Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: Action Comics #1000

Last week was a huge day in Superman history as Action Comics #1000 came out, complete with 10 different variant covers and 10 different stories. One of those was ''The Truth', the first installment by Brian Michael Bendis in his time running the Superman mythos.

I have to say that I loved the issue. Not every story resonated with me. But they all encapsulated who Superman is. I won't review all of them but each vignette leaned into the idea of Superman being a source of truth and justice, a good man trying to help, an inspiration to people everywhere, and beloved. This was my Superman.

Now this won't work for everyone, I'm sure. Some might think it was hokey. Others boring. Others yet unoriginal. But anniversary issues like this ... and this is the biggest anniversary issue of them all so far ... are supposed to be about looking back at the big concepts. And for me, I wanted it to honor all the mythology that came before it.

To put it in other terms, I'm a baseball fan and my favorite baseball movie is The Natural, an almost supernatural story about redemption. That's level is what this issue was. Not Bull Durham or Major League.

I also admit that I splurged and got a bunch of covers. I ordered the limited Artgerm and Tyler Kirkham variants. And at the store I bought the Dan Jurgens, Steve Rude, and Mike Allred covers. 

My favorite is probably the Allred one because he snuck so much Silver Age sweetness onto the cover, including some excellent Supergirl moments.

The plan here will be to look closely at the Bendis story and then touch upon some of the others, so be warned. Spoilers ahead.

The Bendis story starts on the Metropolis skyline as something flies through buildings, including Lexcorp. We then focus in on two women working in a diner when a battered Superman, the projectile which careened through the city,  comes tumbling through the front wall. 

A couple of things about this opening shot. First off, having Superman crash through the Luthor building is a nice little symbolism that there is a new, tougher archenemy in town. One who doesn't even care about Lex's building. And then seeing Metropolis through the eyes of these day workers was a nice way to give us the citizens' perspective of living with Superman. 

A huge scarred villain lands to try and finish off Superman but he runs into Supergirl.

Okay, this made me very happy. The first punch in Bendis' run is thrown by Kara. And this is Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 level anger on Kara (kudos to @FraktallnverTer for pointing out the similarities on Twitter) as she bashes this guy with a series of rabbit punches. If we were worried Kara was going to be forgotten, we learned she won't be.

Unfortunately, she seems outmatched.

Superman ends up staggering into the fight and after some quips, the two throwdown. But even Superman seems overpowered by this monster. The Kirby Krackle is crackling everywhere.

At last we get a name ... Rogol Zaar. 

And he claims that he is on Earth to cleanse it of the Kryptonian plague. Superman is first on the hit list. Supergirl will be next. 

Okay, we get it in just a couple of pages. This is a Doomsday level threat with a planetary racial grudge.

But then we get the last page which made me pause.

Zaar says that he is the one who blew up Krypton. And then he buries his spear, Batman V Superman style, right through Superman's chest.

I don't know why we need to rethink Krypton's origins or why it blew up. Can't the origin just stand on its own merits. The planet was unstable. Jor-El couldn't convince people to recognize the danger. Kal is rocketed away. It works. heck, Morrison boiled it down to eight words.

I don't know if I like creators feeling they need to add a new wrinkle, tell the story behind the story, or change things radically. Will Bendis make this work? Who knows. But already we are heading down a rocky path.

Still, no denying the presence of Supergirl here. Let's not look past that.

Okay, onto my favorite stories. 

Dan Jurgens wrote and drew 'From the City that has Everything' in which Lois has to cajole and convince Superman to attend a Superman day in Metropolis and get some accolades. She even thought ahead to have the JLA run interference on threats so he had no excuse.

I love how awkward Superman is in being thanked. This isn't why he does it. And I loved that it isn't just the citizens of Metropolis but also the hero community which thanks him. 

Great story.

Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason do a wonderful story titled 'Never Ending Battle) where Superman is cast through Hypertime by Vandal Savage. As a result, the team gets to give us a page from all the Superman eras from the earliest days to the mullet days of the 90s to The Dark Knight Returns and even Kingdom Come. But in all those timelines, his desire for justice ... and his love for his family and his desire to get home to them ... keeps him on task to ultimately defeat the bad guy. 

Great retrospective told in splash pages.

Geoff Johns and Richard Donner along with Olivier Coipel give us 'The Car'. 

In a nice little story, we get to see what happened to Butch, the masher from Action Comics #1

As he waits for his destroyed car to be assessed, Superman shows up with a life lesson. Butch's youth wasn't a happy one. Now the time has come for Butch to decide who he is going to be. Will he be the bully? Or will he be a friend?

I don't know if I ever gave a second thought to what ever happened to Butch. That is a great call back.

'Actionland!' was brought to us by Paul Dini, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (praised be his name), and Kevin Nowlan.

In a futuristic amusement park, kids are on a Superman roller coaster ride which is telling the life story of Superman. They get to the end of the Man of Steel's career when he was defeated by Mr. Mxyzptlk. At first I thought Dini was referencing Moore's 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Steel' but in the end it is something more fun. And there is a nice comment about how Superman stories are limitless. Not one can ever be 'the story'. 

Hmmm ... maybe it is a reference to Moore's story in the end.

Love this one. The art is just gorgeous.

And then, of all people, Brad Metzler (of Identity Crisis fame) with John Cassaday gives us 'Faster Than a Speeding Bullet' in which we learn that Superman is as inspired by us as we are of him. 

It all works.

There are other stories in here, including the 'new' Curt Swan art that are other interesting takes on Superman and his legend.

In case you didn't get it, I loved this issue. I don't know where Bendis is bringing us. I am bummed that the current creative teams are getting axed. But for now, this book reminded me of where we have been and why I love Superman. That is about as big a compliment I can give a book.

Overall grade: A for anniversary


Anonymous said...

Superman is 80 years old.

Action Comics has made it to its #1,000 issue.


Eighty years of super-hero comics thanks to two Cleveland boys who eight decades ago dreamt a man could fly-- er, leap buildings in a single bound.

Talking about long-runners, the first AC back-issue reviewed by yourself was #289; and the first review for a then current issue was #866. Who would tell you that you'd end reviewing the thousandth issue!

My favorite covers are the 60's -pure Silver Age goodness- 80's -great blend of the 1978 film and late Bronze Age Superman-, and 40's. The 70's, 90's and 00's covers are a bit disappointing, being mere poses.

"The Truth" was a entertaining fight scene, and it's always nice seeing Kara cutting loose. Here, she's simply brutal.

As for Rogol Zaar and his motivations, I also think it's an unnecessary wrinkle, albeit admittedly someone being responsible for Krypton's destruction has been done many, many times since the Silver Age.

Then again, Bendis never cared much for continuity.

"For the city who has everything" was touching, with excellent art. That panel where Clark and Diana float down to the gathering of heroes while she reminds him none of them would be here without him (how meta!) is maybe my favorite. And how great is to see the Super and Bat Clans gathered, and Supergirl and Batgirl standing side by side?

"Of Tomorrow" was a tear-jerker. It almost felt like a Bronze Age story: it's literally the end of the world, and an impossibly old Superman has come to say goodbye to his parents for the last time.

"Action Land" was fun! I think Mxyzptlk's story was a homage to both "Whatever..." and "Crisis on Infinite Earths" And JLGL drawing hotpants-wearing Kara again!

I also enjoyed "The Car", although that Superman resembled his post-Golden Age incarnation.

All in all, AC #1000 has been a great anniversary issue. It looked into most of things make Superman Superman: the Kansas farmboy, the stranger from another planet, the journalist, the nice man trying to make the right thing, the godlike being, the family man... and it featured the main supporting cast: Lois, Kara (I was frightened that she'd be forgotten again!), Jon, Krypto, Perry, Jimmy, his parents (both sets of them)...

Oh, and I'm sorry for the off-topic, but I was looking for information regarding Brainiac's Daughter after seeing SG show fans wondering if Supergirl and Brainy could have children. In "Kingdom Come - The 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition", Alex Ross had this to tell: "As silly as it sounds, this character is the combination of two songs by one of my favorite groups, XTC: "That's Really Super, Supergirl" and "Brainiac's Daughter." Apparently people assumed that her origin was from the coupling of old-time Legion lovebirds Brainiac 5 and Supergirl, and so, never having answered this question before myself, I'll go along with this idea. This also suggests that she, like Starman VIII, has traveled back in time from the 30th century."

So... Yes. She's Kara and Querl's daughter. It's canon per her co-creator's word (she also makes a cameo appearance in Justice League Adventures #20, by the way).

Anonymous said...

I am really hopeful after Bendis preview. Many have spoken well about the latest superman run, but while it undoubtedly did well in regards to creating a family for Superman, it also undeniably failed big at relating to his cousin, which not only was a letdown for Supergirl fans but also a huge missed opportunity on adventures to tell.

I hope that Bendis with almost limitless power will be the bridge to breaking the sandboxes plaguing the DC-verse.

I also loved the dialog regarding the trunks. I loved the art. I loved the monster design. I really enjoyed the teaser.

Do I need to revisit Krypton? No, but with Jurgens AC and the Krypton show pretty much erasing Kara from her own backstory, I am open for her putting her foot down for a krypton arc in defiance of those who would have disappear from the lore.

I welcome Bendis... For now :D

Martin Gray said...

Fine review, sir. The best moment in the Bendis story was Superman stopping himself from going through the bookshop window, that takes control! And his politeness to the women who helped him. And Kara, or course. But I’d happily see Kara ignored in the Superman title if it meant we could keep Jurgens, Gleason and Tomasi and she could have her own book, with her own direction.

Anonymous said...

I'm still going to reserve judgment on Bendis. All I'm going to say is that I loved the 60's variant cover since it recognized that Kara's adventures were the backup stories in Action for a decade.

Anonymous said...

" But I’d happily see Kara ignored in the Superman title if it meant we could keep Jurgens, Gleason and Tomasi and she could have her own book, with her own direction."

Suit yourself. I think Jurgens and Tomasi's runs were serviceable but not extraordinary so I'm not particularly sorry to see them end; and neither Kara ignored in the Superman titles nor Supergirl lacking her own book are desireable or acceptable developments as far as I'm concerned. Let alone something I'd be happy with.

Anonymous said...

Other than depicting Kara as the world's angriest punching bag, exactly what did we get out of Bendis in this issue that makes anyone hopeful?
I am now of the opinion that "Supergirl's new mission" somehow involves time traveling back to pre-ka-boom Krypton and verify whatzisname's story. This would be a rough tie in with the "Krypton" series on ScyFy as well. Its a dumb storyline with little potential for character growth for Supergirl but then this is DC who cancelled her current series when it was still selling well, smart decisions aren't their strong suite. And I agree with Anj, "Poor Krypton" they just won't let that poor planet go Boom In Peace.