Monday, May 1, 2023

Review: Action Comics #1054

Action Comics #1054 came out this week, continuing the anthology format of the Superman Family. Please remember when you get to the end that the overall grade takes all the stories into account. We get three stories here. One shines.

Phillip Kennedy Johnson continues to bring us a solid main story. This story brings a sort of resolution to the Metallo plot. We see a new super-power from Superman. There is an event with Otho that I hope isn't lost in the shuffle. I like how Jon reacts in this issue. The actual big bad is revealed. And there is a tremendous moment by Superman showing compassion to Metallo. I loved this story.

Max Raynor is on art duties here, giving Rafa Sandavol the month off. This issue is a little rougher in style than I anticipated. In my mind, Raynor is usually very polished. There is a lot of grime and violence in this issue and Raynor's are here mirrors that well. In particular, the pages with the Metallo fight really stunned. 

The middle story is the Lois, Clark, and young Jon story. This time Jurgens is on script and art. It has a 'twist' which I think was telegraphed in the first chapter. It's decent. I love seeing Jurgens on art. He is weaving two plots in this story so there is still some mystery in it.

And then we get a Steel story by Dorado Quick and Yasmin Montanaez. The story is a sort of primer on John Henry Irons with an ending that seems to hint at the upcoming story. The art is cartoonish in a way, definitely different than the other stories. I like Steel. This story occurs before Action #1050 so you need to snuggle it in your continuity. I'm glad to see Steel get some spotlight.

On to the book details.

Last issue ended with Otho heading to the Blue Earth protest. 

It seems like she has lost her temper and done some damage here. This isn't a good look. Cars on fire. Bodies crumpled.

Thankfully ... luckily ... all these people she attacked were Necrohive drones of Metallo. These weren't humans. Did she know that? I wonder.

Now in the end, she isn't a killer. But I hope that Johnson really explores this. Otho was raised on Warworld. We see her struggling getting accustomed to her new life. But she was raised in that Hell were lashing out was the way to deal with problems. She can't do this.

I can't imagine Johnson will make her go dark or villainous. But I also hope we see this discussed more.

Jon shows up too. As does Metallo-Prime.

As time goes on and Metallo's body continues to mutate, he is becoming more horrific. He is scary.

And he is powerful.

That's blood he's drawn with this right cross to Jon's jaw. Kryptonite continues to be Kryptonite.

Great panel here by Raynor. You feel this punch. I mean Jon is off his feet. You feel all these punches.

Superman shows up and he and Jon can mop up the drones. 

This is a different Metallo. He has different powers thanks to his amped up Warworld core. He grabs Otho and Osul and teleports them away. 

Johnson really is giving us a family book with each character having some depth and issues. In Action Comics #1053, Jon lamented his lost years, especially when he sees the Twins interaction with his parents.

Now he feels tremendous guilt about their kidnapping. 

Jon needs more character building in my mind. I still don't know who he *is*. Stuff like this rounds him out, makes him more real. 

Jon stays back for crowd control. Superman tracks down the twins. And then it is on. 

I don't need all my villains to have sympathetic back stories. But Johnson is giving us a peek into Metallo's motivations. As a kid he found a gun and felt powerful. So he craved power even as an adult, leading to his life now.

But now he thinks differently. Raging, he tells Superman than power like they wield inherently makes them monsters. He cannot think about another option. Power equals monstrosity and evil. 

This links back to the title of the chapter but also segues into the most powerful moment in the book coming up soon. 

But first this. 


Turns out the 'Orphan Box' the is energizing Metallo is both Kryptonite and Genesis Stone. And we know that Superman can utilize Genesis energy wildly. In fact, it's energy is so powerful, it makes the weakening Kryptonite meaningless.

He uses that power to make this giant energy version of himself and just trounces Metallo. 

Insanity. And cool. And visually striking. 

Now as long as this isn't an 'every day' ability and he needs a Genesis power-up to manifest this, I'm okay. I hope this isn't like the 'solar flare' power, the last new power we saw Supes wield that then simply became over-used.

Seriously though, I think I punched the air when I saw this page. 


As great as that bashing was, this was the moment that stuck out.

Once subdued, Superman actually leans over to help Metallo. 

Superman's power isn't his own. It is for whoever needs it. Power doesn't have to make you a monster.

Such a pitch perfect point/counterpoint argument.

And it is key that the Twins are there to listen to it all. Otho has to keep hearing these lessons to have them sink in and overcome her years of bloodshed.

This is why Phillip Kennedy Johnson needs to stay on this book. 

But then the big bad is finally revealed.

He was the voice in Metallo's head, the phony sister.

And he has utilized Metallo's body to not only upgrade himself but to gather Super-family blood to work into his mix.

Classic Henshaw! Now this is a threat. 

Really great main story in this issue. This is the meal.

In the middle story, Jon continues to interact with Princess Glyanna. Remember when I said 'I bet this is a story where Jon learns a lesson about trusting'? Turns out this time I'm right.

But we also have this side plot of Superman fighting Doombreaker. This Doomsday-variant has wings! And he is tough, thrashing Superman. I don't know where this plot is going but keeping Superman separated from Jon ups the ante here. 

Again, how great to see Jurgens drawing Superman again. 

The Steel story has him battling Amalgam and revisiting his origins. 

The story ends with John Henry announcing Steelworks all while someone clearly evil is watching him on giant monitors. We then hear how Amalgam has escaped, rescued from being sent to prison by drones. Someone is hoping for a rematch. 

It's not a bad story and certainly if this was someone's first Steel story it's a winner. But this didn't have the momentum or energy of that first story. And it was pretty straightforward. 

As a fan of the old Superman Family book, I am happy this book is on the shelf. But it is clear that the main story is the engine for me. The back-ups are solid stories. What Johnson is doing on the main story is stellar. So I am here for this title. Because I think that these other characters of the super family deserve their own stories. And unlike the Batman Family, they aren't getting their own titles. So bring on a flashback story of young Jon and a Steel tale. 

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

Very fair review! The balance of emotions and action is stellar.

As for the backups, I’d love to see just one, starring Supergirl.

Quality Comix said...

The characterization of Supergirl in the comic books is so raw - Superman is politicized as an "alien" in the WB films, but Supergirl is the one who really feels like an alien who can't connect with humanity like Kal-El - I check the value of my comics at Quality Comix - what do you use?

Anonymous said...

I am liking the Metallo storyline so, much I wish they'd devote more pages to it...I feel like I'm getting only a taste when wham! I get PowerGirl or whozis tossed at me :)
I mean finally Metallo has become interesting...who knew?