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The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics #659

90s_revisited
action_comics_0659Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part Three: Breakout!

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Bob McLeod & Brett Breeding
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Associate Editor: Jon Peterson
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover by: Bob McLeod & Brett Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1990
Cover Price: $0.75

I was a little bit correct and a little bit off in my assessment of Starman #28‘s place in this story…as reading this would definitely feel like something HAD been missed if that wasn’t read first. Yet, there’s context and footnote to explain the high-level "essential" stuff so you get what you "need" from this. Roger Stern was the writer on that, and is on this, so there’s some definite organic tie-in stuff, with the necessary retread for this era in which comics were not designed and destined for a "graphic novel" or collected edition.

We get a bit of that essential retread to start this issue, "Superman" confronting Luthor and getting the Red Kryptonite from him. We then move to Superman himself and Hamilton as they test out a suit of armor and things don’t go as well as either of them would like. Starman tries to be helpful, but is unable to cheer Superman at all. Meanwhile, Killgrave (a mad scientist/mad genius) launches his plan to bait Superman, take out the hero, and escape. Starman does super feats while Clark goes about life. When Killgrave springs his trap, Starman takes him on as Superman, to shocking effect before the real Superman shows up in his armor. Facing Killgrave, our hero gets lucky with a failsafe in the armor allowing him to bluff the villain. Killgrave attempts to escape, and the powerless Superman leaps back into action to attempt to stop him…but fails, and Starman has to save Superman rather than pursue the fleeing villain…which bums Superman out all the more. Mixed in there, Mxyzptlk uses Red-K dust in Luthor’s office to reveal that the Superman flying around is an imposter, which cheers Luthor a fair bit.

I enjoyed reading this issue…it originally came out toward the end of my first "run" with comics, when I was still getting to know this version of Superman and was really too young to "get" a lot of it, where I appreciate stuff a lot more now as an adult.

This definitely reads as a middle chapter, but does so in a good way…fleshing out the notion of a Superman without powers trying to find a way to "stay in the game" while conveying the danger and frustration he faces. It also touches on subplot stuff to remind us of the larger tapestry of the Superman saga and keeps things grounded and interesting. As a middle chapter, though, there’s only so much this can do, though it’s interesting to have Superman try the armor and lose it in the same issue. With contemporary standards getting, having, and using the armor would be a several issue thing in itself, with loads of variant covers and hype over the "new costume" for him and numerous artists’ interpretations of it and so on.

The art is quite good and very much to my liking. Though the story is good, I do think the quality art lent itself significantly to my simple enjoyment of this issue.

All in all, another good chapter of this arc, and another issue I’d recommend if you find it in a bargain bin.

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Action Comics #976 [Review]

action_comics_0976Superman: Reborn Part 2

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza, Christian Alamy, Trevor Scott
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason & John Kalisz
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

[ SPOILER WARNING! This issue WILL BE SPOILED below… ]

I suppose I shouldn’t be entirely surprised, yet I still managed to be: after three issues building toward something HUGE…this felt very anti-climactic. Rather than coming off as "organic," to me–at least on this initial read-through–it came off as rather forced and after-the-fact than an organic, planned development.

[ I really will be spoiling this below, so consider this your final warning…spoilers after this line are preceded by plenty of SPOILER WARNING to absolve me of feeling guilty for discussing the issue in detail plainly. ]

We open on Mxy going off on Superman…or at least A Superman. In Mxy’s pocket-existence where Jon’s being held, A Superman and Lois have arrived. Jon recognizes them…they fail to recognize him. While Mxy revels in the chaos, even taunting this Superman, Jon realizes with horror that the woman he believes to be his mother doesn’t even remember him. While two spheres of blue energy approach Jon, Mxy opts to leave, warning of someone far beyond even himself as the cause of everything. That he–Mxy–was merely taking advantage of a situation already present. Channeling power from the blue ‘ghosts’, Jon manages to oppose Mxy, who offers him one last chance to leave this existence. Jon refuses, and Mxy leaves. As the reality crumbles, the blue energy merges with the New 52 Superman and Lois, restoring their memories of Jon and their lives together…and all reality re-knits, merging what we knew from pre-Flashpoint and the New 52 into one continuity, with Superman simply…Superman. But married to Lois, and with their son–Jon–as Superboy. Somewhere else, Mr. Oz looks on and marvels at the situation, at the love shared between Lois, Clark, and Jon, and how it unites realities. And finally, a hint that there’s someone–and/or someTHING–else out there still influencing things.

I feel like this was telegraphed a mile off, so to speak. New 52 Superman and the "real" Superman would merge, their realities fused/merged into one, to simply BE Superman, supposedly no more "divide" and smooth over stuff.

It doesn’t really work for me, as far as the in-story stuff goes. I could even have probably "bought" the notion of Mxy re-setting stuff somehow, though usually his machinations are undone when he disappears. Just continuing to merely "hint" at something else out there is getting old, and I’m ready to just be TO whatever ‘event’ that will be, and get beyond it. To just have A single DC Universe, even if it’s actually a multiverse, and either the New 52 completely wiped away or officially merged and just have a set UNIVERSE that is what it is and get on with stuff.

Visually, parts of this issue were quite "off" for my preferences, but not bad. I really like the "new costume" for Superman, essentially being the classic costume minus the trunks, and a modified (solid) belt (instead of the dots of red thing that’s been going on awhile). We seemed to have pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark turned into energy and merged with the New 52 versions…but then a sort of switch up with the new costume, and it seems that Jon’s been given additional power (I had it in my head that he couldn’t fly, and he seems to be, here).

This resolution and issue as a whole seems to be an attempt to bring stuff together and "unify" fans of either Superman by making it so that both are one and the same–that New 52 Superman was always part of THE Superman, and the pre-Flashpoint Superman we had from Convergence, Superman: Lois and Clark, and the past ten months of Rebirth was not himself whole, but is now, with the merging of the new. This combined with stuff from last November’s Superman Annual would seem to have stuff in line for that, to firmly establish Superman is Superman and now whole, PERIOD.

I guess time will tell.

There’s still plenty of dancing around the fine details…even with the double-pager showing stuff from "both" continuities, it’s hard to tell–for me, at least–exactly what’s what, or supposed to be what–and what’s just looking different because of the artist’s rendition.

While I’ll grant that the "new costume" deserved its full-page "reveal" and the double-page spread of the "new history" deserved the room, I’m also a bit disappointed at how quick a read this was.

My feelings on this issue are certainly victim to the "hype machine," and to wanting to see some overt reference to Superman Red/Superman Blue, to SOMEthing more with the notion, at least, of Red and Blue, and some overt explaining of things. Instead, a lot seems to have been left to the visuals, to whatever the reader wants to interpret. Maybe it’s stuff to be explored in coming issues–but to consider this a conclusion seems to understate things, and though I certainly appreciate NOT having stories stretched out, I think Superman Reborn certainly deserves to be at least another chapter or two, to really lay things out and concretely state what’s what and when and all that.

Superman Reborn started strong, with a lot of epic possibility and potential. Sadly, it–at least for me–ends far short of what I’d hoped for, underwhelming me despite itself. I trust that stuff will play out in coming weeks and months, with further details and ramifications touched on…and hopefully this mainly just means that we’re NOT locked into "the graphic novel" of exactly X issues to a story with hard stop/starts. Perhaps this is just a "main event" and the full details WILL be revealed here and there–organically–as things continue.

I had to go to two different shops to find a copy of this issue, and got the last copy at the second shop…so I’m pretty sure that a number of people have been grabbing this issue even if they hadn’t been getting previous issues. Perhaps the nostalgia, more likely the hype–particularly from sites like Bleeding Cool–and jumping on for whatever this one issue would hold, regardless of continuity. Story-wise, art-wise, it’s a solid enough issue (note my feelings of its failings above) well worth getting if you’re already following either/both titles or this particular story.

But it’s not worth the "hype," at least on one read-through and thinking on it. That said, I won’t be surprised to have my feelings on it changed by further thought, analysis, and points of view…this post simply being my initial thoughts/reaction to the issue on a single read-through.

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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #28

90s_revisited

starman_0028Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part Two/A: The End of a Legend?

Writer: Roger Stern
Penciler: Dave Hoover
Inker: Scott Hanna
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Katie Main
Cover: Dave Hoover
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1990
Cover Price: $1.00

I honestly miss THIS kind of crossover/tie-in. Granted, we’re talking over 26 years separating this from being new, but having a random one-issue tie-in to a multi-issue thing in another family of books with a shared creator seems a long-lost thing in many ways. Granted, there’s a slight bit of return to that more recently, especially in the case of DC, but even stuff like Superman: Reborn doesn’t quite have the same feel that this sort of issue did and does.

Starman arrives in Metropolis, and after "wow"ing some citizens who happened to be looking up in the sky, finds his way to Professor Hamilton’s place, where he’s greeted by the professor. Superman soon arrives–much to Starman’s surprise–as he arrives via freight elevator rather than flying in using his own powers. Superman relates to him what’s been going on, and enlists his help. It seems Starman was able to re-charge Superman and his powers once before, so it stands to reason perhaps he’d be able to do so again. Along with some special equipment Hamilton rigs up, the heroes get down to business…though unfortunately, they’re met with failure. A couple other ideas come out, including Starman standing in briefly for Superman, able to pull off appearances to convince the populace–and specifically Luthor himself–that Superman has NOT actually lost his powers. However, Superman is determined to get back into action one way or another, as he can’t just count on Starman as some full-time/permanent stand-in. Meanwhile, Starman subplots are present, but don’t detract from the reading experience, coming into this on the Superman story.

I don’t know the non-Starman/non-Superman-related characters in this book, but that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of this issue. I read this specifically because of being a tie-in to Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite, crossing the Superman family of titles. I associate Roger Stern with his Superman work, and "assume" it was his also working on this book that brought it into the story, as he could easily work things together. And, at this point in the early-’90s, there seemed to be a lot more room for random character crossovers without it being some huge deal. I don’t need (nor for the moment particularly WANT) much focusing on Starman’s supporting cast…I want (and got) an issue of him dealing with the Superman-centric stuff…and yet, with the snippets dealing with the rest of his supporting cast, one can tell that Starman is, himself, not a Superman supporting cast member, and that he’s got his own separate existence apart from meeting up with Superman here.

It’s also a shame to consider a character like this is now so far removed time-wise as to functionally not even need to have existed as far as contemporary characters/stories go.

While this feels like an extension of the story (and rightfully so!) it also feels like its own thing. The story seems like an organic stretch, with the two heroes aware of each other, having interacted in the past and all that, so of course Superman would reach out to another ally, even if it’s not someone he interacts with as regularly as say, Lois or Jimmy. This does not feel like a "forced" or "token" crossover, but one that is driven by story rather than agenda or sales (though I doubt there’d have been much concern with probably boosting Starman with a key Superman tie-in).

Visually, this isn’t bad. I like the art overall, though at times Superman at least felt a little "off," with some nuances separating this from the previous couple of chapters of the story…further marking this as its own thing.

I like the cover…the red and orange makes it both distinctive and yet fits well with the rest of the arc. It’s also very attention-grabbing in the imagery, playing off classic silver/bronze age stuff. Hamilton runs toward a Starman standing over a struggling Superman exclaiming that he needs to stop–he’s killing Superman. Of course, as we find actually reading the issue, the scene is contextualized with Starman using his power to try to recharge Superman, with Superman trying to tough it out until Hamilton calls things to an end.

I’m pretty sure this is not ESSENTIAL to the Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite story, but it sure fits, and for the cover alone came off as something I very definitely wanted to have, to read as part of the story. The chapter numbering–Two/A–puts me in mind a bit of the Supergirl and Aquaman tie-ins to the 1998 Millennium Giants story that ended the Electric Superman year.

If you can get this issue along with the Superman ones, I definitely recommend it. And despite not having read this story as a whole (or mostly whole) in quite a number of years, I continue to enjoy it, and have actually had to hold myself back slightly from just flying through the reading, as I take time to write up each chapter after it’s read, before going on to the next.

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Superman (2016) #19 [Review]

superman_0019Superman: Reborn Part 3

Story: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Pencils: Patrick Gleason
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason and John Kalisz
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

Well, it’s safe to say I had too-high expectations for this issue, coming off the previous issue AND Action Comics #975. Though this issue advanced stuff a bit, it did not on initial reading hold up to my own internal "hype."

With the villain revealed, we basically get to see Clark and Lois being made to forget their life together, their son Jon, and to play along to Mxyzptlk’s game. As the issue ends, we have a bit of a throwback on stuff, that can kinda call into question this arc’s title and make one really wonder what’s going to happen in the fourth/"final" chapter before we head into April’s DC stuff.

Yeah, that’s all a bit vague, especially for a review, but this issue was all over the place–capitalizing on Mxy’s reality-bending powers and inclinations. And this is my "snap judgment," initial thoughts after having just read the issue, taking it–as I try to all my reviews–on a first reading without getting overly deep into it. My preference, my style.

The story picks up from the first half of Action 975, and seems to almost ignore the secondary Dini story. It also seems slightly out of nowhere to me, like I missed something. We had intro/setup stuff and the building of tension in the first chapter, getting things rolling. The second chapter brought that stuff to a head and revealed the villain of the story as well as paying off most of a year’s worth of build. I’ve plenty of anticipation and suspicions as to possibilities for how this story might end…so this "middle chapter" that’s neither setup nor conclusion is somewhat stuck in place, unable to conclude stuff, but not much new to be able to put out there.

The imagery is a bit wacky and trippy…which perfectly fits with Mxy and his powers and such. But it also made for a too-quick read; I rarely "like" multiple splash pages or double-page splashes and find them to be a huge "cheat" story AND page-wise in modern comics. That said, the spread with the game board worked quite well for me, all things considered.

This issue does not "sell" me on Mxy’s legitimate motivation for stuff…where it actually made sense in the Action Comics chapter, here he just comes off as petty and mean…I didn’t feel any of the "heart" of his motivation here.

I’m quite certain virtually no one–especially in this day and age–is gonna be inclined to "jump in" with the 19th issue of a series, labeled chapter 3 of a story. This is not something for a first-time reader, but is an issue for the ongoing reader, or the reader who’s dipping their toe in for this ARC.

In a way, this issue feels nearly "skippable" or extraneous, though I’m sure some small "details" will play into the conclusion and whatever status quo going forward from next week’s chapter. I would not actually recommend skipping this issue, but I’d highly recommend that anyone thinking of picking this up also pick up the first two chapters with plans to grab next week’s fourth chapter!

I was also slightly incorrect in my "assumption" of the covers for this story: they ARE going to join together in a 4-panel connected image…however, rather than a 2 x 2 configuration, they’re a 4-panel "tall" configuration (which is shown in the text piece on the final page of the issue, after the story itself).

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The ’90s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #472

90s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0472Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part Two: Clark Kent–Man of Steel!

Story: Dan Jurgens
Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Art Thibert
Letters: Albert De Guzman
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Associate Editor: Jon Peterson
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover: Dan Jurgens, Art Thibert
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1990
Cover Price: $0.75

This is another very nostalgic issue for me…from the cover on in!

We open on Superman hanging upside-down, tangled in a rope, while a hulking behemoth–Mammoth–postures about being the one to take him out. Flashback to the day’s start–a visit with Emil Hamilton as well as (separately) Lois and her family, where Clark learned that they’re indebted to Lex Luthor for Mrs. Lane’s survival. In the present, Superman bluffs his way out of being squished by Mammoth, and barely survives the SCU’s attempt to take the villain down…which leaves Superman to play a harrowing game of "chicken" with the rampaging brute–essentially staring him down without powers. After making his way home and reflecting on the day, Clark realizes his days as a hero may be done, unless he can get some help…and places a phone call.

While I’d read a handful of issues prior–and this issue itself is some 20 issues after my first of the title–this is still one of my "earliest" Superman comics that I owned, in my "initial run" with comics. And though I didn’t know it at the time, this is largely by one of my all-time favorite creators–Dan Jurgens! It’s reasonable for me to assume that this early issue was quite influential–as well as other issues he was on–in both setting him as one of my favorites, and "imprinting" his take on the character as a sort of "default" or such in my mind.

That said, nostalgia certainly swings my opinion of the visuals very much into the positive…though I’d say they’re quite good anyway. It’s not hard to follow the story, everyone looks recognizable…and something TO the art, I felt like I could SEE Superman’s physical vulnerability here. Sure, he’s in-costume, but I "bought" that he’s powerless.

The story is very solid as well, advancing the overall story of this arc while functioning nicely as its own issue…complete with a fairly obvious (to me) formulaic structures (starting on action, flashing back to earlier, catching up to present and resolving that initial high point, then giving us a bit of drama to end on). We get to see Clark as himself and as Superman; we have a villain; we have interaction and story advancement of supporting characters/subplots. Superman literally in a bind against a villain, surviving, and ready for whatever the next step of his adventure is.

All those years ago, this was the sole issue of the story that I had and read: I came in on Chapter 2, never having read the first chapter, nor getting to read the latter chapters until some time after the fact; in their initial run, I didn’t even know about the "event" within the "event" that ended this arc until some time much later. And I was not put off by getting an isolated chapter of a larger story.

As such…this is a good issue as a random one-off: there’s plenty of "continuity" that it draws from and sets up, and the ending hints at stuff to come, and we have no resolution to Superman’s powers, but we still get a story in this issue. It’s a "middle chapter" without feeling like it’s wholly incomplete, unlike many contemporary comics.

The only "complaint" I’d have is that the cover is a BIT misleading–it pertains to the story within in that we see Superman in trouble with his rope-and-grapple gear, but not falling helplessly toward a street. Still, as covers go, it’s a great piece–eye-catching and conveys the "heart" of the situation–without being context-lessly generic, "iconic," or vague. Best of all, this IS the cover. It is THE cover. No variants, no collector’s editions, no enhanced editions. To my knowledge, it’s this issue, or the collected edition.

I’d definitely recommend this as a simple, fun-ish read if you can snag it for under $1, and certainly worthwhile if you can snag the whole story!

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #49

90s_revisited

superman(1987)0049Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part One

Art & Script: Jerry Ordway
Inking: Dennis Janke
Coloring: Glenn Whitmore
Lettering: John Costanza
Associating: Jon Peterson
Editing: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jerry Ordway, Dennis Janke, Glenn Whitmore
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1990
Cover Price: $0.75

This issue grabbed me rather recently, going through bargain bins. The cover got me, with its distinctive red border/trade dress for this story. It both sets this issue apart from earlier issues, but the trade dress unites the entire Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite story as a whole in a way that still calls it out for me nearly three decades later, one of its chapters being amongst my earliest-ever comics in my collection.

The issue opens on Perry and Alice white at the grave of their son Jerry, who has recently died. We also get a bit of context, that Lex Luthor is the biological father. Luthor, too, laments the loss…and while he stands over the grave, he’s assaulted by an odd red rock…seems Mr. Mxyzptlk is due again, but is having too much fun where he is. As such, and not wanting to let down his good buddy Superman, he figures he’ll kill two birds with one stone, letting his quarterly mischief manifest via the red rock–Red Kryptonite–to mess with Superman. Meanwhile, Lois and Clark are out and about when they bump into an old friend of Clark’s–Pete Ross from Smallville. The two friends catch up briefly, and Pete obtains Clark’s "blessing" to pursue Lana. Not long after, Luthor figures out how to get things moving with Mxy’s magic rock, as Superman saves the day from a villain named Barrage. As the magic goes into effect, instead of granting Luthor power to be equal to Superman…Superman’s powers are taken away…making Luthor equal to him. Magically summoned to Luthor’s presence, and still in shock at the loss of his powers, Luthor gives Superman quite a beating before having him thrown out. Back at home, despite not being up to the visit, Clark finds himself in position to be a rock himself, as Lois is going through a rough time.

Though it was a number of years after I’d first read any part of this story that I got to read the rest of it (including this opening chapter), this brings back a lot of memory, of this era of the Super-titles. This issue has the very familiar visuals of Jerry Ordway that I’ll likely always associate with my earliest days reading Superman comics. The characters are all familiar and distinct and look quite good.

The story itself is strong, as well–painting a picture of what’s going on in general at this point in the Super-titles without being overly-obvious about doing so. (I’m reading this story "out of context" but there’s enough to remind me of where things were continuity-wise at the point this story takes place). We’re introduced to the setting and characters, given some clues as to recent events even while we see current stuff unfold, and the driving conflict of the story–Superman losing his powers to a chunk of red rock–is set in motion. Rather than leave us on some cliffhanger proclaiming that his powers would be gone or such, we actually get that in this very issue, as well as immediate after-effects. In that regard, this issue probably has two or three issues’ content by modern standards, neglecting to be highly-decompressed or drag stuff out.

The issue’s by no means some absolute stand-alone thing, but there’s enough, I think, that one could enjoy it on its own without having read much of this era previously, and the reader can figure out in general the current situation. That said…this works pretty well for me "jumping in" and not having to page through a bunch of issues to re-familiarize myself with the story. This was quite enjoyable in and of itself, even as I look forward to issues to come–including the sole chapter I read during my initial period being into comics.

I’m definitely enjoying diving back into this era, however briefly…and while this issue by itself isn’t necessarily anything all that special, the story as a whole is, and if you can score it for around $1 an issue or less, I definitely recommend it, as of re-reading this issue alone.

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Action Comics #975 [Review]

action_comics_0975Superman: Reborn Part 2

Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason & John Kalisz
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early May 2017
Cover Price: $3.99

[ SPOILER WARNING! This issue WILL BE SPOILED below…even the Second Feature’s title may give it away! ]

While this issue’s cover did not grab me the way Superman #18’s cover did last week, it had its own way to stand out, in the form of the large S-shield on blue as the main background, and the shadowed Clark Kent tugging his shirt open to reveal the classic "bleeding-S" first used with 1992’s Doomsday! / The Death of Superman. I didn’t even consciously notice until later that the title’s logo–Action Comics–was done as a white outline, virtually disappearing with the rest of the cover standing as itself. The green bar on the left seemed a contrast to last week’s issue…but when I held the issues together, they fit together perfectly, pretty much as I’d expected (except I’d figured chapters 1 & 2 would be top-left/top-right with chapters 3 & 4 as bottom-left/bottom right, respectively rather than top-left/bottom-left so far).

And these are–to best of my knowledge–STANDARD covers, the NON-variant covers, just being covers in and of themselves, no fancy tricks, no bags or accessories or foil or die-cut cardstock or 3-D lenticular/hologram stuff.

Just a 38-story-page issue (one 20-page lead story and an 18-page companion piece) for only $1 more…making an EXTRA-SIZED anniversary issue cost…the same as a 20-page Marvel comic.

Since virtually the beginning of Rebirth, the "human Clark Kent" has been a mystery. Things took a turn toward the creepy with the character lately as it became particularly obvious there was something "off" about the character, beyond our not knowing him any better than characters in the comics. The "slow burn" of that "subplot"–a through line in the books for most of a year–finally comes out in this issue as we learn the identity of the mysterious doppelganger.

After Jon disappeared, Superman and Lois go immediately to "the Other Clark"’s apartment seeking their son. Jon’s nowhere to be found…but the couple meet Clark and "our" Clark finally realizes who they’re facing. Though the figure is revealed…we get a few pages of shape-shifting with Superman glimpsing a number of prominent figures in his rogues gallery. Ultimately, a new threat arises, as we’re left on a cliffhanger for the next chapter exactly at the staples of the issue.

[ SPOILERS TO FOLLOW! ]

I generally–and this time is not an exception–find it interesting when I find myself guilty of something a main character is accused of. In this case, I did not see this coming, though in retrospect, I should have. I think I "got" it right before the first of the splash pages featuring other villains, as things all clicked into place, making sense across the months in a believable way that I really dig…though the particulars still have some shaking out to be done.

Mr. Mxyzptlk is our "Mystery Clark," having used his powers on HIMSELF, even, to complete the act–forgetting himself who he was and truly believing himself to be the genuine article. However, the imp is highly cheesed-off at being "forgotten" by Superman…an accusation I realized immediately I’d been guilty of myself…being unable to remember the last time I read a "new" story with the character! As punishment, Mxy will have Lois and Clark forget Jon even exists, though they won’t forget Mxy!

Art-wise, I have mixed feelings on this first half of the issue. The visuals are quite good, and I mostly like ’em…there’s just something slightly off, that I’m apparently not used to…or not consciously, anyway. Mahnke‘s style is very good, but some of the faces–particularly the villain splash-pages–seemed a bit off, and it’s definitely unsettling to see Mxy in this way…reminding me slightly of the character’s tone in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? without going quite that "sharp" and such.

Story-wise, this seemed way too short a segment, with a good quarter of the issue being a villains-show-off (#975, anniversary issue, lets see a bunch of best-known Superman villains!) and not really much plot advancement to the Reborn story other than actually pulling off "the mask" so we could see who’d be the antagonist of the rest of the story, or so it seems.

This is made up for by the Second Feature.

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The Man in the Purple Hat

Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Ian Churchill
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Assoc. Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza

Mr. Mxyzptlk has Jon Kent as his prisoner. We learn that Clark had told Jon stories of him when he was younger…though Mxy was simply "The Man in the Purple Hat" or to Jon, "Ruppletat." Mxy reveals what he’s been up to for years–having been captured, held, and tortured by Mr. Oz, keeping him "off the table" while Oz’s plan for Superman has unfurled. Mxy had contented himself initially with the sincere hope that Superman would be along to save him within days (when Mxy wouldn’t show up at Day 90, surely Supes would check into why the imp hadn’t reappeared for the traditional every-90-days challenge!) Time passed and no one ever showed up to rescue him…so he had to escape on his own. Once he did, he saw a way to kill two birds with one stone: hide himself from Mr. Oz while helping his buddy Superman in the process, but putting the "Secret Identity" back in the bag. Mxy had to mind-wipe himself to complete this…and was none too happy when he redisovered his own secret…and now he’ll have his revenge utilizing Jon to get at Clark.

I’m pretty sure it’s Churchill‘s art in this segment that put Mahnke‘s art in the first to seeming less thrilling to me. Churchill’s work here is great, with one of the best renditions of Jon Kent I can think of, and a sort of detail to Mr. Mxyzptlk that’s going to make other artists’ take look weak by comparison.

Story-wise, I love that Dini gives us a clear, reasonable explanation for Mxy’s actions and motivation, and this single story’s impact drives back to last May and retroactively adds to those previous issues! This gives us a spotlight on both Jon and moreso, Mr. Mxyzptlk and bridges the gap between whatever his last appearance was and now, while setting him up as an extra-scary antagonist. This is a strong complementary piece to the main story…expanding and contextualizing without having to me its own separate ISSUE or chapter, which will presumably make the "core" chapters that much tighter a story in the end.

We even get some breaking of the "fourth wall" without breaking continuity…and actually suggesting the rich DC multiverse all the more in a way that totally fits Mxy’s character, and allows readers a smile and "a-ha!" in recognizing other ways in which Mxy has appeared over the years.

This is an "anniversary" issue…that is, attention is on the issue’s NUMBER: #975. The round 75, marking off 25 issues since the 950th (which was still part of the New 52 Action Comics #s 0-52 numbering hiccup)…and 25 to go until the big #1000 mark next year.

While a new reader could certainly wade in and likely follow the story a bit…this issue as a whole is like a gift to the readers who’ve been following stuff for awhile, and is certainly a huge treat for me, paying off some ten months of stuff and doing so not only to mere satisfaction but in a way that leaves me eager to continue with the story! It makes sense to me, is believable within my conscious following of stuff, and does not let me down. The "villain pages" in the first story are a bit disappointing as those pages go way too quickly for me just trying to read the story…but they’re a sort of "special" thing for an anniversary issue, and aren’t the cop-out they’d have been if this was not an extra-sized issue.

Action Comics #975 is well worth its price simply for number of story pages, and is a great payoff to months of story-build while keeping things going for whatever’s coming as Superman: Reborn continues.

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