Mild Mannered Reviews - Action Comics
Action Comics #13Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 3, 2012
Cover date: December 2012
"The Ghost in the Fortress of Solitude"
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Travel Foreman
"A Boy and His Dog"
Writer: Sholly Fisch
Penciller: Brad Walker
Inker: Andrew Hennessy
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
"The Ghost in the Fortress of Solitude"
Twenty years before the destruction of Krypton Doctor Xa-Du is the first Kryptonian sentenced to the Phantom Zone. His crime; forbidden experiments into suspended animation that unleashed a living death upon the planet. He swears revenge as Jor-El activates the doorway and sends Xa-Du to his intangible existence.
Some forty years later, on Halloween night, Superman is busy cataloging items in the Fortress when his robots alert him to anomalous weather conditions in the South Pacific. Much to his surprise he hears something before leaving and investigates. The Man of Steel is suddenly confronted by a creature covered in chains with glowing yellow eyes but it disappears almost instantly. Investigating further Superman finds an apparatus he had uncovered from Kandor that now has a strange crack in it and, oddly enough, the paw prints of a dog on it.
The chained being appears again and switches places with Superman, sending the son of Jor-El to the Phantom Zone. The other Phantoms are incensed as Xa-Du had promised to free them as well. Xa-Du doesn't care and begins to explore the Fortress as the Phantoms attack Superman. With the help of the dog that was sent into the Zone while trying to save Jor-El and Lara Superman is freed. He also finds help from a stranger that was trapped in the Zone while investigating a haunting in Metropolis. The stranger explains that Xa-Du was able to escape thanks to a suit made of pure consciousness and that only Superman can stop him. Superman wants to take Krypto with him but the stranger reveals that is not possible.
As Xa-Du tries to leave the Fortress Superman manages to get the suit off of him and send him back to the Zone. He also grabs Krypto and pulls him into the material world and with a little effort the dog survives the experience. As Superman is reunited with his dog Xa-Du is approached by the tiny man with glasses and offered a deal.
Story - 5: I'm fairly convinced that if you weren't touched on some level by this story or the back-up that you were either born without a soul or are dead inside.
It's really one or the other in all honesty.
As far as the issue itself, Morrison got me again. I loved this story.
Sure I had some problems but overall I thought this was a fairly straightforward (for Morrison at any rate) story with an emotional undercurrent that just grabbed me and wouldn't let go.
Full Disclosure Part 1: While I have always liked Krypto as a concept and in some cases execution he has never been a deal breaker for me as a Superman fan. This probably has something to do with the fact that I grew up with cats in the house instead of dogs. I never had a dog as a companion and friend during my formative years. Also Krypto was largely absent from the Superman stories I grew up reading as well. Add all that together and you have someone that respects his place in Superman's history but doesn't have to have him around to enjoy the universe I am currently reading.
Full Disclosure Part 2: In 2002 my wife and I got our first dog, a small poodle named Boo and within seconds she had me wrapped around her little paw and I immediately saw her not as a dog but a small person with fur that I was now responsible for. You know those people that look at their dogs like they are their kids? Yeah, I am one of them. Boo is now ten and I love that dog as much as I would a daughter though to be fair the wife and I can leave Boo home alone to go see a movie without social services getting involved. Back in May we added another poodle to our family and now Mayday is running around the house as well as her sister who belongs to my mother and father-in-law. I have gone from being a cat person to a dog person and while I still like cats I prefer canines as companions.
You know those people that pretty much prefer dogs to other people? Yeah, I'm one of them too.
So when you through all of that into the reading blender you get a guy that read this book and darn near choked up.
Beyond the touching and poignant Krypto elements this was a fun issue. I was not expecting a Halloween themed story but Morrison managed to tie the holiday to the Phantom Zone rather seamlessly. The main villain of the piece, Xa-Du, wasn't impressive but he served his function. In standard Morrison fashion the fight with the bad guy wasn't the point of the story. It was a mash-up of ghost story, boy and his dog piece and a little bit of the supernatural thrown in with the inclusion of the Phantom Stranger.
Speaking of the Phantom Stranger I really don't care for the character. Sure he looks cool and in his own stories the Stanger makes for an interesting mystical hero. It's when he guest stars in other titles that I start having issues. It seems like his main super power is to not do a whole lot while being cryptic. Sure he'll get into the action occasionally, but mostly it's a lot of, "I am here with a dire warning, proceed at your doom, I knew you could do it," type of dialogue. His origin is often cloaked in mystery and there is an issue of the mid-eighties SECRET ORIGINS title that offered a multiple choice approach to where the Stranger comes from. One of them had him as a variation on the Wandering Jew, a man that traded places with one of the guards that was whipping Jesus Christ and was cursed to wander the Earth until Doomsday. Morrison hints at a similar setting for this new version of the Stranger's origin but instead of the Wandering Jew it seems Grant wants him to be Judas. Then again maybe I am reading too much into the silver and gold comment. Anyway, like Xa-Du he served his purpose but seemed almost secondary to the point of the issue.
One element I did like was the echoes of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE that Morrison sprinkled in at the beginning of the issue. The shadowy council bathed in black. A declaration of vengeance. It was familiar but mixed with other versions of Krypton, which I liked quite a bit. Morrison's take on the Phantom Zone makes perfect sense and is a bit creepier than previous versions. Imagine being alive but not being able to see or hear anyone around you. The unimaginable loneliness such an existence would create is staggering. Sure you could can get a fancy pair of goggles that allow you to see again but still...you are nothing. A phantom.
One question; how old was Jor-El when Krypton blew up real good? The previous stories where he appeared seemed to suggest he was a young man and yet the beginning of this story takes place twenty years before Krypton blew up real good. Maybe Kryptonians age slower and still look like they are in their twenties even though they are really forty or fifty. Whatever the case I found that "twenty years before the destruction of Krypton" thing a bit odd.
All in all a really solid issue that tugged at the heart strings, had some creepy moments and brought in a classic staple of the Man of Steel's mythos into the New 52. Add to all of that the hints of the finale to come and I was very satisfied as a Superman fan.
Of course it makes me nervous about next month's issue due to the roller coaster nature of my reaction to this title, but we'll see how that goes.
Art - 4: I enjoyed the art in this story quite a bit. It isn't the clean style I usually like but it fit the tale Morrison was telling. The chained up, Jacob Marley looking Xa-Du was creepy, kooky and all together ooky, just like he was supposed to be. I loved the use of shadows in the early part of the issue as Xa-Du is sent to the Phantom Zone. While the writing played a part in the emotional core of the story it was the art that really sold the scenes with Krypto. I wouldn't want to see Foreman on the book full time but he sure delivered a solid fill-in issue.
"A Boy and his Dog"
From the moment Jor-El created Krypto he and Kal-El were inseparable. Even after Krypto was trapped in the Phantom Zone and Krypton was destroyed the dog was with Kal-El, all through his life, even when his adopted parents died. Despite being a phantom Krypto did his best to protect the boy but the moments the dog liked best was when all was quiet and it was just the two of them.
Story - 5: While the back-up didn't provide the emotional backbone of the main story like it usually does Sholly Fisch's writing tugged at the heart strings just as hard as Morrison's did. I like the idea that Krypto was always there with Superman albeit in phantom form. It begs the question of whether or not Krypto is actually seeing Kal-El as he is growing up even though he shouldn't be able to according to how Morrison explained the Zone, but I am willing to let that slide because this story was so freaking good. While it was sweet to see him with Clark at the Kents' graves and standing beside Superman as he fights various bad guys my favorite moment is at the end when he nuzzles up to Clark as he is sleeping. It was sweet and poignant and once again I got all choked up while reading this issue.
The fact that our dogs sleep in bed with my wife and I is purely coincidental. Honest.
Art - 5: Brad Walker NAILED this back-up.
Seriously. I have no complaints. The artwork here was phenomenal. I already liked the new design on Krypto but Walker took it to the next level. Sure Krypto looked good as a hound dog mutt but I really love the new wolfish mutt look he has. It looks alien without looking alien, if that makes any sense. Like Foreman's art Walker brings the emotional punch to the story and he really sold the final few pages.
I really wish Walker was drawing Superman more. He does such a good job with the character and his world. He's proven this in the past and he continues to prove it now.
Cover Art - 4: So that's Bryan Hitch drawing the cover?
This style is not what I would usually think of when it comes to Hitch's art. It isn't as sleek as I am used to with him. The cover isn't bad but there is some ineffable quality about it that irks me. I can't put my finger on it so I will stop trying. This is a serviceable cover and there isn't a whole lot to complain about.
Variant Cover Art - 5: On the other hand I love the Rags Morales cover. The Phantom Stranger is literally large and in charge and Superman looks pretty good too. I kind of wish this was the main cover.
Variant Cover Art - 4 (Black and White): The black and white variant doesn't improve on the main version but it doesn't take anything away either. I wish I could place what I didn't like about this cover but I just can't.
Mild Mannered Reviews
2012Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.
- Action Comics #3
- Superman #3
- Superboy #3
- Supergirl #3
- Justice League #3
- Teen Titans #3
- Young Justice #10
- DC Universe Online Legends #17
- DC Universe Online Legends #18
- Action Comics #4
- Superman #4
- Superboy #4
- Supergirl #4
- Justice League #4
- Teen Titans #4
- Young Justice #11
- DC Universe Online Legends #19
- DC Universe Online Legends #20
- Action Comics #5
- Superman #5
- Superboy #5
- Supergirl #5
- Justice League #5
- Teen Titans #5
- Young Justice #12
- DC Universe Online Legends #21
- DC Universe Online Legends #22
- Action Comics #6
- Superman #6
- Superboy #6
- Supergirl #6
- Justice League #6
- Teen Titans #6
- Young Justice #13
- DC Universe Online Legends #23
- DC Universe Online Legends #24
- Action Comics #7
- Superman #7
- Superboy #7
- Supergirl #7
- Justice League #7
- Teen Titans #7
- Young Justice #14
- DC Universe Online Legends #25
- DC Universe Online Legends #26
- Action Comics #8
- Superman #8
- Superboy #8
- Supergirl #8
- Justice League #8
- Teen Titans #8
- Superman Beyond #1 (Digital Comic Book)
- Superman Beyond #2 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #1 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #2 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #3 (Digital Comic Book)
- Young Justice #15
- Action Comics #9
- Superman #9
- Superboy #9
- Supergirl #9
- Justice League #9
- Teen Titans Annual #1
- Teen Titans #9
- Earth Two #1
- Superman Beyond #3 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #4 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #5 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #6 (Digital Comic Book)
- Young Justice #16
- Superman Family Adventures #1
- Action Comics #10
- Superman #10
- Superboy #10
- Supergirl #10
- Justice League #10
- Teen Titans #10
- Superman Beyond #4 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #7 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #8 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #9 (Digital Comic Book)
- Young Justice #17
- Superman Family Adventures #2
- Action Comics #11
- Superman #11
- Superboy #11
- Supergirl #11
- Justice League #11
- Teen Titans #11
- Superman Beyond #5 (Digital Comic Book)
- Superman Beyond #6 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #10 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #11 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #12 (Digital Comic Book)
- Young Justice #18
- Superman Family Adventures #3
- Action Comics #12
- Superman #12
- Superman Annual #1
- Superboy #12
- Supergirl #12
- Justice League #12
- Teen Titans #12
- Superman Beyond #7 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #13 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #14 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #15 (Digital Comic Book)
- Young Justice #19
- Superman Family Adventures #4
- Action Comics #0
- Superman #0
- Superboy #0
- Supergirl #0
- Justice League #0
- Teen Titans #0
- Superman Beyond #8 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #16 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #17 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #18 (Digital Comic Book)
- Young Justice #20
- Superman Family Adventures #5
- Action Comics #13
- Action Comics Annual #1
- Superman #13
- Superboy #13
- Supergirl #13
- Justice League #13
- Teen Titans #13
- Superman Beyond #9 (Digital Comic Book)
- Superman Beyond #10 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #19 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #20 (Digital Comic Book)
- Smallville: Season 11 - Chapter #21 (Digital Comic Book)
- Young Justice #21
- Superman Family Adventures #6
- Superman: Earth One - Volume 2
Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2012.