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Mild Mannered Reviews - Action Comics

Action Comics #24 Action Comics #24

Action Comics #24

Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 2, 2013

Cover date: December 2013

"Psi War" - Part 2

Writer: Mike Johnson
Penciller: Tyler Kirkham
Inker: Tyler Kirkham

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

At Metropolis General Hospital Lois' boyfriend tries to convince the doctor that she momentarily woke up from her coma. The doctor has a list of reasons why Mr. Carol might have thought he saw her wake up but in reality she didn't. When they return to Lois' room both men are shocked to discover that the comatose Lois has disappeared.

At that same moment beneath Metropolis in the headquarters of H.I.V.E. the Psycho Pirate reveals that he knows that Superman is Clark Kent. Superman demands to know what the Pirate did with Hector Hammond and the H.I.V.E. Queen which confuses the Pirate as those villains were attacking Superman before the Pirate took them out. The Pirate leads Superman deeper into the facility and explains that the Man of Steel has no reason to fear him revealing the whole secret identity thing. They fly to the Swarm, which is a prison for the psychics that the Queen had been kidnapping for years so she could steal their energy. Her plan was to use them to mentally enslave first Metropolis and then the world. The Pirate had been trying to hide his fellow psychics but he couldn't save them until now.

Some of the psychics that were kidnapped were part of The Twenty, a group of people that were left with incredible psionic powers in the wake of Brainiac's invasion five years earlier. Essentially they were test cases to see if humans could serve as vessels to be filled when Brainiac returns. The Queen was a true believer in this cause. The Pirate was the first of the Twenty that she kidnapped but he escaped and thanks to the Medusa Mask not only is he protected from other psychics but his own powers are amplified. As powerful as he is the Pirate still needs Superman's psionic energy and plans to take it no matter what.

When Superman fights back the Pirate invades his mind and takes him on a trip through his memories in order to break down his mental defenses. The first memory takes place during his early career in Metropolis followed by one from when he was a teenager in Smallville and then finally on Krypton right before his parents placed him in the rocket to send him to Earth. The Psycho Pirate's plan works but he is attacked when he starts to drag the Man of Steel away. His attacker turns out to be Lois Lane, who is glowing, blue and crackling with energy. She tells the Pirate that if he wants Superman or Metropolis that he'll have to go through her first.

4Story - 4: It's cute that Lois is patient 61938 since she first appeared in ACTION COMICS #1, which had a cover date of June 1938. It didn't come out in June of 1938, mind you. Cover date does not equal publication date. In all likelihood the first ACTION COMICS #1 came out in April or May of 1938. It might seem like I am making a big deal out of this when it isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things but it's one of my hot button issues (along with calling the hair Superman had from 1993 to 1996 a mullet) and I haven't been getting a lot of sleep lately so I am feeling a bit feisty.

Part of me is a bit annoyed that this storyline is jumping from SUPERMAN to ACTION COMICS. If I was only buying ACTION COMICS this would probably really annoy me but given that I grew up during the Triangle Numbering era and like it when the various Superman titles connect into each other I can let that one go. I wish the Superman titles would do this more often. This whole wibbly wobbly timey wimey thing that has plagued the titles from the beginning of the New 52 has never sat well with me. Once the new origin has been established I really don't feel the need to have one title take place in the present and the other take placeat some point within the past five or six years. I realize this is a personal thing but it is a thing nonetheless.

Having written all that I did enjoy this issue quite a bit. I have to admit the new look and origin for the Psycho Pirate isn't my cup of tea but this whole thing with the Twenty and H.I.V.E. and Hector Hammond has been very entertaining and a story worthy of Superman. The fact that it built over several months shows that the creators involved do have a long term game plan instead of these six or seven issue stories from one team followed by another six or seven issue story from a new team. To be fair Mike Johnson has taken the ball from Scott Lobdell but he has run with it quite well and the writing styles, while subtly different, are similar enough that the change in writer wasn't jarring.

The flashbacks were the definite highlight of the issue. I like that Johnson used this as an excuse to get into Superman's head. The Smallville scene was my favorite and while part of that had to do with the name check of Kenny Braverman a lot more of it had to do with exploring young Clark with his parents and Lana. Yes, this wasn't a true memory as the Pirate was messing with his head but it's nice to see Clark with the Kents and Lana and all the trappings of his youth. It gives him an organic history because we are seeing it instead of simply being told about it. More than anything it was neat to see Superman get taken down mentally instead of physically.

The Psycho Pirate was a real surprise. I have to admit that like most of the New 52 I wasn't really expecting all that much. Johnson did a good job of setting the character up in a sympathetic light which made me think for a minute that he wasn't really a bad guy just someone fighting for his own survival. When he turns it was a nice twist and gave the previously mentioned flashback attacks more weight. This Pirate crawled inside Superman's head and got to him on an emotional level and again this made for a better fight.

The cliffhanger was effective. I wasn't expecting this because frankly after that first scene I kind of forgot that Lois was a part of this story. Having her come back right on the last page to set up the final chapter and the final fight was a fantastic way to end the issue and get me interested in chasing down the next issue of SUPERMAN.

This doesn't mean I'm not slightly annoyed that I have to head back to SUPERMAN for the conclusion but again deep down I like that sort of thing so it's not that big a deal.

4Art - 4: I continue to enjoy Tyler Kirkham's art. The page layouts at the beginning of the issue were dynamic and Kirkham sold how weird H.I.V.E.'s base is. The flashbacks are where he shined. I was never a big fan of the short sleeve/jeans look from the early issues of the New 52 ACTION COMICS but Kirkham made it work for me. The best part of the flashbacks, especially the Smallville scene, was how normal they looked. The only key that something was amiss outside of the dialogue was the snake that kept popping up. This actually made the scenes trippier for me because it seemed so real and yet it wasn't and I liked that. Visually this issue was stunning and while the writing was strong it was the art that really sold the story for me.

3Cover Art - 3: This cover is dynamic but has a real wonky look to it. I realize the Psycho Pirate and Superman are supposed to be different sizes on purpose but instead of looking like a mind trippy image Superman just looks off.

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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