Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: Action Comics #30

Action Comics #30 came out this week and was both and end to the Ghost Soldier storyline and a prelude to the Doomed crossover. As such, it was the first time in Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder's run that has felt rushed. So far the pacing of their issues has been perfect. Here I feel like maybe this story could or should have been spread out over 2 issues. I wonder if the timing of Doomed and the need to get that arc finished before Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr come on board made Pak and company push things through.

One of the things that Pak has been able to do in his issues is not only pace the story but put in the right mix of both big action moments and smaller character moments. And we see them here ... just staccato style ... with almost no buildup or time for the reader to ruminate.

The art is tag-teamed by main artist Aaron Kuder as well as Jed Dougherty and Karl Kerschl. It is unclear how the pages breakdown. Looking at the layouts, my guess is Kuder broke down the whole issue, inked some of his own pages, and then had Dougherty and Kerschl pitch in to finish. Based on prior works, my guess is that Kerschl's pages have the fine-lined ink appearance that felt just a bit like Chris Sprouse. That would mean that Dougherty's pages have a more pencil-y Ordway look to them. The flow of the book is fine because it feels like a Kuder production throughout.

I guess I should say that I very much liked this issue. The quality is still there. This team has resurrected this book. But this Ghost Soldier and Harrow story ended so quickly I hope they return sooner rather than later.

The book opens with Doomsday once again escaping from the Phantom Zone, appearing in the Arctic Circle. But there is a lot to mull over in this brief scene.

For one, there are these yellow electronic radio balloons that make it sound like 'The Tower' is responsible for somehow springing Doomsday from his ethereal prison. This shadow organization must really hate Superman if they are willing to loose a force of destruction like Doomsday onto our world. So that is one mystery.

But even more intriguing is how, despite ripping polar bears apart for no clear reason, Doomsday seems to actively avoid intentionally killing some humans that happen to be doing research in the vicinity. There is clearly thought there. Why avoid killing the people??

In the end, those researchers drown as Doomsday breaks through the ice to escape in the water. But why head there?

There have been many versions of Doomsday over the years from the mindless killer to intelligent to somewhere in between. I am glad that this isn't simply some lumbering imbecile but something more.

But that is just the prologue. We have to catch up with Superman who is hoisting the unconscious Ghost Soldier and streaking to their headquarters.

One thing I have really loved about Kuder's work is his visually prepping my eyes to move from one panel to the other, his page layouts being exceedingly pleasing to the eyes.

Here we see Superman streaking to the other side of the world. And while the red/yellow/blue streak is a constant in the panels, it is the other elements that work so well. The pole of the beach umbrella mirrors the first streak but leads into the next just as the mountain in the second mirrors that angle and leads into the third. Just very visually appealing.

But looking at those streaks and seeing the sonic boom sound effects I couldn't help but think of Rainbow Dash's patented Sonic Rainboom.

I wonder if Pak or Kuder consider themselves Bronies?

Arriving at Tower Control in the Alps, Superman escapes the missile attack we saw on the cover and breaks into the stronghold. He freezes a bunch of other ghost soldiers, people apparently dead since Supes can't hear a heartbeat in them.

He does hear one pulse though, that of Harrow, the commander of the Tower.

She is in an interesting character, alive but spectral. And she opens up with a snide sort of jab at Superman, wondering why he was dismantling their base when he usually makes friends.

So now we know a bit more about the Tower. At least it isn't a part of the American military. It seems to exist on its own, a purely individual organization. Hurrah for that!

And Harrow has a modern outlook on Superman. She thinks he is small because he cannot make the 'tough decisions', and by that she means eliminating threats. He shouldn't try to redeem evil-doers when he could kill them. When fighting for humanity, sometimes your hands have to get dirty and Superman is 'weak' because he won't make that step.

Of course, for most Superman it is his inspiration, his willingness to take the high road that is the appeal. But in this current world of comics that seems antiquated. So we get evil Superman. Because it is easier to destroy. I think Pak understands Superman. I think he will keep him the inspiring figure.

Harrow thinks that Superman needs to be eliminated. And then she shows her true power ... raising the dead in ghostly form. She raises an army of soldiers to attack Superman. The ghosts don't seem to happy about it but it seems like they need to obey her.

We see that Pak isn't going to let Superman's resolve or ethics be effected by Harrow's words. He keeps discussing about the right way to help people and the pain she is causing the ghosts.

I like how her face gets a sort of Silver Banshee overlay when she uses her powers. She also doesn't seem to like using those powers all that much. Hmmm ... there is a bit more of Banshee here than I first noticed. The green energy flames work nice too. Nice design.

And the combatants gives Kuder and the others a chance to stretch their artistic legs as we see soldiers of all eras - centurions, infantry, even armored elephants. It is wild sequence.

Superman allows himself to be attacked by the ghost soldiers but then shows them he isn't there enemy ... Harrow is. She is the one who has ripped them from their graves and is forcing them to fight.

And they recognize that and stop fighting. They turn their weapons on her.

If  the purpose of this story is to remind the reader that Superman's way is the right way and Harrow's way isn't, this moment matters. Superman is able to turn these specters, show them who is the real enemy.

Small but inspiring.

This is no knock on Dougherty or Kerschl but I would have loved to see this whole issue done by Kuder.

If Superman isn't going change, neither is Harrow. Superman could have killed her, scattered her ghostly form to the wind. But he didn't ... instead he wants to team up, use their powers together to protect the world the right way.

Rather than being in awe of Superman or walking into the light with him, Harrow denigrates him for this. In her mind, his sparing her is just another example that he is weak and ineffectual. To her it is wrong to pull your punch.

I like this character and this group. I would love to learn about her backstory, what her motivations are, and how she got her powers. These guys represent a serious threat to Superman. And she is an interesting foil for him, a 'good guy' who crosses the line and questions his methods.

In the meantime, Doomsday has become some sort of giant sea urchin looking thing. Again, I think this is a different sort of Doomsday.

But in the end, I would have loved to see this chapter be two issues, seeing more of Harrow, having more dialogue between her and Superman, and having something of a longer fight between Superman and time's warriors. In this day of decompression, I rarely complain about a story moving too fast.

That isn't taking away from this issue. It is another very good look at Superman from a great new team.

Let's hope that Doomed doesn't derail the momentum here. And I hope it doesn't push Lana out of the spotlight moving forward.

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

Another very good issue indeed, though I was really hoping to see Pak and Kuder tackle Clark in Metropolis by now. Still, Harrow was loads more interesting than I was expecting. Did I read it correctly, Ghost Soldier Sawyer is dead too (the reference to him staying on 'this plane')?

And has this issue come out prior to the Superman/Wonder Woman sequence it references? We've only just had the explosion over there, yes?

I have to say, over the last few months Action Comics has been my first read of the week's comics, but it's taken me days to get to it this week; I opened the issue on Wednesday, saw Doomsday and just couldn't be bothered. It's the H'el Effect. I am so sick of Doomsday and Zod over the last few years, always popping up in different versions and then it's bashity bash bash. I cannot wait until this sequence is over.

Anonymous said...

Eh The Tower seem a bit cliche in all honesty as antagonists by the sounds of your review. Couple that with the cramming in of the Doomed tie in and the sudden jump of this storyline taking place after Forever Evil and the pacing has killed the end of this storyline. Pak does write Superman well though, he just needs to give him better villains and more fleshed out stories. Then we'll have a real top notch Superman book on our hands. Nice review though Anj.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

Mart I think the Ghost Soldier Sawyer is dead given that comment. And it must be after the next SM/WW given the Tower attack on Diana mentioned here but seen.

Anon, I agree that cramming Doomed in breaks up the natural pace of this book. It is worrisome.

At least on Twitter, Pak said Lana isn't going anywhere.