Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: Action Comics #49

We are a month away from The Truth ending. It frankly can't come fast enough.

Action Comics #49 came out this week, and much like last week's Superman, feels like huge plot turns are happening. Things are being said and being done to get us to an ending. But these story contrivances and twists make me question so much of what came before. This reads like a sprint to the end. And plot holes are being hurdled or avoided.

Unfortunately, next month brings the Pak/Kuder time with Superman to an end. And that I will lament. When I think of this run, I'll think of their first issue which reintroduced us to Lana. A book where Superman learned the limits of his power. I'll think of Subterranea and I'll think of haunted Smallville. Because when left alone, Pak and Kuder brought it. Heck, even their chapters of Doomsday and TThe Truth had some merit.

Instead this run will end with a whimper not a bang as Pak brings us to this conclusion.

Remember Hordr_Root and his information city? Wrath trying to take over Metropolis with rage? Superman's time in a wrestling group? Hordr_Root captured for a page or two. Smallville turned upside-down? The President being swayed by Angle Man? A Nazi gunship under the ice? A portable sun? Almost none of these plots seem to matter to this ending. We weren't building up to anything. We weren't building on things. It all seems random and meaningless now. Hardly the 'changing' arc this was portrayed as.

Kuder isn't even on art this issue. Adrian Syaf brings a straight forward art style to the proceedings.

The book starts with a gangly kid in North Dakota being picked on by bullies. The Black Mass bombs of Wrath's explode overhead. The child mutates into something monstrous in size and bulk. He is a son of Vandal Savage, the effects of the bomb prove it. And so we have a new character in the mix.

If you reread the original Wrath story, you see the Metropolis mayor and police filled with ire and trying to convince the city to turn on Superman. That was when wrath dealt with wrath. Later, we learn that Wrath is trying to have the black ink make people not be wrathful, which sounds weird especially when you just had an arc making people feel wrath. You even had a temple to wrath built.

Now we have learned that the black Wrath is to find Savage's kids. That makes no sense. Even if it made sense, it makes no sense to unleash it in Metropolis as it had been earlier.

And this gathering of his kin that Savage is doing now. We haven't heard why now and not a millenia before. We haven't heard why about much of anything ...

Last issue of Superman, we heard Clark suddenly tell us that his cells were mutated not to absorb energy and he needed Kryptonite to kill those cells like chemotherapy. That came out of left field. We didn't know how Clark learned that about his cells.

Now he is charged up with Kryptonite energy. He yells at the Puzzlr that it was Savage who mutated his cells.

When did he learn that? Is he figuring that Hordr_Root was working with Savage?

This is a big plot point. And we don't know how we got here.

The Puzzler takes off and Clark has to assess his condition.

The mutated cells are being effected by the Kryptonite. But they are fighting it by absorbing the K-energy. I guess I have to just accept that as the way Kryptonian immune systems work.

So while he is powered by Kryptonite, the absorbed Kryptonite energy is killing him.

Still, Superman can fly again, is invulnerable again, albeit fueled by poison. And he seems giddy about the whole thing. He is smiling and wallowing in the power. While I can understand him being happy to have some power back, it is in the context of his friends being held captive by Savage. You think he might stay on task.

He meets up with Diana to try to form a plan of attack. She can tell he is dying from the Kryptonite but he knows he had to sacrifice himself to save everyone else.

I did like this dialogue, a nice exchange between ex-lovers. He says that she is so inspiring that anyone would try to be more of a hero around her. This is my favorite panel of the book.

It also turns out that the Kryptonite energy effects Superman differently than yellow sun energy. He has new powers such as seeing energy waves.

He is happy this occurs because he can see what Savage is doing. It's not like Savage has a truly massive satellite city in the sky. Good thing we have this new power to help.

Syaf really makes Superman seem manic with this power, another thing that struck me as odd.

Before Superman can fly to the Savage's satellite, he is attacked by Savage's son from the opening scene. Despite being dressed up like a barbarian (the child's favorite book character), he really is just a kid.

We get several pages of the two smashing into each other.

If only those pages could have been used to explain some of my questions about the current plot.

Meanwhile Wonder Woman couldn't get on the satellite before it teleported away.

Before leaving, he shot Jupiter with energy, increasing the planet's mass. This is a new plot point.

Is this to make Jupiter a second sun? Attract the comet that gave Savage his powers by making a gravity well? I guess we'll find out.

The huge satellite teleported from orbit into lower orbit. It is sucking the Fortress of Solitude up.

I don't know.

I know my tone has been snarky here. But I feel like this story rushing to any conclusion is worse than giving me a later but decent conclusion. So much information is dropped in one liners in the last two issues, important plot points suddenly revealed. We have fight scenes that are meaningless, robbing space to give me more exposition or explanation. The earliest stories are sort of invalidated by what Savage is trying to accomplish here. And all that is wrapped up in the angry, punch first, powerless Superman who is beating up shackled prisoners, avoiding his friends, and generally acting unlike the Superman I know.

I am sad to see Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder go. Because I bet they had great Superman stories they wanted to tell.

Overall grade: C/C-


Martin Gray said...

It's a rotten shame, Pak and Kuder were on their way to a classic run, so of course, Editorial derails it for the sake of a stunt that was, predictably, stunted. (And did we ever get to see what Gene Yang wanted to do with Superman, he didn't have so much as a single story that wasn't full of Truth?)

I'd love to see the lads reunite for a frantic novel or special telling us the best Superman story they never got to tell - because there had to be one. And maybe a Lana/John Henry spin-off, Steel and the Electro-Cutie, or whatever...

Jay said...

It pretty much just leaves you wondering what could have been. I mean, getting his powers back was always supposed to be the mega resolution of this story, and now that its happened its just, meh. Because of all the reasons you explained here. But that's what happens when editorial changes their minds on pitches they okayed and makes the creators change things up halfway through.

But even with all that said Pak still is able to churn out a decent read. A testament, to me, on his skill with Superman. Losing him for Rebirth is a big blow. And losing Kuder too is probably a bigger blow than that. They better freaking have some sort of A+ team in mind for Action.

As for Pak, I'd like to see him on the Trinity book in late 2016. He writes a great Superman, what we've seen of his Diana is very positive, and he's okay with Batman. Not great, but pretty good. He's one of the few writers whom I'd have confidence would give equal representation to all three characters and not cater to Batman.

Martin Gray said...

By the way, Kuder isn't entirely art-absent this time, he did layouts.