Friday, June 3, 2022

Review: Action Comics 2022 Annual

Action Comics 2022 Annual came out this week and was a very good, very entertaining issue which just bolsters the Warworld Saga by instructing the reader about Superman and Mongul. This is Mongul's secret origin as the cover states but it also a contrast tale. Superman isn't Mongul and Mongul isn't Superman. And a lot of that difference is based on the values they were raised with. 

Writers Si Spurrier and Phillip Kennedy Johnson throw us a little bit of a curveball here. We get flashback stories of Superman and Mongul's younger years. So much of Superman's values are given to us in the form of 'Pa Kent Wisdom'. We know about Mongul's lineage is based on sons killing fathers and taking up the mantle of Mongul. Now in this issue we get what might be the biggest dose of Ma Kent Wisdom I have ever seen. We see how Mongul's mother raised him to never love and always think of himself. So both parents have impacted their sons' lives. That is pretty brilliant.

The art is a wonderful mix. Dale Eaglesham brings his thicker line and grittiness to the Mongul pages. Meanwhile Ian Churchill brings his finer line to the Smallville pages. The bright Kansas pages differ from the red-soaked Warworld pages. Both styles are different enough to contrast but somehow similar enough to keep the book's flow intact. Even the cover, a rougher looking picture by Francesco Francavilla adds to the feel. Here Mongul is separating Superman from his family (albeit it the Kryptonian parents) perhaps to show how important family is.

If you're looking for a story to inform you of who these opponents are but more importantly why they are who they are, this is a great story. 

On to the particulars.
We open with a very young Clark using his super-powers to help his team win a soccer match. He does it to try and teach a hard lesson to a bully on the other team. This boy Caleb is a bad seed and not just on the soccer field.

But Ma is observant enough to know that Clark used his abilities to score. And that may have denied Caleb the one thing that might make him feel amazing. Because in the aftermath, we see that Caleb is the son of a toxic parent, one who berates him for losing.

Usually it Pa saying Clark wasn't put on this world to score goals. To have Ma tell him that he needs to help people in constructive and instructive ways felt very fresh. You can change the world by helping people.

Meanwhile, on Warworld, there is a culling day where the young Warzoon must fight to see who will be brought into the ranks and who will be exiled to survive in the wild wastes.

A young Warzoon, he who will become the current Mongul, doesn't strike an opponent in the back. He is following the rules of battle honor. Unfortunately, this brings the ire of his mother who beats him for his 'cowardice'. Such a different lesson from Ma's.

In the end, Mongul is beaten senseless and his mother sent into the desert.

After the game, Caleb kicks the soccer ball into Ma, knocking off her wig. Suddenly an even newer wrinkle to Ma is added. She is battling cancer.

But despite the indignity and perhaps embarrassment she shows grace. Strength isn't attacking. Strength is getting back up and standing tall.

I don't think Ma has ever had cancer before. Will this stick? Who knows.

But even her words of wisdom can't immediately curb Clark's anger for this personal attack by Caleb. He sneaks out in the night to destroy Caleb's bike, a petty revenge move.

But once at Caleb's, Clark overhears Caleb's drunk father berating and probably beating the boy. Pouring himself into his truck, Caleb's father drives drunkenly into a corn field and would have plowed across a highway if Clark didn't use his powers to stop the truck.

That impact into the young Kryptonian is like a car wreck. Clark runs the hurt man to the local ER, dropping him off at the entrance.

While there, Clark overhears his mother's voice. Ma is getting chemo against an aggressive tumor. We hear more of Ma's philosophy while she gets an overnight treatment. Once you realize everything can be taken away, you value what you have.

Once more, Clark sees her grace in fighting on, but not with anger or with malice.

Meanwhile, out in the wastes, Mongul's mother is teaching him how to survive. How to lure blood leeches onto your body to then kill and eat. And how to keep nearby wolf-like predators from getting too close.

In what seems to be a move that might make her proud, Mongul kills one of the wolves and offers its meat to his injured mother.

But once again we see the lessons his mother teaches him. How can he move on if he is wasting energy helping her. Why does he even care about her? Warzoon care only about themselves. She beats him again.

At the school, Caleb is teased about his father's drunk driving. When Clark steps in to stop the teasing, Caleb gets even angrier. He doesn't want Clark's help. 

Caleb fights Clark who rolls with the punch and hits the ground. Suddenly it becomes clear to Caleb. He is becoming his father, probably the person all his anger is really aimed at. And Clark makes it clear. Caleb isn't his father.

That is Ma's wisdom. You stand up. You help people see how they are amazing.

Great moment.

And there is almost some wisdom about love and helping people on Warworld. Mongul's mother defends him from a bull mammoth. She suffers grievous wounds but it inspires Mongul to kill the animal. (We had learned before the current Mongul made a name for himself by similarly killing one of these things.) 

But why had she defended her son when all her lessons are about Warzoon not helping others.

She tells her son that the current Mongul did this to them. He needs to kill her for what the current Mongul did to them. He does kill her, with her own knife.

What a brutal, horrible lesson. What a terrible thing to teach him. Her act was done to help move him forward not out of love. Or maybe she is deluding herself. 

But how scarred this Mongul must be from this terrible upbringing.

We later see how Caleb honors Ma by shaving his head too. He is removed from his home and is sent to live with his aunt.

Forwarding to the near present, we see that he know helps troubled youth in Metropolis.

That short period in Smallville helped him grow in the right way.


Great message and story.

As for Mongul.

He leaves the tribe he joined in the wastes and rejoins the tribe he was cast out of.

But rather than honor his mother, he considers her a traitor for protecting him from that mammoth.

Whew. What a fascinating tale of mothers and how they raised and inspired their sons. Ma Kent wants Clark to show compassion. Mongul's mother beats it out of him. What a wonderful way to contrast Mongul from Clark. 

This didn't move the current Warworld Sage plot forward. But it deepens the story by showing why Superman is there as a leader, showing the slaves their worth and leading. It also shows why Mongul is so callous towards life, never having known love.

Another excellent chapter in this tremendous arc.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

Unrelated, but I did not know where else to put this:

The Young Justice S4 finale has been leaked, and Supergirl shows up at last.

Supergirl has replaced Mary Marvel in the JL book which is springing from Dark Crisis (or whatever it is called).

Martin Gray said...

Such a clever, rich story. I thought after the last issue of Action Comics there was no need for another look back at Mongul’s beginnings, how different could one Mongul be from another? But of course, it’s a different Mongul. I found both tales fascinating. Just think, in other circumstances young Mongul and Clark could have been friends.

Great review!

Anj said...

Hey anon,
Do you have a link for that JL news.

Anonymous said...

Different anon here. It's a JL team introduced in Dark Crisis #1. Next week.

And there are more spoilers including screen caps in a more recent BC article.


Anonymous said...

As a member of the Female Furies. Hmm..

Anonymous said...

UNRELATED: as above, I don't know where to ask this.

Will u comment on SHG's movie 'Mayhem in the Multiverse' about Kal's comments to Kara?

Martin Gray said...

I’ve never heard of this film, Anonymous, what was said?

Anonymous said...

"Mayhem..." just came out last week (animated). While Kara and Kal are trapped in a Kryptonite box, Kara complains to Kal that he always puts her down, but, it turns out, it's quite the opposite! Kal thinks Kara is much better than him! And she has friends that support her; he is "jealous" of that. Kara, of course, when hearing this, now has much more respect for Kal. I thought all this was very cool.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks very much! What an odd idea, though, that Superman is lacking in friends.

Anj said...

A this movie streaming somewhere?

Anonymous said...

It's more that he doesn't think they are as "good" as Kara's.
She has a MAJOR part in this!

Really, that's why I'd like to see it reviewed; perhaps u may see it differently. You usually bring up things that I missed.

I buy all mine on DVD, so I don't know about streaming. I would think it would be, tho probably for a cost?...

I'll take a "hard pass" on telling the ending, but it was completely un-expected, and, for us older folks, I really liked it!