Friday, January 27, 2023

Review: Action Comics #1051

Action Comics #1051 came out this last week, the opening chapter to the next era of the Superman family. In a classic comic trick, DC slapped a big #1 on the cover to try and drum up support. But this book is great enough that it should be selling on its own merits and not because of cover tricks. 

For me, this is the epitome of Superman family. This is an anthology book like the old Superman Family dollar comic. The main story, the Superman-centric one, involves the extended Superman family. It has scenes of the characters acting like a family. And there is this feeling of hope, an essential ingredient in the super books. Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Rafa Sandoval bring it and bring it hard. I loved this story.

The second story is a flashback story to a time before Jon was aged. Given the creative team of Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks, it seems to spring from the 'Convergence' era Earth-1 Superman although that muddy history is wiped away. The Kents are in California, working remotely, in the aftermath of the Doombreaker story in the Death of Superman anniversary. Heck Clark is wearing the black suit. I like young Jon so this also worked well for me. 

The last story is the Power Girl arc by the creative team of Leah Williams and Marguerite Sauvage. The art is great. But this is a pretty big change for Power Girl, one where she has a psychic link to Omen (Lilith) and the two want to use this telepathic connection to help people in psychological pain. Peeg has her powers and uses her powers in the dreamscape. But a psychologist Karen, using her powers within the mind? It is a bold new direction for someone who's bold old direction I loved. Will I love it? I guess I have to wait. The opening chapter just opens the door.

Still, wonderful book overall! On to the details.

The book opens with a Lois Lane piece about Metropolis being brighter with Superman. But perhaps things have become a little darker in recent times.

We see a protest against aliens organized in Metropolis. A line of armed police stand in line to keep the protesters in check. One of the protesters pulls a gun. Someone who appears to oppose the protest is intent on driving his car into the crowd. 

There is a blur of red. Both the gunman and the driver are removed. Everyone remains alive and safe. The Super-family, led by Superman is there. Metropolis has reason to hope. 

So much to love here. The presence of social unrest in Metropolis is a marker of dissension. There are zealots on both sides of this protest, something I feel is true in real life. Kudos to Johnson for specifically showing this. 

And then this shot, the entire family behind him! I mean make that a poster! Or a t-shirt! Or both!

And no denying the page layout. It has to be an homage to this page in Kingdom Come, the appearance of Superman in a violent world after being gone. This was a moment of hope in that book too.

Great homage, done the right way.

We switch to the Kent apartment where a family gathering is happening. I love seeing characters relaxing in their civilian lives.

Kenan and Conner play video games. Jon plays a Pokemon-like card game with Otho and Osul. Lois and Kara are chatting.

I love this scene. Jon goes to look for a new game. He finds Clark's barbarian suit, clearly still around for some gladiator loving between Clark and Lois. Fantastic. Truly laugh out loud funny.

Clark calls a family meeting.

Remember when Jon said Clark wasn't doing enough on Earth? I did not like that moment ... at all. 

So it is a interesting that Johnson brings that moment back. But rather than say that the supers will do more by inserting themselves into the problems or forcing issues, they will do more by remaining role models and reminding humanity that they can make the changes themselves.

It is a slight tweak. Superman always leads by example. But having Steel and Natasha be the human face of progress is brilliant.

And then another moment. 

The Kents officially welcome Otho and Osul into the Hous of El. They even get the S-shield! Kara acknowledging all they went through is perfect, especially given Kara's own history of trauma.

But the last panels are very intriguing. Could Jon be jealous of missed time? Will this be explored? I hope so.

The following day, Steelworks Tower opens, taller than even LexCorp. There are protesters there again, against 'alien' tech.

But I like Metropolis being truly the City of Tomorrow. 

I don't know if it is Lex didn't like being the second tallest building or if this was a distraction to get Metallo close to the action (we have seen the villain skulking) but the top of the Steelworks building is blown up.

The family goes into action.

How awesome this is to see Kara in action with Kenan, speaking Chinese, and saving the people. 

Kara is like a sort of field general here. Johnson always treats her great. She is intelligent, pro-active, bright.

But Metallo is there. And he is kicked the snot out of Conner. 

Metallo looks terrifying. 

Great cliffhanger.

But wait, there's more!

On the Kent California farm, Jon is shown to have the mutating Doomsday claw that created Doombreaker. That alone is an great hook for a story. Will Jon mutate?

But then we get an 'Action Comic #252' twist at the end. A young girl crashes her rocket in front of Jon. Great Guns!!!!

Okay Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks, you got me, I want more!

And then the Power Girl story. Omen and Power Girl want to do form a 'holistic, healing' pair. They'll slip Karen into people's minds where she can help them deal with their trauma. Here she helps Beast Boy who has been stuck as a calf since Dark Crisis. 

I don't know ... Power Girl as a dream psychologist? Maybe it should have been Dreamer?  

I love the art. And I hope this story solidifies to bring a new direction to Power Girl. But I am fond of the Palmiotti/Conner run so this will have to be great. 

I did think this particular chapter was enjoyable enough.

So I am a happy reader here. 2 A's and a B. Bring on the new era!

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

Top review. I enjoyed this too, but I wish the Peege back-up had gone to Kara… or we’d been given a recognisable Kara strip.

Great spot on the Kingdom Come homage, and I wonder if Dan Jurgens had noticed the numbering when he wrote that last scene - 800 issues since Action #252 next month!

I didn’t peg that passenger was a young girl - she put me in mind of The Third Kryptonian from Kurt Busiek’s Superman run.

Anonymous said...

Power Girl started out in the Bronze Age as "Supergirl Done Right" (very condescending notion IMHO), then she was DC's answer to "She Hulk" for a while, now she has therapeutic psychic powers...which tells me, DC thinks PG is too deep in Supergirl's Shadow and needs new powers to help differentiate her from Supergirl.
In effect, PG has become "Wanda Five"
It seems kinda contrived but the book itself is a thoroughly fun read to I'll see where it all goes.
Oh and I can't stand Supergirl's latest costume it's WAY too "MCU Captain Marvel" for me, without the red cape it just isn't "Supergirl".