Review: Action Comics #978

by Matthew Lloyd
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[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Carlos Barberi
Inks: Matt Santorelli
Color: Hi-Fi

Superman is in the Fortress with Kelex reviewing his personal history to make sure it matches what he remembers, because he’s having a feeling that something isn’t right.  Of course, we know, but everything Superman sees he remembers accurately. We get to see the seminal events in Superman’s life in this new amalgamated history. Of course, what’s omitted is just as glaring as what’s welcomed by its inclusion. By the end, he is aware of another voice, Mr. Oz. Superman is getting closer to the mystery at the heart of Rebirth.

Superman’s memory of his first day at the Daily Planet is something that should resonate with most readers. As Superman recalls this day what stands out to him is saving Lois from a crashing helicopter, just like Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder in Superman: The Movie. It’s hard to imagine that this is an accidental inclusion. This is is seemingly sure way to get all readers to identify with Superman’s new history, even if the rest of the issue may be divisive at times.

Retaining Superman and Lois’s life in Hamilton County and his clandestine operations for a time after Jon’s birth are very much appreciated.  The art helps clue the reader in on the timeline as characters appear in different costumes and serve to indicate when certain events take place.  The inclusion of the red trunks as a part of Superman’s history is welcome.  If they are part of his past, they could be part of his future.

It’s truly a shame that this version of Jon’s birth is relegated to a memory, as it seems this would’ve been an interesting and exciting story line to have actually read, especially with Wonder Woman being present and Batman standing guard outside the Fortress of Solitude.  Wait, was that a positive???  Can we get that as an original graphic novel- of all things to have happened off-panel!!

Returning Superman to his “mostly” pre-Flashpoint/post-Crisis version is a huge positive.  DC finally figured out that pushing characters through real life events like marriage and becoming a parent are a positive and not a negative.  It was this that seemed to really be a huge drawback with the “New 52.”  There was no diversity in the “New 52” as far as age, marriage and parental status were considered, Animal Man not withstanding.

Finally, Rebirth can be seen as DC’s correcting of the mistake that was the “New 52” Superman.  It’s apparent here as Superman’s history contains little of the “New 52” era, even those moments that seemed to be liked, such as the Superman/ Wonder Woman romance.  Might as well go ahead and burn those books!

Even though the end result is better than where we were with Superman a year ago, the retcon is ALWAYS disturbing, if only for that fact that it eliminates aspects of comics and usually whole comics that I read!  They really tried to do it in story this time, but it still ended up as a retcon.  Some readers will dismiss it and be done with Superman and/ or DC, others will bite and scream, “Yeah!”  Most of us will grudgingly accept what’s been presented and hope for the best.  There’s no easy solution here, I know that, but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to taste good when you bite in.  Ma and Pa Kent never meeting Lois is particularly distasteful.

One troubling bit that wasn’t addressed was Lex Luthor and his role in current Superman history.  They’ve shared so much in the past year since Rebirth, that his absence except for a single page appearance is glaring.  Hopefully, there’s more to come and Lex will get an issue of his own to fill in the gaps.

If you like what’s been restored, then this is an enjoyable issue. If you miss what’s been lost, then you will feel lost. This issue tips slightly positive, overall for me. While this is a necessary diversion, moving ahead instead of revisiting the past is more important. Like Superman, there remains an uneasiness in the merging of the histories as I know not everything jives with what was published. There’s no easy way through this. Hopefully, Mr. Oz and the Superman Revenge Squad that assembles by the end of the issue will provide a quality threat for  the Man of Steel in ensuing issues.

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