Friday, July 29, 2016

Review: Action Comics 960

Action Comics #960 came out this week, the next chapter in the Doomsday story arc in this new Rebirth DC Universe. Writer Dan Jurgens continues to shine in this new world, bringing a great mix of action and plot progression, and character moments. It is hard to say just how happy I am to have Superman books on the shelves that I enjoy reading! The last couple of years I have struggled to find moments I enjoyed in the super-books while feeling that the overall arc isn't working. Now I get the best of all worlds.

Tyler Kirkham is on art again this issue and brings a wild energy to the piece. His panels all seem to be hand drawn to give a frenetic feel to the action. The action is well choreographed and there is a physical feel to it. His women all are doe-eyed, like Shuster's Lois, but there isn't anything pandering. How amazing that this book has such great artists - Kirkham and Patrick Zircher.

But the big thing about this issue is that it sparked a new theory in my brain about who Mr. Oz. is. I wish I could say why the idea came into my head. But there it was. And I think I may be right.

On to the book.

Last issue ended with Superman fighting Doomsday in the sewers and accidentally setting off a gas line explosion and sinking a city block. Now Superman is buried and Doomsday is again on the streets.

The opening scene shows  Mr. Oz again observing everything. He talks of the wild card, the human Clark Kent.

But most importantly for me, he talks about the uncertainty of this situation. He has set these events in motion but he is surprised by how it is unfolding. He isn't omniscient. But he clearly has some ability to pluck Doomsday from the pre-Flashpoint universe as well as add in Kent. So who the heck is he?

Who indeed.

Obviously Superman has to emerge from the rubble. He borrows a tactic from Flash, starting a blitzkrieg of superspeed punches. I like how he counts out the punches. He is like a human piledriver here.

Slowly we are learning more about this Clark as well. He doesn't act exactly like all the other Clark's we know. Last issue, he stood up to Luthor, exclaiming that he wasn't Superman. Here, in the midst of the chaos, he asks Diana for a quote.

Dogged reporter? Or obnoxious shock journalist? Who is this guy?

Again, nice rough panels give a sense of instability. If there is a battle this huge, it has to feel unstable.

 Okay, I include this panel because I love when buses are used as artillery. I have been saying that forever!

As I said, Kirkham really shines in these action sequences. This is a palpable crush.

The attack works, dumping Doomsday underground. Superman realizes he needs to get the fight out of the city (not under it). It's about time!!!!

But Doomsday doesn't resurface. He seems to have run. And that makes no sense.

With a brief pause in the fight, Superman explains who Doomsday is to Diana and Lex. He retells Doomsday's origin. It is hard to believe that Superman/Doomsday:Hunter/Prey was on the shelves 22 years ago.  You know what that means ... I'm old! I guess we needed a retelling.

I talk about character moments in this issue. We learn a lot about Lex when he sounds impressed with the experiments that created Doomsday. He calls the innumerable slaughter of a baby a 'wondrous achievement'. That's all you need to know about Luthor. That's why he shouldn't be wearing that S-shield.

But lastly, I am still confused about this New 52 universe. Didn't Doomsday exist in the New 52 DCU? Wasn't he just here as a virus cloud? I thought we had heard that the New 52 had fought Doomsday in the past.

So what is the history? Or do I just say 'rebirth' and move on?

 It becomes clear that Doomsday has left the scene. Initially Superman is perplexed by why Doomsday would retreat until he remembers that Doomsday can sense and then hunt Kryptonians. Maybe Doomsday is going after Jon.

So that is a nice wrinkle for the story. It gets Doomsday out of Metropolis. It adds a level of suspense, putting a family in peril. It acknowledges the importance of Lois and Jon in the storyline. I love the look of fear on Superman.

All that said, Superman has already noticed that this Doomsday uses strategy. So Kal shouldn't be surprised if this Doomsday doesn't act like the old one.

Wonder Woman and Superman fly off to check on Lois and Jon. They leave Lex, 'the hero of the city', to mop up.

This might be my favorite moment of the book. Diana meets the pre-Flashpoint Lois. Lois recognizes that it might feel strange or sad to see Superman and Lois together when Diana was just involved with her Clark.

Diana simply says it feels true.

That is powerful. In three words, Jurgens says what many of us have felt. That Clark/Lois just feels right in a way that Clark/Diana never did.


And then, another incredible character moment. Lois lets Superman know just how hard it was to watch him fight Doomsday again. But she then says she knows that he must fight Doomsday. She gets it. He is Superman. He has to fight to protect the innocent.

She hugs him, enjoying the moment. And they declare their love. All while Mr. Oz looks on.

I have loved this relationship back when it was in the current DCU. I loved it in Convergence. And I love it here. They know the sort of crusader the other is. You change that, you change the person you fell in love with.

Of course this tender moment can't last forever. Doomsday shows up for round 2.

So overall, I liked this issue very much. Much like last issue, it had it all - action, plot progression, and character moments. I love this last scene with Diana, Lois, and Superman. That was near perfect. Nothing but love for this series since Rebirth.

But what about Mr. Oz?

Well, I think Mr. Oz is Jon Osterman, the human who became Dr. Manhattan.

What if, somewhere along the way, in his omnipotence, Manhattan stripped the human portion of himself away and split in two. Maybe that is why the Dr. Manhattan persona darkened the DCU, he lacked humanity. Or maybe it was afterwards that the split happened and the Osterman persona decided to try to fix things. Maybe it is the power of Manhattan in the giant safe/prison cell we saw so long ago in Oz's bunker.And since he is human, or the human aspect of a god-like being, he can be surprised by how things are proceeding.

We know Manhattan is being 'blamed' for the New 52. So he has to have a big presence. So maybe Oz isn't Ozymandias.

Maybe Oz is short for Osterman.

At the very least, this theory is better than my last one - that Oz was Geoff Johns.

So another great issue! Hurray DC! Thanks Dan Jurgens! Thanks Tyler Kirkham!

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Clever theory! And the name bit isn't a million miles from my joke about OZcar Asherman after you said you had a theory... Clever stuff, Anj, nice one!

And yes indeed, how wonderful that we're getting good issue after good issue, with some nuggets of great.

At this rate I wonder if we'll get a nice Christmas story....

(Hmm, will Bleeding Cool get hold of this and give you a namedrop? I say tweet Rich Johnston with an 'I got a theory' line!)

Anonymous said...

After the last few years of Superman books I'm hesitant to let myself get wrapped up in these stories because I always end up disappointed, but this feels so different that I'm getting involved in spite of myself. Good show everyone! You're winning me back.

As for Clark/Diana, I never felt the relationship partly because I never understood why they were together other than they were young, attractive, and hot for each other. DC never developed it naturally, it happened because the writers said so. DC never sold it, so I never bought it.

It's nice to look forward to Superman books again.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

In one of the Rebirth books, Dr. Oz makes mention to the likes of "If I ever let him get out of that room...", so you might be right about being split in two. I've been telling people to not assume Oz is Ozymandius as even Geoff Johns wouldn't be that stupid and, well, who knows. Wish I could remember the name of the comic.

TITANS#1 came out this week and you should flip through it for the Wally West being erased from time situation.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments. As you all say, this is a great book right now.
Wayne, the giant safe was way back in a Jihns/Romita issue with Ulyssses.

And anon, that was my take on the SMWW relationship. It never felt natural!