Andy Diggle and his team caught lightning in a bottle with the start of their arc in Action Comics #19, but does lightning strike twice?
The events of the last issue of Action Comics left Superman confused, distraught, and worst of all, infected. Lex Luthor, the charming mastermind we all love, constructed a plan to tear Superman down in more ways than one. His plan continues to take shape in Action Comics # 20, but is it turning out how we had hoped?
Diggle continues to write stellar dialogue throughout the comic. His attention to each character continues to astound as they are all completely separate voices. Each character, from Dr. Veritas to Lex Luthor, feels natural and less strained since their past appearances in other comics. He also managed to incorporate an origin story for a new villain who could take shape at some point in the future. If we include the mini-comic at the end of the issue, there are technically two separate origin stories for two villains that this comic explores. That alone leaves a mark for other creative teams to discover down the line and it pushes the storytelling much further than before. Diggle, however, is outshined in this comic by artists Tony S. Daniel and Matt Banning.
As fantastic as the dialogue is in Action Comics # 20, the artwork does an incredible job of adding the overtones that the writing isn’t always able to convey. The emotions run deep, the action is ruthless, and the colors are beautiful. Superman is once again tested by Luthor’s resolve, and the illustrations truly display that the Man of Steel is wearing down. The artists surpassed their previous work on almost every level. From the heat vision to the freeze breath, each power is detailed in a distinguishing and stunning way. Overall the comic keeps the same level of entertainment as its previous issue, if not slightly more.
The comic fell into the mistake of trying to do too much in too little time.
It started out rather slow, then did a complete 180o before sending us into a spiral. This can be brilliant if done properly (a la Batman #5). The mistake is that it couldn’t hold onto the intensity for very long. The pacing felt off and erratic, which made the fight scenes lose impact, as relentless as they were. It was the only distinguishing factor that set the comic and its previous issue apart.
Although it stumbles at parts, Action Comics # 20 continues to amaze as the arc reaches its middle ground. With a promising third act, a soon to be grand face-off, and a new villainous origin, Diggle and his team continue to outdo themselves on their Hybrid storyline.