Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: Action Comics #978

Action Comics #978 came out last week and basically could have been named 'the history of Superman'. With the merging of the lives of the New 52 Superman and the pre-Flashpoint Convergence Superman, there is a whole new timeline. And unlike past reboots where either things started from scratch or the reader was left to their own devices to figure out the past, this time DC lays the whole thing out in front of us.

Writer Dan Jurgens started this run through history last issue where Superman asks Kelex to replay his history. We got flashbacks to Krypton and Smallville then. Here, with artist Carlo Barberi, we get the Man of Steel's early life in Metropolis and all the main adventures up to now. It is a bit of a clip show. We don't get much of a new plot moving forward. But this cements that much of the pre-New 52 Superman mythos has survived. As with last issue, it is clear that Geoff Johns' Superman Secret Origin mini is the template.

I have to applaud Jurgens for doing this right. I had a lot of questions about how the lives of the 'Smiths' in Hamilton could be folded into the main timeline where Lois and Clark still work at the Planet. Somehow, Jurgens is able to pull it off.

Barberi has a snappy art style that works well. In particular, the Lois/Clark moments (and there are a lot of them) are fantastic.

On to the book.

The book starts with the famous scene commemorated on the Gary Frank alternate cover. Superman saves the falling Lois, grabbing the plummeting helicopter as well.

We hear the classic like that Superman is someone who wants to help. And we see how Luthor is irate over the appearance of a new savior of the city.

All of this is basically ripped from the pages of Superman Secret Origin.

What I like about this whole thing is Superman seems as confused as we the readers. What is the true timeline. I don't think this Superman remembers leading two lives anymore. He just knows that his own memory is fuzzy, as if something isn't right.

As he voices his concerns to Kelex, Superman hears someone murmuring, someone the Fortress's sensors can't detect.

We see tiny word bubbles of these whispers, written in the standard 'alien font' of the New 52. I don't think this has been deciphered although maybe I'm wrong.

Superman gets the vibe that the message is 'consider the long game'. Frankly, I don't know what that means.

We then get a nice look at the early days of the Daily Planet. We see the boorish Steve Lombard, a young Jimmy Olsen, and Ron Troupe. That means they all pre-date Clark at the paper.

Lombard tries to pull a prank on Clark but Lois steps in. The love and admiration Clark immediately has for Lois is obvious. Look at his expression when Lois says how she hates bullies. But he also calls her his 'own personal hero'. There is an immediate attraction.

We then see a snapshot of all the villains Superman fought since his reveal. That picture includes a classic Silver Banshee (goodbye Siobhan?), Imperiex, Conduit, Mongul, Manchester Black, and a more modern appearing Brainiac. So all those adventures happened. We are talking 'Worlds at War', 'The Death of Clark Kent', and even 'Whatever Happened to Truth Justice and the American Way'.

And then we see a shot if Superman in his exile Gladiator look, his armor from the Krimson Kryptonite story, a Byrne-sian Krypton Man outfit, and even the blue electric look. So that is 30 years of stories suddenly back into play.

I mean, if Exile happened, does that mean the Pocket Universe is back in play?

But life goes on. We see a perfect replay of the proposal and the reveal from back in the Krimson Kryptonite arc from 1990.

I love that there is this throwaway panel where Superman says Lois had to know his secret identity. She's too smart not too know. Awesome.

That leads to a replay of the Death of Superman. We see the fatal fight with Doomsday.

And we see that Reign of the Supermen now has only three people vying for the title. The Eradicator, the Cyborg Superman, and Steel all show up. But where is the Metropolis Kid?? I guess Conner isn't part of the new history. 

But does the reintroduction of the classic Cyborg Superman mean that the 'Zor-El as Cyborg' story has been expunged? Please? A guess a question for Steve Orlando.

After his return, Clark marries Lois. At some point I need to examine this panel closely. Do any of these guests impact the new history? Is that Lucy as maid of honor? Is that Perry's adopted son?

But enough of the replay. Suddenly Jurgens is in virgin territory, showing us how the new history played out. So the birth of Jon doesn't happen on the Convergence world. It happens on Earth.

I am glad we got to see this moment when Lois informs Clark he is going to be a father.

I love love love that last panel. Pure happiness on both Lois and Clark's faces.

Lois' investigation against arms smugglers made life in Metropolis too dangerous. And so we see how the Hamilton life is rolled into the new world.

First, Jon is born in the Fortress. (Did they tell their friends that Lois was doing a home birth?) Under the protection of Batman and with support from Diana, Jon is delivered.

So, it looks like the Clark/Diana relationship has never happened in the new world order. I'm okay with that. I also like that Lois and Diana are close enough friends that Wonder Woman can be there for this special moment.

And wanting Jon to have a life similar to his early days, the couple move to Hamilton. A bullet train can get them into the city quickly (a question I actually asked in a prior review). Clark went to the shadows. Lois became Author X.

Just like that we are caught up to the present.

So the recent history of Lois and Clark and the last couple of years is explained. And I have to say that this was pretty slick.

With the 'recap' over, Jurgens decides to slam his foot down on the gas pedal. Enough looking back. Time to look forward.

Mr. Oz appears, tells Superman he is dealing with 'forces beyond' him. And shatters the ice statue of the Kents. Oz apparently is that little voice murmuring in Superman's ear. And this is basically an attack on the Fortress.

The time has come to mobilize the team. He'll need the whole Superman family to fight Oz.

Love Barberi's young smiling Kara in the background. And it is still weird to see Lex as a member of the team. Maybe too weird.

As if that wasn't enough of a hook, we see that Hank Henshaw is running the new Superman Revenge Squad. Last issue we saw him recruit Blanque and Metallo. This issue he brought back the Eradicator. Nice ending and ominous splash.

It does open up a bit of a can of worms. Was the original Cyborg Superman still Hank Henshaw? If so, how has this one been working for the military and given access to the sunken Argo City? Why is he all human now? Or was that another person as Cyborg Superman? I guess I'll have to wait and see. And if the Eradicator was around way back, does that mean this 'new one' was known to Superman?

I appreciated these last two issue intent on streamlining Superman's new history. I now have a sense of what happened and what didn't happen. I like the way the recent stories were welded into the old timeline. All that said, I wish they just made the Kents still be alive! It was the one thing I hoped would be a radical change.

Lastly, it seems like the Oz arc is starting to boil and this Revenge Squad plot makes me think this book is still on a rising trajectory!

Overall grade: B/B+


John (somewhere in England) said...

I notice that Amazon are now advertising Supergirl - the Silver Age Omnibus volume 2, due in January.

Martin Gray said...

Terrific review as ever. And yeah, as I said elsewhere, I would love to have had Clark surprised by a phone call from the parents he didn't know were alive once more. Maybe reality is settling and it will yet happen? Or they'll be a 'reward' for beating Mr Oz and whomever?

Still, I'm very happy with this comic. Bye bye Superman and Wonder Woman romance!

Anonymous said...

I didn't like this issue very much. I didn't hate it, but the new continuity changes are giving me a headache.

First, I think it's a mistake Superman doesn't remember what their universe has changed. Also, in a convoluted way, this issue has made Convergence completely irrelevant. A pity. I liked to see this Superman joining the fight against the Anti-Monitor. A complete reversal of his behaviour back in "Many Happy Returns" when he turned down that girl he didn't know was his cousin in another reality.

Second, when Geoff Johns wrote the Superman books he reintroduced a lot of Pre-Crisis stuff because he is a Pre-Crisis fanboy. Now Dan Jurgens makes sure to show the 90's Superman stories are still canon. All right. It's fair, even if I don't care very much for the 1985-2004 Superman era.

But what about the stories post-Action Comics 775? The return of Supergirl, Infinite Crisis, the adoption of Chris Kent, the coming of the real Brainiac, New Krypton? How did they play out?

I think it's better to not think too hard about the Pocket Universe and Cyborg Superman.

Anyway... Once again The Death of Superman mega-arc is treated like THE event defined the Nineties Superman. DC loves to go back to the well, doesn't they? Much like a lot of fans seem to think the only thing Supergirl Batgirl/Phoenix have ever done during their decade-spanning heroic careers is getting killed by the Anti-Monitor, getting shot by the Joker and killing herself, a lot of fans seem to think the only thing happened to Post-Crisis Superman was getting killed by Doomsday.

I think that is funny because the reboot was touted as a move would give us a better and more realistic universe and better stories.

Talking about Kara, what her backstory is now? Pre-Flashpoint? Post-Flashpoint? A mix? She obviously knows Lois, so, why Superman didn't introduce her to Jon before? Maybe it's not been very long since she arrived on Earth? Maybe that is what she was referring to when she said her cousin had been gone for so long? Did she become a Red Lantern? And what is with the Cyborg Superman now?

It's all so confusing! Maybe Jurgens thinks it's better not to get into detail since he isn't writing the Supergirl book. Still, I'm miffed that Jurgens skips over Supergirl's coming when Superman goes over his life's most important events.

(Sigh. At the very least, Superman has acknowledged she exists, and she will make an appearance in the upcoming arc)

Third, the Oracle was seen during the flashbacks. It means H'el on Earth and Krypton Returns happened? Why keeping that garbage of a crossover?

Fourth, you already touched on this: NO KENTS! WHY? Pa and Ma being alive was one of the few things I liked from the Post-Crisis Superman reboot!

In conclusion, I don't know yet how the pieces fit together. I think Superman's history is even more convoluted now.

supertorresmo said...

The Kents dying was a major plot point for the Vindictivics recent story (Did I wrote his name right? Anyway, it is the 5th dimension guy who was trying to kill Mxyzptlk).

In this story, the villain was attacking Superman simultaneously at different times, so he was basically changing the timeline. And he was the one responsible for the Kents death. So for this recent story to be valid, the Kents must be dead. I Personally I think it fits well with the mythos, since was a villain actually changing the past. I remember at the time reading it that I thought it was a better explanation for the changes in new 52 Superman than whatever Flash did saving his mother in Flashpoint.

Anonymous said...

"The Kents dying was a major plot point for the Vindictivics recent story (Did I wrote his name right? Anyway, it is the 5th dimension guy who was trying to kill Mxyzptlk)."

Vindictivics sounds like the name of an Asterix secondary character. Heh.

But Grant Morrison's run is no longer the canon origin, and Mxyzptlk never mentioned him during Superman Reborn. Maybe no longer exists.

Nobile said...

I think that the Kents' death is just a silver age aspect they put back in, as Steve Lombard is the bronze age one. This is the most all-inclusive Superman version ever seen, which is exactly what Rebirth aims to.
(But the collar costume sticks out like a sore thumb)

Anj said...

Thanks for the great comments.

I guess I like the Kents alive. But since that was key to both Secret Origin and New 52, that might be too big a break from continuity.

Orlando has said that Kara's history is all of New 52, nothing more. And it all remains. So despite Henshaw having gen Cyborg Superman, Zoe-El has also been the Cyborg.

And yes I know all about Vyndktvyx! I think that is who Oz is!

Ross Nolan said...

I'm very sorry to see the New 52 version of Siobhan be erased if that is what this means. I had issues with the original Supergirl run during that era but I liked Siobhan as a character and I liked her friendship with Kara. Besides Irish characters aren't exactly superabundant in comics to begin with so it is a shame to lose one.