Review: Action Comics #1035
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Sean Lewis
Art: Daniel Sampere and Sami Basri
Colors: Adriano Lucas and Ulises Arreola
Letters: Dave Sharp
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Superman must come make his goodbyes as he leaves for Warworld to free the lost Kryptonians and Jimmy Olsen summons the Guardian to take on a virtual demon from a digital Ouija board!
Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s lost Kryptonian storyline comes to a head in Action Comics #1035 as Superman must make the decision to go to Warworld and free them from captivity. It’s been an intriguing storyline all along and this is the logical conclusion to head into the next act. And, it’s exactly the thing Superman would do. Additionally, there’s a bit of a Moses parallel to this moment as well.
Superman’s origin has always had a bit of Moses in it. Put in a basket (rocket ship) and floated down the river (space) to escape death. It’s not hard to see the parallels. With this storyline, Superman is going to a hostile planet (Egypt) ruled by a merciless Mongul (pharaoh) to free his people. He certainly sounds like he will be welcomed as the deliverer. Johnson has even used his “S” insignia as a way of recognizing these other Kryptonians much like Moses was identified by the cloth identifying him as a Levite that his mother put in his basket before floating him down the river. This is all very interesting and adds an extra level of enjoyment to this plot line.
As mentioned above, Johnson’s handling of the Man of Steel’s character is spot on. And, it’s probably the single best aspect of the issue and Johnson’s run. It’s not just how he acts, but the way he speaks and the thought process he uses to put into his decision making. Last issue, we saw him take a chance because he thought it was the right thing to do to end the immediate conflict. It’s a sign of the times and the nature of the world today that Superman may not always be a straight law and order guy. This does reflect the earliest days of Superman when he was a social crusader. Working it in naturally may work better than Grant Morrison’s attempt at the same thing when Superman was relaunched in The New 52.
Daniel Sampere delivers another dynamite performance as he depicts the depth and breadth of Superman’s emotions in every panel. Sampere has a classic style that fits Superman extremely well while also being able to transmit the subtleties of emotion in such a storyline. It’s not just the Man of Steel, though. Lois has a roller coaster ride of emotions in Action Comics #1035 and he handles this superbly as well. It’s clear that this isn’t the first time that Superman has left Earth for an extended space mission, but it’s also clear that it’s never easy- Lois comes from a military background, but it doesn’t make deployment any easier.
This type of real world family dynamic was very strong in the first half of the Rebirth era under Dan Jurgens and Peter Tomasi/Patrick Gleason. It’s nice to see it feeling real again. These are elements that are relatable to anyone. You don’t have to have superpowers or live an “extraordinary” life to get it. There’s a sweet spot of real emotion that is communicated by both Johnson and Sampere.
The second feature, “Tales of Metroplis” stars Jimmy Olsen. He calls the Guardian in to help on what appears to be a virtual/technological demon summoned through a digital Ouija board. The basic concept is a solid updating of a traditional trope. It fits well in our modern online/virtual world. Seeing the Guardian again is a treat as well. Although, I’m unsure which Guardian this is- it’s not the one introduced in Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldier’s of Victory– Jake Jordan. He appears to be the Project Cadmus clone of the original Golden Age Guardian, Jim Harper created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
It’s a good introductory chapter and the concept has potential. As the story features kids as the ones in trouble, I can’t help but hope these youngsters form a new version of the Newsboy Legion with the Guardian.
Unfortunately, the biggest negative in Action Comics #1035 is once again Jon Kent. As likable and enjoyable as he was in the Rebirth era under Jurgens and the Tomasi/Gleason team and in Adventures of the Super Sons with Damian Wayne, he’s just out of place and awkward here. He’s actually become unlikable. He seems whiny, a bit immature and too uneven. It’s always been a bad idea to have aged him up off panel and taken away the potential for truly unique and different Superman stories of Lois and Clark raising their own biological child together. Doubling down on it and maintaining the charade by pushing him as Superman in Clark’s absence, no matter how well written isn’t the answer.
It was easy to drop the Superman books under Bendis because Jon was simply one of many problems. With the ship righted essentially, Jon remains the lone troubling aspect. As long a he’s kept in the background he can’t hurt the title much. Bendis is an albatross that continues to weigh down the Superman franchise and indeed every corner of the DC Universe he has touched.
While Bendis’s god-awful Justice League makes a truly unneeded appearance, flipping it around with Batman’s usual “disappear quietly while no one’s looking” bit made me laugh out loud.
Johnson and Sampere deliver a heartfelt issue that continues to build on the Lost Kryptonians storyline. The character work is outstanding and is truly making Action Comics a great title. It’s not hard to relate to Lois and Clark’s situation, even if the particulars are otherworldly, plus the Moses analog adds another dimension to Superman’s story. While Jon holds things back a bit, he’s not in the way to drag things down too much. Coupled with the potential in the second feature, Action Comics #1035 is another great issue.