Monday, May 7, 2018

Review: Action Comics Special #1

Action Comics Special #1 came out this week, the epilogue to Dan Jurgens run on the character which has spanned two decades. It seems fitting to me that Jurgens end it with a Superman vs. Luthor fight, pitting the arch-enemies against each other one last time. It also seems fitting to me that this reminded me of another landmark Action Comics issue which came out during a prior Jurgens run (albeit written by Roger Stern), a sort of look back as we turn to the future.

Perhaps most important, it closes the door on the 'Luthor is kind of a hero these days' plot which has been around for most of Rebirth. I don't mind my villains being villains and seeing Lex wearing an S-shield and trying to chum around Superman didn't always sit well. Lex should loathe the shield; he should hate Superman. With Brian Michael Bendis coming on board and a new era of Superman coming up, it seems like a fine time to regress to the classic version of these characters.

Jurgens does this in a most interesting way giving us a surprise villain for the Luthor/Superman pairing to fight together, acting as comrades in arms for one last time. Nice wrinkle and decent story. I wonder if Jurgens was given enough lead time to know this was his final story.

And Will Conrad provides his usual detailed, fine lined approach to the art which gives this story a sense of preciseness. It looks beautiful.

This is a special so there are extra pages. Surprisingly, the best extra story is one by Max Landis. I almost feel ashamed to write that last sentence. Turns out that story is a reprint from a recent holiday special, which makes sense given the content.

On the book.

First off, I don't think I am off kilter but the cover reminded me of the Henry Cavill promo shot from Man of Steel when he is tossed into a bank safe door. Not exactly symmetric but it has to be an homage, no?

The story starts with an unseen armored villain breaking into the Fortress.

Using tech, it fools the computer that they are Superman. Accessing the crystal tech, quickly the villain learns that Superman is Clark Kent. Looking into the Kent home, he sees Lois and Jon. It is never good when your secret identity has been compromised.

I did like the 'mimic-gram' tech idea, building a hardlight copy of Superman's hand. Nifty.

But who is this guy wearing a battle suit?

Lois has boarded a flight for work leaving Superman to come home with pizza for a night alone with Jon. But that quickly changes. Jon gets a phone message saying his mother, 'Mrs. Superman', has boarded her flight.

Realizing the family is compromised, Superman takes off to save rescue. Before he goes, he tells Jon to head to Kara's house. She will be able to protect him.

I love that Kara is Superman's go to for family matters and that he trusts Supergirl with his son's welfare. It shows how far this family has come.

Sure enough, a missile streaks to Lois airplane. It is of mixed technology, both human and Kryptonian.

Superman is able to thwart the attack, even though he feels somewhat weakened from it.

On the ground, he tells Lois that a missile attack implies this was a human attack, not a super-human attack. Immediately he think Lex is behind the attack.

It is so interesting to see this. It is true that in their last encounter, Lex tossed the S-shield aside, claiming Superman has never warmed up to the new Lex. And I have to say, Lex might have a point. While his past is unsavory, Lex had seemed to turn a new leaf. He was acting like a hero. Despite that, Superman never did seem to trust him.

Jumping to Lex as the enemy shows that even now, Superman has never trusted Luthor. How interesting that it shows that Superman has a blind spot in his inspirational thoughts when it comes to Lex.

Now you might say that Superman does have a reason to worry now given the blowup of their strained relationship recently.

Here Lex is completely back to his narcissistic best. He demands his underlings make a 300 million dollar profit in one day or be fired. When Superman arrives to confront Lex, especially about the LexCorp tech in the missile, Lex dismisses Superman as a fool.

That second panel, where Lex gives Superman a moment to savor the fact that Kal knows something Lex doesn't it brilliant. The sneer Conrad gives him is perfect.

This is my Lex. I'm kind of glad he's back.

The armored being decides to again attack Lois, this time sending her elevator up and out of the building shaft like Wonka's Great Glass Elevator.

It appears to be Lex in a suit. He then drops Lois, letting her presumably fall to her death.

Okay ... now I have to question stuff here. If the plan is to kill Lois, why not just kill her. You have a tricked out battle armor dripping with weapons. Why rig the elevator to only drop her? Why not just bomb the building?

If you want to kill Lois, why tip off Jon? Why not just missile the plane?

Whoever this villain is, they aren't very smart.

Now I will admit, at first I thought it was going to turn out to be Lena.

After all, when last we saw Lena, she was a head in a jar attached to a battlesuit.

But the words of this person aren't the words of Lena. This is classic Lex, complaining about how humanity was being held back by the alien Superman.

Meanwhile, the 'real' Lex arrives to join in the fight. He won't let anyone else borrow his face and try to besmirch his name. The battle rages in the streets endangering the citizens of Metropolis. Somehow Lois convinces Lex he can't leave to still be in the moving fight. He needs to save people. Amazingly, Lex complies. Maybe he isn't all bad right now?

More crazy, does this mean that Superman did leave a bunch of people actually in danger??

Finally Superman overpowers the Kryptonian battle armor. And it is being piloted by ... an elderly Lex Luthor. He broke the time barrier to come back in time to kill Superman and prove his superiority.

The strain proves to much. Lex has a cardiac event followed by the armor exploding. He dies and angry and bitter man.

I do like how Superman calls him out on this. With all the things Lex could do if he could travel in time, he goes back to fight Superman. How shallow? How sad? You would think this angry man would instead go back to tell his younger self to let go of all the baggage.

But I guess Lex wouldn't do that.

At the very least, Superman doesn't let this Lex know that it was an older version come back for this fight. Instead he says this person claiming to be Lex was dead and had been consumed by darkness for a long time.

I suppose he doesn't tell Lex in hope that he won't make this be predestined by future knowledge, a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I think I would have been tempted to say something. Maybe it could act as a warning to stop it from happening.

What would you have done? Told Lex? Or not?

Anyways, an old and dying Lex driving a Kryptonian battlesuit through the city to enact a final revenge on Superman. It just reminded me a ton of Action Comics #700. Enough that I'm going to have to pull out that issue tonight to reread.

The second story is written by Mark Russell with art by Jill Thompson. It has Lois and Clark heading up the White House Correspondents Dinner.

I have said before, I don't mind when politics enter into comics as long as the story is entertaining. When the politics are primary and the story secondary, it seems like a waste. So I wasn't a big fan of this.

This was a political rant disguised as a story. This didn't need to be a Lois and Clark story. They weren't Lois or Clark here. And by that I mean you could read this as being any reporters and it wouldn't change things.

This was an agenda cloaked in a story and not a story with an agenda.

And then a surprising story by Max Landis with art by Francis Manapul.

Lois crashes her car, a beloved old vehicle that had seen her through much of her life's journey. She wasn't ready to say goodbye ... to a car. But who amongst us hasn't had emotional attachments to things.

As a Christmas Gift, Superman salvages the driver's seat and steering wheel from the car, flying Lois home for the holidays one last time in this seat. When she sees the chair, she beams and asks Clark why he is like he is.

Easy answer. He's Superman.

My god. I liked a Max Landis story, probably the best in this issue. I think I have to eat my hat now. Or maybe Hell froze over.

Anyways, I am sad in many ways for Jurgens to be leaving Superman again. I am happy he got to write one more Luthor/Superman fight. And I like that Lex is back to being, for the most part, a hate-filled villain.

On to the Bendis era.

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

The first story is pretty good.

"I love that Kara is Superman's go to for family matters and that he trusts Supergirl with his son's welfare. It shows how far this family has come."

Yes, it was nice.

"What would you have done? Told Lex? Or not?"

No idea. It could make things easier for Superman, it could not.

"This was an agenda cloaked in a story and not a story with an agenda. "

Yes, it was definitely a boring rant.

Incredibly forced, too. Lex Luthor was well-off? Since Secret Origins is still canon, we know his childhood's history. And it was crappy.

"My god. I liked a Max Landis story, probably the best in this issue."

What did Max Landis do? I know I've heard his name before, but I can't remember.

Sean Dillon said...

Honestly, I think you'd like American Alien (with maybe one exception) as it seems to align with your views on Superman (though not completely, but then what could).

Martin Gray said...

Hmm, I had an ideas you’d read American Alien, Anj. I agree with Sean, give it a go.

Great call on the Cavill likely-homage, and nice review of the issue all round. I do like an evil Lex, but also one I can feel a bit sorry for, one who shows potential to be a better man, and we’ve seen that of late. It’s just a shame the Ardora we’ve seen wasn’t the Lexor lady. Anyway, Jurgens, aided by Conrad and co, bowed out in style.

Anonymous said...

I agree the first and last story were very nice.

Someone got the message that Bendis was coming - Superman is in his red trunks. So Jurgens must have known, assuming little lead time between script and art. But the cover features the older uniform. Interesting that they didn't "fix" that.

Loved the Manapul artwork and the coloring.

Neither Lois in the old car, nor Clark in the later one, are wearing seatbelts. Tsk tsk! Well, her old jalopy might have had the old lap-only seatbelts, but the newer rental would have had the full modern seatbelt.

"...flying Lois home for the holidays one last time in this seat"

Looks like they rented or used some other car and were already up at her aunt's for a Christmas party. Rather, I think he just took Lois out the next morning for a sunrise spin above the clouds -- as one does.

Nobile said...

Would I have told him? Or, better, should have Superman told him?
As far as I'm concerned, I've the feeling that from the 70s to now, Superman has been depicted as always making the wrong move, when coming down to Lex. Trying to save him as a boy, trying to redeem him, trying to find the best part of him, and always coming up with a harsher situation. Lex is the only person Superman could not manage to save: it's another aspect of their relationship that Morrison wonderfully depicts in All Star. So, according to this view, probably Clark made the wrong choice. Again.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I think Supes should have told Lex.

I didn’t read American Alien and I don’t know if I can, Maybe if I see it in the cheap bins.

Sad Murgens is off the character.