Friday, April 22, 2016

Review: Action Comics #51

Action Comics #51 came out this week and proved that you can go home again.

Since The Truth ended, writer Peter Tomasi has been giving us a very classic, very satisfying story. It feels as if it has been years since I have read so many issues in a row and said 'This is my Superman.' Once again, after reading this book, I uttered that phrase. 

But more importantly, after reading this issue I said 'This is my Supergirl!' Kara has been suspiciously and conspicuously absent in the DCU for some time. Since her own book was canceled, she hasn't been seen or heard from at all. Even in JLU, all we heard was that 'she bolted'. Thankfully, Tomasi brings her back in a great way, showcasing a lot of what I like about Kara, folding in some of the plot of her new book, and maybe even riffing on some classic stories.

And best of all, we see the cousins acting like cousins and heroes. They squabble a bit. They care for each other. They are family. I have been waiting for this sort of relationship for some time as well.

To sum up ... hooray!

The art on the book is done by Paul Pelletier with inks by Sandra Hope Archer. There is sort of Neal Adams feel to the look here, more than I have seen in Pelletier recently. The art is big and bold, suited for the story. Supergirl looks wonderful, young and vital.

On to the book.

The book opens with Superman flying into National City, bashing his way into the DEO headquarters there, ripping Supergirl out of some sort of weird device, and flying her away. It seems like a classic rescue.

Supergirl is surprisingly irked by this. She pushes Superman away and says she didn't need rescuing. Nor did she feel obligated to tell Superman of everything she has been doing.

For me, this didn't read as negative at all. In fact it reminded me of Superman #376 where That Kara tells Superman she is grown up a bit, independent, and ready to make her own choices. Same with this Supergirl. She and Kal have never been really close. Why would he expect to hear from her.

I don't mind Supergirl making her own decisions. 

She then gives us some background about what she has been doing. In a great one page spread, we see what has been going on since Supergirl #40. Somehow she was being leeched of power by Vandal Savage, hence her cut finger in her the last issue of her own title. Then the Secret identity reveal happened.

Despite that, she had 'every intention to help'. She still a hero despite being weaker and attacked for wearing the S shield. I absolutely love this. My Supergirl would never give up trying to help!

Now I don't know how Savage could be draining her from afar. He couldn't do that in other books. But it is convenient to tie the end of her title, The Truth, and move forward.

With most of her powers give, Supergirl was approached by Cameron Chase and the DEO. They would help her regain her powers if she agreed to help them every so often. 

National City. Cameron Chase. The DEO. We are starting to veer toward the new book's set-up.  And also sounds like the television series too.

But powers winking on and off after short bursts? That sounds like the old depowered story arc fro Adventure Comics where Supergirl battled the woman gangster Starfire! 

But this isn't just a rescue mission by Superman.

He tells Kara that he is dying. Remember, he has been settling his affairs since learning about his fate. Of course, dealing with family comes first.

I love that last panel by Pelletier, the shock written all over Supergirl's face.

This plot line takes two slight detours as we check in on the subplots Tomasi has started.

First off, the evil scientist from Shanxi province of China is finally named ... Dr. Omen! That is a nice super-villain name.

She had sent the Four Pillars to attack Batman and Superman in that book. And now the purpose is revealed. Dragon was sent to get Superman's blood, a way to get his genetic makeup. Remember, she has some being in a nutrient tank she has been working on. She must be making her own superman.

As for the avatars of Superman that have been showing up, we get to see another.

This time, a low level hood who has violated his parole has been sort of possessed by the personality of Clark Kent. You hear him bickering in his own head. But the Clark persona is in charge, walks into the Planet saying hi to everyone as Clark would, and generally being a swell guy. 

That is, until provoked. When told he isn't Clark, he lashes out, obliterating some staffers with heat vision until being tasered by Lois.

Hmm. A criminal acting like Superman/Clark. The plot thickens. Who is effected by this? People that Superman has brought in? Will we see super villains effected like this?

The rest of the issue is a wonderful interaction between Kal and Kara.

He takes her to the Fortress and shows her around. It felt like him showing her the estate she is going to inherit. It felt like V showing Evie all the Shadow Gallery in V For Vendetta.

But then he gets a bit heavy. He hopes she will consider taking up the mantle of Superman once he is gone. It is a huge responsibility.

Kara is crying! These two have been pretty cold to each other in the New 52. Seeing this emotion made me happy. These two should care for each other. Pelletier brings that emotion out in Kara's face superbly.

Supergirl being prepared to take over for Superman should he die is a major part of her early history. So this felt very classic. And fantastic.

But best of all, I love that this wasn't an edict by Superman. He is asking her, not telling her. She is her own person, with her own life. He can't tell her what to do.

She does wonder if, given the fallout from The Truth, if they should go underground. But he reminds her that they are there to help and inspire. They are the stone that creates the ripples of change. Nice line!

Seems odd that Kara would consider that since we just her heading out nearly powerless to help in the midst of the Truth frenzy. But I suppose it's okay.

And then my favorite moment.

She tells Kal he can count on her. She will take up his mantle and continue to give people hope. She will be his successor.


When was the last time we saw these two have a conversation or interaction like this? I can't recall anything like this in the New 52 stuff. So are we going back to the pre-Flashpoint books? Regardless, thank you to Tomasi for bringing us back to a super-relationship that makes sense.

The book ends with Diana showing up wondering why she is the last to know about his illness.

I have nothing but praise for this issue and this arc so far. Yes, it is built on the concept of Superman dying. But so far, everything around that has been right on the money. No anger. No brooding. No aloof floating. Instead we get a Superman who wants to help, who wants to make sure the world will be safe even when he is gone. A Superman who talks to Lois and Batman and Supergirl about his problems.

This is my Superman.

And we get a Kara who is bent on helping as well. She is a young hero, taking charge of her life, but recognizing her place as symbol. It is a Kara that loves and respects her cousin.

This is my Supergirl too.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

I keep waiting for DC to drop the ball on this storyline, but it just stays good, and will hopefully only get better. Nice review, sir!

I still say there's just one Superman avatar - this is the same guy we met in Superman #50, described therein as a parolee, and in Batman/Superman last week. He's been drawn to Metropolis due to the tacked-on Clark personality.

Anonymous said...

Definately must pick this up along with Batman/Superman #31. BEAUTIFUL scenes with the supercousins just being supercousins.
Haven't seen that in a long time... I'm hopeful that like the proverbial stone Superman talks to Kara about making ripples
that they keep this up. I agree with Martin that they've pulled the rug out from under us before... but the first steps show
they're doing right so far.

As always, thanks Anj!


Anj said...

I thought he was a different guy. I think you are right!

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've picked up a Suoerman title since Doomed. Off to the comic shop!

Anonymous said...

Yeah I got a strong whiff of ye olde "on off" super-powers storyline circa 1970 or so....I hope Supergirl decisively resolves the problem instead of letting the plot thread dangle as was the case in the Bronze Age.
Its too much to ask DC to let Supergirl function even for an issue or two as The Late Superman's Inheritor....I doubt that she'd ever get that much emphasis even for a token period.
Still it would be nice...