ending the threat.

Their enemy defeated, the Pax fall to their knees pledging allegiance to Superman. Thankfully, Lobdell has Superman say he is uncomfortable with that and tells them to simply go on their way battling evil as they had. Still, in the Silver Age this story would have ended with Superman shaking Lourdes' hand instead of him floating over their kneeling forms. Even if the words ring true, the image is way off.

Look, it is a silly two part story, done and I am sure quickly forgotten. I don't know if we will ever see the Pax Galactica again. And the action in the most part is over the top. Maybe I am looking for too much here. Maybe I should enjoy this for the cotton candy that it is.

But some of the images seem and dialogue seem off.

Overall grade: B-/C+


Dave Mullen said...

I don't know about the Silver-age, but this was a story that could, and should, have been a tribute to DC Comics Presents - Self contained disposable stories with Superman teaming up with heroes usually to ward of some huge cosmic/supernatural threat. Here it's the Lexus, but you could substitute it for innumerable DCCP foes: Maaldor, Warworld, Blackstaar, the Sun-eater or King Kosmos.

This issue wasn't quite to the same quality as a typical DCCP story, far too frothy and unserious, but the spirit was most certainly there!

Martin Gray said...

Yeah, it was a fun issue. After being reminded by the latest Who's Who in the DCU podcast, I'm wondering if these guys aren't so much an Atomic Knights spin as the Knights of the Galaxy.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

Agreed about DCCP, that is a good analogy.

Mart, do you think we'll ever see these guys again? I wonder if they were one and done themselves.

Adam said...

I understand after reading this issue that Mister Lobdell still cannot write?

Let me answer that rhetorical question. H'el no.