The origin of Cyborg Superman is revealed. But are the changes for the better?
Normally I stay away from spoilers but being that this issue is a one-shot origin story, it is impossible for me to go into details without spoiling the comic. So EVERYTHING from here forward in this review is SPOILER TERRITORY.
Cyborg Superman has been given a massive reboot. It appears that all of the lunacy that surrounded Hank Henshaw that we know and love has not just been altered, but removed entirely. Hank Henshaw is no longer Cyborg Superman. Unless this is retconned or adjusted by Braniac in a future issue, Zor-El, Supergirl’s kryptonian father, is now Cyborg Superman.
It is a very strange choice for the writers to go this route when Hank Henshaw has already been introduced into the New 52 in Team 7. He had a minor role but it planted a seed that could’ve grown into the introduction of Cyborg Superman. Instead we were given a mildly entertaining spin that Kara’s amnesia suffering father was reborn as Cyborg Superman through Braniac. It complicates things and makes the story predictable. Only a matter of time will pass before Zor-El dies once again. Afterwards it will lead to Braniac create a new Cyborg Superman using Hank Henshaw.
All of the negatives that face Action Comics #23.1 land on the sudden and questionable character change. Newer readers won’t be taken aback by these changes, but older ones will not be satisfied.
Although the change leaves a sour taste on the palette, the comic is actually pretty well made. Michael Alan Nelson continues to be a guest in the Superman franchise by writing this villain’s issue. Nelson is known for his work on the Supergirl series and therefore the initial appearance of Cyborg Superman. It is only fitting that he be given the origin issue and the result is spectacular.
The comic jumps back and forth between Zor-El’s preparations for the destruction of Krypton, and the Cyborg Superman’s galactic genocide. It leaves a haunting comparison of both the father seeking to save his family, and the mad abomination hell bent on destroying all that is weak.
The phrase, “I Am Perfection,” resonates throughout the issue and it leaves the impression of a man striving for perfection even after death. If Zor-El was a little smarter or a little stronger, he could’ve saved Krypton, and it leaves a terrifying outcome in the endless pursuit of perfection through his new life as Cyborg Superman.
Mike Hawthorne does the artwork for this issue and he impresses in nearly every page. All of the Cyborg Superman frames were dark and frightening, and all of the Zor-El scenes are light and uplifting. These parallels lend to the dynamic that Nelson was trying to get across in the rise and fall of Zor-El. Although Hawthorne chose to exclude the robot teeth that other artists drew out for Cyborg Superman, it gave him a more sinister and prideful appearance. He stands amidst destruction with an eyebrow raised, questioning the worth of the weak in favor of the strong. The darkness that the comic is willing to accept and flesh out makes this experience very unique and rewarding.
Despite the origin change, Action Comics #23.1 delivers incredibly. Not only is the story sinister and horrifying, but the contrast between light and dark carry this issue into a very high standard for the rest of the Action Comics villain’s titles this month.