Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: Action Comics #901

Action Comics #901 came out this week and is something of a new direction for the title. With the Lex Luthor story over, the time has come for Superman to reclaim the book as his. On top of that, new artist Kenneth Rocafort comes on board (at least for half the issue).

Writer Paul Cornell is still on board and I am very interested in reading his Superman. While I think that the Black Ring story sort of wheezed to an end, the opening chapters with Lex interacting with DC's super-villains were very good, the right mix of characterization, dark humor, and wild action.

Cornell inherits the end of the Reign of the Doomsdays storyline. I think in some ways that is good and bad. The good is that we will immediately see Superman interacting with a lot of his mythos ... Doomsday, Team Superman ... and we will get to see how Cornell will write Superman. The bad is that any Doomsday story is going to be filled with slugfests and splash pages. And while those action scenes might be fun, it will take away space for story-telling and characterization.

I am hopeful ... hopeful ... that Rocafort will eventually take over all the art on the book. While Jesus Merino (who assists here) is a capable artist, Rocafort's stuff is electric, beautiful.

Trapped within this 'pocket universe' space ship, Superman gathers the Superman Family around him and realizes that they need some time to figure a way out of this mess. And knowing that the Cyborg Superman is only going to be a hindrance to his plans, Superman eliminates the Cyborg in one swift move, removing the 'central node' from his chest.

So, I will admit that I have never seen this done before nor have I heard about the central node either. One of the interesting things about the Cyborg was that he was so absolutely difficult to defeat. He could inhabit any mechanism, leaving his body the way Swamp Thing does with plants. Is this the first mention of this key component?

When the three remaining Doomsday clones (remember Supergirl tossed one down a 'endless tunnel' last issue) rush the heroes, Superman and his Team take off taking the Cyborg central node and the original and emaciated appearing Doomsday as well. Superman says the Doomsday might give them some information about the others.

So there are lots of questions that need answering but the ongoing threat of the Doomsdays means there isn't much time for exposition. What is this place? Luthor may have discovered it, but did he drop the Doomsdays in there?

Safe for a moment in a different chamber, the Superman Family has a second to catch their breath. One thing that Cornell clearly has a grasp of is the close family relationship between Kal and Kara. This Supergirl hug just feels natural and unforced.

I like how she figures out that Superman had them take Doomsday so that he wouldn't get harmed by the other clones. Superman even admits that was his concern.

What I don't get is why he would be concerned. Ummm ... doesn't Doomsday resurrect when killed? In that sense, he can't be harmed. And hasn't Superman gone after Doomsday in the past (like in Superman:The Doomsday Wars and Superman/Doomsday Hunter Prey)? The reason the team is on the run is because Superman knows the Doomsdays can't be defeated or stopped long term. So I preferred the 'he might provide clues' answer than this one, even if it does show how magnanimous Superman is.

As I expected, I love Rocafort's take on Supergirl.

And, in fact, Steel is able to detect Doomsday's brain functions slowly improving. The original Doomsday will be awake soon.

I like the response from Supergirl and Superboy. I like her realism and his optimism.

There isn't much time to think as the Doomsday clones come attacking again. Superman wonders if maybe they should seal the Doomsdays in this satellite, even if that means sacrificing themselves.

Luckily that fatalist thought of sacrifice fades. I like this panel where Superman promises Lois he will return. We need some Superman and Lois scenes ... and soon.

But the first part of his thoughts is dead on. Why are they fighting here? If this place is an endless labyrinth, why not just bust out and fly home leaving the Doomsdays and the Cyborg Superman inside. Cornell must also have realized that this would be an easy ending to the story. Superman tells the team that it would take 10x the brute force to break out than it did to break in. There is no explanation behind that, so I guess I have to roll with it. Then again, how did Lex move about here with ease?

And it turns out that they aren't alone in this ship. We see something in the shadows earlier activating the ship's engines.

The ship is on a collision course with Earth! In 10 minutes, the ship will crash into Earth destroying the planet.

There isn't time for anything other than super-heroics to save the planet. President Obama goes on the air and says to Superman that his country needs him.

Do I dare pick the scab of the Goyer story last month? I do find it interesting that both Roberson in Superman and Cornell in Action have scenes coming off the heels of Action Comics #900 where Superman is clearly American and proud of it. The scenes must have been written before the flack of Goyer's story happened. So they can't be responses to that story; this is how those creators view Superman.

I also didn't think Obama was the President in the DCU. But I might be wrong on that.

Despite this being an 'endless ship' and a 'pocket universe', Superman got a good enough view breaking in to lead Team Superman to a control room. There Supergirl realizes that the ship is heading towards Earth, and quickly.

Suddenly the threat of Doomsday has to take a back seat to saving the world. In a very nice scene, we see Superman take charge, rallying the troops, asking them to find a way to save the world.

There is no doubt here, Superman is in charge. And his team respects him. How great to see that instead of the sullen Superman walking around in the early Grounded or the Superman attacked by Earth's heroes in WONK. Superman is back where he belongs.

Before they can find the engine controls, the presumed owner of the ship, the Doomslayer, shows up, saying that Earth must be destroyed.

Doomslayer has a lot to digest visually. There is this faint green glow about aspects of him which make me wonder if he has some Kryptonite in him. He has both velociraptor style claws and forearm horns. And his face is very similar to Doomsday. Who the heck is he?

While there is all that going on visually, I can't get this image out of my head ...

He sort of looks like Gaiking, doesn't he? Or is it just me?

And then, to make sure we realize that the Doomslayer is a real threat, he rips apart the Eradicator!

Well, there goes my guess that the Eradicator will somehow energize Superman like the end of Reign of the Supermen.

So I thought this was a decent issue to set the stage for the rest of this story. We finally have a bit of story in Reign of the Doomsdays as opposed to the opening chapters which were mostly the heroes getting battered. But this issue really asked many more questions than it answered. What is this place? Why was it at the site of New Krypton? Who is the Doomslayer? Is this whole thing a Luthor plot? If it isn't, how did he move around this place setting up the Doomsday trap for Superman? Wouldn't Doomslayer be upset with that? Why does Earth need to be destroyed? Whew ... a lot of questions. I suppose that is what a middle chapter is supposed to do. It is keeping me interested and guessing. I just hope the Luthor part of this is explained more.

Add to that, the incredible incredible art by Rocafort, albeit half the pages. I would love to get a Supergirl commission from him.

That means this issue shows tremendous story-telling potential for this arc, maybe more than I expected. And that probably bumps the rating up half a grade.

Overall grade: B+


LJ-90 said...

I find it weird that they're talking about the asteroid destroying the entire planet, but after saying that all the president talk was about defending the country...I understand if they want to support the idea that Superman is an American but it did looked a little weird...kinda selfcentered. I mean, the thing is going to destroy the entire planet, I don't see anything wrong with saying "the world needs you".
I'm not a big fan of this arc, altough I loved the way Cornell wrote Supes.

Dave Mullen said...

It's an okay arc but it is built entirely on suspense & mystery and hence is depending an awful lot on all those questions pointed out in the review above being answered.
I think I'm not as critical as i should be as this arc is a rare occurence we have of Superman actually doing his job instead of morbid self exile to New Krypton or plodding around the country dejected.
The fact this story reeks of an editorial inspired plot is very self evident, particularly due to the loose ends and unanswered questions and I wish a resolution was made to put the character back in the hands of longterm writers, it's as if DC no longer trust a writer to be let loose on the books anymore...

Something that bothers me as well is that to say the story is centred on him Doomsday plays no particular part in it. I don't buy the idea he's a totally crap character, it's up to the writer to make him interesting within the story and that could so easily be done. What is the point of a 'Reign of Doomsdays' if the titular character is mere window dressing?
Doomslayer is clearly a means to sidestep this issue, unless there's a really clever idea behind him and not all is as it seems here is a character we will never see or hear from again. Terribly impractical design and a very 90s name attached to it...
One possibly good development out of this issue is that this might be the springboard to reinvent the Eradicator, he's the least successful of the Supermen and badly needs a bit of a rethink.

Anj said...

I mean, the thing is going to destroy the entire planet, I don't see anything wrong with saying "the world needs you".

Thanks for the comment.
That is a very good point and would have sounded fine.

Anj said...

The fact this story reeks of an editorial inspired plot is very self evident, particularly due to the loose ends and unanswered questions

Thanks for the comment.

That is an interesting way to think about this as it sort of had the feeling of a manufactured event.

I don't quite understand how the heroes are suddenly fine after getting pounded in the previous installments.

I do like seeing Team Superman working together again.

Anonymous said...

Waaaa-al lets recap shall we, Supergirl has already been dropped from the roster of the JLA so she can spend more time getting jobbed out to Doomsday in Action Comics...All to restore her mopey-@ss cousin to superheroic pre-eminence.
I have come to the conclusion that whenever something goes wrong with Superman from a meta-contextual/storytelling point of view, it is almost always SuperGIRL who pays the price.
And is where I am with all of it til we see the dust settle from Flashpoint, if she is wearing a Black Costume and dating Luthor again, don't say you weren't warned....

John Feer

valerie21601 said...

Yeah, I agree with John. It looks like we'll have to wait and see what happens with Flashpoint.

I read Flashpoint went from a 6 issue series to a 5 issue series. I'm hoping they (DC Comics) is smart enough to finish it up sooner than later especially after the length of Darkest Night and the Brightest Day series that went on for several months longer than they should have.

I worry with SO MANY mini-series coming out at the same time it will severely hurt the other titles still struggling to survive but not cancelled (yet) and hurt the series that do have good sales.

I do know with my little budget limit I will NOT be buying a single issue of Flashpoint nor any of it's related mini-series. I will simply wait until the Greg Cox novel based on it comes out. Somehow Greg Cox manages to keep things straight and gives you the real details you really need to know while keeping the story straight too.