Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Action Comics #791 (2002)

Action Comics #791 (July, 2002)
"The Invitation"
Writer - Benjamin Raab
Artist - Derec Aucoin
Colorist - Moose Baumann
Letters - Comicraft
Assistant Editor - Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.25

The advantageous thing about having a reading "project", like our ongoing #Action100, is that there's always something to read.  Not that there's any shortage of "unread" books in my library, but... the project gives me a little bit of momentum.

Not gonna lie, burnout is a thing... 

Let's try and work through those feelings with a random ol' issue of Action Comics.


We open in Metropolis where Clark Kent receives a letter from Smallville High School's Homecoming Dance Committee... and he's shocked by its contents!  Lois snatches it from out of his hands to give it a peek herself.  This causes Clark to book it out of there with the quickness.

Lois reads it over and learns that Clark has been invited to be the Master of Ceremonies for this year's Homecoming Dance... and wonders why her husband reacted so strangely to said invite.  Clark spends most of the day being super... including playing a game of chess with Plastic Man.  He returns home to find his bags already packed!  Lois has decided they're going to Smallville!

We shift ahead to the Kent farm where Lois chats up Martha about how strange Clark has been acting since receiving the invite to Homecoming... turns out there's a story attached, and one that Ma has no problem sharing.  Ya see, there was once this girl... a heavy girl, named Marge.  She was relentlessly bullied, and referred to as "Marge the Barge".  Ya see, Smallvillians are far more creative than the kids I went to school with, they'd have probably just gone with "Large Marge".

Clark, Lana, and Pete look on... and don't seem terribly pleased by all of the bullying.  Lana quickly shifts gears, however, and hints that she'd like Clark to invite her to Homecoming.  He doesn't.  That night he talks it over with Ma and Pa, and it's "decided" that he asks Marge to the dance... because that's "what a hero does".

And so, the next day... Clark asks Marge to Homecoming, and, suspecting it's a trick, she turns him down.  Fair enough!  As she walks away, she informs him that by the time of the dance... she's be "long gone".  Clark's suicide-sense starts to tingle.

Later, we see Marge talking to herself in a bathroom mirror.  She giggles to herself at the thought of being on the arm of Clark Kent for the dance.  Her joy, however, is short-lived.  She overhears Lana talking to Clark about his would-be date (Lana even busts out a "Marge the Barge").  He tells her that he was just trying to be a nice guy... a hero, even!

Marge runs out of the school, and Clark gives chase.  Oh man,  I just noticed that the kids spray-painted Marge's car with "Bargemobile", what a buncha of a-holes!  I didn't notice that the first time through... maybe Smallville needed a Superboy!

Anyhoo, he follows her to the Old Mill Bridge.  Ma describes it as a place where "lotsa folks put an end to their misery".  Soooo... Smallville has a "suicide bridge"?  Really?

Marge notices Clark and loses her footing... falling into the water below.  To... uh, help (?) her, Clark uses his heat vision to cut a branch off a nearby tree for her to use as a flotation device... but, from the art... it looks like it just crushes her!  I mean, take a look:

Yikes.  At this point, it's revealed that when Marge said she'd be "long gone", she just meant that she'd earned early admission to College, and would be leaving Smallville High!  Well, this is what happens when we assume.  Anyhoo, Marge decides to take Clark up on his invitation, if it still stands.

And so, we head to Homecoming and Marge has a great time.  She and Clark are even named Homecoming King and Queen... well, sorta.  Lana reads the winning ballot... and kinda fibs.

After the dance, Marge thanks Clark for what might be the greatest night of her life... and heads off to say "goodbye" to the Old Mill Bridge.  Unfortunately, the "actual" winning Homecoming Couple are driving that way now... and they're quite lit.

Clark hears the crash, and arrives just in time to see Marge... die?!

We shift ahead to Lois meeting up with Clark at the Old Mill Bridge... and she talks him through his troubles.  Together they decide they should go to the Homecoming Dance.

And so, we wrap up with them doing just that.


Well... this one sure escalated, didn't it?

Not really the kinda story I want to read about... but, at the same time, I can't get mad at it.  I mean, this was a time where there were four Superman titles, so a "quiet" issue like that that tells an untold story of Clark's past works well enough.

Gotta say... these Smallville kids are the worst!  I mean, what's their problem anyway?  They just relentlessly bully poor Marge... even spray-painting her car?!  I mean, isn't that illegal?  Shouldn't the authorities be getting involved?

Bullying is bullying, and who among us has never felt that sting?  But spray-painting the poor girl's car?  She probably had to work two summers sweeping floors at whatever podunk Smallville shop to save up the dosh for that thing!  Just awful.  With kids this bad, I'm surprised that Clark didn't actually become Superboy to dole out some justice!

There was some silliness... like that Suicide Bridge.  If there was really a Suicide Bridge in Smallville, you'd think we'd have heard about that by now, right?  Maybe Smallville is a much darker place than I'd ever thought!  Suppose with how seriously they take bullying (it's like a competition!), it shouldn't be much of a surprise.

Marge's reaction to Clark asking her out... felt right!  I mean, why wouldn't she think she was being set up.  I think we've all seen movies and shows where the "outsider" gets invited to the dance by one of the popular kids... and it's all a gag, and the kid winds up humiliated.

The fact that... well, she dies at the end... that was a bit heavy (no pun intended).  It's no wonder that Clark wouldn't want to attend this Homecoming.  It's because of his wanting to be a "hero" that poor Marge wound up dead!  I'm not one for giving Superman a Peter Parker-esque guilt complex... but, what's done is done.

Then again, maybe I'm just reading too much into that.  They don't really discuss the fact that had Clark just gone to the dance with Lana, there's a pretty good chance Marge would still be alive.  Just one of those "perfect storms" where everything just falls in place.  If Ma never told Clark to ask her... if Clark never did ask her... if Lana didn't lie about the Homecoming King and Queen... so many variables, with the underlying theme "No good deed goes unpunished".

The dialogue for the most part was quite well written.  I wasn't really keen on Clark referring to himself as a "hero".  Seems like he'd be the last person to ever suggest such a thing.  The scene at Ma and Pa's table was fun... I like Pa telling Clark that "Lana's a looker" before clearing his throat and suggesting he "listen to his mother".

The art was also nice.  There were a few creepy Lois faces (see above) and the scene at the Suicide Bridge was a bit clunky (it really looked like Clark clonked poor Marge with the tree branch).  The cover art (by John Paul Leon) was really nice.  I'd recently seen Leon's work on Mother Panic, and had no idea he was doing work back around the turn of the century!

Overall... ehh.  It's a one-and-done... and to my knowledge the events within are never referred to again.  Not one I'd tell ya to rush out and grab, however, if you were to come across it on the cheap, you could do worse.  This issue is available digitally.


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