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Mild Mannered Reviews - Action Comics

Action Comics #42 Action Comics #42

Action Comics #42

Scheduled to arrive in stores: July 1, 2015

Cover date: September 2015

"Hard Truth" - Part 2

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

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

Superman fights a shadow beast and manages to defeat it despite not having all of his abilities. Meanwhile a riot squad led by Sgt. Binghamton terrorizes the people in Clark's neighborhood and try to goad them into rioting. Superman arrives and surrenders but Binghamton has his men beat the Man of Steel anyway. When the cops once again turn their weapons on the civilians Superman launches into action and punches Binghamton in the face.

2Story - 2: It's funny where a review like this takes you. When I started reading this issue my main problem with it was that, like last month, I plain don't like the idea behind this whole TRUTH "storyline". I use quotes because there are four main Superman books right now and three of those books are using the outcome of the final book as the inciting incident and that final book hasn't revealed how we got to this point and it looks like we won't know for several months. This is incredibly annoying. I know that the books weren't going to be crossing over into each other but I like my story telling to be a little more linear and one of the biggest problems I had with the Super books at the onset of the New 52 was that one book took place five years before the other. This hampered the modern day book because the background of this new version of the character hadn't been revealed yet. I realize that things are probably more coordinated with this story but that doesn't change the fact that we are supposed to buy into the idea that this HUGE thing happened to Superman but the details on that HUGE thing won't be revealed until some indeterminate date in the future.

All of that is what I thought was going to be my biggest problem with the issue.

Then I finished reading it.

Let's go back to April of 2011. ACTION COMICS #900 comes out and fandom has a collective meltdown because one of the stories in that anniversary issue had Superman renouncing his citizenship after getting involved in a struggle halfway around the world. I don't want to go into that story too deeply because...well...I really didn't care for it. Like at all. Outside of being poorly conceived and written with all of the subtly of a knee to the groin that story illustrated why Superman should steer clear of most real world topics. I can hear some of you now. "But, Mike," you might say, "Superman started out as the champion of the weak and the oppressed. There is precedent here." I agree completely. That is how Superman started. The thing is the character evolved over the years and while a new to the job Superman getting involved in fights he can't possibly win is fine a Superman well into his career should know better. Beyond that I think Superman should steer well clear of any problem that is in the real world that will still be there when the story ends. I'm not talking natural disasters here. I'm talking about larger issues. Like war. Like poverty.

Like police brutality.

This issue lost me the moment I started correlating events happening in these pages to events that transpired in places like Baltimore, Maryland or Ferguson, Missouri. For those of you not in the know (and we do have an international readership so that's possible) there have been riots in both of those cities in the past year in reaction to police officers stepping over the line during the course of their duties. That is a gross oversimplification and I wrote it that way because I really don't want to get into everything involving those two riots. I simply mention them because the events of this issue mirror those that happened in those cities. The flashpoint is different but the idea is the same; the cops are out of control and attacking civilians. It doesn't take that much of a leap to compare the cops in this story to the real life cops in Baltimore and Ferguson and other cities here in the United States and the fact that I connected those dots dragged me right out of the story. I don't want Superman to get political. I want him to be for everyone and once you have him pick a side things go pear shaped.

Let's assume for the moment that this story wasn't playing up the police brutality for the purposes of being relevant. I am going to give Pak and Kuder the benefit of the doubt here. Let's assume they wanted to explore the idea of a de-powered Superman going up against an establishment that doesn't trust him. Despite saving Metropolis from a monster first seen in a story that hasn't been published yet (still annoyed at this) and proving that even though he doesn't have all of his fantastic powers he can win the day thus showing that he is still a hero the cops still want to beat on him. And beat on them they do. This is a serious, SUPERMAN RETURNS beat down here. It's raw.

It's powerful.

It's completely unnecessary.

I could be wrong and Pak and Kuder could win me over in the next few issues but it seems like the big idea behind the ACTION COMICS end of TRUTH is to have a de-powered Man of Steel fight for a world that hates and fears him. Because Superman is suddenly a Marvel character. Or at least a part of that world hates and fears him. Like Sgt. Binghamton. He really hates Superman. Because super villains and Superman fight and stuff gets broken or something. And this is a bad cop. He wants to terrorize civilians and have Superman beaten because...well, that hasn't been revealed yet but I am hoping that a rabbit is pulled out of this hat because Binghamton has thus far been presented as a strawman villain. There is nothing of substance behind his actions. He is violent for the sake of being violent and seems to be there to make the regular folk and Superman look good. Binghamton's actions are so reprehensible that by the end of the issue you're glad Superman punches him in the face.


This is the first Pak written Superman tale that does nothing for me. The whole idea behind TRUTH is lazy to begin with but stories like this do nothing to make it worthwhile. Seeing Superman in chains. Seeing Superman being beaten by police. Seeing people support him. Seeing him fight a shadow creature. It's all a collection of ideas with no substantial connective tissue. If we hadn't gone through four years of mostly sub-par Superman stories (with Pak writing some of my favorites) I'd give this story more of a pass but we haven't gotten a decent Superman story in years and it looks like it is going to be some time before we see one again.

4Art - 4: Aaron Kuder continues to turn in strong and engaging artwork. The action scenes pop in all the right ways and the page compositions are exciting. The scenes with the cops marching on the people of Kentville are provocative, especially the image of the cops tapping their shields. I may hate everything about this element of the story but at least it looked good. The beating Superman took was vicious. It was well drawn. It's not something I wanted to see but it was well drawn.

2Cover Art - 2: This cover is supposed to be provocative. It's supposed to draw the eye. It's supposed to make a prospective reader wonder why Superman is in chains as people holds sign supporting him. This cover did nothing for me. The art is fine. I just didn't care for it. What it does for me is remind me that I hate the entire concept behind TRUTH.

4Movie Poster Variant Cover Art - 4: This variant cover is fine. It's not something that makes me smile or gets me excited like a lot of recent variants have done. This is a cute image. That's pretty much 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 2015

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