Monday, October 30, 2023

Review: Action Comics #1058

At NYCC earlier this month, it was announced that writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson is leaving Action Comics with Action Comics #1060. It is not news that I am happy about because Johnson has been crushing it on this book for three years. He will be missed.

That news stung even more when I read Action Comics #1058 last week, a tremendous issue which continues the Blue Earth storyline. Johnson is firing on all cylinders here. There is a tremendous super-hero throwdown in the Metropolis sky. There is a fascinating mystery involving Norah Stone and the Blue Sky. Is she tech based? Magical? And who are her allies? And he continues to write a superb super-family, especially Supergirl who he treats with utter respect. He knows his super-history too, tossing in some old school continuity. This book sizzles. 

Rafa Sandoval has elevated his art on this book bringing us frenetic, messy action when needed. He also is able to amp up the emotion in the quiet moments. He even gets a little old school Kryptonian history time in this issue.

My theory on who Norah Stone is remains intact and viable for now. In fact, I wonder if this time I just might be right. 

The best thing about this issue? Well, Action Comics is an anthology and all three stories in this issue are wonderfully entertaining. Gene Luen Yang and Viktor Bognanovic get the band back together to give us an interesting New Super-Man story exploring the aftermath of Lex's 'anyone who knows Superman is Clark has a stroke' plot. And new to me creators Greg Hahn and Travis Mercer end the issue with a hilarious super-twins story. 

Tack on a gorgeous Carla Cohen Supergirl variant cover and this book was a winner. On to the details. 

Last issue ended with Norah Stone's bodyguard using some magical or scientific gauntlet to become a perfect copy of Superman. With no time to change from his Clark identity, a Superman vs. Superman battle ensues. He is taking some damage, being hit by powers as strong as his own. 

I like when Superman is a smart fighter. So internal monologues like this where he talks about his senses and reflexes, his ability to rope-a-dope the enemy is pretty cool. Sandoval is spot on with his art but I love how things seem to be just a touch rougher in the battle scenes, giving some energy to the proceedings.

In perhaps a nod to Zach Snyder's Man of Steel, Superman tricks his opponent into activating his super-hearing, giving his opponent one heck of a headache. With his enemy shaken, Superman then activates Luthor's roving Kryptonite cannons to blast the guy.

There is a lot to love about this scene. I love that Superman knows he is faster than these lasers so they posed him no harm. But with Zod and Kryl-Ux still out there, he left them around. I love how the password is 'bahle'na gahl', the unblooded sword name from Warworld. And any Superman code starting with 1938 carries weight.

But Kryl-Ux? Bahle'na Gahl? It's like Johnson is reminding us about some Warworld stuff to get it back into our minds.

The K-Cannons do their work and the phony Superman is pretty weakened allowing Superman to come in with a left hook. 

Love how the panel is basically formed by the sound effect. You know that is a killer punch when framed that way.

To the public, it still looks like all the mayhem was caused by Superman so Norah Stone still takes advantage of the situation.

I wonder what she is promising to us regular humans. Those power-copying gauntlets?

My theory about who Norah Stone is remains a possibility. I think she is a Warworld survivor who is upset that Superman led the successful rebellion. So she is wreaking havoc on Earth as revenge. Furthermore, I think she is a relative to the Ra's. I keep noticing how much Otho looks like Norah. Sometimes the panels of the two are in similar positions on the pages to mirror each other. (Could Norah be Nor-Ra?)

Furthermore, Otho continues to struggle with life on Earth, beating up someone who was teasing Osul. 

Otho is going to have a role to play in this story. Either she joins Norah? Or rejects her and saves the day. 

I am definitely going to miss the way Johnson writes Supergirl. He makes her the smartest person in the room, the Kryptonian scholar, and now the big sister.

Here she reads to Otho and Osul their House Fable about Kryptonian adversaries turned allies, the Red Son and The Starchild . Of course, Superman has been called both those in the past so I think that's cool. Kal-El means Starchild. 

But how great is Supergirl in this book?

But we turn back to Norah Stone.

She slinks into a rather dank looking sanctuary filled with what appears to be mystical items (including Etrigan's corpse??? I wonder if the script just said a demon's corpse and Sandoval thought it said The Demon's.)

She contacts someone through a scrying pool of the green fluid used in the gauntlets to talk to her superiors. 

Who are these people? It is clear these people have a history with Superman. She talks of him being stronger here. Perhaps rather than there on Warworld? Is this Kryl-Ux? Phaelosians who aren't happy? I'm still betting it's angry Warworld people. 

Stone also talks of someone in his family she thinks she can turn to their cause. That has to be Otho. 

But moreover, she says she has drained Superman.

And she is right. Superman admits to Steel that his powers are drained and slowly returning. He needs a power boost. So Steel puts him in armor. 

Pretty cool. That sword looks an awful lot like 'The Sword of Superman' from Superman Annual #10

That's a lot of story, a lot of plot progress, and a lot of entertainment!

But wait, there's more.

 I was a big fan of the  New Super-Man comic so was thrilled to see the creators back together. 

In this issue, we see that Kenan went to Metropolis at the behest of the Bat-Man of China. A colleague suffered a fatal stroke while investigating Superman's secret identity. Bat-Man thinks heat vision caused the stroke. Super-Man went to infiltrate. (Of course, the stroke was probably brought on when the man realized Clark was Superman, the Luthor curse.) This is a side effect of Luthor's mind wipe. Someone who stumbles into learning the identity is going to be hurt.

Kenan has to admit that he initially was there to spy but now knows he is part of the family. The story ends on a cliffhanger with Kenan's life in the balance. So great to see these characters again.

The last story is Bibbo taking the twins to a parade. Unsure of Earth customs, the two are confused, excited, and then scared by the event. I chuckled throughout this story as the twins romp and stomp their way around before realizing they should have stayed close to Bibbo.

So from top to bottom, this was a great issue.

I'm still saying Norah is related to Otho. This time I'm right!

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

I think you’re right too. Nor-Ra is indeed right under our nose, and the facial and hair similarity is there. Maybe a big sister?

I agreed it’s a shame we’re losing PKJ, DC could easily have started a Legends of the Dark Knight-style series for the Jason Aaron/Mark Waid stories to come.

Excellent back-ups indeed!

Anonymous said...

I mean PKJ handled her well, as an ongoing supporting character, was anything at all really built around her though?
I'm nitpicking, because clearly the wheels seem to come off the cart with a sickening thud every time some wants to devote time, attention and multiple panels to Kara Zor El.
Personally I think Norah's "backers are the Phantom Zoners, they haven't been heard from in a while...


agigu said...

I'm sad to see PKJ leave before, and I say this indelicately, really diving into the family. He wrote each character with distinct clarity and personalities, but I wish we had seen arcs of significance for Conner or Kenan or Kara with the same weight given to Clark and his children. I really didn't enjoy how Kara and Conner alternated on punching bag duty. But I may change my mind if the backups had better balanced those characters when they wouldn't be in the lead - that neverending Jurgens backup never hit its stride for me, and coulda been better used by other characters and writers. Still, I'll miss his voice for each character. And the undeniable writing talent.