Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: Action Comics #973

Action Comics #973 came out last week and was a great little rest issue after the God-Killer arc that preceded it. Superman took a bit of a back seat in this issue, allowing Lois the chance to truly shine. And this also gave us a much closer look at the mysterious Clark Kent. For someone who has found the Kent mystery fascinating, I liked it. For someone who has been craving a strong Lois presence in the DCU, I loved it.

But as a long time reader, I couldn't help but feel that there was a wonderful Bronze Age patina to the whole issue. Maybe DC shouldn't be aiming their books at people of my age, a nearly elderly age bracket. There is no denying that there is something classic about this. And that is what #Rebirth was supposed to be about, getting back to the classic feel of these characters that have made them lasting.

Writer Dan Jurgens has a great handle on Lois, showing her in all her glory. She's a fierce investigative journalist. She's brave. She's willing to dust her knuckles if she needs to. And it is all in the name of truth, justice, and the American way.

The art is split between Patch Zircher on the Lois/Clark pages and Stephen Segovia on the Superman pages. Both artists put nuances into the pages to really make then visually engaging and complementary to the story. Great stuff!

And while I am a fan of Crisis #7 homages, I think this cover by Gary Frank  is the third in three months! From Doom Patrol to Superman to Action Comics, these are getting to be like ants. 

On to the issue!

Who is this Clark Kent? I really am at a loss. I usually have theories. I am flailing a bit here.

Pages like this really add to the mystery. By putting in mirroring panels of "Clark" and Clark, we see that there must be some thread of Kent-ness in this being. He isn't a true imposter, someone just pretending to be Clark. The mannerisms are too on point (let alone the DNA scan that proved he was 100% human).

Pages like this reinforce what I love about comics. Pictures and words which are more together. Brilliant stuff by Zircher and Jurgens.

The real Superman is called to his Himalayan fortress when the alarms ring.

Inside, we are reminded of all the things we saw here back in the Lois and Clark mini-series. One of those things is Blanque, the sadistic telepath who was barely defeated by this Superman. Given we saw him in L'Call's future vision, my guess is he doesn't stay trapped here for much longer.

But it isn't Blanque shenanigans which tripped the alarm. It's Steel carrying a near dead Lana Superwoman.

Meanwhile, back in Metropolis, Lois is working undercover with the SCU. There is corruption in the city's political machine, with crimes being forgotten and plum contracts being handed out for kickbacks.

Wearing a blond wig and using her feminine wiles, Lois charms the politicians at the bar, planting a bug under the table while flirting with the more sweaty of the swine. I suppose she can deal with his piggish behavior if it means getting the story.

But she is a bit too famous for her own good. She is recognized.

When the cops listening in hear that the jig is up, the get ready to run in and save the day. But Clark has already head in.

This is where the Bronze Age stuff seemed to really flourish ... maybe...

Clark rushes in, slips on a spilled drink, and happens to crash into two of the crooks incapacitating them. It just seems too easy. I can remember the Bronze Age Clark often using his powers in sneaky ways to save the day when he couldn't switch to Superman. And that was often done in a way that seemed clumsy and lucky. But is this intentional? Or truly lucky?

Meanwhile, Lois shows she is no slouch. It might not be klukor but it is effective.

The bad guys are wrapped up and the team splits up. But Lois can't help but be intrigued by this Clark. Just who or what is he?? I wish I knew!!!

She follows him. He heads to Big Belly Burger and eats a mountain of junk food. He seems uneffected by the rain. He heads to 344 Clinton Avenue and walks into the building.

But when Lois follows him in, the doorman says Clark never entered. And he isn't on the security tape. In fact, Clark hasn't been seen for months.

Now that is a lot of information ... or non-information ... to chew on. Could his diet mean that this is some young kid aged into a grown-up Clark?

And what about the lack of footage? Did he super-speed away? Teleport away?

Could it be something as silly as a Mxyzptlk creation? Or better yet ( for my Mr. Oz guess) a Vyndktyvx creation??

Meanwhile at the Fortress, Superman scans Lana. She's dying. Cellular degeneration.

Nothing in this Fortress can help. But maybe somewhere else?

Superman scoops up Lana and takes off. Maybe to the Arctic Fortress? Paradise Island?

Start your guesses.

My favorite scene is in the Daily Planet.

Lois is congratulated for her big expose. Steve Lombard rides around on a hoverboard which mysteriously bursts into flame. Clark isn't in sight but he had been in the room just minutes before. Could this be another Bronze Age riff when Clark would use his powers to embarrass Lombard? But how could Clark do it? He has no powers!

It is as if someone is having all the usual things that happened with/around Clark still happen even though he is powerless.

What's even more awkward is that he has developed romantic feelings for Lois. He is in her office with flowers and asks her out on a date. Of course, that fits in with the 'real Clark'. And Lois decides to accept if only to do some up close investigation.

Clark will line up a dinner of Beef Bourguignon, another Bronze Age homage (with a deeper meaning back then)!

A Lois and "Clark" date! I wish the next issue was in my hand already!!

Meanwhile, the Superman and Steel flight from the Himalayan fortress has been tracked by some group which doesn't seem to trust the Man of Steel. And the head of that group is Hank Henshaw.

After hearing his name in Supergirl #6 and seeing Zor-El 'cured', we are definitely getting a more classic Cyborg Superman back in the DCU. Look at this panel by Segovia. The shading is hinting towards his Cyborg future.

Look, as I said, the whole point of #Rebirth was to bring back the classic essence of these characters. In this issue we have just about as classic a Lois, bumbling Clark, and Henshaw. If any books have been resuscitated by Rebirth, it is the Superman books. Hooray for us fans!

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

That homage cover again? How ironic that in trying to make everyone forget about Supergirl DC ensured that she would not be forgotten.

I don't think Superman is flying back to Kara's Fortress -I call it Kara's Fortress because it's KARA'S damn it! You won't talk to your cousin but you'll use her stuff? That's shameful, Superman! :)-. Post-Flashpoint Superman had no treatment to stop his own cellular degeneration, and Superman should know this. Maybe Paradise Island, but I haven't kept up with the Wonder Woman books. Present universe Amazons would have got anything to heal Lana?

I'm happy to see Lois acting like Lois and Henshaw getting back his Cyborg Superman identity back from Zor-El because Zor should have never been Cyborg Superman to begin with. Maybe now we can put that subplot behind us as an un-crazified Zor-El seeks redemption (in positive ways).

I'm thinking... Maybe "Clark Kent" is an artificial construct with false memories and emotions implanted by Mr. Oz? A lure to kidnap Jonathan? But why would Mr. Oz need him to abduct Jon? He clearly can teleport people away whenever he pleases.

My artificial construct theory would explain why rain doesn't bother him and the disappearance act he pulled off when Lois was following him, but it yet doesn't explain why he doesn't appear to think anything of it.

Lois cooked Beef Bourguignon for Clark during that Bronze Age storyline in which Kara made her cousin believe that they were Earth humans, right? (By the way, I discovered that story thanks to your blog. Thank you! I liked it)

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Beef bourguignon was also some sort of code in the 90s comics. Like Lois telling Clark she was in trouble or Clark telling Lois what he was making for dinner so they would turn up somewhere else. I can't give concrete examples, but it was always a code for "something's not right".

Most clues on "Clark" I've seen so far. The only adult I know that eats kid food is Billy Batson, and we haven't seen Shazam yet in the Rebirth.

Have they addressed age in the books? Wouldn't married Lois and Clark be older? Maybe Lana will be saved by the Purple Ray. Or maybe something Lena created.