Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: Action Comics #902

It will be a busy week of reviews here as 5 books were all released that I was planning to comment on here!

The first will be Action Comics #902, another chapter in the Reign of Doomsday storyline by Paul Cornell. Art duties are split by Kenneth Rocafort and Axel Gimenez. I don't know if this split was because Rocafort got behind or to give him some lead time on Red Hood and the Outsiders. I love Rocafort's art and he does a great job here. His Supergirl is wonderful. Gimenez does a fine job but it is tough to follow Rocafort's pages.

Now I will admit that a lot of this storyline has so far been unexplained and my guess is that it might just stay way. If I am following the plot, Luthor cloned Doomsday to get Superman's attention, making sure that Lex was able to continue his Black Ring quest without interruption. But how did Lex clone him? And how did he add those super-family duplication powers? And Lex just happened to have the Doomsdays bring their prey back to the ship that Doomslayer flew into our solar system? And Doomslayer, who wants to kill all Doomsdays didn't act before now? It is a lot to swallow ... some of it doesn't make any sense.

But maybe this is supposed to be more of an outrageous action arc rather than an deeper story. Certainly the previous chapters have been heavy on the beatings and super-powered brawls. So maybe I should just enjoy the battles and just roll with some of the story inconsistencies. I will say this, the characterization is fantastic and there are some great Supergirl moments.

Now last issue ended with Doomslayer ripping the Eradicator in half.

But almost immediately he shows remorse. He talks as if he is Doomsday with a conscience, but fighting to keep his murderous rage in check. He has perspective, morals, and he knows what Doomsday is.

Now we have seen a thinking Doomsday before. But a Doomsday struggling to maintain an air of civility is actually something of an interesting idea.

But the bottom line is he wishes to expunge the idea of Doomsday from the universe. And he will start with the original Doomsday, gaunt and drained from Luthor's experiments.

Now in the past, Superman has actively sought out Doomsday hoping to kill him. But here he actually defends Doomsday, stopping Doomslayer from blasting him. It is nice to see Superman standing up, invoking his no killing rule, and stating nobody else dies today. After all, as Superman says, if Doomslayer has a conscience, maybe Doomsday will end up with one.

But wasn't Doomsday tied up on Doomslayer's ship? Isn't it assumed that Luthor put him there? Wouldn't Doomslayer simply walk up to Doomsday and kill him before the clones gathered the super-family? If that is his goal and Luthor brought it to him on a silver platter, why delay? That is perhaps the biggest problem I have here.

Doomslayer's ship is also on a collision course for Earth, a blast that will destroy the world. Part of what Doomslayer hopes to do is destroy everything that remotely might be tainted by Doomsday. If people on Earth used Doomsday as a source material for clones, they must be wiped out as well.

One thing that did stand out here was Cornell's handling of Lois. She never loses faith in Superman even when there are multiple times it looks that he will fail. And she puts it so succinctly ... 'he'll save us or die trying'. How anyone can think that this relationship based on mutual respect, trust, and love needs to be 'rebooted'?

Remember how last issue Superman said that there was no way that the super-family could break out of the ship? How they were stuck there? Well, that gets taken care of easily ... Steel hacks into the ship's system and opens a door to space. So ... I guess I have to roll with that one as well. If it was that easy, why didn't Steel say something last issue when Superman talked about needing '10 times the brute force' need to break in to break out? And as a bonus Steel distributes nanites that let them speak in space to each other. Wow ... he is like a techno-Swiss army knife.

Anyways, outside, Supergirl tosses Doomsday into orbit and the Superman Family brace themselves against the ship to slow it down. Man, Rocafort can bring it!

And then the people of Earth cheer as they learn that Superman is there to try to save the day!

I just loved this panel. Moving the characters to the side gave this some gravitas. It makes them feel small, vulnerable. But it also conveys a 'quiet' moment.

So some more fuzzy science here but also a key clue.

The super-family, actually are slowing the descent of the ship, such that life on Earth won't die. But somehow, the slowed rate will kill Doomslayer in the crash. So he would have survived the high-speed planet-killing collision, but a slower continent-busting disaster would be fatal?? I don't understand that.

But Doomslayer also says that the barrier between universes has been breached. Does that mean he's a Doomsday from another universe? Interesting. What happened to the Superman on that world? Hmmm ... I have some crazy ideas.

There won't be enough time to stop the ship so Superman tells the team to break off and help with rescue efforts while he shoulders the load until the last second. There is such clear and wonderful leadership here! He says firmly 'no arguments' he is staying.

But I also loved Supergirl's response, worrying about her cousin. So perfect. I hope the 'new' Supergirl is as heroic and caring. I hope ...

And then this great follow-up moment. Superman is able to guide the ship into the ocean resulting in a tidal wave heading for Metropolis. But look at how Team Superman rises to the task. Yes, it is a monumental task ... but they are heroes.

I love Supergirl's determined look and dialogue! And they actually dissipate the wave, saving the city!

And a tired Superman crawls from the water, running into a winking and thrilled Lois. It might be a bit cliche but I thought this small interaction just worked. Is it because we have basically had no Superman/Lois interaction for a couple of years? Is it because their marriage is being dissolved? I don't care ... it was great.

And then in another interesting turn of events, Doomslayer ... who earlier vowed to kill all Doomsdays ... has decided to use the Doomsday clones to kill the humans who keep bring Doomsday back to life.

So there was plenty to like about this issue. The characterization of Superman and the super-family was spot on and Supergirl was given some nice moments. The Lois moments throughout were done right, both believing in her partner and then coyly winking when he returned. Doomslayer as a possible alternate universe Doomsday (somehow there is more to him than just that ... I keep thinking that it is just a body with someone else's persona in it). And there is Kenneth Rocafort's electric art! Those things were enough to let me brush some of the odder plot turns under the rug.

The sad thing is that Cornell seems to have a great handle on both Superman and Team Superman. And he only has two more issues on these characters. The saddest are these ... 'what might have been'.

Overall grade: B


Dave Mullen said...

I had the same questions you did but after reading the issue three times plus previous issues I can answer some of the questions:

*Luthor was seen back in Action '872/73 over Doomsdays dead body with General Lane. Lane encourages the skeptical Luthor to look closely at the body, to which Luthor reacts with surprise and revelation. The plotline was left dangling however, till now.

*When Doomslayer is commenting on Team Superman slowing the ship and him not surviving the crash what he's actually getting at (i think) is that the ship is heading to earth with engines at full and close to lightspeed (see last issue), but as also revealed the interior of the ship is a pocket universe and completely cut off from the real universe - Steel even speculates/states that while the ship would decimate earth they being inside the ship but also IN that pocket Universe would have been oblivious to it as they are divorced and shielded from the real universe. I think since Steel forced the opening that allowed the team to escape the shipe integrity is compromised hence Doomslayers comments about not surviving the lightspeed impact so deciding to reverse engines and go for a slower impact.

*When Steel created the door that allows them to finally exit the ship all he's doing it following the steps of Doomslayer who had previously hacked his way into the ships controls.
And I agree, this guy is near to being a walking plot device.

*Doomslayer himself I'm as puzzled at as you are - from his dialogue he is from the Future? An evolved Doomsday?
Either way I hope we'll get the full explanation next issue, he's actually a worthy replacement and evolution to the Doomsday concept and with more work a potentially worthwhile addition to Supermans regular rogues gallery, but I doubt very much we'll hear from him again after next issue alas...

Anj said...

Thanks for all the clarifications!

I have to say I was flummoxed a bit by everything.

Dave Mullen said...

I have to say I was flummoxed a bit by everything

And I can understand why. It's a decent action based storyline but the speed it's unfolding at and the abruptness by which these characters/situation arrived does leave it all hanging on the ultimate story of who/where/what Doomslayer is. It's a perfectly okay story with very good characterisation and art and I am hopeful of a satisfying climax next issue. But with Four Doomsday clones, the real Doomsday to consider and the mystery of Doomslayer I'm not holding out for a finale I'm happy with.
We already saw what just one Doomsday can do to a city, if there are FOUR Doomsdays (six if Proper-Doomsday and Doomslayer get in on it) about to mix it up we should be in for a major carnage style issue.... somehow though I feel we'll be in for a whimper....

Anonymous said...

I like how Superboy needs bracing up why Kousin Kara is entirely focused on "We CAN do this!"
If Marv Wolfman wrote this issue, the tidal wave would have killed Supergirl while somehow bestowing wonderful new super powers on Steel and Superboy. Kara's last words would have been "glub! Thank You for tolerating me for so long!"


John Feer