Monday, October 16, 2017

Review: Action Comics #989

Action Comics #989 came out last week, the third part of The Oz Effect storyline. While the book is a good issue with wonderful art by Viktor Bogdanovic, it only slightly moved the story forward and the big step is basically the ending splash page.

Writer Dan Jurgens lays it all out again. We know Mr. Oz is Jor-El. We know he is manipulating the Earth so a lot of ill will is churning and a lot of disasters are transpiring. We know that Superman is questioning if Oz is his father. We know that Superman believes in Earth and won't quit his mission. And we know this all over again because those points are repeated here. There are a couple of new wrinkles, especially as I scratch my head over what Jor-El's plans are. But overall this is just representing, and maybe strengthening, the existing plots.

I have liked Bogdanovic's art since his time on New Super-Man and he continues to shine here. There are nice page layouts and solid panels. And there is a nice cover by Brad Anderson and Nick Bradshaw, a nice homage to the classic  All-Star Superman #10.

On to the book.

The book opens with a man named J.B. wearing a suicide bomber vest being led into the Daily Planet by a young girl named Janet.

But Superman isn't aware of this threat to his wife, child, and friends. He is still in the Fortress debating with his 'father' Jor-El.

I just had to include this splash page. Superman looks completely shocked as Kelex reveals what is happening on Earth. And we see what Superman is seeing, glimpses of the horrible events but placed within the words of the title. I like how the gun angles of the guns jibe with the Z. But I also like how the horror is personal (like the abusive man in the O), environmental (like the starving boy in the desert), and the more national (the scenes of war). Just beautiful.

Once more we hear Jor-El disparage humanity as savages. There is something interesting about the phrase 'viscious' never-ending cycle. That word 'never-ending' carries weight in the Superman mythos. It is his never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American Way.

Here Jor-El uses it to make it seem like humanity are irredeemable. That such a mission if folly.

That has to be intentional. He could have said endless.

Meanwhile, J.B. becomes a surrogate for the mistrust both sides of the political aisle have for media these days. He complains that the Daily Planet is spouting 'fake news' to brainwash people. Indeed, he says he needs to destroy the Planet for Oz. Oz has has acolytes doing his bidding.

Lois shows her bravery and her intelligence by talking to this guy, stalling him . She'll print his manifesto. He knows who she is and she can be trusted.

But that fake news is a clear flag. We know what side of the aisle J.B. sits on.

Like this Lois, hoping to contact Clark and get rescued.

And then, interestingly, Steve Lombard also shows he is brave but far less subtly. He rushes J.B and gets shot three times in the chest.

I am going to be honest. Unless an ambulance is outside to take him to a trauma center, Lombard is dead. But I like that he isn't a craven buffoon. He at least tries to save everyone.

With Lois' promises, J.B. lets everyone else go. And Lois is able to use some chicanery to get a message to the Fortress hoping Clark is still there. And yes, the message warns someone who arrives, tossing J.B. out into the air just as the vest bomb explodes.

That is pretty brutal. Powerful image.

But it isn't Superman.

Superman is off trying to stave off some of the disasters he has seen. One of them is the civil war in Logamba, the nation Superman delivered vaccines to last issue. Unfortunately, the ire of both sides still roars. Both sides decide to fire chemical weapons at each other.

What is fascinating about this is that it is such a terrible act to do, killing your own people, that it has Superman wondering if Jor-El's feelings about humanity is right.

It seems early for such a kernel of doubt to sink in. But I guess we complain about decompression so much I should be happy we are moving a bit.

The person who tossed J.B. out the window is Jor-El.

Finally he and Lois meet. This scene plays out so well. You can see that Lois is basically interviewing Jor-El, asking open-ended questions to try and get information out of him. And the questions are the ones I have. How long has Jor-El been on Earth? Why is he acting now? How was he watching? These are the things that add to my doubt he is 'real'.

I also have to wonder about his plots. Do Oz's acolytes just act out their frustration and chaos without getting guidance? Did Oz know this guy was going to the Daily Planet? Was this a scheme? Or was he as surprised everyone that J.B. went there?

I'm confused.

Perhaps it was a scheme because Jor-El changes course once he senses Jon's presence. Jon had been led out with the others but then sneaked back in to try to rescue everyone.

On the roof, Jor-El introduces himself to Jon. And Jon, being the trusting soul, listens intently.

Jon especially seems captivated when he sees an image of himself in the future. There is something very Conner about this costume we see. And for someone so desperate to feel grown up and to become a hero, such an image would be intoxicating.

But we see Janet again, the girl who promised J.B. would be remembered for his deeds. She walks into a place where there is some Kryptonian energy globe. Is she the 'believer in charge'? High priestess? What does this do? Chaos generator? Giant bomb?

I guess I can only hope we learn even more about Oz so I can understand it all. Why capture Doomsday and Tim Drake? Does he have organized believers? Or does he just sow the seeds of chaos?

Lastly, Jor-El tells Jon they need to leave Earth and head to a world where Jon can fit in. He gives Jon an image of some Super-town. Are they Legionnaires? New Genesis kids? Are they from another world? Another Krypton?

Again, you can see how this would be intriguing and enticing to the young Jon. But what is Jor-El's goal here? Is it really just to leave Earth and head to a paradise?

With all the Kirby happening, I wouldn't mind Super-town.

I hope Steve Lombard survives. I hope we learn more of Oz's plans. I hope Superman doesn't succumb to the negative feelings he has.

This felt like a middle chapter. But the story is still hopping.

Overall grade: B+/B


Martin Gray said...

Looks like I found this one more satisfying than your good self!

Did those JB initials have you wondering...? The fact that the woman is Janet heavily implies he's a John, but why would Jurgens be implying Byrne? Am I overthinking?

Good luck Steve!

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I'm sticking to reviews like yours until I can see how the whole story has played out. So far I think it's a bad idea, and I'm not ready for a "Superman's dad is nuts" arc right after a "Supergirl's dad is nuts. Again" arc.

So I'm holding my judgement until it's over.

I notice, though, that Jor didn't bring up the "I killed my brother" bit. And although he talks about his family he doesn't even mention his niece. Jerk.

I'm sorry for going off-topic, Anj, but did you finally got Gotham City Garage? If so, you'll write a review soon? After having read the digital issues I think you'd like Kara's scenes in the second -physical- issue. She's cheerful, brave and selfless, right like Supergirl should be.

(And Harley is utterly nuts. And Barda is badass)

Talking about a certain another statue-inspired series, I think you made the right call on dropping Bombshells. So far Bombshells United seems the same old thing that made you quit the series.

Anonymous said...

To add to my comment...

"Did those JB initials have you wondering...? The fact that the woman is Janet heavily implies he's a John, but why would Jurgens be implying Byrne? Am I overthinking?"

They have me wondering, indeed. Is this some kind of dig at John Byrne?

Mela said...

"Next Issue: The Fight for Superboy's SOUL".

So... another editorial section wants to use him as something other than a pawn/victim of some villain versus the Super books's office?

Oh, wait, another quasi-brainwashed fight with his Dad so we can all ~totally believe it~ when Tomasi keeps insisting he HAS to grow up to be a villain. Why ever would it be something creative and empowering about our 10yo hero?

I'm glad you're reviewing these awful books so that I know when it's safe to want to like this character without fear of watching him be villainized/victimized again.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.
Totally can see J.B. being a dig at Byrne. Fascinating.

And yes, another Jon being used plot. These are getting a bit repetitive.

Thay said...

I think it's a bit strange Jor-El wanting to show Clark what humans are capable of doing each other, Clark grew up on earth and is a hero for a long time he probably already saw the best part of humanity and also the worst part,it's hard to believe he's going to show something Super still has not seen, it is also ironic that he calls people from the earth of savages when he is able to kill his own brother and ignore his niece.