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Mild Mannered Reviews - Action Comics

Action Comics #17 Action Comics #17

Action Comics #17

Scheduled to arrive in stores: February 20, 2013

Cover date: April 2013

"Superman and the Fiend from Dimension 5"

Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Brad Walker and Rags Morales
Inker: Andrew Hennesy, Mark Propst and Cam Smith


Writer: Sholly Fisch
Penciller: Chris Sprouse
Inker: Karl Story

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

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Action Comics #17 Action Comics #17 "Superman and the Fiend from Dimension 5"

A young Clark Kent arrives at the scene where his adopted parents have had a terrible accident. Later at the hospital Jonathan Kent asks his son to take him home and Clark does. From his death bed Jonathan tells Clark to use his powers to become a force for good and the champion of the downtrodden. Later Clark walks away from the graves of Jonathan and Martha Kent.

In the present Super Doomsday, controlled by Vyndktvx, savagely beats Superman again and again.

Else-when three members of the Legion of Super-Heroes travel to various times in their last ditch effort to prevent Universo from rewriting the past. They visit Clark's landlord and then arrive at the moment where Clark's parents were killed by Vyndktvx. Saturn Woman allows Martha to tell her husband she loves him one more time.

Over the course of several years Vyndktvx manipulates events with Glenmorgan, tries to steal Superman's cape and then puts together a team of Superman's enemies to acts as an army of Superman-Haters.

Back at the battle between Superman and Super-Doomsday the Man of Steel convinces Erik that he can still help Superman and appeals to the fact that the villain was once a scientist. Super-Doomsday throws the Man of Steel into a car and a crowd of bystanders help him out of the Kryptonite chains the Army put him in. Super-Doomsday screams that he is an unstoppable killer franchise from a parallel reality. He's a thought that gets bigger and bigger the more you think it. He's a thought bigger than Superman.

At another point in time Saturn Woman approaches Superman after a battle with Xa-Du. Superman asks if this is the moment that Vyndktvx attacks from the Fifth Dimension to which Saturn Woman replies that he is always attacking and that now Superman has to go to Mars. When Superman asks her if he wins she tells him that next he will go to Mars and after that it is up to him.

Later in the now damaged Time Bubble Saturn Woman talks with her fellow Legionnaires about the fact that she couldn't tell Superman that he died. Cosmic Man reminds them that their main objective is to prevent Superman from dying so they can stop the rise of Universo and save the lives of their friends even though it will cost them their entire history. Soon they are in a hospital room with Jimmy, Lois and Mxyzptlk.

Meanwhile Super-Doomsday continues to rant at Superman about how he is the thought of a bigger, more ruthless, stronger Superman. He is powered by a simple corporate directive; annihilate the competition. He is the Man of Steel's replacement, the Last Knight of Tomorrow. Suddenly a voice calls for Super-Doomsday to step aside. Superman and Super-Doomsday turn to see Lex Luthor in a giant suit of armor. Lex insists that nobody kills Superman but Lex Luthor!

3Story - 3: I am not ashamed to admit that I had to read this issue twice to really get everything that happened. Usually I am pretty good with following along and not getting lost but as I have stated in the past Morrison is not telling a story with a linear timeline. Events move from the past to the present and then back to the past again but not to the same point and while it would be nice to have a caption box or something tell us this happened we don't always get one. On one hand I can see where someone may like this sort of thing and it does break the mold of a typical Superman story. On the other hand it's annoying because I am not a fan of this form of storytelling. Again I don't blame Morrison for this because he's telling the story he wants to tell and DC hired him to do that. All I can do at this point since I am invested in Morrison's run on ACTION COMICS is hold on and wait for the ride to be over.

It's not a completely unenjoyable ride. This issue is kind of a microcosm of the story as a whole; there were parts I liked, parts I thought were clever and parts I could have really done without. For instance I loved the opening sequence with Clark coming upon the scene of his parents' supposed accident and then taking his father home so Jonathan can die in his own bed. This was a powerful three pages and retold an iconic moment in Superman's history for a new generation. I am a huge fan of the Kents living on into Clark's adulthood but I also see how having them die works for the character as well as dark as that sentiment is. Jonathan spending his final moments telling his son to do something good with his powers goes to the heart of why Clark would choose to become Superman and help mankind. I am not suggesting that you have to have that happen because again it works the other way too but Morrison really sold this scene and got me emotionally sucked into the issue right there at the beginning.

The clever part came in the form of Morrison showing us how everything from his run ties together. I may not like Vyndktvx all that much but in this issue I finally see how he put EVERYTHING into play. What I liked about how Morrison put all of the pieces together is that the various storylines can be read on their own as complete stories in and of themselves but together they make up one, long story where all of the events come to a head in a climactic battle. The bouncing back and forth through time was annoying but it served to show how all of the pieces fit together. It was a sort of light bulb moment where suddenly everything clicked on, and part of me really liked that.

The problem is that once again I am faced with a Morrison story that is huge in scope and has all of these neat ideas but the ending, as it appears to be playing out, is just...well, kind of boring. I mean sure it's interesting to have a villain that is as meta as Vyndktvx is. Morrison is big on exploring his characters as the ideas they are but frankly that sort of thing takes me right out of the story. When I read a story (or watch one or listen to one, etc.) I want to be totally engrossed in the world the writer is crafting. I want to believe in it for the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years it takes for the story to finish. That sort of thing is important to me and unless it is used for comedic effect or is the entire point of the character I don't want to be reminded that at the end of the day all of this is made up stuff.

To be fair I have had this problem with Morrison for years. Back when he brought Barry Allen back from the dead during FINAL CRISIS his reasoning was, "That's the point of comics - they don't have to die, because they're fictional creations... We can do anything with them, and we can make them come back and make them defy death." And that's true but that's not the type of story I want to read and it is especially not the story I want to read at the dawn of a new era for Superman. On a technical and even artistic level it's not bad or evil or anything like that. I just don't like it.

This is why despite the nice scene with Martha getting to tell her husband she loves him one last time or the moment where the citizens of Metropolis come together to give Superman a hand, I am really down on this issue and now the run as a whole. Again, there have been some neat moments overall but when you string them together no matter how cleverly the stories were tied together it is just unsatisfying. Those moments were told as stories that I could get into and here at the end I have a character yelling about how he's going to beat Superman because he's a better idea. It just doesn't scan for me.

Oh, and that moment at the end when Lex Luthor shows up? Hated it. I don't normally say that but while Lex has been a player in all of this it is a cheap ploy to get a shock at the end of the issue. It's kind of a cheat to build up to a climactic moment and then bring in another character out of nowhere. You could argue that this was set up in the previous issue with Lex being manipulated into helping Vyndktvx and maybe you could argue that Morrison hinted at earlier in this issue but I still just don't like it.

4Art - 4: The art was very solid throughout the entire issue. The action scenes were great but it was the more emotional, character driven scenes that really got to me. You could feel how heartbroken and sad Clark was at the beginning of the issue and the choices Walker (at least I think it was Walker drawing the first few pages) made were brilliant. The establishing shot of the farm on the second page, the complete absence of background in the middle panel on page three and that shot of Clark walking away from his parents' graves all served to grab me as a reader and make me care that these people died. That sort of thing continued later in the issue in the scene where Martha got to have her final moments with Jonathan. The look of peace on her face as she told Jonathan she loved him was amazing.

I'm not trying to suggest that Morales didn't do any good work in this issue. The pages where we got to see how all of the events of the past sixteen issues fit together were great and I loved the near splash page of Vyndktvx making his pitch to all of the Super-Haters at once. It was clever and came off brilliantly, I'm still not all that hot on the design of Super-Doomsday but there is a lot I don't like about the character so that isn't too surprising. Overall the mix of artists continues to be used to good effect and both of them brought their A game to this issue.


As Superman fights in the present a younger Clark Kent is getting ready for the prom in the past. Clark and Jonathan are talking on the porch when suddenly the Superman from the present is standing in the place of his younger counterpart. He and Jonathan talk about the future and Superman's adoptive father reminds him that Kents aren't quitters. They hug and suddenly a slightly confused younger Clark is back. Jonathan tells his son that change can be scary but if he never tries anything new he'll never know what he can do. He adds that whatever life brings Clark he should meet it with his head held high because Kents aren't quitters.

5Story - 5: The fact that Sholly Fisch has not been given a Superman title to write is a crying shame. The man has displayed his ability to write a good action story in the past but time and again Fisch has proven that he can get inside the emotional core of the Man of Steel and his supporting cast. This story reminded me a bit of the two part story that ran in ACTION COMICS #s 507 and 508 where the Pre-Crisis Jonathan Kent was given the opportunity to see what sort of man his adopted son became. The great thing is that Fisch managed to pack all of the emotional punch that those stories had in only eight pages and it was such a joy to read.

Seriously. Give Sholly Fisch an ongoing to write. I'd buy every issue and do my best to convince others to do the same.

4Art - 4: Sprouse and Story may not be my favorite artists but I still enjoy what they bring to Fisch's writing. I liked that they managed to sneak some action into the story with the flashbacks at the beginning which led into the present day Superman switching places with his younger self. As always it is the facial expressions that win me over. You can tell a lot about what the character is thinking just by the look on their face. The only problem I had with the art was actually a coloring issue. They tried to do this weird effect with the glasses Jonathan and Clark were wearing and while I appreciated that they were trying to make it look different I didn't really care for it. Otherwise I was very happy with the art in this story.

4Cover Art - 4: At first I really didn't like this cover. It's weird and ugly, especially Vyndktvx and his three faces. The shot of Krypto in Kryptonite chains made me a little sad as well. Mainly I was put out that Superman wasn't on the cover but then I realized that in a really subtle way he was. There is a shattered Superman statue piled up to the left and the head of that statue is at the bottom. Again, it's subtle but it worked for me.

For those concerned about the spit curl (and apparently there are some people that are) you can see it pretty clear on that statue.

4Variant Cover Art - 4: I like this variant quite a bit. Sure the baby Kal-El looks like he should start chanting, "Toga! Toga!" but other than that the evolution of the new Superman as seen by Terry Dodson is amazing.

4Variant Cover Art - 4 (Black and White): Once again the black and white version of the main cover shows how much detail Morales is capable of putting into his art. Without the glowing effect around the chains and the color in general Krypto looks even more pitiful. I also like the look of the broken statue as well.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2013

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