Action Comics #959 came out last week, continuing the Rebirth arc pitting Superman and Lex Luthor against Doomsday. This issue is mostly a large action sequence with Doomsday and the Supers throwing down in Metropolis. But writer Dan Jurgens realizes this is a sort of new start for this set of characters. There are mysteries to unravel. There are emotional points that need to be struck. It is overall gripping.
Jurgens is a veteran on the super-books and he really seems to capture the voices of almost all these characters. I like Lois' internal monologue as she watches her husband again battle the creature who killed him. I also like how she manages to push her fears down so that Jon doesn't see her worry. I like Luthor's standard pomposity although there is a moment of humanity. I like Clark Kent's insistence that he is who he says he is. In fact, of all the characters in the book, Superman is the one who comes off a bit odd and I find that surprising.
Tyler Kirkham is on board as artist (he and Patrick Zircher are splitting up the pencilling duties here). Kirkham brings a bit of style and flair to the proceedings here. His Doomsday looks particularly monstrous, enormous and laden with spikes. I love Kirkham's expressive work too.
Overall, having read many stories where Doomsday and Superman punch each other for pages, I found myself getting a little bit bored with the throwdown and much more interested with the character interaction. Still, these new Superman books have hit the ground running. I am impressed.
The issue starts with Luthor and Superman battling Doomsday in the streets of Metropolis. And Lois can only think back to the first time they fought. In a very nice two page layout, we see snippets of that famous storyline amid the locks of Lois' hair. The result is a nice Z shaped read, leading the reader's eye back and forth.
Kirkham does a very good job conveying just how horrible it was for Lois to watch her husband die before her eyes. Every panel is a tear-soaked reminder of that fight.
I thought this opening montage let us know just what this Lois is feeling.
But she has Jon to think of.
Throughout the book we see how Lois is try to explain to Jon what happened in that first battle. She hides her feelings to spare him worry. And she even says that praying might help.
I thought this was a great side sequence to the book. It shows Lois' internal strength. It shows just how great a mother she is. And it leans on the history of this Superman.
We see in this battle that Mr. Oz continues to watch everyone. The figure thinks that Superman should know that he can't simply outpunch Doomsday.
Meanwhile, Superman praises Lex for having the idea to get Doomsday away from the people so that the citizens can escape. This is one of those bits of the plot that seems off to me. This is a well-seasoned Superman. He should know that getting a threat like Doomsday away from people is the right thing to do.
And then, in another weird turn for Superman, he decides the best way to separate Doomsday from people is to go underground in the sewers. I don't know if that really makes sense. Having fought Doomsday before where city blocks fell, surely he must realize he could collapse the city with this strategy.
Amazingly, Clark Kent won't leave. We see Clark break his arm. But as a dedicated reporter, he won't leave this story.
But then Clark drops something of a plot bomb. He says that he was replaced by Superman months ago, at Superman's insistence. Hmmm ...
Just who is this Clark?? And why would he say that? Could there be some split of the personalities like in DCCP #50?
Another thing that I like about this issue is that it shows how Lex has been sort of embraced as a true hero by the people of Metropolis and the general public. When Lex organizes the buses which takes the people in the fight's vicinity away, they thank 'Mr. Luthor' for all he has done.
We even see Lex be a little afraid when his armor is nearly destroyed. Luckily his Mother Box begins some repair.
Here we see Jon and Lois again watching the battle as it unfolds on the news. Lois seems almost bemused that Jon seems to like 'Super-Lex'. This is a different Lex, being from a different universe.
But is he different?
Under the city, Superman realizes that he needs to keep his distance from Doomsday if he is going to win. After all, fisticuffs don't work.
Instead, Clark pours on the heat vision. And this Doomsday, a thinking Doomsday, smashes the gas line, leading to an entire city block crumbling to dust. Yep, taking the fight under the city just wasn't a good idea.
Again, as a veteran, he should have known this could happen. One of my biggest complaints with Man Of Steel was that a hero should know better. This Superman should know better. Use your superbreath and blow him out of town. Fly at super-speed and carry him to the bay.
Of course there is a massive explosion. The city block is leveled. And Doomsday walks out of the smoke. It is very Dragon Ball Z.
But I liked this set of panels showing the reaction of everyone else. Lex looks scared. Lois and Jon are worried. Mr. Oz is mysterious. And there is Clark ...
As I said before, for me the strongest parts of this issue for me were the character moments and the added mystery elements. I thought all of those things were strong hooks for me as a reader. The action is certainly big and bold. But I felt like I was watching a bit of a repeat throughout the punches and blows.
I am glad that the Doomsday element sounds like it is brief one. And I hope we learn more about Oz soon. If he is going to enigmatically show up every month, I need something more to mull over.