Monday, April 3, 2023

Review: Action Comics #1053

Action Comics #1053 came out last week and was another crackling issue ... well mostly crackling, This is an anthology book so there are three individual stories present here. No surprise, I liked some more than others. 

There is the main story, the Superman Family story with Superman fighting Metallo. This is an excellent story. This Metallo is creepy but also sympathetic. The actions and interactions of the super-family are wonderful. In particular, two moments - one between Kal and Kenan, and one between Jon and Osul - are emotional and powerful. Rafa Sandavol's art feels a little raw but that adds energy to the proceedings. Nothing wrong here.

The Dan Jurgens/Lee Weeks flashback story to an untold tale of young Jon is a solid storyline. There are two plots proceeding at pace here. One is Jon befriending an alien Princess in peril. I think this is a 'don't judge a book by its cover' moment for Jon. There is the Doombreaker plot with Doombreaker looking for the Doomsday spike which created him in the first place.

But it is the last story, the Power Girl story, by Leah Williams and Marguerite Sauvage that I find lacking. Sauvage's art is beautiful in its pastel glory. But the story, a complete demolition of Power Girl, feels wrong. Power Girl has had a solid characterization and a strong foundation for decades. She doesn't need fixing. Here, Williams decides to torpedo everything we know about Power Girl. I don't recognize a Power Girl feeling alone, anonymous, rudderless. If anything, it just makes me want to re-read the Palmiotti/Conner run to read Peeg done right. This feels like another creator coming up with an idea and bolting it onto a pre-existing character. I have got behind new interpretations of characters before and I have given this story some time to see if it would work. For me, it just doesn't.

On to the particulars.

We start with another attack on SteelWorks, this time by the Blue Earth fanatics who have been horribly and horrifically rebuilt by Metallo into K-powered cyborgs.

Before the attack, I love this musing by Jon Henry Irons on the design of the facility. It is based on the ruins of Zehd Im Raozha, an ancient intergalactic school on Krypton. It is was recommended by Kara.

This just further cements Supergirl's status as Kryptonian scholar and historian. Johnson has really shown us this in his time on the title. Pretty cool. I love this aspect of her character.

When the battle gets started, the whole Super-family shows up to help.

Two of them self-destruct, blowing up a tremendous amount of K-energy, right at Supergirl. Suddenly Kara is severely injured. It is up to Jon to fly his cousin to the Fortress for aid.

Now, I get it, someone has to be in peril for us to recognize how powerful these Necro-Hive soldiers are. And it would have to be a Kryptonian so we feel that threat. But it is a bummer that it is Supergirl who is the injured. Jon or Conner could have been the target.

I do like 'Hang in there, Cuz'.

It does lead to this tremendous moment, perhaps the best moment in the issue, or even the arc. One of the remaining NecroHive is hanging on to life. Kenan wonders if the heroes just finish the guy off or let him die. 

Superman reminds Kenan they are there to help people. They have to save this man so he can do better.  Saving him is saving the world. 

Superman has his code, his ethics, his outlook on life. It isn't easy. Even here, Kenan wonders if it is right. 

But this IS Superman. There is always another way other than killing. He has to take the high road. And he has to inspire.

It reminded me of a similar moment in the Five Years Later Legion of Super-Heroes where Element Lad reminds his comrades that letting a villain die would kill something in the Legion too. (A link for those truly interested: .)

Superman thinks Luthor is behind the Metallo attacks and confronts Lex in prison.

I love Lex's smugness here. Superman is, to Lex, a disaster. Lex would be ten times the Superman you are.

Turns out that it WAS Lex who recreated Metallo, including the addition of Warworld tech. But the voices in Metallo's head, the visions of his sister, that is NOT Lex. It is someone else, perhaps related to the embedded tech. 

I was wondering if, given the take on Lex in Josh Williamson's Superman, if the Metallo/Lex interaction was never real. Perhaps the Lex there was an illusion or shape-shifter. But at least we have clarified the origins.

Still, the Lex/Superman interaction is tense. Loved it.

Back in his own place, Metallo continues to mutate and perseverate over saving his sister.

Once again, he remembers being a child and discovering his father's gun and being mesmerized by the sense of power it gave him.

Metallo becoming less human and more horrific is truly scary, reminding me of Jeff Goldblum slowly succumbing in Cronenberg's The Fly. I don't need all my villains to have sympathetic backstories. But Corben being intoxicated by power, heading into the military, and agreeing to be roboticized seems like a progression of a normal human, not someone intrinsically evil.

And then, the hologram of Tracy, Corben's sister, tips its hand.

She isn't Tracy. Tracy is hooked up to wires and medical apparatus and suffering. If you thought the NecroHive were horrific wait until you see the whole of this page.

So this hologram of Tracy isn't the real Tracy, It is someone else and they will kill Tracy if Metallo doesn't destroy Superman.

I wish we hadn't learned who the villain was in the solicits because I would be puzzling about it for sure. I don't think I would have guessed it.

And then the other powerful moment.

Back in the Kent house, Osul wonders if Jon hates the new members of the family. In fact, Osul wonders if he can read thoughts. 

In a tender moment, Jon recognizes that seeing Osul and Otho with his parents makes him realize how much time he has missed with them. Jon thought he was okay but he isn't.

Still, this is a Jon problem, not an Otho problem. The kids are family. 

I loved this scene. Loved it.

Meanwhile, the Blue Earthers, a group who thinks aliens (specifically Warworld refugees) should not be allowed on Earth are protesting. An explosion rocks the protest. Otho has attacked.

Now, you might remember that Otho is the older twin. She embraced Warworld life and protected her brother on that place. She was the one making fun of Superman's idea of hope there. She probably saw more and did more there. She still sleeps with her hand bound.  As such, she probably recognizes how her new life is better. And would be willing to attack to protect her and her brother's place on Earth.

Great kapow moment by Sandavol.


I am hoping this is a dupe of some sort.  I don't need Otho to be a killer.

Just great story from top to bottom. The Kara school inspiration. Superman teaching Kenan about hope and life. Jon talking to Osul. The cliffhanger. It all works.

In the Jurgens/Weeks story, Jon and Princess Glyanna are captured by the military presence from P'luhnn. 

We find out that the royals were blamed for the ecological disaster of the planet but she seems to be claiming she is innocent of the charge. Jon tried to protect her but failed.

I wonder if indeed she is responsible and Jon will have to learn to trust but verify.

Weeks' art is grungy but rough but is serves the story well, especially the Doombreaker stuff.

I don't know what to say about the Power Girl story.

Here she is inside Jon's head to try and discover who is attacking the Super-family psionically.

But here thoughts throughout are off model. She feels rejected by the supers. She throws away the identity of Karen Starr, an identity she has lived for most of her life, as being a lie she told herself. Jon tells her she should rename herself Paige.

I suppose, in the 21st century, stories about identity politics, rejecting the past if you found it traumatic and renaming yourself, are all the rage. 

But Power Girl has always been strong, independent, and proud of who she is. She has been sure of herself and her place in the world. She has strived. 

So all of this feels like it is out of nowhere and wrong. 

This isn't any Power Girl I have read ... and I have read a lot of Power Girl. 

I doubt this will end well. 

So there we have it. An A story in the main section. A B story in the middle. A D story to end things.

Overall grade - all three together: B


Martin Gray said...

Terrific review, I agree with, well, everything - the first story spoils us, the second is fun, while the third looks great but is pretty terrible if you’ve read more than a page of Power Girl.

I’ve missed the solicitation reveal on the villain controlling Metallo, if I went by the visual alone, I’d guess Vandal Savage.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this is "The Real" Powergirl at all, I suspect she is a shapeshifting alien who has Infiltrated the House of El to disrupt and demoralize...which she seems to be doing with alacrity. A White Martian (hey, it worked for you) Mr. Mxyztplk? Y'all can fill in the blanks going forward. I still say "The Real" Powergirl is still stuck between dimensions....


Martin Gray said...

A wee reminder, there’s a terrific Power Girl story in February’s Harley Quinn Romances, which is up at DC Infinite Ultra… if you don’t have that, but want to hear about it - shameless yet helpful plug time - I talk about it an my blog thing: