Action Comics #977
Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 12, 2017
Cover date: June 2017
“The New World” – Part 1
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Penciller: Ian Churchill
Inker: Ian Churchill
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
Clark Kent is feeling uneasy after recent events and heads to the Fortress of Solitude. He muses on the battle with Mxyzptlk but still feels that he is missing something, which leads him to access the Fortress archives and review the final days of Krypton and how he came to Earth. Meanwhile a mysterious being visits Blanque and Metallo to entice them to work with him.
Story – 5: One of the main problems that I had with the Superman books after INFINITE CRISIS was how long it took for them to establish the new origin. I realize that this is a personal thing and that some readers don’t care about the origin and are just fine and dandy with the writers giving us bits and pieces along the way but to my mind if you are going to tell your audience that the past has changed it’s only polite to show them how that happened. I realize there were probably forces behind the scenes that made getting the origin out there problematic but it was still aggravating. There was a similar aggravation during the New 52 but that had more to do with the five-year difference between ACTION and SUPERMAN at the beginning of that era.
Because of that baggage I appreciate that DC and Dan Jurgens have chosen to take two issues of this title to establish how Superman’s new history. At first I bristled at seeing the destruction of Krypton and the Kents finding the baby and Clark emerging as Superman because we’ve been given a fair number of versions of that sort of thing since 2009 but Jurgens managed to make it compelling and heart wrenching. It reminded me of “Superman Returns to Krypton” from SUPERMAN #61 where Superman broke through the time barrier to find out where he came from and watched the destruction of Krypton as a phantom. I loved the added drama of Superman watching this and wondering if he could ever do the same with his own son, which is another reason that Lois and Clark having a child makes for good storytelling under the right hands.
I’m not sure if it was intended or not but there could have been some political subtext to Jurgens having Jor-El tell Lara that the Science Council is rejecting science in favor of lining their own pockets. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that Jurgens is using this book to deliver some social commentary but I don’t know what his political leanings are and it would be bad form to assume anything simply based on a piece of dialog. It is possible for a writer to feel one way and have a character say something contrary to that because they’re writers and having different characters believe different things leads to conflict, which is central to good storytelling. That line did stand out to me though, maybe because I personally agree with it, which is another reason I don’t want to guess where Jurgens stands on the issue because it would be the height of arrogance to assume that just because I agree with the point that the writer must agree with it too.
Personally, I think it is best when you can’t tell where a writer falls politically. Social commentary is a good thing but if done ham-fistedly it can lead the reader down a preachy road and that’s not my bag.
One of the questions that I had at the beginning of Rebirth was which version of the Pre-Flashpoint Superman were we seeing here? Post Crisis? Post Birthright? Post Infinite Crisis? The trappings of Krypton and the page where we see the flashbacks of Krypton and Lex at the fair and Pete in the cast and Clark saving Lana led me to believe that Jurgens and the powers that be went with SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN but there was one line in the scene where the Kents find baby Kal-El that jumped out at me. Martha suggests that they lay low for a while and present the baby as their own. This is a nice variation on John Byrne’s MAN OF STEEL origin and what I like about this twist is that it is a great compromise for Pre and Post Crisis Superman fans. Pre-Crisis fans that like Kal-El landing as a toddler and being born on Krypton get to have their cake and Post Crisis fans, like myself, that liked the idea that Clark was thought of as Jonathan and Martha’s natural child get to have our cake and we all get to eat it too.
It also avoids the hassles of explaining how they adopted Clark in a modern era. I admit that while SMALLVILLE did a pretty good job of explaining how it would have gone down in 1989 and MAN OF STEEL (the film) and SECRET ORIGIN and EARTH ONE side stepped the problem by not addressing it, the idea of explaining how the Kents were able to adopt the child after turning him over to social services presents too many hoops to jump through. This is a simple way to address the problem and move on quickly.
The scenes with Blanque and Metallo were nice hints of the next big storyline. I am so excited at the thought of some of Superman’s classic foes returning and working with newer villains like Blanque. I’ve missed those villains and having them come back returns some of Superman’s past glory. The hologram is a bit of a mystery but I like that. I also liked that Jurgens took the time to get into the heads of Metallo and Blanque for newer readers that might have jumped on with SUPERMAN: REBORN.
More than anything it was great to see Clark and Lois back at the Planet with Perry White barking orders but also being the kindly godfather to Jonathan. I missed this dynamic. I don’t know how long it will last or if we will see the Planet staff all that much but I like knowing that they are there and in the Kents’ lives.
Except Steve Lombard. He sucks.
Okay…I’m kind of glad he’s there too.
Art – 5: I would have never guessed that this was Ian Churchill if I didn’t see his name in the credits. Some of his past style is there but this artwork was less stylized than the work I am used to. I’m not saying that I didn’t like the work he did in the past. I did but gone are the capes that are fifty miles long and bodies that look like there were chiseled out of marble. Again, I’m not saying there was anything wrong with that but it was neat to see an artist evolve and play with a softer style. The Krypton scenes were amazing. I’m not all that hot on Lara’s design but that’s not on Churchill. I also liked the scene with Jonathan and Martha because it was the opposite of the Krypton scenes but still grabbed me visually. The full-page splashes were great and overall the issue had that classic feeling that I like so much.
Cover Art – 5: This cover is exactly what the story needed. A shirt rip surrounded by shots of Superman’s life. Like the interior art, it has a classic feel and it just makes me happy.
Variant Cover Art – 4: Superman’s face is a little off but I liked the composition of this piece. The shot of Superman sitting cross-legged while he hovers with his cape hanging below him as he watches what is essentially television is dynamic and something only a character like Superman can do.
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