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Mild Mannered Reviews - Action Comics

Action Comics #39 Action Comics #39

Action Comics #39

Scheduled to arrive in stores: February 4, 2015

Cover date: April 2015

"Under The Skin"

Writer: Greg Pak
Penciller: Scott Kolins and Aaron Kuder
Inker: Scott Kolins

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

Action Comics #39 Superman asks Mrs. Takahara and Mr. Santiago to stop attacking him and Steel so they can save Lana from the creature from the Phantom Zone. With Hiro's help they break free of their control and fly towards the Zone. Realizing that the monster feeds on emotion Steel adjusts his armor to control his feelings and coats Superman in a similar metal shell. They find Lana and the creature responsible for all of their misery. It calls itself the Ultra-Humanite and tried to invade the Earth from a crack in the Phantom Zone twenty years before but a young Clark Kent inadvertently stopped it. Thanks to Doomsday's escape the creature is on the loose again.

Lana begs Superman to leave but the Man of Steel has other ideas. He rips off the armor Steel coated him in and begins to give the Ultra-Humanite what it wants; emotion. Superman experiences an entire lifetime while under the creature's thrall and watches as everyone he loves dies leading him to leave Earth forever. This proves too much for the Humanite and soon it is defeated and all of its creatures return to the Phantom Zone. Superman, Steel and Lana head back to Smallville as a new day dawns. After Lana and Clark's parents are once again in their graves Lana apologizes to Superman for her recent behavior. He tells her that it's fine and soon Superman is flying Lana, Steel, Hiro, Krypto and a veritable menagerie of strange creatures away from Smallville. The darkness he felt slides off his mind and he knows it will always be there. Just not today.

5Story - 5: Over the past few issues I have written about my misgivings concerning Lana's problem with Superman. I wrote that I didn't like it but understood it. It appears that the problem Lana had with Clark was short lived and that she was just grieving for the death of her parents. Part of me feels like I should have seen that from the beginning and I think I did on some level but for the most part I ignored that in favor of letting my emotion take over. Maybe I should feel bad about this.

Or maybe I should commend Greg Pak for writing something that elicited such feelings from me.

Or maybe the Ultra-Humanite was taking control.

At the end of the day comic books are just another form of storytelling and if that story is good enough then you stop seeing how it is put together and just let the emotion of the piece hit you square in the chest. I think this is why many of us are so passionate about our hobby. These stories make us feel something and if the writer is doing it right then that becomes the main concern. On that level Pak wrote one heck of a story that made for a great follow up to the DOOMED storyline.

There was a lot to like about this issue. Hiro helping Superman was nice to see and I liked Steel wrapping Superman in armor to protect him from the Ultra-Humanite. The explanation of where the Humanite came from happened organically and didn't feel like exposition. Superman breaking out of the armor and overloading the Humanite can be seen as clichéd but it worked for me. It was interesting to see Superman experience a lifetime of events which showcased how lonely and isolated the character can feel. This makes the ending scenes where Lana and Clark had their heart to heart followed by Superman flying all of his friends to some unknown destination that much more powerful. Eventually Superman might end up alone and he might leave Earth but that's why he needs the people in his life now.

The flashbacks were my favorite part of the issue. I like that Pak is continuing to explore Clark's early years in a way Morrison didn't. It fleshes out the character and gives him a feeling of having a past instead of simply being told he does. To be fair I related to Clark in the flashbacks dealing with his parents' deaths on a deep and personal level. I went through something similar around the age Clark was in this incarnation so I know what it's like to laugh at something while you are in mourning and feel that weird combination of relief and guilt. You feel bad for laughing but at the same time it's something you really needed. This scene made me like the take Pak has on Clark even more than I already did.

I'm not sure how to feel about this new Ultra Humanite. I tend to be a traditionalist so seeing the character turn into what Pak turned him into left me conflicted. On one hand it's a valid interpretation that works for the story being told. On the other the Humanite was Superman's first super-villain that went from old man to actress to giant ape. I like that version so I was disappointed that one of Superman's oldest foes was brought back in this manner. Again it served Pak's story and on that level I can appreciate it but at the end of the day it's just not for me.

Despite that I still loved this issue. There was action and horror and Superman went through an emotional journey and came out the other side stronger. I hold to the idea that the Superman books are missing something as a whole but ACTION COMICS has been a consistently enjoyable read.

5Art - 5: The artwork in this issue was fantastic. The creatures were detailed and icky. The flashbacks had a nice look to them. Superman looks great through the entire issue and the mix of action and horror was spot on. Kolins and Kuder made for a great team and while you could tell that a new artist had come on to a particular scene it wasn't jarring. Visually this issue was stunning and the mix of the creepy images and the emotion on the characters' faces made for a great issue.

5Cover Art - 5: Wow. That's creepy. Like really creepy. This piece sets the mood of the issue and is a very striking image. I like it a lot.

5Harley Quinn Variant Cover Art - 5: Like most of the recent variants I think this cover was a lot of fun. Harley riding Superman like a cowgirl makes me smile and the fact that the art is as good as it is helps immensely.

5Juan Jose Ryp Variant Cover Art - 5: Three for three as far as covers go this month. I like this image quite a bit. Superman looks fantastic and the zombie/monster hoard trying to drag him down is very cool. It's nice to like all three covers equally.

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 2015

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