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Mild Mannered Reviews - Action Comics

Action Comics #34

Action Comics: Futures End #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 3, 2014

Cover date: November 2014


Writer: Sholly Fisch
Penciller: Pascal Alixe and Vicente Cifuentes
Inker: Pascal Alixe and Vicente Cifuentes

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

Five years from now Clark Kent plants seeds in a barren stretch of land in Ethiopia. A man named Joseph questions the sanity of such an act as nothing has grown there in some time. Clark is determined and points out that a friend is allowing them to use an irrigation system. As Clark's father used to say even when things look bad you keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep planting seeds.

Elsewhere a woman leaves a suicide note and prepares to jump from a window ledge. When she does she discovers she has the ability to fly. Elsewhere a young man named Donny is being beaten up by the minions of a man Donny owes money to. In the middle of the beating Donny develops super strength and after dispatching his would be dispatchers Donny immediately wants to cash in. Elsewhere a small child named Jaimie watches his father slap his mother to the ground. Jaimie stands up for her and discovers he is invulnerable.

Later the woman, Donny and Jaimie are all visited by a sand-like creature in the shape of Superman. He explains that the gift he gave them was temporary and that it is up to them to better their lives according to what they were going through. The three people intersect at a hospital and seem to have learned something from their encounters. The sand creature flies to Ethiopia and confronts Superman. At first Clark believes that the creature is there to spur him back to action but it explains that he loaned out his power to many people. Some chose better than others but after each encounter the creature grew stronger. He is finally strong enough to repay Clark's inspiration through one final challenge. The creature flies into the sky and explodes. His residue makes the soil rich and gives it the ability to grow food for generations. He restored the land's potential but Clark wonders if the final challenge was to show Clark that he wasn't living up to his full potential.

5Story - 5: Full admission; I am not all that hot on the theme months that DC Comics have been doing to mark the birthday of the New 52. The Zero issues from 2012 were interesting and yielded some interesting stories. Last year they had the cash grab that was Villains Month and while some of the stories were fantastic and I appreciated what they were doing in the lead up to FOREVER EVIL some of the stories were average and others were, to be charitable, bad.

Another full admission: I have not been reading FUTURES END. I've been buying it but I haven't been reading it because I have found such stories are better when you wait until they are complete to sit down and go through them. So there may be some things I miss during the course of this review because I haven't been keeping up with the main book.

Full admission: I loved this book.

Sholly Fisch once again does what he does best; tell a brilliant human interest story that tugs at your heart strings and makes you wish he was writing a regular Superman book. He also takes a classic Superman story from the Bronze Age and updates it for a modern audience.

This is called a win-win situation.

Seriously, I was moved by this story. It grabbed me on an emotional level and wouldn't let go.

I think the kids today would say that it hit me in the feels.

Fisch made me care about the suicidal woman, Jaimie and also Donny even though he was a bit of jerk. Each of these people were given a portion of Superman's power at a pivotal moment and they all responded differently. The woman learned to deal with whatever drove her to commit suicide. Jaimie's ability to stand up to his abusive father gave his mother the strength to leave and take her son with her. Donny... well, Donny may have learned that with great power there must also come great responsibility but we don't get too far with him. In each case the Sand Superman planted a seed and watched it grow. Sometimes it bore bitter fruit but in two cases it changed the lives of those involved forever.

I like all of that happening after we watch Clark Kent plant a seed he knows probably won't grow. It's not the most subtle symbolism but it worked for this story. The fact that the Sand Superman gives its life to make the soil able to grow food again and that act caused a Clark Kent that obviously left his role as Superman behind to question that departure was not lost on me and frankly I liked that we don't know if that act drove Clark to reclaim his mantle. It would make sense and I would have liked it if it had played out that way but leaving on the moment of decision was a great way to end the issue. This sort of ambiguity is tough to pull off but Fisch pulls it off nicely.

In the end while I was not looking forward to this month I still found a Superman story that gets to the heart of the character in a way that few writers have been able to do in the New 52. Fisch explores what normal people would do with Superman's powers and proved that most of humanity is worth saving even if a few would use those powers for their own gain. While Clark Kent is never in costume through the course of the story the spirit of Superman is still present and accounted for.

4Art - 4: I would have scored the artwork a perfect five as well but something about it bugged me. This is a personal thing and I really don't want to go into it here but I have pretty strong feelings about comics and movies and television shows showing limbs and bones on crooked. To be fair the art throughout this issue is gorgeous. I didn't like the scratchy style at first but it really grew on me. I don't know if Fisch directed the artists to show the arm and fingers on crooked but the fact that they kept showing them throughout the issue really bugged me.

Again, this is a personal thing. Outside of that I thought the art was as beautiful as the story.

4Cover Art - 4: There were two versions of this cover but they are so similar that I feel I can lump them in one review rather than splitting them up. The Superman part of the hologram type cover looks amazing. The Sand Superman implies something sinister but that's a fake out because it turns out to be anything but sinister. This was a fine cover even if I wasn't all that hot on the enhancement DC gave it.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Except for digital first releases, the month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2014

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