#Rebirth as a special is behind us. But the concept of a DCU Rebirth, of a reinvigorating and a return to greatness for the characters, is very much ongoing. And the one of the first places that we could see that on display is in Action Comics.
The Superman Rebirth #1 book set the stage. The new 52 Superman is dead and buried. The pre-Flashpoint Superman (now just 'Superman' in these reviews) is still on this Earth, debating what his next steps are but intent on honoring the S-shield and this world's Superman.
Now in Action Comics #957 we get to see that all play out. From the issue's number to the montage pseudo-movie poster of a cover to the characters and plots on the inside, everything here read true. Everything here felt right. Everything was a rebirth of what a Superman book should be.
Writer Dan Jurgens does a great job giving us plot points and tropes that feel both classic and fresh. There are subplots, and character moments, and a great cliffhanger. There are subtle homages to more classic stories. There is a lot that happens in these 20 pages.
Artist Patch Zircher really brings his A game to the affair as well. I was very impressed with page layouts and panel selection. We get three splash pages, all worthy of big art. We get thin narrow panels in some times of great action making it 'feel' fast and claustrophobic. And the expressions on characters' faces adds so much.
Suffice it to say, I was very happy with this book. And here are the details.
The book opens with a very classic super-hero scene. There is a hostage crisis in Metropolis. The kidnappers haven't made any demands. The Special Crime Unit and the press have surrounded the building to try to talk the situation down. Will a hero come to save the day?
But as a Superman fan, this felt perfect. Maggie Sawyer is there as the head of the SCU. Jimmy 'Mr. Action' Olsen is there, camera in hand, ready to cover the news.
I can't tell you how, right out of the gate, seeing these supporting characters acting like they should, in a situation they should be, made me feel. It was like I was finally reading a Superman book I wanted to. And I hadn't even seen the big red S!
I also love the horizontal flow of the top panel. The line of the gun, Jimmy's arms and camera, the jeep mirror and Maggie's gun all lead the eye. Great stuff.
Inside, we see the lights get killed and someone wearing the classic S-shield go in and throttle the kidnappers. As the a reader, after that opening with Jimmy and Maggie, it would be easy to assume that this was Superman saving the day.
But it isn't.
It is an armored Luthor. In Justice League's Darkseid War, Luthor was told the S-shield was now his symbol.
This was one of those times that I wish comics didn't give 5 page previews. This was a nice feint, having it be Lex and not Superman. But I already knew it.
But this definitely deserved a splash as Lex is going to be a main character here.
As for Clark, Lois, and Jon, they are settling in to a new home upstate from Metropolis. The events of their mini-series have forced them to move.
I loved that series for its traditional take on the characters. Lois was a hard-nosed, brilliant, brave investigative journal. Superman was there to help. And they were teaching all these life lessons to their son.
Here, we see more of that wisdom. Jon wonders why his father doesn't just unpack the family at super-speed. Lois reminds him that super-powers are for emergencies. You need to live an everyday life without cheating.
For me, Clark is a good man who happens to be super. Not a superman. And this living with humanity, not above it, is an important relationship.
The quiet moving day is interrupted by the news coverage of Lex's rescue. And Lex is playing it to the hilt. Luthor talks of knowing Superman, being Superman's friend, and being the obvious replacement to wear the S-shield and be called Superman.
Clark can't take it. It is an affront to him and all he stands for.
After a Byrne-ian heat vision shave (yay!!!), Superman flies off to Metropolis. This is a job for Superman.
Again, this is a big moment, the return of Superman, and so that means it needs big art. Love the perspective there.
It leads to a confrontation above Metropolis.
Superman demands that Lex remove the S-shield. Luthor doesn't believe that this is Superman since everyone knew a Superman has died. It is a tense moment.
I love how we see all the cell phones raised, recording this moment.
An unknown reporter is running out of The Planet and heading to the scene.
Lois and Jon are discussing why Dad would choose this moment to reveal himself.
Maggie learns that a smaller group of the kidnappers actually robbed a huge vault in the building.
I said, a lot is going on here.
And then the fight breaks out.
You might think that Superman acted rashly, getting into a fight that didn't need to happen. But after all this Superman has been through, I can understand why he would be disgusted about his family crest being worn by this despicable human.
The fight sequence is very well done.
But I loved this panel sequence.
First off, Luthor asking what this Superman is - a cyborg, a clone, a magical construct - is clearly a nice riff back to the Reign of the Supermen story.
And that narrow panel of Jon and Lois looking on worried is powerful. That cramped feel adds some suspense.
As for that reporter from the Planet, it turns out to be Clark Kent.
But, because of The Truth, everyone knew Superman was Clark. And Superman is dead. So who can this be?
I usually have theories about these things. But frankly, I'm at a loss.
What I really love about this panel is Jimmy's sort of dismissive and suspicious look. Great art.
But there are layers on top of layers here.
Mr. Oz is around and watching this whole thing unravel. And he is watching everything.
He is seeing Clark and Jimmy, Lois and Clark, and Superman and Lex. And he sees the kidnappers struggling with the coffin they stole. Whatever is inside that coffin wants out.
Is Mr. Oz really Adrian Veidt? I kind of hope he isn't. But then, who is he? A Pa Kent from another universe? A comic avatar of Geoff Johns?
But there wasn't much time for me to think about it. Because the contents of the coffin plummets to the ground, right between Superman and Luthor. And it turns out to be Doomsday.
Now just in the last couple of years we had read a big Doomsday story. He was a plague. He made Superman a monster. Do we really need another Doomsday arc?
At least this is an old school Doomsday.
Given the feeling of Rebirth, of legacy and legend, maybe Jurgens can do something with the character that is fresh and classic. It feels early to be going to Doomsday. But I'll go in with an open mind.
Despite my questions about Doomsday, this was a great issue. As I said, there was so much about this book that I loved. It all felt right. The family scenes, the city scenes, the Luthor and Superman conversation ... it all felt right. Thankfully!!! It all felt right.