Friday, June 24, 2016

Review: Action Comics #958

Action Comics #958 came out this week, continuing the ongoing restructuring of the Superman mythos in the post-Rebirth landscape of the DCU.

It is phenomenal.

This feels like Superman. There are great character moments. There are fascinating mysteries. There is high action. This was an issue that lived up the the title Action Comics.

Writer Dan Jurgens is doing a brilliant job of weaving in the 'old' Superman and his background into the 'new' universe where the New 52 Superman is dead and Lex is wearing the S-shield. That friction of being a strange visitor from another universe is palpable. But Jurgens also fleshes out that feeling by bringing in older elements like Doomsday and showing us what this Superman's Lois is going through. It is both reminiscent of the Death of Superman storyline while feeling very different.

Jurgens also is keeping me engaged with some of the unanswered questions the book raises. Who is this Doomsday? How did he get here? Who is that Clark Kent? Where did he come from? And who is the enigmatic Mr. Oz? These questions are really the foundation that this arc is built on. I suppose I could channel Vince Lombardi and just say 'what the hell is going on out there?' As a long time reader who loves mysteries I have to try to decipher, I am rapt.

On top of the great story being written, Patch Zircher is just bringing it to this book. Everything about this book looks epic. From the concern on Lois' face to Superman's classic jawline to page layouts that add to the kinetic feel of the story to the palpable blows Doomsday lends, I was floored by the art. Fantastic.

Suffice it to say, I loved the issue.

The book starts out right where last issue left off. The body-suited Doomsday is tearing through Metropolis. Superman and Super-Lex are engaging him. Meanwhile Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent are there to cover the story. I love how Jimmy knows that picture with all these combatants will go viral.

This double page splash shows off what I meant about Zircher's work. I mean, there is a lot going on in these panels, a lot of people to place, a lot of action that needs to be represented. And Zircher does it all. It might seem odd to say, but Clark's positioning is the one that caught my eye. That is what a normal person should look like in this situation, cringing and ready to run at the same time.

Meanwhile, the shadowy Mr. Oz just watches from the sidelines. He has his eye on both Clarks as well as Lois and Jon.

I suppose at some point I'll have to tackle the mystery of Mr. Oz. One of my ideas was that he was a displaced Jonathan Kent given all the 'I taught you' talk he does.

If he truly is Ozymandias then he becomes the ultimate Deus Ex Machina. Nothing is off the table. He (with the help of Dr. Manhatten) could have created this Doomsday and this powerless Clark Kent.

I sort of hope he isn't Ozymandias. Let the 'Dr. Manhatten' nudge of the DCU be an interesting explanation for the darkening of this place that once said is forgotten. But I fear, given the Rebirth Special, that isn't going to happen.

I have to say that the strongest character moments in this issue were when we cut to the pre-Flashpoint Lois watching the news on her television.

This Lois has already seen Clark die once at the hands of Doomsday. She has already had to deal with imposters taking up the mantle of Superman and Clark. She is now a mother. All of this is simply ripping the guts out of her. At one point, she turns off the TV because she can't bear witness. Powerful stuff.

From this shot of Lois looking small and powerless in the glow of the television to close-ups of her fear on her face, this aspect of the story was done perfectly.

I also love Jon and his innocence. He is asking all the right questions about Doomsday and this Clark. He is supportive of his mother. But he wants to help and talks of flying to Metropolis. He is his father's son.

As for this Clark, he keeps saying he is Clark, he is powerless, and he will explain later. Jimmy brings up Lois' reveal. He wonders why this Clark hasn't joined in the fray.

But this Clark is adamant. He has no powers. He's just a guy.

So who is he? Robot? Alien shapeshifter? Matrix? All guesses are equally valid right now.

I show this panel because I love how Jimmy falls back on the 'throw something in the sun' answer. Classic.

The fight is becoming more and more ferocious. Doomsday is not only growing more bony spikes during the fight, not only is he winning, but he seems intelligent.

Doomsday tosses Superman through a news helicopter knowing that Superman will be distracted by the falling crew.

This is where I have to get my continuity ducks in a row. Even if the Doomsday we have seen in the New 52 has been mindless, this Superman has fought many Doomsdays, some of which have been intelligent.

Love this shot too. This is a portion of a splash page which is brilliant.

Over the course of the issue, Doomsday's destruction becomes more pronounced. Buildings are being devastated. The elevated train gets derailed. It really looks like a war zone.

Superman and Lex are somehow cordial to each other during the battle as they each try to take down Doomsday and stop the rampage.

At one point, Lex decides he needs to take the lead and tells Superman to stay back to help the people.

Is this because Lex is overly confident? Does he think Superman would be better at evacuating people to safety? Does he want the glory while simultaneously diminishing this Superman?

I suppose what I am asking is what are Lex's intentions here? Pure? Or self-motivated for aggrandizement?

But he's Lex ... in battle armor. He is no match for Doomsday and is quickly over powered.

And Mr. Oz wonders what Superman will do. And then Oz will respond.

Okay, this one seemed to have it all. There is a lot stuffed into these 20 pages. Despite all the story and action put in, we still get big art when needed. I am wholly impressed with the product.

It is like the dysfunction of the last couple of years in the Superman title are behind us. We are back to character driven, high action plots with some riddles to be solved. The story and art complement each other superbly. If any book feels like a Rebirth, it is this one. I hope all Superman fans out there, even if they have shied away from the character recently, are checking this one out.

Overall grade: A


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

In BEFORE WATCHMEN: DR. MANHATTAN#4, he creates a new universe and lets it float away like a river.No one has mentioned if this is supposed to have been the darkness the crept into the current Rebirth universe, meaning the end of Flashpoint and the start of the new52 allowed for the new universe to be shaped.

I'm sort of interested if Dr. Oz IS Ozymandius. What if Dr. M has killed off all the heroes in Alan Moore's universe? It would be an interesting twist.

Martin Gray said...

I'm actually stunned by just how quickly this book has become unmissable, mind, we do have two veterans at the helm.

Godzylla said...

I'm excited for Superman comics! I haven't been able to say that in so many years. This is just wonderful. Lois with Jon was perfect, not wanting Jon to see the violent battle and - what if Doomsday kills him again? Not for his young eyes.

I'm going with arrogance on Lex' part, but he's more complicated than that, especially with the JL 52 reveal of Lex being redemptive, for Lena.

I'm in!

Anj said...

Thanks for the info Wayne. I did not get the Dr. Manhatten mini.

I plan to review JL52 because I do think it was an interesting look at Lex and what his feelings are now.

It is great to be pumped for Superman books again.

Jonah Falcon said...

I believe Clark Kent, pre-Flashpoint Superman and New 52 Superman are all parts of the real Superman, and at some point, Clark, Superdad and New 52 Supes' ashes will combine somehow to bring back the original Superman.