Friday, September 29, 2023

Review: Action Comics #1057

Action Comics #1057 came out this week and was a solid read if imperfect. 

As usual, the main story by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Rafa Sandoval is fantastic. The threat of the Blue Earthers and their leader Norah Stone finally manifests itself. Like many zealots, her message doesn't sound completely crazy but there is definitely some malevolence behind her extreme views. There is a mystery unraveling with Stone as well. She clearly is more than human. I have a theory. Johnson definitely knows how to bring the most out of this story. While Stone rants about the threat Superman is, we see him at his most down to Earth, a physical contrast to her words. 

While I have loved the super-family in Action recently, this issue is all Superman and I'm here for it. And it ends on a wild cliffhanger. 

It is the other stories in the anthology that aren't holding up the back end of the book. The Dan Jurgens/Lee Weeks young Jon story sort of ends with a whimper. It seemed like Jurgens realized that he had a handful of pages to wrap things up and so he sprinted to the end. The last story is a Conner story by Magdelena Visaggio and Matthew Clark and once again it is Conner struggling to find his place on Earth. Didn't he just get a whole mini-series? And he's wildly emotional in the story. Almost petulant. There is one thought provoking moment, but the whole thing ends on a complete downbeat note which made it all sour. 

Still, if you are a fan of the Johnson/Sandoval stuff, this book still sings. I am very interested in seeing where this goes. On to the particulars.

The book starts with Superman having lunch with a construction worker on the high iron. The worker is an ex-con, staying straight and doing what's right. But the worker's son seems to be on a path to crime and this dad feels helpless given his own past.

It is great how Superman is there just to support this man. Superman talks about how Glen is the perfect father because he understands right and wrong. 

We get 3 pages of this conversation, a fair amount of page space to show Superman's humanism. There is a throwaway line later where Clark notices Jimmy has a new tie on.  I think these pages and comments needed to be so prominent to be  counterpoints to the upcoming Norah Stone speech.

Norah Stone has decided to do a one on one interview at the Daily Planet and only with Clark Kent. Now that is interesting ... and ominous.

What I like is how the Planet staff, including Lois, shouldn't do the interview as it will be giving Stone a platform. But they also have the opportunity to ask Stone the hard questions.

I really liked this panel of Clark supporting Lois through her concerns, more signs of how much he cares.

Stone arrives with a burly body guard. She is sporting a green-stoned gauntlet. And she has a chip on her shoulder.

I include this panel only to say I think Rafa Sandoval draws the best Clark Kent I have seen in a long time.

In the interview, Clark has his super-senses honed in, figuring out when Stone is not telling the truth. 

She hasn't committed violence. She doesn't know the men on trial for attacking the Warworld refugees. Blue Earth is trying to protect humans from colonizers. All lies.

I like the stark 'lie' text box. I love the EKG and XR vision look as Clark probes her.

And then she brings up Superman, a god-like being who she thinks is protecting Earth from people like him. Her dislike of Superman is evident.

Moreover, she drops a lot of sly comments that makes me think she knows who Clark really is. 

So who is she?

Well, my leading theory is that she is Otho and Osul's older sister, someone who had gone high enough in the Warworld hierarchy that she is upset at all that happened. Superman invaded her world and took away their culture. Superman upset her world just like he is going to on Earth. She is going to get her revenge on both those Warworld people who rejected their culture and went to Earth as well as to the man who destroyed her world. She is going to get her revenge by bringing a rebellion to Earth the same way Superman brought rebellion to Warworld. 

And it is clear Stone and her bodyguard have some sort of powers or tech that can effect Clark. He is sweating after the interview. And when he goes to follow Stone, he runs into the bodyguard who then tosses Clark around. 

There is green energy here but I don't think it's Kryptonite. So I'm thinking some Warworld magic or tech.

I won't spoil the cliffhanger but we end on a great moment. 

This was a great opening chapter to this new arc.

The Jurgens/Weeks young Jon story ends a bit abruptly. 

Superman saves Jon. Princess Glyanna runs away. It is revealed that Glyanna was pushed into her scheme by some unseen villain pulling the strings. The same unseen villain teleports Doombreaker into Glyanna's ship thus saving Lois. We even see that Glyanna's parents, the King and Queen, weren't on board.

This story started slow and then ran to the end. It was fine. I love Weeks' art. I love the young Jon. But this was just okay.

The Conner Superboy story is written by Magdalena Visaggio, the first story I have actually read by her. 

Again, we see Conner struggling to define himself, to the point of dying a red streak in his hair as a physical differential. He is struggling in Smallville. He is struggling with his complicated history. I don't need this story ... again.

I did like this part of a  scene with Miss Martian. M'Gann and Con rekindle things. Here she talk about the effort it takes to maintain this form. She talks about the lack of a 'default' body in her White Martian culture. 

I know that Visaggio is trans. I thought that this discussion was a metaphor of trans issues, not ham-fisted, and actually quite nuanced. It made me pause and think about things for a while. Kudos there in all honesty. This was not a browbeat which so often these topics can veer into.

But the whole story all we see Con just being a jerk. 

He is skipping school. He flies out of the Kent house fast enough to cause damage. He stays out til 3am. He yells at M'Gann. And then he yells at Ma.

This isn't my Conner. In particular, Conner has been back from his comic limbo since 2019. He has talked about finding his place since then. HE JUST HAD A MINI-SERIES focused on this.

This seems like the wrong time for this story and actually is a step back for the character. 

I am a fan of Matthew Clark's art and the work here is lovely. The scene with M'Gann starts interesting.  And the panel showing all the versions of Con is striking.

Still, you hope that an anthology will give you solid stories throughout. This went 1 for 3. 

Overall grade: C+ (Superman story is an A)


William Ashley Vaughan said...

Loved the opening scene of the Johnson/Sandoval story with Superman helping the ex-con with sympathy and advice. I can see Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster, Edmond Hamilton, Alvin Schwartz, Joe Schuster, Wayne Boring and Curt Swan reading this in heaven and saying, "these kids know how to do Superman right."
Any thoughts on the Justice League versus Godzilla versus Kong preview?

William Ashley Vaughan said...

I agree with you about the back ups. Gene Luen Yang's New Superman story can't come soon enough.

agigu said...

As someone who's a big Kon fan, I was left both excited and disappointed by the final story. They don't actually have any past to rekindle in the comics, this is their first (if I recall correctly) interaction in canon outside of that TV adaptation. I know it's a more conceptual complaint, but I don't love the fact that romance needs to be a driver for character change. Given there hasn't been prior interactions with M'gann and Conner, I find the romance a dud. The thematic connection to queerness, however, really cool! I do want to see Conner drop the boy in his title because it's infantilizing by the same token I think Kara going by girl is a little sexist. The remainder of the issue, great Superman story, mediocre Jurgens one. The PKJ one is thought provoking. The Jurgens one certainly happened.

Martin Gray said...

Top review. I think Glen in the comic has some link to Twitter/X chum Glen Clark - I’ll send you a pic of his tweet.

I did enjoy having a whole Superman issue, and what a treat seeing Clark doing his job, and a great one at that. He nailed Norah. Your theory is good, but tradition demands I throw some back at you. OK, I got it, Norah Stone is a descendant of Vandal Savage (empowered by a stone) who is also Fire Jade from Amethyst (empowered by a stone) and an evil Green Lantern (empowered by a stone).


The Superboy story might make more sense were it set before the mini-series… mind, even that got way too angsty, with Kon-El worrying the whole time about where he fit, and eventually literally screaming to the heavens. Ugh. I missed the whole trans metaphor, but surely the White Martians DO have a default look - the scary one we always see them in. I did like Miss Martian here, but yeah, Kon was a total prat to Martha. And where was Jonathan?

I am surprised the Jon story was so ‘loose-ends’. Perhaps Dan Jurgens is planning a sequel.

Loved Steve Beach’s cover!

Anonymous said...

It's not great she is named Norah "Stone," because it makes me think of Roger Stone, Trump's convicted and pardoned consigliere (formerly Nixon's consigliere).

As for the Superboy story, the last page left me baffled.

Why does he have his hand in a jar of red dye on his bed?

And what does the texting mean? Earlier, it was "Usual place?" "yea be right there" and now he just adds the word "No." What did I miss in this exchange? That doesn't make sense. Is he responding to the last thing she said? Which was: "Connie! Talk to me!"? That was a fairly long time earlier, and is not how conversations work! So maybe that's not it, but I'm just trying to make sense out of why he would just type a single word.

At this point Conner looks, sounds and is behaving like he's mentally unsound. From where he is now, the next stop is a psychiatric hold, or a mass shooting or something. Martha should be reporting him to the authorities.

I wouldn't be surprised if the only thing from this that is carried forward into future appearances is the red hair.


Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments!

I like the Fire Jade idea Martin! Yay Amethyst!