Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: Action Comics #961

Action Comics #961 came out this week and continued the Doomsday storyline. Once more the issue is packed with a huge brawl as the villain and heroes demolish the countryside. It is big and loud and somewhat glorious in its action sequences, reminiscent of the original Doomsday where page after page was bonecrushing punches and devastating attacks.

But there is only so much action I can read before punches become repetitive and kicks become tedious. I need story behind the action and luckily, mercifully, we see some progress with some of the plots that have been simmering since Doomsday first tromped onto the scene.

Writer Dan Jurgens has been making Action Comics live up to its name. But frankly, I think Doomsday is a bit overused. And there needs to be something behind the monster for me to get completely engaged. I am hoping the end is near.

Stephen Segovia and Art Thibert step in on art for the issue. Their style is more on the Kirkham spectrum than the Patch Zircher side of things. In fact, in places it felt almost like Leinil Yu.

But the biggest thing for me about the issue was the ending, as it marked some progress in this 12 round fight.

One thing I have been trying to deal with is the 'Lex as Superman' arc. Perhaps the best thing is that Jurgens continues to show us glimpses into Alex's soul. He isn't a hero. He definitely seems to be selfish, occasionally deluded.

Nothing said that more this issue than these panels. Instead of being happy that Superman and Wonder Woman took the fight away from Metropolis, Lex instead thinks this love means they abandoned the city.

That's crazy. And a little self centered. It shows just who Lex is.

Now initially I thought that Mr. Oz was the villain behind everything that is happening. But more and more it seems like he is merely observing. He isn't moving these game pieces; he is merely noting them. Makes me wonder about who he is. Maybe I have another theory.

And then we get a classic comic book trope. Lex examines the craft Doomsday fell from and notes that, despite having worked with every metal on Earth, that this one is different.

So where did Doomsday come from.

But then we get a lot of battle on the outskirts of town. Doomsday pounding Diana. Doomsday pounding Superman. Superman pounding Doomsday. It is a lot of back and forth. Wonderfully rendered. But just a brawl.

It is only when Superman is truly in danger that we see something new. Jon lashes out with his heat vision and does some damage. It reminded me of Jon's big moment in the Superman book.

Temporarily free, the Man of Steel says goodbye to his wife and family. Their safety is his primary goal. I have liked these tender moments again showing why Lois and Clark work so well as. Couple.

Superman convinces Diana to take his family off world to the JLA satellite while he tussles with Doomsday more.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Oz decides that the time is right for him to get involved. Doomsday needs to be taken off the board. 

Suddenly a henchman arrives and Oz gives some orders.

So this was both progress and a bit of a letdown.

The mysterious Mr. Oz seemed like a zen-master, almost mystical. It seemed like he was operating from limbo. He was so enigmatic he seemed like something bigger than the usual villain. Now I know these are my perceptions. But the way he talked, and how he acted, he seemed like someone outside of or bigger than reality.

But then he goes and has a henchman. Something rather tawdry, ordinary. He goes from being a philosophical force to being akin to the head of Intergang. The appearance of this flunky somehow minimized Oz.

But then the henchmen squad go out and save Superman! Using force beams, they corral Doomsday.

Hmmm... this kind of looks familiar.

That can't be by accident. It certainly looks like Jurgens is riffing the original story. 

And so now I need to rethink my guess about Mr. Oz. you may recall I recently thoug he might be Jon Osterman. But now, having henchmen, talking like he did, I'm wondering if he is something more mundane. Maybe he's another survivor of the pre-Flashpoint universe? Someone from Cadmus? Hopefully not that version of Luthor. That'd be too trite.

I'll continue to hope it's Osterman. 

And at least the appearance of these flying men trying to capture Doomsday is a new wrinkle to the plot, moving things along. Maybe this Mr. Oz thing will wrap,up sooner than I expected.

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

Good point on Mr Oz's prior mysterious neutrality being lost in this issue through his direct action and henchmen being a pretty lame switch. It makes Oz less enigmatic and will undermine the reveal of who he is at the end of the day, assuming Oz really is some version of Ozymandias. The action paragraph is on point too, I like a good brawl as much as any battle boards poster but a simple punch up throughout the story can kill the pacing of a story. It's all well and good for Superman to fight an antagonist but the fight is livened by trading barbs and views as well as punches and energy blasts. I fear Jurgens' tendency towards telling decompressed stories might have dragged the Path of Doom arc out for longer than necessary. It's still fun and enjoyable but isn't as well rounded as Tomasi's first post Rebirth Superman arc.


Martin Gray said...

Great spot on the flying henchmen callback, I missed that. Even though there's a lot of fighting, I am loving this, and I thought the art was excellent. It's such a thrill ride.

You never mentioned the Gary Frank alternated cover, which is one of the most stunning images in years - in case you haven't seen it, I'll repost it on Twitter.