Review: Action Comics #1030
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Philip Kennedy Johnson and Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad
Art: Daniel Sampere and Michael Avon Oeming
Colors: Adriano Lucas and Taki Soma
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Superman gets a medical update from Batman and the Atom just before he has to face off against a fleet of ships from Warworld…or…? Plus, there’s another surprising twist in Midnighter’s tale.
Last issue, the Midnighter back up story was clearly the better story. With Action Comics #1030 things even up a bit. Overall, it’s a stronger issue because the lead Superman chapter is getting more things right. The high points in Superman’s story come with the interactions between the characters. It only makes sense that Superman would turn to Batman and the Atom (Ray Palmer) to help investigate his possibly changing physiology. It’s a satisfying scene that shows the more personal side of these characters relationships. Batman and the Atom don’t necessarily agree on the results of the test they’ve conducted on Superman, but in the end they are all there as friends.
Speaking of friends, the short but surprising appearance of Damian Wayne is welcomed whole-heartedly. Johnson seems to really understand how important this friendship is to these two characters. He also seems to understand how important this pairing is to the fans. While Jon confides in Damian, Damian doesn’t reciprocate and fill Jon in on the turmoil that he’s having with Bruce. It feels like how you’d expect these two to interact in this situation. Damian says a lot of supportive things to Jon that I don’t think he would’ve said if the characters were both about the same age. Jon being older now has shifted their relationship just a bit and it is reflected here.
The final page of the Superman story presents a twist that was foreshadowed earlier in the story, but it is still a surprise when it happens. I’m not spoiling it here, because it’s so interesting when it happens. Finally, the quiet moments between Lois and Clark feel right without any awkwardness.
Daniel Sampere joins the book as the new artist on the Superman feature. Sampere’s work in this issue recalls a few different eras of Superman. There’s a bit of Christopher Reeve at times and even Joe Shuster‘s Superman. In this issue, it almost feels like he’s defining a new visual era for the Man of Steel. This first outing is strong and effective.
Michael Avon Oeming delivers again on the art in the Midnighter second feature in Action Comics #1030. There’s some really dynamic staging and stylistic approach that owes something to the work of Jack Kirby. As surprising a twist as the story takes on the last page, the art is equally breathtaking.
Without spoiling the twist, let’s just leave it here that Cloonan and Conrad add yet another unexpected moment. There are layers that we are seeing peeled back slowly as the writing duo tease us just enough to come back for more…and it’s working! This chapter spends a lot of time introducing us to the man in Midnighter’s head as we also learn a little bit more about the “other” Midnighter. While it may at first seem like a lot of conversation, it actually moves the story forward effectively and at the same time show where Midnighter’s relationship sits with Apollo as well as with the voice in his head.
Perhaps, the most effective aspect of the story is that Cloonan and Conrad are able to create the sense that there is something huge going on just out of reach that will be revealed out slowly. In this sense it reminds me of the Archie Goodwin/Walt Simonson Manhunter story that was serialized in the early ’70’s in the pages of Detective Comics. It doesn’t hurt that both of these stories are also back up stories that have to stick to a shorter page count and different approach to storytelling.
Don’t look for any negatives in the Midnighter tale, you won’t find any. Unless, you count the fact that the page count is just too short! More pages for Midnighter!
The Superman story feels much more well developed this time around. However, it’s difficult to get past the basic premise without some misgivings. It’s generally uninspired. Superman dying will always feel like a gimmick when read in the main DC Universe continuity. Plus, the idea of pushing Jon to be Superman just seems to be coming to the main continuity way too soon. While DC claims they aren’t going through with their original 5G plans, many of the books that are coming out post-Future State certainly feel like DC is pushing the next generation of heroes upon readers. One has to wonder, has DC simply rebranded 5G as Infinite Frontier? The one aspect of this tale that actually makes it interesting is the people who turn up on the last page, a true twist that is far more interesting than the notions of Superman dying or any business with the always overused Mongul.
For readers that aren’t happy with the Bendis status quo for Jon and Superman, it will be difficult to digest these elements being crucial to the stories after he’s left the books. It would be better to turn it back and be able to pretend it never happened. Until such time as it is reversed or enough time has passed, these elements will drag down the characters to some extent no matter how good the storytelling and characterization.
Action Comics #1030 is another mixed bag of sorts. However, the positives are outweighing the negatives in a more significant fashion. Despite the basic premise of the Superman story feeling generally uninteresting, the surprise at the end and the great character moments make it an enjoyable read. Additionally, the surprise at the end gives it the feeling of real potential. The second chapter of the Midnighter tale is the icing, as the concept and characterization are equally engaging. This gives every indication that it’s going to be something special!