Really, it’s almost too much to summarize. Superman returns to Earth to deal with Brainiac, but ends up having emotional reunions with Lois and the Ghost Solider. To say more would spoil things. See below for more.
WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW
I was not expecting this issue to tie in so strongly with Greg Pak’s previous issues in ACTION COMICS. Crossovers in the New 52 are notorious for being divorced from their individual titles. But Greg Pak ties in this annual to his “Imperial Subterranea” storyline with grace and intelligence.
Pak’s ACTION COMICS deal heavily in looking past appearances, to seeing the person within the monster. So it’s an inspired choice to bring back Baka, prince of Subterranea. Superman saw the humanity behind Baka’s frightening appearance, and here Baka gets to return the favor. The Ghost Solider, a former enemy Superman never stopped trying to connect with, brings him along to talk sense into Supes. The Solider reminds Superman that he taught him to treat all creatures with compassion. Baka tells Superman to turn his incredible understanding inward. Together they inspire Superman the same way he inspire them.
Yeah, “I Know You’re In There Somewhere, Fight” speeches have been done to death, but this one feels earned. Part of that is because of the extensive build-up to this moment in previous ACTION COMICS issues. It fits too well to feel like a happy accident. Did they plan this monster of an event around Pak’s run, or did Pak plan his run toward this event? If it’s improvisation then kudos. The second reason this works is because it finally restores Superman to his place as the paragon, the guiding light of the DC universe. (I’m not always a fan of paragon superheroes since sometimes everyone else is made slightly worse to accent it, but it’s used well here.)
Lois Lane is also terrific here. After months of being merely Brainiac’s pawn, we get to see through her eyes. We get the human suffering at the heart of the story. We get the courage. We get the fighting spirit.
Pak’s method of breaking Lois out of Brainiac’s grasp is very clever. Superman uses his newfound power to kill things at a microscopic level to destroy the nanobots in Lois’s system. Lois is freed from Brainaic’s control, but she gets to keep some of her psychic power! (I know Lois is meant to represent the strength of the unpowered human, but I really really want to see her still have her awesome pyschic abilities at the end of this event.)
We now have Dr. Xa-Du (now calling himself the Phantom King) running loose. Do we really need more supervillains running around? (The six-year-old side of me is jumping up and down and yelling “Yes! Yes!’) Which Superman villains haven’t appeared in this storyline yet? The count so far: Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Doomsday, Metallo, Atomic Skull, General Sam Lane, Harrow, Ghost Solider, Cyborg Superman, some new guy named Harak, and now Xa-Du. Metallo complicates thing further by jumping back in the game (can he stay dead for five minutes?) And when you see the ending of “ACTION COMICS #34” it’s going to get even more ridiculous.
Batman and Lex Luthor’s method for treating Superman is eyebrow-raising in the extreme. They remove the Kryptonite dust from the atmosphere and he’s now looks fine? Then why didn’t his trip to the Kryptonite-free expanse of space fix him?
Action-packed, character-packed, story-packed…is there anything ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #3 can’t do?