Friday, April 29, 2022

Review: Action Comics #1042

Action Comics #1042 came out this week and was another crackling chapter in the Warworld Saga. The plot gets pushed forward. Some crumbs for future plot points are revealed. And most importantly, Superman acts like Superman, defending the helpless, inspiring, and showing how his humble upbringing can lead to the being a hero. 

Anyone who thinks Superman and his ethics and morals and passion for justice is 'boring' needs to read this arc. They will never think it again. That is about the highest praise I can give.

Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson continues to show us a revolutionary Superman, fighting Mongul on Warworld and calling to arms the slaves and barbarians who have been slowly indoctrinated into this culture. I love the dialogue has Superman saying, showing how much he cares. And, as usual, there is some excellent Lois happening here. She is not forgotten.

Last issue took place over months, such that I thought it was almost an overview of Midnighter's role throughout the story. I was wrong. Johnson has rolled us through those months. Suddenly this story feels like a sprint!

 The art by Riccardo Federici is this wonderful sketchy work which evokes John Carter Warlord of Mars and Gladiator. This issue is a startlingly beautiful mix of monsters and mayhem. Beautiful mayhem! 

This book is one of the best on the racks right now. 

On to some particulars.

We start out in the Fortress. Thao-La is still in her medical tube. But her condition is tenuous. She occasionally spiking in energy and having seizures. Kelex determines that her exposure to the Genesis stone is what has poisoned her. It is up to Lois to help find the cure, small doses of the Genesis energy.

I really like Lois in this scene as she talks to Jon about his prior suspicions about Thao. And she also is determined to keep Thao alive. I like this pro-active Lois in both word and deed.

But I also love this first page. Johnson does some world building talking about Thaklis and her followers leaving Krypton after her assassination. Johnson is bringing in history and culture, deepening everything.

Last issue ended with the revolution beginning.

We enter mid-battle. And it is a doozy.

'The Teacher', one of Mongul's elite, is there. Wielding an 'orphan box', The Teacher is manifesting monsters from thought. His dialogue makes it sound like he somehow has co-opted Manchester Black's powers somehow. And later lines where he talks about taking apart the dead make me wonder if he is somehow genetically attaining powers from his victims.

I love 'Orphan Box',  a nice twist on the Mother Box and leaning into the Fourth World hints that the Genesis Stone gave us.

And look at that art. Federici is knocking it out of the park. Look at this horrific beast.

OMAC is there fighting for Mongul, hoping that Lightray will be brought back to them if Superman is taken down. 

OMAC asks why Superman would go there knowing the world would weaken him. Here is one of the best lines showing why Superman is Superman.

"Should we do what's right only when we are stronger than our enemies?"

That is Superman.

Even when outmatched, he has to defend people. He has to do what's right. He's Superman. 

This really is a team book. The Authority is there. And Johnson gives everyone their own voice.

I love Nat's line here. The Teacher isn't the Boss.

The Revolution gets the attention of the big boss. Mongul shows up. And he has had it with Superman. This time the villain will kill the hero and leave him dead.

Mongul is still perplexed at why Superman would even surround himself and fight for these 'lesswer creatures'. That talk enrages Superman. 

These aren't lesser creatures and Mongul thinking that shows how he just doesn't get it. He just doesn't understand.

Great fight scene. And great dialogue. Like chill-inducing.

And we see how Superman's message has spread. We see how he has inspired.

Otho and Osul, the two young slaves who mocked Superman originally now fight with him.

And Superman continues to talk about how every life is worth saving. He says how these Phaelosians aren't lesser beings. Unlike Mongul and Superman, or Green Lanterns or other super-beings, the Phaelosians haven't been blessed with powers. They have simply survived.

Again, Federici's art is just so impressive, almost penciled without inks and somehow detailed and sublime. Just gorgeous.

The Revolution knows that an Orphan Box opens portals and allows access to all of Warworld. So with The Teacher so close, Superman grabs it.

But even with this coup, Superman needs to restate his ethos. Caring for others isn't a weakness. Underestimating your foes, as Mongul is, will mean they will win.

Seriously, this issue gave me everything I love about Superman. 

Meanwhile, on Earth, Lois goes to John Henry Irons to get some of the Genesis Stone to help Thao-La.

John gives us some exposition. The stone is putting out tremendous energy. It seems to respond and react like an organism, like sentient energy. Hmmm ... perhaps this is how Lightray will get reborn?

But when Superman grabs the Orphan Box, the Genesis Stone flares up ... and Lois can hear Superman through the energy. Hmmmm again ...

Great ending.

So I felt this was something of a character issue. We really get a great feel for Superman here. And Lois is just as strong.

But we get plot progression too. The Revolution is on. OMAC has turned. Superman has an Orphan Box. Thao-La is ill. 

Add to that the art that your eye just wants to linger on and you have another winner. I think this is the most fresh and compelling take on Superman I have read in a long time.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

A really excellent book and one of the few I read from DC these days that I actually look forward to reading, and feel totally satisfied with when I've finished.

(I've really disliked the backup, and wonder if anyone who didn't have intimate knowledge of J'onns history would find much to like, or would be interested in more of his adventures. I am just baffled by so many of the backups that get greenlit. Fortunately for me at least, I think this story has ended.)

This comic book even FELT great in the hands, and looked great. I buy a lot of books every week, and notice this sort of thing, and it was exactly this week that DC starting using a glossier but heavy paper for a number of their books. It's a really noticeable change. After a couple of years of mostly using a somewhat heavy but matte paper that has almost felt like the newsprint of Silver Age comics, it seems they've stuck with the heavier weight but added some gloss to it. Not too much - just right. No glare on it. This isn't the tissue-thin crinkly glossy paper they were using before the matte paper (and which they are still using on Tom King and Sean Murphy books, including what they used for Supergirl). Some TPBs use something like this paper stock.

The art looks better on this paper, too - the matte paper seems to make a lot of stuff look pretty muddy, probably by absorbing more ink than glossier paper, but I think the colorists have glossier paper in mind as they color on their bright monitors and tablets. So it's a bad match.

I think the cover was thicker too. It's not the pricier card stock - it's just heavier.

I noticed the same nice paper was used in Harley Quinn, Robin and Deathstroke.

Probably most people who visit here are getting digital copies, but for those who buy print -- I think this is great! I hope they continue using it.

Thanks for indulging my wildly off-topic observations!


Martin Gray said...

Great review as ever, Anj. The creative team really is giving us something special here, making this world seem real. After the next phase I hope writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson sticks around, I want to see what worldbuilding he can do on Earth. Meanwhile, the artwork continues to stun - DC should be shouting from the rooftops about this run.

Anj said...

I agree the matte paper works here, giving this 'John Carter' story a sort of pulp feel. And with the sketchy style of Federici, I think glossy paper would diminish things,

And yes Mart, I would love to see Johnson bring Superman back to Earth and keep up this world building. I am really loving this more and more.

Anonymous said...

Ah well - my copy was actually GLOSSIER than most other DC comics have been for the last few years, including Action. But maybe not all the copies got the same paper. I thought it looked and felt great.

Maybe printer selected the wrong paper, or maybe it's all they had on hand.


200cams said...

I also agree the matte paper works here;)