The world has been reborn.
Last month’s release of DC Universe: Rebirth #1 kicked off a new era of storytelling for the publisher. The house that gave us Batman and Superman is looking to make up for the mistakes of the New 52 canonical reboot, reinstating old plot points that were erased from their timeline and even bringing back old versions of classic characters that had been discarded in favor of newer, “edgier” ones.
Rebirth #1 promised us character driven stories filled with more heart than fist. Can they deliver? Each week, Kyle Pinion and Alex Lu will dig into the Rebirth titles kicking off DC Comics’ line overhaul to find out. This is week four of DC Reborn.
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. You’ll find our buy/pass recommendation for this book near the bottom of the article, so if you’re looking for a quick guide before heading out to the store, you’ll find it there!
Action Comics #958
Writer: Dan Jurgens Artist: Patrick Zircher
Colorist: Ulises Arreola Letterer: Rob Leigh
Alex Lu: Another week, another Rebirth! Welcome back to the booth, Kyle. Let’s kick things off with a look at the big guy himself: Superman. In Action Comics #958, the second chapter of a story that began with the death of the New 52 Superman, the pre-New 52 man of steel is dealing with an avalanche of ridiculous mysteries. For one thing, there’s a hooded figure named Dr. Oz watching him and his family. There’s Lex Luthor, who has decided that he is going to assume Superman’s mantle in the wake of the New 52 Superman’s death. There’s Doomsday, who has come back to kill Supes yet again AND seems to now have a modicum of intelligence. Finally, there’s Clark Kent, who is now a separate person from Superman??? This is a lot to digest in a very short span of time.
I was not nearly as sold on the previous issue of Action Comics as you were, Kyle. I found that it took an interesting premise– Lex Luthor as Superman– and squandered it by immediately bringing the original Superman back into the game. I think that this week’s issue, while not really a great book, does a little bit better than its predecessor by just dispensing with any pretense of high concept and just producing 20 pages of exhilarating action. I was not in love with what I saw, but I was drawn into it, which is certainly halfway there! What’d you think?
Kyle Pinion: I don’t remember a thing about this comic. I know I read it, maybe a couple of times, but there’s very little here that sticks with me. Superman punches Doomsday, Lex Luthor punches Doomsday, mysterious Clark Kent watches alongside Jimmy, and somebody else is watching them. That’s basically the gist of it, right? That’s the challenge with these middle chapters where a fight is the ongoing thread, there’s not much to hang on to, and it’s basically the thing that connects “major beat A to major beat B”. I don’t want to denigrate the issue and call it outright filler, but it’s definitely veering towards that edge.
Zircher remains the star of the show undoubtedly, even with a middling kind of “nothing much happens” script, he’s still able to elevate the proceedings into a comic that I found eminently still readable and fairly fun while doing so. It’s just, as you say, Alex, dropping any and all pretensions of being not much more than a WWE slugfest. And really, that’s okay, that’s pretty much all Superman comics barring All Star or Secret Identity and a few others. But going back to Zircher, I’m terrifically fond of how his pencils offer a very majestic looking version of the character, looking at the page set where Superman is about to haul Doomsday into the sun, that’s the kind of visualization of the character I could look at all day. The same goes for Lex catching those civilians. It’s both so powerful and so elegant at the same time. They found the best possible artist for this book to say the least.
Alex: Zircher is certainly, as you say, the star of the show. Oddly though, I found myself less enraptured by his art than I did last issue. There’s a blocky effect to the way he inked his work that makes his linework seem more rudimentary here. In the big double-page splash that kicks off the book, Superman and Doomsday are placed in front of a background of Metropolis that looks like it was taken from a child’s drawing. It doesn’t take away from the scene and has a charm of sorts, but it showcases the compromises that must be made to put out a book like this on a bi-weekly schedule.
Colorist Ulises Arreola helps make up for the blocky and heavy blacks by heavily saturating our heroes’ costumes. The reds and blues and steel tones of Lex and Superman really stand out against the earthen tones of the rest of the book. It’s a smart choice that pays dividends throughout.
Kyle: So, in theory I agree with what you’re saying regarding the colors, any time blues and reds pop in a Superman comic, I’m generally pretty satisfied as I think that’s where my eyes should be focused in the first place. But, there’s something to Arreola’s coloring that looks perhaps a tad too over-rendered in places, especially when I look at those panels of Lois and Jon. It’s almost trying a tad too hard to look like “modern comics”. Perhaps a slightly flatter approach would work better for me, but I’ll take that trade-off for the way the whites and blues interact in Lex’s costume. God, I love that costume, especially the way it’s lit-up and has a logo that is this bright shining beacon. It’s a great touch. Hey, so Alex, how much do you hate where this Mr. Oz thing is going? I’m kinda hating it.
Alex: I’m totally disinterested in the Mr. Oz plot thread. If the overwhelmingly likely theory that Mr. Oz is Ozymandias from Watchmen is proven correct, DC will have incontrovertibly ruined one of the most interesting characters in the modern comics canon. Not to get too far away from the book at hand, but Ozymandias is not the Monitor. He’s not a mythical figure– his tragic flaw is that he is a man who thinks himself a god. Why on earth would you make him one?
Anyways, we haven’t seen enough of that particular plot thread in these two issues of Action for me to provide a solid opinion about its merits or lack thereof. I’m mostly interested in the new, human Clark Kent that seems to be running around. I think that’s actually an anomaly worthy of some time and space.
Despite seeming like such a simplistic action story, Dan Jurgens’ scripts for this book are actually layering a ton of weird mysteries on top of one another. Reading over my first paragraph, I realized I needed a breather at the end of it. I know we’re at the beginning of the arc and we should give Action Comics some time to reveal its secrets to us, but I can’t help but think some of these mysteries need to be answered soon, if only to foster some good will between the creators and the readers. Otherwise they’ll end up with a LOST scenario on their hands. What say you?
Kyle: Despite my qualms with the rather uneventful-eventful nature of the issue, I’m still pretty curious as to what will happen next. I genuinely want to know who this mysterious Clark is (and I’ve got no theories whatsoever about that), I have to see where this Mr. Oz reveal goes even if it plays to my worst fears, and I want to know more about how our new Superman will interact on a regular basis with SuperLex (as Jimmy calls him in-story). I don’t think Jurgens has as strong a grasp on the family dynamics of the White clan that Tomasi displayed last issue, but like we said last time, this really isn’t the comic for that. I’d almost rather we get even less of that going-forward and let Superman himself be the focal point, along with what should be a pretty exciting iteration of Luthor in these next few issues.
I’m kinda hooked really. Good job fellas!
Alex: This type of book isn’t really my thing, but I will freely admit that this book will do a great job of servicing a lot of Superman fans who enjoy big action and zany plot twists. I’ll probably stick around for this arc, at the very least, to find out what’s what with non-super-Clark. There are a surprisingly large number of gears moving in this book, so it should certainly lead to an interesting climax, if not a truly affecting one.
Stay tuned throughout the day as we post reviews for Aquaman #1, Detective Comics #935, The Flash #1, and Wonder Woman #1!