Action Comics #977 (June, 2017)
“The New World, Part One”
Writer – Dan Jurgens
Art – Ian Churchill
Color – Hi-Fi
Letters – Rob Leigh
Associate Editor – Paul Kaminski
Editor – Mike Cotton
Group Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99
Hey, I think we’re about to discuss a Superman book that’s going to be… about Superman! Hey, how ’bout that? This one doesn’t look like a “Superboy, feat. Superman” issue. Couldn’t be happier about that!
Also, looking at the numbering… if DC keeps up with the bi-weekly release schedule, we are now within ONE YEAR of seeing Action Comics #1,000! Let’s just hope we’re not also one year away from Action Comics (vol.3) #1!
(Also, apologies for the shoddy-er than usual pictures. These pages do not lend themselves to being photographed)
We open with… Clark Kent working at the Daily Planet! Hell yeah. He’s being shouted at by Perry White… everything feels like it’s going back to normal. Guess I can stop clenching my stomach… for now. Of note (pun) there are several post-it notes on Clark’s cubicle… there’s a mention of former Superman group editor, Mike Carlin, and a mention of a restaurant called “The Swan”, which has gotta be a reference to Curt Swan, right? There are also a bunch of books on Clark’s shelf that are chock full of references… and a photo of the Planet gang around the time of Jonathan’s birth… which either means they were all at the Batcave in the Flashpoint Universe, or that’s all been “sorted out”. Shortly, Clark and Lois go to head home… but Clark feels a bit uneasy about the whole Superman Reborn thing, so he heads to the Fortress for some clarification.
While Superman is in transit, we shift scenes to see our old friend Metallo receive a visit by a strange Matrix-y individual… who promises to repair him so he can get revenge on the Man of Steel. Who’s this guy? Ya got me.
Superman arrives at the Fortress, and tells the Kryptonian Krystals that he needs to know “everything” about his history… and so, he suddenly finds himself standing in a projection of Krypton. It’s really quite a scene… it looks like a melding of all past incarnations of the doomed planet. Some of the characters wearing Byrne-style costumes really stood out to me.
The tour continues, and Superman sees his birth parents… and himself as a (pacifier nippin’) infant. Guess we’re not going with the Birthing Matrix, eh? Of note, the ground begins to shake… and it’s referred to as an Earthquake… which is kinda silly, but whattayagonnado?
We shift to another visit from the Matrix Man… this time it’s Blanque getting and offer. Fair enough, even though Blanque bores me to tears. He reminds me of the kind of villain Chris Claremont would throw into an issue of like New Excalibur or something.
Back at the Fortress we witness the familiar scene of the young Kal-El being loaded into the rocketship. Superman questions whether or not he’d be strong enough to send his own son rocketing through space if posed with a similar situation. I dig that we get this new parental point of view from Clark… it really changes the way he (and we?) sees this iconic event.
And so, the rocketship lands… in Smallville, where it is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent. They decide to pass the child off as their own.
We next get a quick and dirty on Clark’s childhood and adolescence. His best pals were Pete Ross and Lana Lang, the latter of whom learns of Clark’s superpowers during a tornado. We’re also getting Lex as a Smallville native, as a creepy older kid.
From here, Clark (and Superman) arrives in Metropolis… and we see some of his supporting cast, including Ron Troupe, Steve Lombard, and Jackee Winters (which tells us that the New-52! additions to the cast ought to be sticking around… which is cool).
The issue wraps up with Superman thinking he’s heard another voice in the Fortress… however, Kelex reports that they are all alone. Hmm…
Loved this issue! Loooooved it.
I’m probably the kind of reader that most comics writers hate. I have trouble swallowing nebulous explanations/timelines, and would prefer knowing exactly what happened… and when. Like, for me… the fold-out timeline that followed Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #0 was a godsend. I’d guess DC creative was probably a bit less enthused, because now there was a physical checks and balances they had to adhere to.
This issue (Action 977), made great strides toward clearing up how and when things went down… and, while I’d have preferred a bit more Byrne and a bit less Johns, I’m just happy to have a better understanding of Superman’s origin. After so many years of details being purposely kept nebulous (or kept out altogether), this issue brought with it not only exposition… but a measure of comfort as well.
So, where to start? Let’s do something strange and take a look at the cover. Covers, being what they are today… that is to say “they ship with too damn many different ones” are something I tend to ignore when reviewing. To my mind, covers really only lend themselves to review when they are exceptionally good… or exceptionally bad. That said, I’m totally about to contradict myself here. I thought the cover was very nice, if not exceptional. The reason I mention it at all is to point out how weird it looks to use the trunkless Superman in the iconic Kryptonite Nevermore pose. I mean, I get that we’re now “above” a Superman “who wears his underwear on the outside” (there’s an annoying sentence!), but… as a celebration of Superman history, I think he should have been drawn in his classic costume if we’re touching on classic stories. Not sure if this is an attempt to retcon the trunks out of existence altogether, or just a stylistic choice. Either way, I’ve droned on far too long about something so minor!
Onto the story itself. Like I’ve said time and again, I’m very much a fan of the post-Crisis “Byrne” Superman, and that origin is the one I’ll always see as the truest. What we get here seems to be sort of a composite origin, with elements of pre-Crisis, some Byrne, but mostly Geoff Johns Secret Origin. Fair enough, I suppose. It’s been ages since I’ve read SO, but I remember being somewhat turned off by it. The question that doesn’t get answered here (unless I was too dense to pick up on it) is whether or not Clark was ever Superboy… and if he’d ever palled around with the Legion of Super-Heroes. With the information we have at present, I’m leaning toward “no”. During the tornado, Lana says “You can fly?” and not “Hey, you must be Superboy!” I might be completely mistaken… who knows?
As for the pending threat… it looks like we’re getting a new version of the Superman Revenge Squad. A completely silly Silver-Age concept, but one I’d welcome back with open arms. I think it’s time for Superman to flex his muscles a bit… I’ve said it before, but since Rebirth, he’s almost felt like a side-character in his own books, with DC being more interested in establishing Jon than reestablishing Clark. Having Superman pitted against a whole slew of baddies is one of the stories I’ve been waiting for! Really looking forward to this.
Ian Churchill is an artist I often go hot and cold on… and, it just so happens that in this very issue, I am both hot and cold on his work. Some pages look overly scratchy, while others come off amazing. I’ve never been keen on the way he draws mouths… there’s something soft-Liefeldian about it. Though, overall I’d consider his inclusion here to be a net-positive.
Overall… great issue. While the overall tone is “unease”, I gotta say, this is probably the most comfortable I’ve been while reading an issue of a Superman comic book in quite some time. Lois and Clark are back at the Planet, we’ve got some supervillains brewing a plot, and we’re finally getting an origin (until they change it, snark, snark). Well worth your time, definitely check this one out.