THIS WEEK: It’s the year 2021, and we have a very good comic starring The Authority, which continues its surprising run in Action Comics #1037. Plus, Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons #1 is here, and it is spectacular.
Note: This piece contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson, with Shawn Aldridge
Artist: Miguel Mendonça, with Adriana Melo
Colorist: Adriano Lucas, with Hi-Fi
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
This week’s Action Comics #1037 continues one of the unlikeliest superhero things of 2021: The Authority, which is one of the most of its time comic book concepts ever, is being featured in a truly exciting new comic. Not only that, but The Authority is doing this by pairing with…Superman. I know, just totally wild stuff.
Part of why this is all happening is because the concept was launched with a miniseries from one of the best DC Comics writers of all time, Grant Morrison, who collaborated primarily with artist Mikel Janin. That series — which may be the last Morrison corporate superhero work to see print, at least for the immediate future — went all in on updating The Authority concept to be very much of this time. Gone were the gritty, swaggering world police, and in their place came a diverse group of young people driven to be true to their identities while improving the world, doing good by teaming with a paragon of virtue whose own approach to heroics was in need of its own refresh.
That book worked very well, but could have easily been a one-off, a short glimpse at a bold alternate set of ideas for various characters. Instead, the creators working on Action Comics have decided to take Superman and The Authority, and run with it…all the way to the deep reaches of outer space. This week’s Action Comics #1037 is the second part of a story arc that has already elevated itself past experience to bold new direction for its involved characters.
There is just so much that is working in this comic — there’s the depowered Superman concept in a way that makes sense, the gritty sci-fi aesthetic that feels metal but in an earned way, and the eclectic set of characters who are interesting on their own and also compliment each other, a beating heart for a team book. Simply put, I just really like this storyline’s entire deal. It’s a deep space gladiator story starring a Superman whose powers have begun to wane, forcing him to team with a group of younger, less-known heroes. He’s battling a new version of a long-time foe who has a lot of power, both personal and political, and whether or not he’s dong the right thing strategically is perhaps a bigger threat to him than his fading powerset. It’s a great stage for wild comic book action, character moments, and plot twist-driven intrigue, and everyone involved with the creation of this book is firing on all cylinders.
As a result, there’s almost a level of new unpredictability to this comic that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in Superman stories. This is driven by DC Comics going all in on establishing Jon Kent — the son of Clark and Lois Lane — as the new Superman back on Earth. For the first time since Death of Superman, there’s a very real sense off-page that the titular hero might be replaced. And while I don’t see Kal-El being killed and disposed of forever in this arc, thereby ending an Action Comics title that has run continuously in print dating back to the 1930s, it does feel like plenty of other outcomes are on the table (as with the Batman line, we know what one of these outcomes is thanks to the excellent work done in Future State).
This is also seemingly the book that has been tabbed to lead the way for storytelling around a lot of DC’s cosmic side, especially as it pertains to inter-planatary relations. We get glimpses of the nascent United Planets council (formed toward the end of the Bendis run on the Superman titles) trying to figure out what to do here. This is also a great callback to the roots of The Authority, which used to supersede an ineffectual domestic global order when that title first launched. Going all in on DC aliens, we also get the first part of a backup story here starring Martian Manhunter, which is pretty fun and intriguing in its own right.
In the end, what we get with Action Comics #1037 is a fast-paced, gritty sci-fi story filled with danger and earned twists, conveyed excellently by visual storytelling and a sense that the character is less tethered to a familiar status quo than it’s ever been. It all adds up to a comic that has fast-become one of my most anticipated new reads. This one gets a full and hearty Buy verdict from me.
- Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons #1 is a really interesting comic, illustrated with experimental finesse by the great Phil Jimenez, and colored by the trio of Hi-Fi, Arif Prianto, and Romulo Fajardo, Jr. Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, this book (if I recall correctly) was first announced way back when with the announcement of the DC Black Label imprint, which if I recall correctly (again!) was late 2018. I didn’t have as much time to think about this title as I’d like, because the artwork is so intricate, it doesn’t lend itself well to the low-res pdf format review comics come in, but that’s a me problem. I was still able to easily ascertain that this is a truly interesting comic, bore out both through artwork that wants to deliver visuals that truly feel ethereal and new, as well as through a script that evolves within the space of one over-sized comic from creation myth, to inherent natural power struggle, to comic book origin. I’m already clamoring for an absolute edition of this book.
- I also really enjoyed Justice League Incarnate #1, which somehow goes even harder on the multiversal mayhem than the Infinite Frontier miniseries it spun out of did. This story is just careening so wildly through all the DC multiverse has to offer, pulling in character after character without ever feeling gimmicky. It’s a blast.
- Finally, this is also the week of annuals for I don’t know how many titles (don’t make me count them!), and I think on the whole, these annuals are good, with most of them point their titles and characters in new and interesting directions for the year to come.
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