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Mild Mannered Reviews - Action Comics

Action Comics #35 Action Comics #35

Action Comics #35

Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 1, 2014

Cover date: December 2014

"Doomed Aftermath: After Doomed"

Writer: Greg Pak
Penciller: Scott Kolins and Vicente Cifuentes
Inker: Scott Kolins and Vicente Cifuentes

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

Today. Three in the morning. Clark Kent begins to write an article titled, "Who Needs Superman Anyway?"

Eighteen hours earlier. A bearded Superman returns to Earth after escaping the black hole he sent Brainiac into. He receives a less than pleasant welcome when a Waynetech satellite hits him with a Kryptonite pulse. Superman is caught by Supergirl and the two journey to the damaged Fortress of Solitude where she catches him up on what has been going on since he flew off with Brainiac. Superman reboots and respawns the Fortress, which will take forty days to complete and when Superman tells her he is going to find out if there is still any danger from Brainiac's attack Supergirl asks how he plans to do that. He isn't sure, but after seeing a Smallville pendant he decides to head there.

With his powers still recovering from the Kryptonite pulse Clark takes a bus to Smallville and explores the town via bicycle. He runs into Lana and the two visit the graves of her parents, who died when Smallville was put to sleep by Brainiac. Lana introduces Clark to her boyfriend, John Henry Irons. Clark is somewhat relieved that Lana has not revealed his identity to Irons, even though he is the hero known as Steel, and they talk over lunch at a local diner. Feeling that Lana and John have things under control Clark leaves and meets with Bruce Wayne. Apparently Bruce covered for Clark's disappearance and feels that Clark should lay low as Superman for a while. Clark heads back to Metropolis and begins to write the article.

The next day Lois knocks on Clark's door and demands how he could write such an article. During the conversation Clark learns that Lois no longer knows that he is Superman. Lois tells Clark that he obviously doesn't know Superman at all and leaves to write an article to refute his. Her article cites Clark calling Superman an alien and details what all of the other aliens, like Martian Manhunter and Supergirl, plus the super-powered people like John Corben and Ghost Soldier, have done in Superman's absence. She ends by writing that she sees Superman everywhere in all of the normal people that are helping each other.

Back in Smallville Lana visits her parents grave again and talks aloud about how Clark's article was right. She hears a strange noise that she thinks might be Clark but is horrified to see hands bursting through the graves. She can do nothing but scream at the horrifying sight.

5Story - 5: Normally I don't like stories that question whether or not the world needs Superman. Actually, I think it is more like I don't like the idea of those stories. I realize their dramatic value but over the past six or seven years there have been enough stories centered around Superman's role in the world or whether or not he is a potential danger or whatever that I have reached my own saturation point regarding stories where Superman as a character or ideal is called into question. Between NEW KRYPTON and GROUNDED and Grant Morrison's opening issues of ACTION COMICS or the fact that DC seemed to try and take something that would be at home in the pages of Spider-Man (having half the world trust him and the other half almost afraid of him) and try to jam it onto Superman.

So you can imagine my apprehension when I open this book and the first thing we see is a bearded Clark Kent writing an article asking if we need Superman. One of the best things about the whole DOOMED storyline is that the writers, especially Greg Pak, seemed to be playing up the fact that Superman is a hero and should be believed in even when terrible things are happening. I thought, for a page or two, that Pak was going to head into the opposite direction and to a certain extent I can see the writers going in that direction after Superman was turned into a monster that endangered just about everyone on the planet. You can also imagine my relief that outside of one character this wasn't the case. In fact, it was the exact opposite.

This issue opened strong and never let up. After the previously mentioned opening page Pak gives us a great scene between Supergirl and Superman. I was never keen on the idea that these two didn't get along so it was great to see them working together and I felt for Supergirl's concern for her friend in Kandor. This is followed by a fantastic sequence in Smallville where we not only get a nice memory on the part of Clark but a great reunion between Clark and Lana. Then we find out that Lana and John Henry Irons are together, which is something I was hoping for during the course of DOOMED. I'm a sucker for what the kids these days call "shipping" and I was a definite Lana/Steel shipper. This was all punctuated by a strained but not adversarial scene between Clark and Bruce all of which leads Clark to write his article.

It was all of that build up that helped me put aside my usual prejudices about "Superman is dangerous/a threat/not needed" type stories. Pak put Clark down a pretty emotional road and given everything that has happened it would make sense that for a moment Clark might doubt himself and use own identity to cast doubt on another. For a long time I was against the idea of Superman doubting himself but I have come to accept it and if it is done right even like it.

Then Pak lowers the boom and that boom is Lois Lane.

To be fair I was a bit miffed that Lois was made to forget Clark's secret identity. I think that is a bit cheap and given that the last two major Superman adaptations (SMALLVILLE and MAN OF STEEL) had Lois know that Clark was Superman this feels like a Silver/Bronze age magic pill where she knows and then through magic or, in this case, science she forgets. Apparently this is how the creators and editorial want to play it and while I don't like it I am not going to throw a fit over it. The spoon full of sugar that made this medicine go down was how awesome Lois was in this issue. Not only does she tell Clark off (and even takes a shot at click bait articles on the Internet, something I personally hate) but goes off and writes an article that defends Superman and what he represents.

Again, to be fair Lois kind of owed Superman that for all of the articles she wrote during DOOMED but then again she was under Brainiac's influence so it really wasn't her fault. Still, it is an amazing three pages where we not only see where some of the other players from DOOMED ended up (I really liked John Corben hanging out with Krypto) but also why normal people need the Man of Steel and why he needs them. It was one of those perfect marriage of words and pictures and just had me grinning like a little kid. It was exactly what we needed after the events of DOOMED.

It was so good that the final two pages didn't bug me at all. Lana lost her parents so it makes sense that she would have some problems with Superman. Pak did a good job of making it about scale rather than failure to save her parents and it also led to a creepy cliffhanger, so I really didn't see it as a step back from the previous three pages. In serialized fiction you need drama and Lana's change in perspective is definitely drama and I have been around the block enough times to know that it probably isn't permanent. So Lana can have issues with Superman all day long and I really won't have a problem with it because I trust Pak to see this development through.

DOOMED was a great storyline that renewed my faith in the current creators to tell great Superman stories. This issue of ACTION indicates that they aren't going to let up anytime soon.

And that is awesome.

5Art - 5: I loved the art in this issue.

Seriously. This one hit all of my buttons when it comes to Superman artwork. Even the beard Clark is sporting looks great and there is something about Superman being off in space and growing a beard that makes me feel 13 years old again. Even though there were two artists on this one their styles complimented each other nicely. Superman looked great. Supergirl looked great. Even John Corben and Krypto looked great. Just a solid issue art wise and it had the exact right energy this issue needed after a huge storyline like DOOMED.

5Cover Art - 5: After a series of mediocre covers Aaron Kuder puts it into the back of the net. The newspaper motif is great and Superman looks amazing. Plus it has that "buy me" quality with the cover copy. Just a great cover.

4Variant Cover Art - 4: As variants go this one is fine. It's creepy, kooky and all together ooky and Superman certainly looks monstrous. I don't feel a need to own it but I like it just the same.

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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