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Action Comics #957 [Review]

actioncomics0934Path of Doom

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Patrick Zircher
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Sonia Oback
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early August 2016
Cover Price: $2.99

This issue gives me pretty much anything/everything I could reasonably want from a contemporary, 2016-published Superman comic (post-New 52, post-Flashpoint, post-New Krypton, post-Secret Origin, post-Final Crisis, post-Infinite Crisis…).

The cover–the regular one, at least, I don’t know if I’ve even seen the variant, but the regular cover I’ve seen marketed and that is shown with this review–we have the title carved in a rock, being lifted by Superman–the “pre-Flashpoint” Superman, the Superman that we had prior to the New 52, though the journey has been circuitous. We have a Doomsday-looking thing in the “classic” green suit, suggesting a much more “grounded” Doomsday than anything from Doomed to some entity flitting in and out of the Phantom Zone. We see Luthor in a suit reminiscent of Steel. We have Jon–the son born during Convergence and raised for ten years in hiding on the New 52 Earth. We have Clark Kent–a character virtually purged from Superman, it seemed. We have the Lois married to this Superman…and we have longtime allies Wonder Woman and Batman. So many characters, maybe not the most “dynamic” composition, but certainly “iconic” and hinting at the greatness within the issue! The logo being part of the stone–to be overly analytical–suggests that whatever else, this is Action Comics, with Superman, and it has endured some 78 years, and a reboot, and is still here.

The issue itself drops us into an unfolding terrorist situation…one that is resolved–at least for the moment–by an unseen entity we come to realize is a power-suited Lex Luthor. This is the New 52 Luthor, who has been through Forever Evil, worked with the Justice League, and so on. Foregoing the “classic” purple-and-green thing, this suit is much more reminiscent of Steel’s armor, and we see Luthor is intent on replacing the fallen New 52 Superman (to him, to everyone–THE Superman, the genuine one-and-only). As he announces his intentions to live media, the broadcast reaches Clark White, who has operated in secret for years, avoiding the spotlight and trying to leave events of this world alone to unfold as naturally as possible. Luthor’s boldness spurs him into a seeming snap-decision: he shaves, dons a costume, and reveals himself to the world. If there is to be a Superman, it will NOT be Lex Luthor!

Said revelation occurs in confronting Luthor directly, to the point…and unfortunately, into immediate violence. As the two have it out, we get some bits of subplot…something’s been stolen from an extremely durable vault, and some of this world’s Clark Kent’s allies are shocked at “confirmation” of his death…even as they, and Lois & Jon, and even us as readers get the surprise arrival of Clark Kent (while Superman is actively engaged with Luthor!). And then the arrival of another jarring but familiar character…a green-suit-clad Doomsday…said green suit being one the character has not worn in this way since his first appearances nearly 24 years ago.

Thanks to having the Superman: Rebirth issue prior, as readers (if one read that issue) we have had a slight bit of transition already, to move past and deal with (not simply ignore) the seeming loss of the New 52 Superman. That lets us get right into the action here, characters all fairly well established, stuff in continuity in place to allow this, and the events of this issue also leave plenty of room yet to explore reasons, consequences, and the simple fact-of-the-matter present.

We have a mix of past and present, of being part of a world that’s been around nearly as long now as the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths one had been at the time of the original Death of Superman. Allowing for alterations through the years, particularly changes, tinkerings, and so on out of Infinite Crisis, this is still–as much as is possible–the Superman that can be traced back through the years, to Infinite Crisis, back to Our Worlds at War, to Zero Hour, to Reign of the Supermen, to the Death of Superman.

And while I gush so, emphasizing the above…that’s very much what I consider a joyful reality, an understood-despite-outward-obfuscation recognition of “my” Superman, of reading about–essentially–the same character here, now, that I first read about running low on air as he battled phantoms on some dead planetoid in 1989’s Exile arc.

I can see that far back, and appreciate the incredibly rich depth to be had here. On the other hand, for newer readers…this is a Superman, with background to be uncovered, details to be filled in, and for all he has a role to be earned, despite fitting into it so well.

I love that this is written by Dan Jurgens. I know the writer’s work primarily from his work on Superman from 1992-1999 or so (a range of years that saw me from junior high through high school and just before college). For me, after several years on the side, away from Superman, this is an amazing homecoming (albeit preceded by what I’d initially seen as simply a “bone” tossed to fans like me in Lois and Clark). He merges elements of the “new” with elements of the “old,” where we’ve had status quo changes, aging, advancement…and it’s like everything’s part of one large tapestry.

I have suspicions regarding Clark Kent from this issue, and am eager to see more of the conflict with Luthor play out…as well as seeing how Doomsday is handled at this point. I’m eager to see more with supporting cast characters, and while this title is due to be biweekly, I’d love to have it weekly; for once I want something “decompressed” and frequent, exploring many characters, while an ongoing story unfolds continually forward.

And the art…wow. I’ve seen Zircher‘s work in the past and liked it, but something about it here–and combined with the characters, characterization, and just the sheer feeling of refreshment I get reading the issue–it’s fantastic. Zircher‘s art here is the next best thing to Jurgens himself…and in some ways, melding old with new, I think surpasses the idea of this new issue in 2016 having his art, bringing an excellently-detailed and nuanced appearance to the characters and doing nothing but impressing me, through my own cynicism at a lot of modern takes on Superman.

This is a bi-weekly book now…two issues per month. In other words, it’s being double-shipped. Instead of 20 pages once a month for $3.99, it’s going to be 20 pages twice a month for $2.99 each (40 pages for $5.98). Jurgens on writing, a rotating art team (I believe) (said rotation given the incredible boost of Zircher‘s art kicking things off on such a high note in this issue), and a Superman I’m not just WILLING to read, but eager to read.

I can’t NOT be biased in this–I am far from objective. But honestly–simple, outside objectivity seems to be what led to a Superman character I was wholly uninterested in, and saw me walk away from for nearly four years. Now, I’m not only back but excited for it, as should be evidenced by my gushing above.

It’s said that one can “never go home again,” and that’s true, this is not some over-simplified “return” to the past–it’s like re-uniting with an old, dear friend…recognizing that years have passed, life has gone on, things have changed…but they’re still them, you’re still you, and you’re back together, and feeling great for it.

As a review or ratings would go…I walked away for four years. I flat-out ignored Superman for four years of current comics, punctuated by a handful of issues a couple years ago that did not hold me, and further solidified my giving up and letting go. I’d ceded Superman, and comics featuring him, resigned myself to maybe checking in here or there but mostly only to find the simple, fun ENJOYMENT in back issues.

And now? I loved this issue–story and art. I love the price point compared to the $3.99 the title’s been for nearly half a decade. Whatever the rest of DC‘s Rebirth initiative holds, at least when it comes to Action Comics, as things look now, I’m in for the long haul…the run up to #1000 at least.

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The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #110

wonder_woman_0110Level 2

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: June 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

This is only the “second” issue I’ve read in this particular set of issues, but I’m quite enjoying the title. Where the previous issue appeared to guest-star The Flash (only it turned out to be a fake), this issue has an appearance of Sinestro–who at this point in DC‘s continuity was dead, his neck snapped by Hal Jordan just before he went all Parallax and such.

We open on Sinestro/not-Sinestro carving up the city, trying to get Wonder Woman’s attention. Once he has her attention, they battle–or moreso, Wonder Woman battles him, and he just keeps on keeping on…at first seeming like a joke, then an actual-true threat. Eventually, it appears that Wonder Woman’s defeated, and a new guy–Champion–shows up, saving her…though he gets the same result from “Sinestro” as Diana had last issue with “The Flash” as we see that this is just some sort of construct that can self destruct into dust. While Champion (who has himself a back-burner subplot brewing that surely leads to something bigger down the road) and Diana puzzle over the similarities in the Flash attack and now Sinestro, as readers we’re given the inside scoop, as the scene shifts and contextual details are revealed…explaining the fakes’ presence and setting things up for the next couple issues.

As with the previous issue–Wonder Woman #109–I definitely enjoyed this issue. The story and art both worked well in and of themselves, and especially as a cohesive whole. With the same creative and editorial team as the previous issue, this definitely FELT like the next issue. No major changes, no weird oddities…it’s just the continuing story.

Perhaps by comparison to contemporary comics, though, this issue does NOT pick up 100% EXACTLY from the previous issue…it picks up as a “next chapter” without being merely the next chunk of story in a larger graphic novel being ‘serialized’…and I actually like that. I’m all for the singular story of a graphic novel…but for this being a “single issue” I like that–even as a continuing story–it maintains its identity AS the single issue.

The story in this issue fills us in as readers much more than the previous issue…this is where comics worked quite well in the ’90s as both ongoing sagas and having stories that can be collected into a “graphic novel” or such. We (I) had no idea any background on stuff in the previous issue–The Flash simply showed up, turned out to be a fake, and we’re left to wonder what the heck’s going on. THIS issue gives us the context and such on where not only The Flash but also Sinestro came from…and goes beyond that to show us the genesis of the threat for the next issue, serving as setup and cliffhanger, and getting to the last page left me quite ready to get to the next issue. Of course, it wasn’t surprise, as it’s the cover of the next issue that grabbed my attention to begin with.

Even though this is Level 2, a second chapter of a story (though perhaps not quite as solid/singular a story as I’d thought–though it plays into the genesis of these back-from-oblivion characters), one could conceivably pick up this issue and be just as good as starting with the previous issue. You get the characters, some context as you go through, and editorial notes to point you where to go for a bit more expansion of stuff touched on here.

It’s also EXTREMELY REFRESHING that there’s just the one cover, it’s (presumably, since there’s no separate cover credit provided) by the interior artist, so fits both visually AND exaggerates (slightly) a scene that actually appears in the issue, and is not merely some stock or “iconic” image that could be interchanged with any other cover.

First issue, Second issue (in this present read-through, it’s MY second), or just another issue if one is reading a run, this is a strong, solid issue well worth the 20 cents I paid for it!

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