Friday, July 4, 2014

Review: Action Comics #33

Action Comics #33 came out this week, the next chapter in the Superman Doomed storyline and first part of the Superdoom section of the arc. And after reading this issue, I was torn as a reviewer.

Because there were parts of this issue that I liked very much. I am enjoying the growth of Lana as a tour de force in this title. I like the ongoing 'what would Superman do' that characters keep falling back on as a moral compass. I was impressed with Pak's writing of Superman's internal monologue, holding back the demon inside him. And I was glad that we finally some progress in the Lois/Smallville plot (including a great cliffhanger).

Most of all, I loved Aaron Kuder's art ... a whole issue's worth ... with great character moments, high action sequences, and the most monstrous of Superman/Doomsday I have seen yet.

But ...

I can't get around the odd characterization of Supergirl in this issue, markedly different that what we have seen Charles Soule write in Red Lanterns, which was different than her recent appearance in Superman/Wonder Woman (surprisingly written by Soule as well), which has been different than the way Tony Bedard has written her in the last issue of her own title. It just seems that maybe no one is reading the other's Kara. Here, she is portrayed in a way I worried she would be portrayed when she was given the red ring. It just stuck out.

And there are some other minor leaps I have to make to hold this issue's plot together.

Still overall, I think the good outweighed the bad.

The townspeople of Smallville have fallen into comas. But their brainwaves are being transmitted into space. With this information added to the mix, Steel brings his spaceship to the town and, with Lana, blasts into deep space to track the signal.

I love that Lana is portrayed as caring and strong and pro-active. She climbs on board, eager to help, and armed. And she knows that Superman would crush the drones trying to stop them from leaving because this is a just mission.

And I love the last panel, so much said by Kuder with that smirk.

But ...

Why is Steel so interested in the Smallville dilemma. Superman's connection isn't known. Why does he allow a civilian like Lana join the mission? She is an electrical enginner, not a super-hero. And her connection to Superman isn't known by him either. It isn't like he knows who Lana is to Clark ... at least I don't think he knows. Maybe Diana told him about Lana's secret phone?

And lastly ... why is America's government trying to shoot down Steel? Why must the military be portrayed as a villainous group?

And then we get an absolutely bizarre scene with Supergirl. Remember, just last month (LAST MONTH!) in Superman/Wonder Woman #9, Supergirl flew to Earth to try to stop Superman, worried about the monster he was becoming. She attacked him!!!

Here Pak has her impish, devilish, and reveling in her rage. As Superman streaks out of the solar system, Kara catches up at him. She tells him he needs to learn from her and get in touch with his rage. He says he never should have left Earth. She says he is magnificent. And then she cuffs him one.

That outlook on Clark is the exact opposite of what she was saying and doing JUST LAST MONTH!

Her smiling and exhilirated by her red ring and rage is extremely different than the weight she has felt by the ring in Red Lanterns and her own book.

Now Kuder draws her wonderfully. She is alive and vibrant, with a creepy smile, all consistent with a vomiting, happily angry Red Lantern. But that hasn't been Kara either.

She flies ahead, leading Superman to a place where he can put his rage to some good use. A moon colony is about to be destroyed, killing the populace. Maybe he can do something to help the people evacuate, or maybe even save the place.

But before she can say more, she flies away ... back to Earth.

Where I assume she will revert to the young hero hoping to rid herself of the ring and become a hero.

This characterization is just jarring, in stark contrast to the last few months of development in Kara.

Still, look at that Kuder art. You can barely recognize Superman. And Supergirl is insane looking, laughing at the impending destruction, bathed in an eerie light.

It turns out that there is a sort of Galactus Jr. character in the DCU called Harak. His hunger ... his curse ... is to consume planets.

I do like that he seems to have some nobility about him. He warned this place a year earlier that he was eating their world. He doesn't simply arrive, killing everyone.

Holding back the Doomsday rage for a bit, Superman is able to physically assist the escape ships into space. And with the innocents safe, there is nothing to keep the growing Doomsday anger in check.

He demonically smiles and attacks Harak.

In a very nice 2 page splash, we see the enormous, spiked, Superdoom attack. I mean, his fist is basically the size of this normal humanoid. You can barely see any Clark-ness in him. And this punch is so strong it shatters the moon he was trying to save. (At least I think it shatters the moon.)

Big moments deserve big art. And this seems to be where the fulcrum tips, where Doomsday begins winning over Superman's mind.

The moon shattering leads to debris flying into space, endangering the escape arks.

In one of my favorite moments in the book, Clark has an internal conversation with Doomsday himself. No whether this is a monologue where Clark is debating the two halves of himself or if it is literally a possession by Doomsday I am not sure. And neither is he. It is fascinating.

Could this mean that Superman can somehow exorcise Doomsday out? Split himself into the normal and abnormal parts? Is that the answer? And not a Krypto inoculation as I thought? It actually makes more sense than canine super-sera.

I also love Doomsday's taunts. A 'Kent-sized ball of tears and fluff'? Fantastic.

Indeed, Superman takes the advice, accepts who he has become, and uses the Doomsday death/entropy field to shatter the debris and save the ships.

But he has now crossed over.

Flying in deep space, following those brain waves, Steel's ship picks up the Doomsday energy signature. And suddenly, the duo has a philosophical conundrum. Do you continue the mission and save Smallville? Or do you turn and save Superman.

I love that Lana asks herself what would Superman do. And maybe I read into these things too much but the panel works so well. She is split ... torn ... about what to do. And Kuder showing me half or her emphasizes it!

The brain waves going out are now receiving a signal going back to Earth. Somehow Lana deduces this is some coma-signal ... and it is aimed right at Metropolis.

When Lana tries to communicate with Metropolis to warn them, Lois picks up. A very Brainiac'd Lois.

It is suddenly clear to Lana that Lois is part of the problem. How can she be awake if everyone else is in a coma? Is that why Lois scared the public about Superman ... to drive him away.

Now will we ever get an explanation about why Smallville was the start? Or how she got her powers back? Or why she doesn't seem to know Clark is Superman despite these amazing powers?

Still, Metropolis being threatened is a big deal and probably will bring Superman/doom back home.

At then Lana and Steel see what is riding the coma wave back to Earth.

Cyborg Superman! And squidy-looking Brainiac probes like something out of The Matrix.

Now I suppose any good Doomsday story has to have a Cyborg Superman in it. But I am still pretty depressed that this Cyborg is Zor-El. This is an excellent cliffhanger though. And beautifully rendered and colored splash page, also worthy of big art.

Unfortunately, it also means that for another issue we have no update on what Xa-Du is doing. Where is he? Is he cooperating? Who is watching him?

So overall an up and down issue. Most of my criticism is leveled at the portrayal of Supergirl, incongruous with the last three months of her story.

But the Doomed plot progresses. We have a great cliffhanger. And Aaron Kuder's art is stunning.

Overall grade: B


Count Drunkula said...

Sure sounds like Pak didn't read or pay attention to how Kara was portrayed in the other books and just wrote her how he thinks a Red Lantern would sound.

Supertorresmo said...

Supergirl was acting so strangely that I thought it was an hallucination!

Martin Gray said...

Oh, you're right about Supergirl being inconsistent, but I'm just so pleased to know she's de-Redding soon that I can go with it. So long as she's consistent in her own book and Red Lanterns. Oh, hang on ...

Did I misread? I thought Harak was kidding them about killing the planet himself to get them to evacuate before the coming cataclysm?

Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

I also am thrilled that Supergirl is de-redding! So one last gasp as a crazy?

I didn't read it that way. Will have to go back and reread.

Anonymous said...

I thought one of the reasons for character crossovers was to generate interest in the visiting character? Every time they write her this way in a crossover with another book it affects the perception of who Supergirl is. I can't imagine anyone reading this book and thinking "Wow, what a great character, I'm going to try her book."

Anonymous said...

1 small step forward -- Red Daughter, Tony Bedard interview, Geoff Johns interview -- but it's halfsteps back like this,
Superman/Wonder Woman #9, Justice League United #2, etc. -- that just make me wonder what's going on overall, in line with
your comment about right hand not reading what left hand was doing, characterization-wise.

As fans, we can only hope and see what future issues bring, and that things are truly turning a corner here.

Also hoping you get a chance to rewatch (and possibly) review the 1984 Supergirl film; I had to watch it myself recently
just for nostalgia's sake, and to get rid of the angry Supergirl bad karma.

Bartiemus said...

I'm so confused both Greg Pak and Charles Soule have written Kara extremely well before. What is it with the Super Family cross overs getting Kara all bent out of shape?

The characterization of her is impacting my enjoyment of the over all story I'm not looking forward to Supergirl 34 the doomed tie in.

Jay said...

Maybe this is the story in which Zor-El can regain some control, die heroically and leave the android body a lifeless husk, setting the stage eventually for Henshaw's consciousness to claim it. I think that's the best direction to go with this current characterization, as while I welcome different interpretations, I just don't see Zor-El being Cyborg Supes as being sustainable.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

For the two Anons and Bart - Kara's characterization does feel like a step backwards in comparison; and yes I don't know how this promotes her character or people wanting to try her book. I also don't know the purpose of the interaction other than to get Kal to that moon (which he could have discovered on his own). Anyways, at least I got to see Aaron Kuder draw her!

Jay - I can only hope that the Zor-El as the Cyborg gets retconned or written away. I completely agree ... it isn't sustainable.