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Mild Mannered Reviews - Action Comics

Action Comics #41 Action Comics #41

Action Comics #41

Scheduled to arrive in stores: June 3, 2015

Cover date: August 2015

"Hard Truth"

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

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge



Superman wanders shirtless and freezing through the wilderness until he finally finds civilization. There he buys clothing and food and spots a newspaper detailing that his identity has been revealed to the world. He buys a motorcycle from a local but when that local figures out that he sold his bike to Superman suddenly the eight hundred dollar price isn't enough. A fight breaks out when one of the men hits the other and even though his powers are diminished Superman makes short work of the rest of the crew. He heads to Metropolis and is momentarily detained at the border before being allowed through. Superman meets up with Jimmy in their neighborhood and finds that he has many supporters there.

Superman hears of a situation at Pier 34 while talking with a firefighter named Lee Lambert and heads out there despite the woman telling him it's not his job. A shadow creature similar to one Superman faced recently is attacking Pier 34 and without hesitation the Man of Steel launches himself at the beast and delivers a vicious right cross. Meanwhile a Sgt. Binghamton is ordered to mobilize his troops. He confirms those orders and tells his men to move it. As they march towards where Superman and Jimmy live Binghamton says that they have a block to burn.

4Story - 4: This is going to be one of the odder reviews I have written for the Homepage.

I'm the type of person that is open to ambiguity in life. It's just how my personality has evolved. For example I think there is a difference between having a favorite something and recognizing something as being the best. My favorite DC crossover is INVASION. I love the concept and more importantly it was the first major DC crossover I was there for. On the other hand I think CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS is their best crossover on a writing and artistic front.

My favorite DC crossover is INVASION.

The best DC crossover is CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.

Both statements are true, at least to my point of view.

So it makes sense that while I think ACTION COMICS #41 was a well written comic I still hate the underlying story that Greg Pak and the rest of the Superman writers are currently telling. The story moved along at a good pace. The dialogue was crisp. There were some great action and character beats. On the other hand the idea of Superman losing his powers, losing his costume, wearing a T-shirt and wrapping his fists with the remnants of his cape all while riding a motorcycle do not appeal to me. I dislike the entire premise of TRUTH.

ACTION COMICS #41 was a well written comic.

I hate the idea behind TRUTH.

Both statements are true, at least from my point of view.

Here's the thing; I've been reading the Superman titles on a regular basis since 1987. I came in nearly a year after John Byrne revamped the character and except for a nine month period that stretched from 2010 to 2011 I have bought the books on a regular basis. I have seen the ups and I have seen the downs. I even went back and read earlier incarnations of the character and while I have some blind spots I feel like I have a good handle on the character. In looking at those various iterations and in talking with other fans who have loved earlier and later versions of Superman I have learned two important lessons.

1. At some point the books stop speaking to you and your era is over.

2. That transition period can be long and painful but there is always the chance you can get over it and start to learn to love Superman again.

My era of Superman died a long and protracted death starting around 2003 and ending in 2011. There is good in that time period but towards the end it was apparent that the books just weren't for me anymore and I made the choice to stop collecting them for the previously mentioned nine month period. Around the time that ACTION COMICS #900 came out I realized there was going to be an ACTION COMICS anniversary that I wasn't going to be a part of and that felt wrong. So I started buying the books again and within a month or two they announced that the current version of Superman, along with the rest of the DC Universe, was coming to an end and the NEW 52 was going to start up. This was going to be a brave new world as all of DC's characters were going to be taken apart and put back together for a new audience. As it turns out what DC meant was the entire DC Universe was going to be revamped except Batman and Green Lantern because those books are selling and the creators aren't finished with their stories.

I apologize for the snark. I am trying to not make this review that type of party.

Superman did get a revamp but from the very beginning there were problems with the titles. Grant Morrison came up with an imaginative new origin for the character and while some of his run left me cold I liked other aspects. After his eighteen issue run ACTION COMICS was on rocky ground until Greg Pak took over. After that ACTION became my favorite Superman title, which was nice to have because SUPERMAN had its own problems that never really sorted themselves out. The book was incredibly inconsistent and there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel when it was announced that Geoff Johns would be taking over as writer. Things seemed to be heading in the right direction. He was back working at the Daily Planet. Lois, Jimmy and Perry were back in his life. Then the post-COVERGENCE plans were announced and suddenly all the hopes I had that DC was going to keep those classic aspects of Superman and tell stories along those lines were dashed. It was a real let down and it was also a real slap to the face. I felt like I had been misled and even lied to as a reader. All of the things Johns brought back were thrown out in favor of the story that sort of began in this issue of ACTION.

It would be easy at this point to dismiss me as a bitter old comic fan that doesn't want to accept change. People have pointed out to me that change is necessary and Superman has gone through these sorts of things before. Remember when he walked the Earth to find his humanity? Remember when he left Earth to hang out with 100,000 of his fellow Kryptonians? Remember when was given electric powers and a new costume? Remember when he died and then came back with long hair? Remember when he left Earth and exiled himself to space for killing the Phantom Zone villains? Remember when John Byrne totally revamped the character in 1986? Remember when Julius Schwartz depowered the character and turned all of the Kryptonite on Earth to lead? All of that happened and the character managed to survive. This is just another story. Superman is 77 years old. They need to tell new stories to keep him fresh for a new audience. Sit back. Enjoy the ride.

The thing is I can't.

Unless something happens that is so star spangled awesome that I can't help but embrace it I just can't simply sit back and enjoy the ride.

If DC hadn't done such a spectacular job of messing the character up for the last decade I might have been more accepting of what the Super people are laying down for us in TRUTH. Keep in mind that I don't blame Greg Pak for this. I don't blame any of the writers for what is going on. They are storytellers that have been tasked to tell the best stories they can to not only attract new readers but hopefully keep the ones they already have and maybe entice some older ones to come back to the fold. It is a thankless job because they can't please everyone. The blame goes to the powers that be that, for whatever reason, have it in their head that a traditional take on Superman just won't work for a modern audience. Having him be the hero that does the right thing because it's the right thing to do and doesn't need an angsty background or motivation to explain why he is a hero and is trusted by the public because after five years of saving them you would think they would get it through their heads that this guy is not the danger they initially thought he was. THAT Superman is anathema to them so they keep tinkering and keep throwing ideas against the wall and hoping that something sticks. The newest idea is to get rid of the costume and most of the powers and give him a motorcycle and have some down and dirty fights where you really wonder if Superman is going to come out on top. Oh, and having a secret identity? Yeah, that's gone too. The glasses are off. What happens next? Isn't this exciting?

Exciting? Maybe. A good idea? Not really.

I am sure there are people that are going to love this story. Reaction thus far has been pretty positive. That's all well and good and I am not going to get into a point for point argument over why they liked it versus why I didn't. I'm just severely disappointed that once again DC is missing the mark when it comes to Superman. Maybe if things had been more consistent since the start of the NEW 52 I'd be more open minded but for this reader and fan I'm left disillusioned with the character as portrayed in the comics.

You may wonder why I don't walk away again. Well, there's a larger answer to that question that I don't want to get into at the moment but for now I'll simply say that my love for the character is enough to weather the storm. At some point the stories will appeal to me again. I'm a fan of Superman first and foremost and it's pretty obvious that readers leaving or a dip in sales won't result in an improvement because history has shown that DC can and will give us something worse.

Besides, I can't find much fault in the story on a technical level. It wasn't badly written. It's not the Superman I want to see but I can't say it was terrible. I was extremely annoyed that two story points had editor's notes telling me that all will be revealed either later this month or next month. I'm a bit confused why DC didn't lead with SUPERMAN #41 instead of referencing it. I realize this isn't a crossover in the traditional sense but at the same time if something REALLY major happens to shake up the character it seems like you would start there and go forward. As a story in and of itself that was my biggest problem, which doesn't have a lot to do with this issue and more to do with DC's scheduling, so I can't fault Pak for that. I did enjoy seeing Superman stand up for the weak and the oppressed and the scenes in Metropolis were enjoyable as well.

And that's where we are at the moment. It's possible this will be the status quo for six months to a year and down the road they may go for a more traditional approach. The problem is the genie is out of the bottle and elements of Superman that go back to his very first appearance have been undone. There's only so many times you can break the toys before they are in too many pieces to fix. I understand DC has to shake things up a bit but this seems to be a step too far and unlike Batman or Wonder Woman or Flash I don't think they've earned this sort of thing with Superman.

4Art - 4: This may sound strange but even though I wasn't thrilled with the direction Superman has taken I can't find much on an artistic level that wasn't good. Kuder's storytelling is clear and he does a great job with the material he and Pak have developed for the story. Superman's face is a little inconsistent but not to an annoying degree. The action is intense and Kuder had a great sense of when to go big, like the full page shot of Superman punching the creature towards the end of the issue, and when to pull back, like the first scene where Clark stumbles to civilization. I liked how he pulled an Indiana Jones in showing Clark journey to Metropolis. I also liked how moody the art got at the end when Sgt. Binghamton was ordered to mobilize his troops.

In all honesty the one problem I had with the visuals on this issue had nothing to do with Kuder. The Twix ad that stretched over two pages was seriously annoying. I'm hoping the money DC got from the ad was worth how distracting it was to the story.

My only confusion on the artistic front is how Superman went from wearing an Eat Your Greens shirt on one page to his symbol on the other. I assume it's because he suddenly felt like Superman again but neither the art nor the writing show him changing shirts. It's a minor quibble but it was still a bit confusing.

4Cover Art - 4: Just like the interior art I can't find much fault with the cover on an artistic level. The black background draws attention to the figure of Superman and makes for a striking image. The cover stands out, which should be the point of a cover in my opinion.

5Movie Poster Variant Cover Art - 5: It's Darwyn Cooke drawing the Joker and Superman. What is there to complain about? I love the look on Superman's face as the acid the Joker obviously just squirted on him has done little but annoy the Man of Steel. I also love the expression on the Joker's face. This is a fantastic variant cover.


Mild Mannered Reviews

2015

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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