Friday, June 10, 2016

Review: Action Comics #957

#Rebirth as a special is behind us. But the concept of a DCU Rebirth, of a reinvigorating and a return to greatness for the characters, is very much ongoing. And the one of the first places that we could see that on display is in Action Comics.

The Superman Rebirth #1 book set the stage. The new 52 Superman is dead and buried. The pre-Flashpoint Superman (now just 'Superman' in these reviews) is still on this Earth, debating what his next steps are but intent on honoring the S-shield and this world's Superman.

Now in Action Comics #957 we get to see that all play out. From the issue's number to the montage pseudo-movie poster of a cover to the characters and plots on the inside, everything here read true. Everything here felt right. Everything was a rebirth of what a Superman book should be.

Writer Dan Jurgens does a great job giving us plot points and tropes that feel both classic and fresh. There are subplots, and character moments, and a great cliffhanger. There are subtle homages to more classic stories. There is a lot that happens in these 20 pages.

Artist Patch Zircher really brings his A game to the affair as well. I was very impressed with page layouts and panel selection. We get three splash pages, all worthy of big art. We get thin narrow panels in some times of great action making it 'feel' fast and claustrophobic. And the expressions on characters' faces adds so much.

Suffice it to say, I was very happy with this book. And here are the details.

The book opens with a very classic super-hero scene. There is a hostage crisis in Metropolis. The kidnappers haven't made any demands. The Special Crime Unit and the press have surrounded the building to try to talk the situation down. Will a hero come to save the day?

But as a Superman fan, this felt perfect. Maggie Sawyer is there as the head of the SCU. Jimmy 'Mr. Action' Olsen is there, camera in hand, ready to cover the news.

I can't tell you how, right out of the gate, seeing these supporting characters acting like they should, in a situation they should be, made me feel. It was like I was finally reading a Superman book I wanted to. And I hadn't even seen the big red S!

I also love the horizontal flow of the top panel. The line of the gun, Jimmy's arms and camera, the jeep mirror and Maggie's gun all lead the eye. Great stuff.

Inside, we see the lights get killed and someone wearing the classic S-shield go in and throttle the kidnappers. As the a reader, after that opening with Jimmy and Maggie, it would be easy to assume that this was Superman saving the day.

But it isn't.

It is an armored Luthor. In Justice League's Darkseid War, Luthor was told the S-shield was now his symbol.

This was one of those times that I wish comics didn't give 5 page previews. This was a nice feint, having it be Lex and not Superman. But I already knew it.

But this definitely deserved a splash as Lex is going to be a main character here.

As for Clark, Lois, and Jon, they are settling in to a new home upstate from Metropolis. The events of their mini-series have forced them to move.

I loved that series for its traditional take on the characters. Lois was a hard-nosed, brilliant, brave investigative journal. Superman was there to help. And they were teaching all these life lessons to their son.

Here, we see more of that wisdom. Jon wonders why his father doesn't just unpack the family at super-speed. Lois reminds him that super-powers are for emergencies. You need to live an everyday life without cheating.

For me, Clark is a good man who happens to be super. Not a superman. And this living with humanity, not above it, is an important relationship.

The quiet moving day is interrupted by the news coverage of Lex's rescue. And Lex is playing it to the hilt. Luthor talks of knowing Superman, being Superman's friend, and being the obvious replacement to wear the S-shield and be called Superman.

Clark can't take it. It is an affront to him and all he stands for.

After a Byrne-ian heat vision shave (yay!!!), Superman flies off to Metropolis. This is a job for Superman.

Again, this is a big moment, the return of Superman, and so that means it needs big art. Love the perspective there.

It leads to a confrontation above Metropolis.
Superman demands that Lex remove the S-shield. Luthor doesn't believe that this is Superman since everyone knew a Superman has died. It is a tense moment.

I love how we see all the cell phones raised, recording this moment.

An unknown reporter is running out of The Planet and heading to the scene.
Lois and Jon are discussing why Dad would choose this moment to reveal himself.
Maggie learns that a smaller group of the kidnappers actually robbed a huge vault in the building.
I said, a lot is going on here.

And then the fight breaks out. 

You might think that Superman acted rashly, getting into a fight that didn't need to happen. But after all this Superman has been through, I can understand why he would be disgusted about his family crest being worn by this despicable human.

The fight sequence is very well done.

But I loved this panel sequence.

First off, Luthor asking what this Superman is - a cyborg, a clone, a magical construct - is clearly a nice riff back to the Reign of the Supermen story.

And that narrow panel of Jon and Lois looking on worried is powerful. That cramped feel adds some suspense.

As for that reporter from the Planet, it turns out to be Clark Kent.

But, because of The Truth, everyone knew Superman was Clark. And Superman is dead. So who can this be?

I usually have theories about these things. But frankly, I'm at a loss.

What I really love about this panel is Jimmy's sort of dismissive and suspicious look. Great art.

But there are layers on top of layers here.

Mr. Oz is around and watching this whole thing unravel. And he is watching everything.

He is seeing Clark and Jimmy, Lois and Clark, and Superman and Lex. And he sees the kidnappers struggling with the coffin they stole. Whatever is inside that coffin wants out.

Is Mr. Oz really Adrian Veidt? I kind of hope he isn't. But then, who is he? A Pa Kent from another universe? A comic avatar of Geoff Johns?

But there wasn't much time for me to think about it. Because the contents of the coffin plummets to the ground, right between Superman and Luthor. And it turns out to be Doomsday.


Now just in the last couple of years we had read a big Doomsday story. He was a plague. He made Superman a monster. Do we really need another Doomsday arc?

At least this is an old school Doomsday.

Given the feeling of Rebirth, of legacy and legend, maybe Jurgens can do something with the character that is fresh and classic. It feels early to be going to Doomsday. But I'll go in with an open mind.

Despite my questions about Doomsday, this was a great issue. As I said, there was so much about this book that I loved. It all felt right. The family scenes, the city scenes, the Luthor and Superman conversation ... it all felt right. Thankfully!!! It all felt right.

And I haven't been able to say that for a while.

Overall grade: A


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Granted, we have to wait for the last two issues of JL to come out, but why the rush to judgment on Lex? Why does he know the new52 Superman is dead, but in Rebirth Batman was saying new52 Supes was missing for over a week and he was still looking for him?

And obviously Lex knows there's something different about the pre-Flashpoint Superman, he looks or seems older. I realize these first issues are all going to be really huge info dumps to get us to a slower pace in the second issue, and that's fine by me.

It just seemed pretty hasty for PF Superman to fly off and not wait for any of the other member of the JL (who were on the cover!) show up. And of course, the two Lois Lanes. And, if you think about it, if the Clark Kent we saw is the new52 version, and that Superman was depowered or ended up in the matrix or whatever, it will explain his age. Assumedly, if Superman appears older to Lex, then Clark Kent will still have to appear young to Maggie and Jimmy, etc.

I'll assume Mr. Oz is Ozymandius since DC ran out of ideas with this Rebirth, but it would be very cool if that character was the Time Trapper instead.

Anj, you should read the first issue of Wonder Woman. Greg Rucka makes a very good point about the various reboots (even Strasynski's) and takes a fantastic pot shot at Infinite Crisis.

Anj said...

I agree that a Superman did react rashly in confronting this Lex. He knows this world is different. But with so much history, I guess he couldn't hold back.

I did read WWnand looooved it. So pumped for that book.

Anonymous said...

I agree it was rash for Superman to rush to conclusions about Lex and not to realise Lex would have tricks and traps on his suit like that personal forcefield he always has in every incarnation of his armour. But unlike New 52 Superman's inconsistent moods, Jurgens has consistently written L&C Clark White as being susceptible to aggression if someone is doing things he considers to be bad or injustices. Which applies in spades with Luthor. Other than that and the lack of surprise if you've read any solicits or previews about the status quo, this was an interesting and well crafted issue. It was great to see Jurgens put so many of the pieces of this arc into play at once, rather than draw the respective plot points out. Looking forward to how Jurgens meshes them all together. Zircher's art was amazing, I'm glad he's one of the artists for Action Comics.

Also, what was the pot shot Rucka took at Infinite Crisis?


Martin Gray said...

A brilliant opener, with character, action and amazing art aplenty. It didn't cross my mind that Superman was being rash, yeah, he'd investigated Luthor and found no evidence, but he knows the guy is a scumbag.

Remember that Lois and Clark subplot about this Superman being weaker - was that just a Vandal Savage thing? Reckon he's now at full power?

Anonymous said...

Count me in as someone who thought Superman was acting rashly (and recklessly). It reminds me of the brawl between the "Son of Krypton" (Eradicator) and Steel during Reign of the Supermen. Lois gives them both a piece of her mind for acting like idiots, causing tons of unnecessary collateral damage, and for endangering nearby people. Though to be fair, Lois could still do that later ;)

It's certainly a very different feel than Superman: Lois and Clark, where the pace was much less rushed. Clark's sudden decision to reveal himself with his ready and unpacked costume was so weird that even Lois seemed baffled.

I liked the part where Lois explained why Clark wasn't using superpowers for unpacking, probably because it felt like a natural continuation of Lois and Clark. The art was amazing in the book. The bulk of the book is basically talking smack and brawling in the return to the original numbering for Action Comics. That's both fitting (in some ways) and disappointing. This was surprising given how much I loved Lois and Clark.

All-Star Superman never stopped giving Luthor a chance (until the very last moments when he was on the brink of transcendence and really needed to K.O. Luthor). Perhaps it's not fair to compare any version of Superman to All-Star Superman (as that's a near-perfect portrayal of the character). But seriously, it's okay to have an issue or two to build up the conflict without demolishing buildings in a super-powered fistfight. Like I said before, Kara may come with an 85% chance of punching, but these days it feels like Kal comes with a 100% chance of it, and that's kind of depressing.