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Mild Mannered Reviews - Action Comics

Action Comics #26 Action Comics #26

Action Comics #26

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 4, 2013

Cover date: February 2014


Writer: Greg Pak
Penciller: Aaron Kuder
Inker: Aaron Kuder

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

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Thousands of feet below Venezuela Lana Lang and another man are being chased by a giant monster. She grabs a machine gun to distract the creature in an effort to let the others escape but help soon arrives in the form of Superman. After a minor setback Superman throws Lana's truck at the creature who easily catches it in his mouth. Superman watches the creature for a moment and after missiles from nowhere slam into the monster Superman notices it that its cries aren't roars but appear to be some form of language which implies that he has not been fighting some mindless beast. He takes out the drones that fired the missile but this brings in the Ghost Soldier, who attacks Superman and manages to drive a knife into the Man of Steel's chest.

As the creature burns down the nearby fields because of the pain the missiles cause Superman realizes that his heat vision and freeze breath can slow the Ghost Soldier down and after getting everyone clear he seemingly flies the creature into space and throws it into the sun. Six hours later Lana leads an expedition team to the site they are planning to drill and spots something that Superman might be interested in. At the Fortress of Solitude Superman checks in on his newest guest, the creature from Venezuela. He feeds the creature, watches it as it settles down to sleep and is shocked to see it change into a small, humanoid child.

4Story - 4: At first I wasn't exactly sure how I felt about this issue. On one hand I was a bit disappointed that instead of Pak following up on any of the Villain's Month origin issues that we are given yet another new set of characters and a story that has promise but didn't exactly set my world on fire. On the other hand I like Greg Pak as a writer and with one exception I think he has a good handle on Superman as a character.

Bad stuff out of the way first; while watching Superman fight a monster and then want to help said monster only to be attacked by a military grade character was exciting, I just didn't get a whole lot out of it. Again, I was hoping for something else. Maybe it is unfair to judge a story based on my preconceived notions about where said story should go but that little nagging feeling is there nonetheless. In the end I can't really hold this against Pak because it's not his fault he didn't read my mind to know what it is I am thinking of when it comes to a Superman story. That is not a legitimate complaint but I felt it necessary to mention.

My one for reals complaint came during the flashback scene where Clark's heat-vision kicks in and causes some damage to the surrounding landscape not to mention his bike. I am getting tired of the whole "we need to be scared of Superman" thing. I will freely admit that it would be perfectly reasonable for Jonathan Kent to be a little wigged out when his son unleashes fire from his eyes for the first, second and probably hundredth time. In the real world that would totally happen. I'm just... you know, the more I type the more I realize that this is another "my problem" sort of thing. It's not Greg Pak's fault that the predominant characterization of Superman since the start of the New 52 is that he is feared by as many people as he inspires and it is also not Pak's fault that between the comics and the movie a "realistic" approach to how the world would view Superman has taken hold and won't let go. It's not that I am some sort of stuffy Superman fan that only wants "my" version of the character to be out there because that version will never be brought back and it is unfair of me to foist my notions of Superman on a modern day audience. I am not an old man but in all honesty the Superman that got me into the comics existed twenty years ago and that sort of thing won't fly today.

At the same time there is something that bugs me about a Superman that is feared by the public. Part of that has to do with how I view the character but also it is something that set Superman apart from other heroes. He was the guy that people put their trust in. He was the guy that inspired hope. To introduce too much "realism" makes him more like other characters, like Spider-Man.

Again, I can't put all of this on Greg Pak. The man is a writer following editorial dictates and his own personal muse. I won't ask him to deal with my baggage.

What I liked about this issue was how he made Superman a thinker. Sure Superman fought the creature at the beginning of the story but it was only a few pages before Superman realized something was up and suddenly he's defending the "monster" from outside forces. Superman defended the innocent and the downtrodden. That was awesome. I also absolutely loved how he saved the creature at the end by faking everyone out. Again, that's Superman and this is why despite the misgivings I went on about for two paragraphs I am very confident in Pak's vision of the character. He gets Superman on a fundamental level just as he got the Hulk on a fundamental level. It also led to a really neat cliffhanger, which was just the icing on the cake for me.

Lana was a real joy to read too. Part of me feels like Pak is trying too hard with Lana but on the other hand she's a strong, take charge sort of character, which is not how the character is commonly portrayed. Pak used what he established in the previous issue and built on it here. You could argue that the Lana on SMALLVILLE was just as go-getting and in your face as this one but the real difference is that this Lana doesn't have the baggage that that Lana had. To my mind the writers on SMALLVILLE ruined that character for reasons that would take too long to get into here. Pak is giving us someone that still has some feelings for her high school boyfriend but has her own life as well.

So this issue was a mixed bag for me. It really wasn't until my second reading of it that I liked what Pak was doing. If he sticks around for a while I get the feeling that he is going to do some interesting things with Superman and his world. This issue may not have been what I wanted but I ended up enjoying it in spite of myself.

3Art - 3: I am giving the art a 3 because while I think that on a technical level Aaron Kuder did his job well, however I don't care for this style. The page layouts and the storytelling were mostly clear. There was a lack of backgrounds, specifically at the Fortress, that got a bit annoying after a few pages but it wasn't the worst example of such a thing that I have ever seen. I am leaving the door open that at some point I will begin to like Kuder's style but for the moment I am not a fan. It is a little too cartoony for my tastes and I find that distracting. I must emphasize the fact that this is totally a personal thing. I am not attacking Kuder's skills as an artist. He's good. It's just not what I want to see in a Superman book.

3Cover Art - 3: This cover, much like the interior art, really didn't grab me. As usual I don't think it is bad per se, I just didn't care for it. It's almost like the cover is trying to be more dynamic than it really is and on a personal note I think that Superman doesn't take up near as much room as he should. The black and white variant was slightly better as I could see more of the details Kuder put into the composition.

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.

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