Action Comics #814 (2004)

Action Comics #814 (June, 2004)
“Another Day at the Office”
Writer – Chuck Austen
Penciller – Ivan Reis
Inker – Marc Campos
Colors – Guy Major
Letters – Comicraft
Associate Editor – Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

Shoot an arrow in the air… where it lands… is, well this issue of Action Comics.  I’m still battling the dissertation demons, and decided to just grab a book at random to discuss here today.

I mean, what could possibly go wrong?  Um, is that Chuck Austen?

We open with Clark Kent riding the L Train to work one morning.  Just as he finishes leaving a voicemail for Lois, the train is hijacked by a trio of goofballs.  Clark confronts them, allowing himself to be thrown through the window, as he plummets toward the ground, he does a quick change of clothes… and returns to the geeks lickity split.

He mocks them for their poor grammar and vernacular… making me happy that Superman has (probably) never read this blog.  He spears one of the goofs off the train, leaving him in the back of a garbage truck.  By the time he returns, the other two immediately surrender.

Clark arrives at the Daily Planet, and finds that his cubicle is already inhabited.  He asks Julio, the Office Manager why somebody else’s stuff is where his stuff oughtta be… and gets a curt response, instructing him to talk to Perry about it.  As luck would have it, Perry’s in a meeting for the next hour… so Clark’s got some time to kill.

And it’s a good thing, too… because moments later, a woman drives her car through a barricade on a raised level of road.  Ya see, she was busy disciplining her unruly children and wasn’t paying attention… probably not getting her Allstate Safe Driver check for eighteen-cents this quarter.  Superman saves the day (and the family) just in time to return to the Planet and learn that Perry’s still in a meeting.

So, out on patrol we go again… and well, hot damn… the people of Metropolis oughta be super pleased that Perry White has taken such a long meeting, because right now… Kalibak and Friends are absolutely wrecking the city.  I mean, they are not fooling around here.

Superman arrives to throw some punches and exchange some quips… including a particularly cringy one where he “defines” his name for the baddies.  Woof.

This is all a lead up to the arrival of… Darkseid!  Oh man, business is about to pick up… or is it?  Superman, upon seeing… ya know, the baddest dude in the universe, just tosses Kalibak’s body at him.  Hmm… yeah, he actually says “Hey, Darkseid.  Catch!” too…

Darkseid has no time for such foolery, as he has come to deliver some dire news.  Apokolips has lost Doomsday.  Uh-oh… that’s like, really bad, right?  Well, Superman ponders it for a minute… then decides his best course of action is to punch Darkseid in the face.

He then somehow whisks all of the Apokoliptians into a ball, and hurls them back through the Boom Tube.  Once the tube closes, Superman slumps to the ground, and says… well, just look…

The issue wraps up back at the Daily Planet, with Lois confronting Perry White about his not telling Clark that he’s been… dun dun dun, demoted.

Welp, they sure jobbed ol’ Darkseid out, didn’t they?

I gotta say, up until Superman took out the Apokoliptian horde without breaking a sweat that I was enjoying this.  Every now and again it’s nice to have a one-off “day in the life” story.  Here we are with a brand-new creative team… ushering in a “New Era” (if the cover copy is to be believed), and Chuck Austen spends his first outing getting his feet wet with the character.  All well and good, got no problem with any of that.  It gave Superman an opportunity to act a bit “lighter”… like he really enjoyed his “job” of keeping the people of Metropolis safe.  That’s the way it ought to be.

I suppose an argument can be made that some of the dialogue was kinda corny… Superman saying “dude” is a bit precious, but I kinda dug it.  There’s just something charming about Superman attempting to quip with his street-level baddies.  Now, when he directs sarcasm toward, I dunno… Darkseid?  That’s where ya lose me.  I’d think that Superman would know just what sort of hell the Earth might be in for if Darkseid shows his face… I wouldn’t think he’s see that as an opportunity for levity.

Darkseid shows up… tells Superman that Doomsday got away.  We all remember Doomsday, right?  He’s the guy that killed Superman that one time.  Superman’s reaction?  Punch Darkseid, and give him the “well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into” spiel.  Just an awful scene… that doesn’t make any of the characters involved look any better.  I’d go so far as to say it kinda ruins the rest of the issue.

It also makes me reflect on the issue long enough to think about how fortuitous it was for the City of Metropolis (and the World!) that Perry White was in a long meeting to avoid talking to Clark Kent.  Are we to assume that the woman driving off the road with her kids would have died if not for Superman?  Are we to consider that Kalibak and Co. would have barbecued the entire city if not for Perry’s long meeting(s)?  Are we supposed to be thinking about all the lives Superman is unable to save on a daily (hourly) basis?  If that’s the plan, I guess I can dig it… but, I’m thinking that… I’m thinking too hard.

In Clark’s civvie life, we learn that he’s being demoted.  It’s been, well… 13 years since I’ve read this era of Superman, so I don’t remember exactly what was going on.  I know there was a time that Perry “fake fired” Clark so he could get some dirt on then-President Luthor… but I’m not sure if this is part of his return to the Daily Planet or not.  It’s an interesting subplot, to be sure… especially considering that Lois knows about the shake-up before Clark.

I never really had that frothing Chuck Austen-hatred that was so prevalent in “our” circles back in the early/mid-2000’s.  He certainly wasn’t my favorite creator, however, I feel he got an unfair shake by fans overall.  That said, he might not be the right guy to be writing Superman.  I know his stint here would be cut short (with fill-ins toward the end that may or may not have been Austen writing under a pseudonym), but this just doesn’t feel like a good fit.  Speaking of good fits, the art here was fantastic.  Reis, as we are accustomed, delivers some excellent work.  Some of the panels of Superman in flight could’ve been used as covers… just really great stuff.  Speaking of covers, boy oh boy… it’s Art Adams!  Art Adams just rules… really wish he did more interiors.

Overall… I’d say this isn’t an issue you need to rush out and read.  It’s pretty to look at, and up until around the staples, it’s a fun little one-off story.  That Darkseid bit though… really hurts it for me.  If you’re interested, it is available digitally.

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