Action Comics #978 (June, 2017)
“The New World, Part 2”
Writer – Dan Jurgens
Pencils – Carlo Barberi
Inks – Matt Santorelli
Color – Hi-Fi
Letters – Rob Leigh
Associate Editor – Paul Kaminski
Editor – Mike Cotton
Group Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99
It’s not terribly often that I cover two brand-new issues back to back… in fact, this might just be the first time. Guess it’s not all that often that more than one book per week really call out to me like they have this week.
Wanted to cover this so we might continue to parse the somewhat-new, somewhat-different streamlined origin of the Man of Steel. What’s missing? What’s been added? Let’s find out together…
We open with some archival footage. It’s Clark Kent’s first day at the Daily Planet. Lois Lane is plummeting from a helicopter to the ground below, when a never-before-seen man in a blue costume and red cape swoops in to save her life. The next day, Lois names him “Superman” in the Daily Planet’s cover story. In the present, back at the Fortress, Superman confirms that the records jive with his memories… but he still feels like there’s something not quite right.
He is bothered by a strange whispering voice… same as last issue. He asks Kelex to continue… which takes him to his second day working for the Planet, when Lois “rescued” him from one of Steve Lombard’s immature pranks. It was at this point he knew he had feelings for his eventually-to-be wife. His secret origin continues to unfold… we see his rogues gallery, including Imperiex (from Our Worlds At War), Manchester Black, and even post-Zero Hour baddie, Conduit. We see various costumes he he had worn, including his gladiator-type suit from Exile, and Electric Blue. Then, we look on as he both proposes to Lois… and tells her the secret. Both occur pretty much like they did back in 1991. This is a great two pages.
We shift scenes for a moment, to the Moon. The Matrix-y Man from last issue uncovers the Eradicator, repairs him, and suggests they work together against their common foe. At first the Eradicator ain’t feeling it… but he eventually comes around.
Back at the Fortress, Kelex continues Superman’s tour of his own past… with his death at the hands of Doomsday. It continues through to the Reign of the Supermen… however, only shows Steel, Cyborg, and Eradicator as the “replacements”. Looks like poor Kon-El might not be joining us. Of particular interest, there is mention of Coast City’s destruction. The two pages end with Lois and Clark’s wedding. I’m going to discuss the art with greater detail below, but I wanna say that Barberi’s aping of the classic panels is really great. Definitely scratching where I itch.
We next learn that Clark’s parents, Jonathan and Martha had passed away before he ever met Lois… which really sucks. I enjoyed Lois’ relationship with the Kents, especially during Funeral for a Friend. Those were some highly emotional scenes, and it’s a shame they never happened. We continue along to Lois telling Clark that they are expecting! Which doesn’t occur in Gotham City under a dome. Fair enough.
Young Jon’s birth also doesn’t occur in Gotham City, but at the Fortress of Solitude. Wonder Woman and Batman are on hand to ensure the event isn’t interrupted. Worth mentioning that Superman is wearing his collared New-52! duds during this bit. After Jon’s arrival, the Kents took a sabbatical from the Daily Planet and moved house to California.
Superman went underground (wearing the black Lois & Clark costume), and Lois published books under the name Author X. Superman would eventually return to the public eye to battle Ulysses from the Geoff Johns/John Romita, Jr. arc. In the present, Superman reveals that his history is just as he remembers it… and posits that they might need to dig deeper for whatever it was that fractured reality. I think we’re going to need some of Rip Hunter’s blackboards.
Suddenly the visage of Mr. Oz shows itself. He warns that Superman knows not the forces with whom he is dealing… then blasts the statues of Ma and Pa Kent. Superman considers that he might need help… in the form of the slew of folks who currently wear the “S”. It should go without saying that he is also pretty concerned Oz was able to enter the Fortress.
We wrap up with the arrival of Metallo and Blanque to the Moon. They initially do not seem pleased to have been drawn there… especially by someone with an S on his chest. The Matrix-y Man arrives to settle everybody’s tea kettles… reveals himself to be Hank Henshaw… then christens their group as the All-New Superman Revenge Squad!
Well… gotta say, between The Button and Superman Reborn… DC is doing some amazing continuity-dredging. Now, don’t get me wrong… I love it, and am greatly enjoying these stories… but, it’s crazy to consider that six years ago these stories would just “be”. There wouldn’t have to be any mental and narrative gymnastics to make them work… they would just be an understood part of the characters’ histories. That’s probably not worth mentioning… but I can’t help myself. It feels like the New-52! was just such a misguided concept… and right now they’re fighting just to get back to “zero”.
On to the issue… let’s discuss some of the retcons. First, the death of the Kents. It isn’t outright said how they died… and I really can’t remember how they wrote them out for the New-52!. I guess we can just assume (for now) that they were taken out by a tropical disease while Clark was away at College. That’s how it went down in the Silver Age, right? I wrote above that I find it disappointing that Ma and Pa never met Lois… I really think that’s too bad. As it is, Lois really has nobody she can confide in, or vent to about her husband’s dual-life. I think the Kents were just as important to Lois as they were to Clark, and it’s definitely a shame they won’t be sharing in young Jon’s childhood.
I think about turn of the century Amazing Spider-Man when Aunt May learned about Peter’s secret. When Mary Jane found out that May knew… it was like she was hit with a wave of relief. Finally, there was someone she could talk to about Spider-Man. They became a little support group unto themselves, and the Spider family became richer for it. I guess I’m taking the scenic route here just to say… I’d definitely prefer the Kents to be alive. Or hell, just gimme Ma.
Another character I wish got a mention was Kon-El. I guess with the new Superboy they may not want to muddy the waters by introducing the clone… but, if we’re playing fast and loose with continuity anyway… we could just have him stay dead after Infinite Crisis. Of course, that would involve the introduction of yet another Superboy (Prime)… so, okay… maybe they were right to leave him out… for now. I still have a sneaking suspicion he might be locked in one of Mr. Oz’s pods… I guess time will tell.
The reveal that the Matrix Man was Hank Henshaw… was a bit of a letdown. With the mention of Cyborg Superman during the flashback, I wasn’t sure if they were going to use Henshaw for that… or if they were going to use the Supergirl’s dad version. Still not sure, actually. I think hopes were high that this character had something to do with the Watchmen plot… I thought for a moment it was Dr. Manhattan (not that I had any real reason to). I guess when hopes are that high, just about anything can be viewed as a disappointment. That said, I am hopeful for the Revenge Squad… and look forward to seeing Superman crack some heads.
Now, the art. Gotta admit, when I cracked this open and saw Carlo Barberi listed as artist, I felt a bit disappointed… I’d have really liked to see Patch Zircher on this. That being said, I think Barberi knocked this one out of the park! The panel layouts and use of splashes was great… his aping of classic panels was damn near spot-on. Really top notch work here. His style has matured greatly since his days on Impulse.
Overall, Action Comics is one of my top books at the moment… and continues to deliver bi-week after bi-week. I mentioned during our discussion of The Button that I am so grateful that DC is not going the route of Marvel in over-hyping and over-pricing these important “events”. I would figure that Superman Reborn would have been a six… then seven issue miniseries (plus tie-ins) that took 14 months to come out had it been done over at Marvel. Oh, and every issue would be at least five bucks too. I’m very happy that this is being contained in Superman’s own books… and at Superman’s own shipping schedule and price-point. Highly recommended.