Friday, September 1, 2023

Review: Action Comics Presents: Doomsday Special #1

Action Comics Presents: Doomsday Special #1 came out this week and was an unexpected treat in my pile. If you are a Supergirl fan, you need to read this. If you are a Doomsday fan (and I am not), you need to read this. If you are a fan of the darker corners of the DCU, you need to read this. This was a lot of fun.

Dan Watters writes the main story here. I really loved Watters' take on Azrael this year. So I was hoping he would bring that energy here. Every character that we get in this book has a moment to shine. We learn the psychological impact that Doomsday has on Superman. We see how strong and heroic and incorruptible Supergirl is. We get a wonderful Martian Manhunter moment where he shows why he is a leader. We are shown how a time in hell has made Doomsday deadlier than ever. It all sings.

This is a Supergirl site so I have to really point out how great a Kara story this is. She wants to help her cousin. She is the expert on Kryptonian culture. She tries to help the damned and literally tells off the Devil. She enters a fight she knows she is probably going to lose because it is the right thing to do. Heck, Watters even manages to bring in a Satan Girl riff. DC should be reading this and the recent Supergirl stuff Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Joshua Williamson have done with her to get the imprint of the character. She should not have a special coming up where she is questioning who she is. It flies in the face of her definitive actions here.

Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira are on the art here which switches from Earth to Hell. If you have a Doomsday story, you know you are going to get high actions and big punches. They bring the violence here cinematically. I could feel every blow. And yes, I did fork over a few extra bucks to get the rare variant you see above. But how could I not get that Jon Bogdanove cover.

My only complaint about this is that the kernel of the story is somehow linked to Lazarus Planet and must have been in one of the specials I didn't get. We get a sentence or two about the origins of this but  I could have used a 3-4 panel recap. 

On to the book!

The book opens with Supergirl having a nightmare of Doomsday in Hell.

Watters really cements the fact that Supergirl grew up in Kryptonian culture right off the bat.

Here she talks about Krypton being a world of science. That the 'old gods' were more like myths and fairy tales. Cythonna and Rao aren't religious deities. 

But they had a devil. 

Check out that Doomsday, big as a tank and spiky as a ankylosaurus, surrounded by flame and skulls. Great opening shot.

The next morning, Kara is exhausted. She tells Clark about the nightmare and drops a Kryptonian term, shik'lrith, a term for an 'urban truth'. We get the quickest recap of Doomsday's origin, linked to Krypton.  Two pages in and you now Kara is the authority on Krypton's history. 

The conversation leads to Clark talking about his fight with Superman that led to his death. Watters and Barrows let us know that this was traumatic to Clark, both physically and psychologically. His head is bowed. He cleans his glasses. He talks of the sheer fatigue he had. It is a great mix of words and art.

Outside, J'onn J'onzz arrives. He is mentally linked to Doomsday because of that Lazarus Planet story. He received some telepathic message of Doomsday in Hell but in Kryptonian. He couldn't translate it so he sent it to someone who could.

But because of the trauma Clark suffered, he decided to send it to Kara. Supergirl could take it. Clark might not be able to. After all, he is in a better place right now, as seen by his playing with the twins and Krypto. J'onn didn't want to trigger Clark. Kara is strong enough to take it. 

For someone like me, this shows the respect the Manhunter has for Kara. It also shows how much his death still effects Superman. It should. 

Supergirl allows J'onn to probe her mind to better grasp the vision. Great artistic page. 

But suddenly the caption boxes are being told by a new voice, a scratchy text in red boxes. Hmmm ...

Whoever it is that is speaking says the link gives them access to the Martian Manhunter and Supergirl's physical forms. The two are suddenly shunted to Hell. 

Supergirl immediately just springs into action. She sees someone being tortured and she flies in to save them, even if ultimately this soul attacks her. (After all, these souls are evil or they wouldn't be there.)

But this just struck me for a specific reason. 

Within seconds of being sent to literal Hell, she is flying to save someone.

Compare it to the Kara in Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow where she stands by and watches someone get stoned to death. And not only does she stand by, but she stands by with the young girl she brought with her to witness this atrocity. 

Thank you Dan Watters for showing who Supergirl really is. 

As for Doomsday, he is actually learning to use Hell to his advantage.

He has been killed and comes back stronger every time. Imagine what has been done to him in Hell and how engorged with power he must be. In fact, he is so strong and ferocious now that the damned in Hell are beginning to worship him. 

And belief is power.

Love this panel showing how bloated Doomsday is as he kills some minor demon but rending him with his teeth. Somehow using his mouth makes this even more terrifying, showing how brutal Doomsday has become.

We finally learn who has been narrating.

It is 'The First of the Fallen', the Devil. And, believe it or not, he needs the help of the heroes. The hordes of Hell believing in Doomsday is somehow going to open the door out of Hell. Doomsday will be able to get to Earth. And the only way to stop that is for Doomsday to be defeated, shaking that belief. He wants Supergirl to fight for him.

How great is this moment. 

Supergirl tells off the devil, arms folded defiantly.  'Fat chance, pal. Do it yourself.'

Just perfect.

J'onn knows that Doomsday can't be allowed back on Earth. So even though they don't want to, they have to fight for the Devil. And Satan gives her some juiced up Hell armor to wear into battle. 

The Devil is completely impressed with Supergirl's prowess. But he says, outright, she cannot be corrupted.

Now that is Supergirl. Fierce in her fight against injustice. Incorruptible. 

And Supergirl in Hell armor? You know Watters is tapping into DC history.

After all, Satan Girl has shown up in just about every version of Supergirl that is out there, even being Supergirl in the original story!

It would have been very easy to have Supergirl just outright beat down Doomsday. But I don't know if it would have rung true. This is a Doomsday who has been feasting down in Hell. And somehow, it makes it more heroic for Supergirl to have willingly entered the battle knowing she probably would lose. After a few good shots, Doomsday just starts battering her.

Barrows and Ferreira really bring it in this

It is up to J'onn to help save the day by calling on the souls of Hell to reach out for something they don't normally go to ... hope. That prompts the souls in Hell to plug the gate.

I'm a J'onn fan. He has always been the conscience of the League for me. So seeing him have the gravitas to mobilize condemned souls to hope and keep Doomsday from slaughtering loved ones on Earth is wonderful. 

With Doomsday again trapped, the Devil has little use for the heroes and sends them back to Earth, denying Doomsday the thrill of killing another Kryptonian.

I did like the last page with Doomsday just battering the gate, so similar to his original story where we saw him banging against the enclosure he was in. 

Yes, this was a Doomsday story setting up what seems to be a future arc. I think, in general, Doomsday is sort of overused. But this new wrinkle of a sort of supernatural aspect to him is interesting. But I have to say this was a great Supergirl story. This is who Kara should be - intelligent, caring, feisty, fierce, heroic. 

Overall grade: B+


Mart said...

You're so right, the quality of this issue was terrific, it's a treat for Supergirl fans especially. I was shocked to see the First of the Fallen from Garth Ennis and Will Simpson's Hellblazer run show up rather than the more obvious Lord Satanus, Blaze or Neron. He looked wonderful, like a DC Mephisto.

The Bloodwynd back-up was great too, dd you read that?

Excellent review, Anj!

William Ashley Vaughan said...

I enjoyed this story very much. A worthy successor to the first Supergirl/John Jonzz team up all those decades ago. Eddy Barrows' art is stunning and unlike poor Bilquis Evely he actually has a decent script to work with. Watters understands that Supergirl is a hero. I have to wonder, though, is the first damned soul to respond to the Martian Manhunter's appeal the same one whom Supergirl earlier tried to save from torture? It would be approriate if the flame Martian he fans is from a spark that Kara kindled.

William Ashley Vaughan said...

[Fixed last sentence] I enjoyed this story very much. A worthy successor to the first Supergirl/John Jonzz team up all those decades ago. Eddy Barrows' art is stunning and unlike poor Bilquis Evely he actually has a decent script to work with. Watters understands that Supergirl is a hero. I have to wonder, though, is the first damned soul to respond to the Martian Manhunter's appeal the same one whom Supergirl earlier tried to save from torture? It would be appropriate if the flame he fans is from a spark that Kara kindled.

Anj said...

Yes, I think or hope it is the same person. Although most souls looked that way in the book so I wasn't sure and didn't put it in.

Anonymous said...

While Supergirl can team up with almost anyone and add value, I liked the fact that J'onn instantly assumed Supergirl could translate then cope with the nightmare's implications. Kinda reinforces her "A List Status".But honestly as soon as Supergirl put on the Hell Armor I lost all interest because clearly her strength and determination alone can never be enough to thwart Doomsday, that might overhsadow Kal El and we can never have that, can we?
But what the hell she'll be spending the fall gazing at her own navel and being seemingly overshadowed by Power fr*ckin' Girl so I guess this is supposed to be someone's idea of fan service...