Action Comics #980 (2017)

Action Comics #980 (July, 2017)
“Revenge, Part II”
Writer – Dan Jurgens
Artist – Patch Zircher
Color – Hi-Fi
Letters – Rob Leigh
Associate Editor – Paul Kaminski
Editor – Mike Cotton
Group Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99

It’s funny, I’ve been covering more and more contemporary stuff here of late.  When I first set out to put my little corner of the internet together, I never would have guessed I’d have anything with (Current Year) following the title.

I only say this because, in writing the creator credits for contemporary books, it feels like nearly half of the creators are editors!  In this day and age of sloppy continuity, uneven characterization, and the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing… we have more editors than ever before!  I don’t get it.

Now, don’t get it twisted, I’m not talking about this book in particular, because, to me, this is one of the few “constants” in the comic book world.  Just something that struck me when I was typing up the credits is all.

We pick up right where we left off with Cyborg Superman putting his plan into motion.  He reminds his all-new Revenge Squad why they are there, and why it is in each of their best interests to come together and take down the man responsible for stopping them individually at every turn.  It doesn’t really take all that much selling… these folks hate Superman enough as it is.

Speaking of Superman, we join him as he heads back to the new Kent apartment.  Ya see, he knows that (at the very least) Eradicator and Blanque know of his dual identity, and wants to make sure his family is safe.  At the apartment, young Jon is acting… well, like a kid who has just been told that they’re moving.  He has trouble understanding why they need to… because, the most important thing to them is Superman… and Superman can be super from just about anywhere.  

Lois blah-blahs about their “day job”, and we can tell that Jon doesn’t think writing for a major metropolitan newspaper is anywhere near as cool as beating up bad guys.  At this point, Superman returns home… and kinda spills the beans on the ongoing super-villain team-up, before leaping back into action.  The art here, and I may be thinking too hard, is kinda telling.  Superman is talking like this won’t be a big deal at all… however, his face is… for lack of a better turn of phrase, is… lacking hope?  I mean, his brow is sorta furrowed… there’s no twinkle in his eye.  If this was the intention, than damn… what a great job by Zircher.  Even Superman’s body language is kind of… stiff, uncomfortable… just really great stuff.  Lois seems to see right through Clark’s facade… and knows that this is likely to be a “long night”.

We rejoin Superman aboard the Justice League Satellite so he might track the Eradicator via his unique energy signature.  He is joined by Batman just as he gets a “ping”.  Turns out the Eradicator is in… Belle Reve?  Now, I’m not following Suicide Squad so I’m not entirely clear on this black-bubble surrounding the prison.  We’ll find out in a bit that it’s called the Black Vault, and shares properties with the Phantom Zone.  Anyhoo, Superman and Batman briefly debate the value of the Suicide Squad’s work and Amanda Waller’s methods, which is a pretty neat way to illustrate the ways in which they look at their disparate approaches to superheroics.

We shift to Belle Reve where one-half of The Reign of the Supermen (or two-thirds, post-Rebirth) are working their way through the Black Vault.  Inside Henshaw is haunted by his own past… going all the way back to when he was just a dollar-store Reed Richards.

No sooner do they pull through, than Superman enters himself.  He is haunted by his failure to save his parents.  If I’m not mistaken, we still don’t quite know how or exactly when they died.  Not sure if we’re going all the way back to pre-Crisis “tropical island flu” or whatever that was that claimed ’em back then.

He emerges… well, actually… no.  He doesn’t “emerge” from the Black Vault… he’s yanked out of it by the throat!  Cyborg Superman holds the real steel deal aloft… leading Superman to realize that the stakes have just been raised immeasurably.  A battle rages!

Which kinda goes to a no-contest.  Superman and Henshaw become overcome by Black-Vault visions, and it’s only due to interference from the Eradicator that our Cybernetic friend is able to escape.  The chapter ends with Superman still haunted… not only for the loss of his parents, however… but by everyone who is and has been important to him.

Great Zod issue.  Wait, what?  No Zod?  Ehh, no bother… maybe they used next issue’s cover here.  Or… or… maybe as soon as someone mentioned “Belle Reve”, several ears perked up… and all at once everyone squee-ed “Harley Cover!!!”

I kid… but only sorta.  I know complaining about covers is tantamount to whatever adorable Simpsons meme you can think of about old men shouting about things that don’t matter… but, it’s just as easy to draw a cover that depicts the story as it is to draw one that doesn’t.  Now, let’s not get it twisted… I think this is a great cover… really high quality and striking… but, it’s not the cover for this issue.  Next issue, perhaps… but who knows?

And, so ends my “complaint” section… because, that’s really the only real problem I have with this issue… and if you ask me (and you didn’t), that’s pretty damn good!

I wanna focus on the brief scene at the new Kent de-luxe apartment, because this was my main takeaway.  Now, we’ve always knows Superman to be an altruist… but now, he’s also a father.  This, obviously, raises every stake… and is a whole ‘nother layer of worry every time he goes out and risks his life to save the world.  His uneasy “Yeah, no biggie… I got this” attitude here is pretty neat.  I mean, just who was he trying to convince here?  Lois and Jon… or himself?  What must be going through his head at this point… at this juncture, he’s not trying to “save the day”… but save his hide, and the hides of his family.

I really love how transparent his attitude was to Lois.  She knows what’s up… but she’ll play along, for Jon.  I mean, we’ve all been there, right?  When there’s something weighing down on our minds… our souls even, but we don’t dare discuss it because it might cause others to worry.  Even when we’re actually doing the people in our lives an aggressive disservice in not telling them… we still twist it up in our heads, that we’re keeping them in the dark… for their own good.  I wanna say again… Patrick Zircher knocked this scene, not only outta the park… but outta whatever city the park is in.  His excellent facials and body language really punctuated the scene.

The Black Vault… is a Suicide Squad thing that I don’t have any real context for.  With that said, it’s perhaps a bit of a blah way to waste a few pages… but here, I can’t say that’s a negative.  We’re still in rebuilding mode for Superman, so seeing him face his fears and failures really helps to fill in his nebulous backstory.  Also, we were able to see that Henshaw’s past is… basically/exactly his post-Crisis origin.  I don’t want to see much more of “hero faces his his fears and failures”, however, here… it works for me.

Overall, another top quality issue of Action Comics.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… this is the pinnacle of the Rebirth initiative for me.  I really hope the upcoming Doomsday Clock doesn’t undo all (or any of) the good that Jurgens, Zircher, Tomasi, and Gleason have done for the Man of Steel.  Definitely worth your time.  If you happen to be a lapsed Superman fan… it’s safe to “come home”.

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