Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Action Comics #968

Action Comics #968 came out last week and was a decent middle chapter to the Godkiller arc. While the main thrust of this issue were the tremendous action sequences which pitted Superman and Alex against the crusaders of L'Call and his partner Zade against Superman and Lex, it was the smaller moments giving us some insight into the characters that I appreciated the most.

Writer Dan Jurgens certainly can write the big super powered sequences well, having the combatants slam there way through Metropolis. These are the sort of scenes that made me fall I love with comics to begin with. And artist Tyler Kirkham continues to bring his A-game, bringing a great energy to fights while also making sure his expressive work impresses.

But for me, it is the subtle character nudges that that made me want to read the next issue already. L'Call hints at an interesting back story. Jon continues to win me over with his exuberance and desire to jump into action. Lex continues to ooze smugness, reminding me he shouldn't wear the S-shield. And the new Clark again shows that maybe he isn't a mild mannered reporter but something more nefarious. These are the moments, more than the haymakers and body slams, that grabbed me.

I'll say again that Kirkham shines here. I love his Lois and his Jon. And there are a couple of panels where his art complements the words perfectly.

On to the book.

The Godkillers L'Call and Zade are on Earth to kill Lex because they have seen a future where Luthor takes up the mantle of Darkseid and rules over all. There is a sort of 'Minority Report' to this justice, convicting and executing a man for a crime he has yet to commit. I can understand why Superman stands against it.

But I also wouldn't be surprised if Lex became Darkseid either. Here he seems overly confident in his fight with L'Call.

One thing I was happy to see is that Luthor has some head protection built into the armor. I can't stand it when someone is in a mech suit with an exposed head. One good sniper and it is brains everywhere! At least now we know there is a force field protecting him.

Meanwhile, Superman realizes that Zade is keeping him away from the real threat, L'Call trying to execute Luthor. He uses his super-vision to assess that situation, only to see that Clark and Lois are right next to the action.

But there is something wrong here. He can't focus. I don't know if there is something mystical about the Godkillers which is effecting Superman here or if it is something else. But clearly, they can hold there own with Superman.

I also like that super-vision is colored gold here. I wouldn't mind it if every vision had its own color, a visual shorthand for what power is being used.

One thing that I was worried about in this new DC Rebirth landscape was my overall reaction to Jon as Superboy. I usually cringe at these sorts of characters. It is rare that a comic can have a superhero be a parent without either having the protagonist look like an absentee father or mother or to hav the child eventually retconnd out. (Animal Man being an example of the parent hero done right.) And the kid usually has a Scrappy Doo fell to them, a last ditch effort to inject something new into a dying reality.

Surprisingly, I have loved Jon, finding him charming and his boundless optimism irresistible. Here he slams an eighteen wheeler into Zade. This panel where he is beaming with pride is perfect. (Now why a car wreck incapacitated Zade when super speed punches didn't? I guess we may never know.)

With his opponent out of the way, Superman speeds to aid Lex. Jon lands on a nearby roof to stay out of trouble.

And then Dan Jurgens gives us one Hell of a hook. L'Call says he has killed other Kryptonians in the past! When? And who? Someone on Krypton before it exploded perhaps?

But this knowledge isn't the only surprise. L'Call pulls out a dagger and buries it in Superman's shoulder. He is a legitimate threat here, a warrior on a holy mission able to stand up to Superman.

I hope that some of L'Call's backstory, his interactions with this other Kryptonian, is explored.

The 'Who is Clark Kent' mystery has been one of my favorite parts of this book. I have no idea who or what he is. But more and more he is showing me that he isn't the sweet Kansas farm boy. There is something darker bubbling under that surface.

When Jon shows himself when Superman is hurt, Lois pleads with her son not to get involved. And that doesn't go unnoticed by Clark. The quiet way he acknowledges that she is talking to Jon has a decent creepy factor. And somehow it being shown in the reflection of his glasses adds to that.

Who is he? Construct? Clone? Villain in disguise? Mr. Oz agent??

L'Call ends up getting the upper hand and is about to decapitate Superman when Jon finally does show himself. With tears streaming down his face, he begs the Godkiller not to kill his father. And somehow that touches L'Call who grants a reprieve.

So my guess is somewhere along the way we will get an origin story of L'Call. And in it either his father is slain or his son is somehow lost. Given what we have seen of him, there is no way he would just let Superman live ... unless Jon's words resonated for some reason.

Hmmm ...

But there is more.

Somehow L'Call has weakened Superman with this attack. This makes me think the idea of magic being involved is a good bet.

That said, after a year of a depowered Superman draining himself with flares and being drained by Hordr_Root, I am sick to death of that plot. I hope this is a transient effect which ends once L'Call teleported away with Lex in tow.

For the last 10 years or so, all I have wanted was a Superman story. I have been thrilled since Rebirth to be getting them. Don't depower him now!

And then the most chilling panel, showing once again that Clark isn't a nice guy.

Here he tells Superman that he should just let Lex be killed. After all, that could potentially save millions. Lex is already proven to be a bad guy. Superman shouldn't try to rescue him. This isn't a Clark from another world raised with the Kent wisdom. Our Clark would never say that, would never have been taught that by Ma and Pa.

That first panel, with Clark draped in shadows, is fantastic, telling us there is something dark and sinister about him. That is what comics are all about, mixing words and images to create something bigger.

So overall, I think this was a very good issue in building up the motivations of the characters of this arc. We didn't take a giant leap forward. But we certainly filled in some holes, making this a much more complete feeling story. Hopefully some of the hints and hooks we read here will be fleshed out moving forward.

And those hooks made me want to read the next issue now.

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

Wasn't it a fantastic issue? Jurgens is blessed with the great artists his scripts deserve. And didn't I say Clark spilled Lois's coffee on purpose?

Anj said...

Yeah ... that Clark is no good!