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Mild Mannered Reviews - Action Comics

Action Comics #4 Action Comics #4

Action Comics #4

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 7, 2011

Cover date: February 2012

"Superman and the Men of Steel"

Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Rags Morales
Inker: Rick Bryant and Sean Parsons

"Hearts of Steel"

Writer: Sholly Fisch
Penciller: Brad Walker
Inker: Brad Walker

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

Action Comics #4 "Superman and the Men of Steel"

Lex Luthor makes a run for it as John Corben, wearing the Metal-Zero armor and claiming to be the Voice of the Colony, tears through the military complex demanding to know where Superman is. Across the world automated systems in factories begin to build robots, including the factory where Lois, Jimmy and Clark were visiting. Clark suggests that they should run but is the only one to do so. Across town John Henry Irons hears reports of the mayhem and opens a wall panel in his apartment that contains a suit of armor.

Soon Clark changes to Superman and is fighting every robot in sight. The police arrive and try to arrest him but they soon abandon this in favor of letting the Man of Steel fight against the invading robots. Meanwhile Metal-Zero finds Lois and Jimmy. Lois tries to reach Corben but the alien entity has completely taken over the soldier's mind. Superman arrives and fights with Metal-Zero until John Henry arrives wearing his own armor and takes over so that Superman can deal with the bigger threat, namely the city of Metropolis being taken captive by an alien creature with an insect's body and a green head. The alien welcomes the people of Metropolis to its collection. Back on the ground General Lane asks Superman if he can save the city. Superman replies that he can adding that he might need a little help.

4Story - 4: Overall this was an enjoyable issue. I have to admit that most of my enjoyment stems from the fact that Superman is fighting robots through most of it. I always get a kick out of Superman fighting robots. It wasn't what the character was born to do but given his power level and the fact that he can't tear into John Q. Badguy robots are the best possible opponent for the Last Son of Krypton.

Beyond that I am digging this new take on Brainiac. Well, I am mostly digging this new take on Brainiac. I do have one giant quibble and that is the way the character is designed. I wasn't much on an insect-like Galactus over in the Ultimate Marvel Universe and I really don't like the idea of an insect-like Brainiac here. Maybe Morrison will have a super cool explanation for it but at the moment I am not sold. What I did like was the way the city was captured and the fact that the taking of Metropolis followed a massive robot invasion. For one thing that is just fun and led to a lot of that Superman fighting robots thing that I am so keen on. For another it gives this story a real alien invasion feel to it. It is dramatic and exciting and a true threat for a Superman at the dawn of his career. Morrison has seemingly shifted from the champion of the weak and oppressed Superman to the alien/robot fighting Superman, which I was not expecting but was happy to see.

The one problem I had with this issue and a problem I continue to have as far as this new version of Superman goes is how Luthor is portrayed. Lex is on the run for most of the issue and that doesn't feel right to me. While I didn't want a carbon copy of the Silver/Bronze Age Lex or the Post Crisis Lex I do want Superman's arch-enemy to be a credible threat and the way he has been acting I am just not getting that vibe. That is very disappointing and I hope it will change soon.

Other than that there wasn't a whole lot to complain about. Lois was treated better in this issue than in the past three. She not only got more to do but was shown to be intelligent and compassionate in her attempts to reach John Corben. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

Steel also got some screen time in this issue, which I'll get to in a second...

4Art - 4: The art looked a tad different this time around. It wasn't bad or anything just slightly different. The robots looked fantastic and Morales continues to provide us with solid action sequences. I also enjoyed the design for Metal-Zero. It was a nice update on the Metallo idea. Overall I am still enjoying the art with Lex Luthor being my one constant sticking point. I don't like how the character has been portrayed in terms of both the writing and the art.

"Hearts of Steel"

John Henry battles Metal-Zero while reflecting on his namesake and what it means to him. Metal-Zero tells John that Irons can't defeat him because of his awesome processing ability. Irons proves to be the smarter of the two by hitting Metal-Zero with a computer virus via a USB flash drive. As he stands victorious above Metal-Zero John Henry thinks that even though the city has Superman there is more than enough trouble to justify another hero in Metropolis.

5Story - 5: This story made me so happy I can hardly stand it.

I like Steel. I have liked Steel since his introduction in 1993. He is such a great character and it was a shame that for a long time there DC didn't seem to know what to do with the character. When John Henry Irons was re-introduced in ACTION COMICS #1 I smiled because it was nice to see that the character was at least being referenced.

I had no idea that he was going to be putting on the armor so soon.

Part of me believes I should have a problem with this considering the first version of Steel came about as a result of Superman's death. That origin was so solid that it was hard to imagine him coming into Superman's life any other way. The thing is this is a new world, for lack of a better term, and if I am going to stay sane I have to accept the fact that certain characters are going to change. John Henry was there from the beginning. So be it.

Lucky for me this take on John Henry is really, really good.

In one back-up story Fisch told us all we need to know about this John Henry who, in all honesty, isn't all that different from the original. He's driven, intelligent and not afraid to mix it up physically. While it was nice to see John going toe-to-toe with Metal-Zero I loved the fact that he took Corben down using his mind. I never thought I would see the day where a flash drive serves as the deciding factor in a fist fight between two armored gladiators but there is was. Between that and the internal monologue detailing why Irons is the way he is I am very pleased with how the writers are treating this character.

Frankly I want a new Steel series, but I could be alone on that one.

5Art - 5: The art in this back-up was phenomenal. The action was well paced. The level of detail on the two sets of armor was fantastic. The art was just gorgeous throughout this story. I have absolutely no complaints here.

4Cover Art - 4: There is an attempt to fake us out on this cover and I think that is great. The copy reads, "The debut of Steel" next to an image of Superman fighting a robot. This kind of, sort of might lead a new reader to believe that the robot Superman is battling is Steel even though it isn't. The result is an old school cover that made me smile.

4Variant Cover Art - 4 (Michael Choi): This is a decent image but would only work as a variant cover as it doesn't tie into the story at all. Superman looks great but frankly this is more of a pin-up than a cover.

5Variant Cover Art - 5 (Black and White): As usual the black and white variant is my favorite cover. The detail Morales put into the robot looks so much better without the color added.

If only I could afford these variants. Curse these First World problems I have.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2012

February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012

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