Friday, March 25, 2022

Review: Action Comics #1041

Action Comics #1041 came out this last week, the latest excellent chapter in the Warworld saga. This is one of the best comics on the stands these days. And this issue, a sort of rest issue within the main saga, continues that trend.

Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson does something interesting here, taking the spotlight off of Superman and putting it on Midnighter instead. But even though the action is all from the Authority member, Superman as an idea, as an inspiration, is everywhere in the book. In fact, Superman's 'presence' is a great contrast to Midnighter, showing how different leaders rally folks in different ways.

Johnson also does something interesting with time here. I wonder if this issue sort of transcends the timeline of the book. We see that a lot has happened in this issue. But a lot of time has passed. I wonder if next issue we don't pick up right where this one ends, instead heading back. 

As this is a sort of side adventure, we get a guest artist. Dale Eaglesham brings a heavier ink to the tale than the artists who have been the regulars on this Warworld tale. But that thicker line and heavier shading feels more appropriate for a Midnighter story. The art complements the story.

Seriously, this Action book is just fantastic. No one should be sleeping on it.

The book starts with a 'weeks earlier' timeline and Phaelosian storyteller Byla-Esh about to be slaughtered by a couple of Warzoons. Byla had been spreading the stories of Superman. But with Superman stabbed by Mongul with the K-spear, the Warzoons think the time is right for Byla to be killed. 

But before that can happen, the Midnighter, battered and bloodied, comes crashing in. But even in this state, he makes short work of these warriors. And I mean, he makes mincemeat of them, dismembering and disemboweling them before passing out.

Now remember that Superman's moniker on Warworld is 'The Unblooded Sword'. A handful of panels in and we immediately see that Midnighter takes a different strategy.

And I feel story-teller isn't strong enough to describe Byla-Esh. He seems more like a priest or prophet,

We jump to Lunar Rotation 17. So is that 17 Earth months? And where does that fall in comparison to last issue? Before? Current? After? This is why I think we are seeing Midnighter's story throughout the arc and that the Superman storyline will be told slower. We will see some of the moments replayed in later issues I bet.

Here Midnighter again ambushes a Warzoon tormenting people for believing in Superman. We are starting to see that the legend of Superman, the influence of Superman is beginning to form.

But while Superman is there to free the slaves of Warworld, Midnighter is on a different mission. He wants to know where Apollo is.

I like how all Earthlings look the same. People keep calling Midnighter 'Superman', something he is insulted by.

But even though his methods and his ideas are very different from Superman's, Midnighter can inspire.

Some of the slaves complain that in the midst of battle, he broke their chains. Remember, on Warworld, long chains represent status. A broken chain is a loss.

Having come in and doled out fatal justice, he tells the slaves that maybe they shouldn't talk big about their chains and instead do something with them off.

We see the female slave who complained in subsequent scenes, having joined Midnighter's marauders.

And then we keep jumping forward. Lunar rotations 36 ... 45. 3 years? Almost 4?

But over that time the legend of Superman grows. 

We see Byla-Esh telling a mythic version of Superman fighting Doomsday. And Superman fought not to show his strength but to protect the weak. That message is permeating.

And we see how the S-shield is becoming a symbol, burned on buildings, painted on statues of Mongul. Superman is inspiring.

But this is all happening so fast. We jump 9 rotations in one panel. We will see these moments again as Superman's story unfolds.

But while Superman's selfless approach is becoming almost a cult like revolution, The Midnighter continues to slaughter his way closer and closer to Apollo.

In Lunar Rotation 61, he raids another Warzoon site. 

Here are those conflicting values at play. One rebel helping Midnighter says they need to remember the words of Superman to not kill. Immediately after, Midnighter beheads the Warzoon they spared.

Two leaders of the same rebellion with two completely opposing feelings about the sanctity of life.

We had learned earlier in the story that Warworld is actually several planets held tenuously together. Disrupting the fusion generators would have the planet fall apart.

Now we learn that Apollo is actually the energy source for one of those generators. Freeing Apollo will destroy Warworld.

But again we see Midnighter and his goals. He wants to free Apollo. Freeing the other slaves is just bonus. He doesn't care if Warworld falls apart.

So interesting. 

It makes me wonder if Superman is aware of what Midnighter is doing.

Switching scenes, we see that the freed slaves are living in the Necropolis. And Byla-Esh is continuing to proselytize. 

Here he tells another story of Superman saving the universe from a Wicked Queen and her Radiant Dead.

Does anyone know what this story is that is being referenced? My guess it is another near-truth legend, an approximate Blackest Night. But maybe I am missing something obvious.

The time seems ripe for Midnighter to finally free Apollo and bring down Warworld.

But now we learn that OMAC has joined the hordes of Mongul and is leading an attack. Midnighter can't do a guerilla raid now. It would be an attack, an act of war, and would lead to many slaves' deaths. 

Even knowing that, Midnighter still wonders if freeing Apollo is the right thing, adding a weapon to rebel cause.

I just think this whole issue seeing Midnighter operate while hearing about Superman's good deeds and legends is just great stuff to chew over.

And OMAC turning? I have to figure somewhere in the future is an issue titled "OMAC's story" just like this is called "Midnighter's Tale". We'll learn how OMAC changed, I'm sure.

Anyways, before Midnighter has to make the tough decision, it is made for him.

Superman arrives. It is time to free everyone.

Remember this image. I am certain we will see it again, probably from a reverse angle, as the story catches up to this moment. Steel is there. And the turned OMAC. We need to fill in their back stories.

And, of course, we need to see how Superman and his legend has grown such that the people on Warworld are willing to burn the S-shield onto the planet.

So yes, brilliant storytelling giving us a taste of the future. An inspirational Superman will always be a winner and this time it was through tales of him. And the contrast of Midnighter amplified that.

Great issue.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Great review. I especially appreciate your thoughts on the timeline… I thought we were just going across an Earth month, and that we pretty much caught up with last issue’s events… wasn’t Apollo discovered at Warworld’s core a couple of issues ago, and Superman was in the outfit he wears here last month?

Whatever the case, this is great stuff.

Anonymous said...

There is a short scene in #1040 where Mongul's "lackey" (as OMAC puts it - and it's not clear to me based on appearance if that lackey is Chaytil or someone else) tempts OMAC - that Orphan and Darling have the power to return Lightray to life, if he works with him.

So that may the whole story behind OMAC turning. We have to fill in the blanks, though - how much killing has OMAC had to do to this point, to show loyalty?


Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

Yes, there are too many blanks to fill.

That is why I think we will get an OMAC issue, like this was a Midnighter issue, to fill in those gaps in between.

I'm probably wrong. But it would be a good idea.