Monday, July 31, 2023

Review: Knight Terrors: Action Comics #1

Knight Terrors: Action Comics #1 came out last week and was an interesting mix of horror stories.  Superman and Supergirl are carrying the horror in the Superman Knight Terrors book. Action has been an anthology book recently. So we get two stories here.

The first is a Power Girl story by Leah Williams and artist Vasco Georgiev. I wasn't a hundred percent keen on Karen becoming Paige, the psychic counselor. It feels like perhaps the psychic side of things may be waning in Williams approach to the character, even if Lilith remains a key supporting cast member. But what I like about this story is that Williams really seems to be leaning into Power Girl history. Her nightmare is a warped view of her origin from the 70's Showcase arc by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton. Now old timers like me know this story but Williams is playing a bit coy, not filling in the backstory here. It feels a little padded, as if a few pages could have been shaved off. But overall it was a good read. I don't know Georgiev but the art is breezy and strange as it should be.

The second story by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and artist Mico Suayan give us truly horrific story, driven by Osul's fear of the Cyborg Superman. This one truly reads like a horror comic with jump scares, terrifying shadows, and a story of robotics taking over a body (cue memories of the scary robot lady in Superman III). It is interesting that the Supers seem capable of sharing nightmares, perhaps showing how close they are. And Suayan's are is the stuff of nightmares.

I don't know if Knight Terrors is going to amount to anything. And I don't think I needed these stories. But both were brisk, entertaining read.

On to the details.

The story opens with Karen still alive on Krypton. But her suitor there goes from doting on her to wanting to mutilate her so no one else will want her.

It is a tense opening. 

The clothes and setting all perfectly match that Showcase story. And Georgiev seems to grasp what Power Girl should look like.

But what does this tell us about Power Girl? That she is afraid of being ugly? Or is it just old fashioned fear of torture?

When she runs to Alura and Zor-L, they are leaving her, claiming they never loved her.

Certainly this could be a nightmare view of Power Girl's wonky origin and her recent concern for not having a family. I can see how Peeg would feel utterly alone.

In the Showcase story, we learned that Kara was 'raised' by a Matrix-like artificial reality. So the 404 error as that boyfriend stalks her really leans into that 'is this real or a VR'. 

Nice little flourish there.

But we switch around. She leaves Kandor and is on Earth where the Earth 2 also says she is a failure and so he needs to make another copy. Again, given Kara not knowing who she is in this world with another Kara Zor-El, this idea of copies of her makes sense for a personal nightmare.

Williams then has Lilith show up to help. We leap in the nightmare to Lilith reciting Hamlet while Paige wilts on stage.

Stage fright as a nightmare for Power Girl? As someone always brash and in your face, you'd think she would be a natural actor.

The story ends with Lilith now draped in those VR chains, threatening Paige.

If Williams is truly going to respect and build on Power Girl's history rather than just rewrite it, I might have to check out the title!

We leap to the second story where Conner is showing the twins The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That is pretty stupid of Conner ... but reads right.

What is interesting is that Osul seems frightened. He was raised on Warworld! I didn't think a Tobe Hooper movie would be more frightening than his reality.

So I was glad to see that actually, Osul is afraid of the Cyborg Superman.

Suayan really has a great detailed and nuanced art style. I mean look at that face on Osul. Wonderful.

We descend into Osul's nightmare where the Cyborg manifests back in the world.

I loved these panels, Conner attacked only in the shadows on the wall while Osul walks to bed. That is right out of a horror movie. Perfect for this story.

And then Conner becomes subsumed by Henshaw, becoming a half robot drone wanting to kill the meat sacs. 

Look how Suayan can shift to straight body horror here. Conner on the wall and all wires and metal is ghastly. 

So is this Osul's dream? Or all the supers dream?

Natasha and Kenan show up. Metropolis has been turned into an abattoir. The heroes have to fight their friend who is now their enemy. 

Fabulous action here by Suayan. 

I suppose a Metropolis painted with the red drippy S-shield from the Death of Superman would be a nightmare for the family.

But then the scariest ending.

The Cyborg has taken over Krypto. 

Not Krypto!!!!!

That is one scary ending panel! My favorite doggy gone mad!

This second story was chilling. If the purpose of Knight Terrors is to show us nightmares, this story is dead on. Brrrr ....

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

I really did enjoy the second story. The first, I may have liked more had I ever read the relevant chapter of the Peege Showcase spotlight, it never made it to my part of the UK. Dang.

AG said...

The first story was standard issue. Nothing special.

The second was special, incredible, but leaves me less than excited for the next installment. We don't often get to inhabit Kenan or Nat's perspectives, and haven't much in Action Comics since the new arc started, so to snuff them out and sideline them kinda sucks. I hope we move on from all of Clark's children, biological and adopted, soon.

That said, it was effective, intense, fun horror and well executed.