Action Comics #810 (2004)

Action Comics #810 (February, 2004)
“Walking Midnight”
Writer – Joe Kelly
Pencillers – Pascual Ferry, Kano, Duncan Rouleau & Renato Guedes
Inkers – Marlo Alquiza, Keith Champagne, Jorge Correa, Jaime Mendoza & Cam Smith
Colorist – Guy Major
Letterer – Comiccraft
Associate Editor – Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.25

HAPPY NEW YEAR, friends!  I hope everyone had a nice, safe, quiet? New Year’s Eve… me and mine did for the most part.  Hadda handful of neighbors acting like it was the Fourth of July… but nothing I couldn’t (mostly) sleep through.  Drove the dogs crazy though!

Anyhoo… today we’re going to ring in the New Year several times over as we tag along on Superman’s yearly ritual of visiting every time zone on the planet as the clock strikes twelve!

We open with Superman and Lois flying over London, just in time for the “ball to drop”.  Lois asks why Superman does this every year… and doesn’t want to hear any “because I can” sorta stuff.  She convinces him to let her tag along for some of the trip… and promises not to turn it into a story.  He hands her a stack of letters… which tells me it’s going to be one of those Superman stories.

Our next stop is… let’s get a running start… Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland… which, I’ll be damned, is a real place!  The letter is about a pregnant woman with no access to proper medical services.  New arrivals are a pretty big deal in the Ittoq… because their population is only 500 (actually, 452 as of 2013).  Superman delivers an ambulance full of medical support just in time for her Baby New Year.

Then, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  This letter is from a man who is looking to propose to a woman who had one helluva year.  She lost her family in a car accident… which tells me, this fella moves pretty quick… probably didn’t need Superman for any of this.  Anyhoo, Superman swoops the widow off her feet and delivers her to the foot of Christ the Redeemer so this dude can propose.

Next stop, Metropolis.  Superman has… nothing planned.  This affords he and Lois the opportunity to properly ring in their own New Year.

Then, off to Smallville.  Inside, Ma and Lois eat pickled herring on swiss cheese crackers… a New Years tradition from Jonathan’s side of the family.  Lois deep-sixes her triscuit into a potted plant.  Outside, Clark and Pa watch the snow fall while sipping a warm beverage out of their Totoro mugs.

Off to Sydney, Australia… where Superman answers the letter of a man who appears to be preparing to commit suicide by leaping off the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  Superman swoops in and carries him off to watch the fireworks… and I suppose we can assume that he’s no longer wanting to kill himself?

In Marioka, Japan… Superman ignites some trademarkable fireworks for a group of children.

In Hong Kong, an Aryan terrorist triggers some explosives.  Why he’d write a letter to Superman telling him this really defies logic.  Maybe he wanted to get caught?  Maybe he’s just an idiot.  Either way, Superman arrives… and we can assume everything goes hunky dory after that.

Since this is a Joe Kelly story from the early 2000’s, we’re going to need to get his thoughts on the Iraq War… so here we go.  A Marine stationed in the Middle East writes to Superman expressing that the fighting forces have been forgotten.  It isn’t hard to discern which side of the aisle our writer sits… from this, and a lot of his writing at the time.  Thankfully this is a bit more subtle than usual.  Superman arrives to assure the Marines that they haven’t been forgotten.

Toriano, Italy… a ninety-nine year old man refuses to die until he sees Superman with his own two eyes.  He’s very sick, and has been on death’s door for a long time at this point.  His doctors are baffled as to how he’s made it this long.  Superman flies up… and brings him peace.

We wrap up back in Metropolis… where Doctor Spectro has just finished building a “heavy photon distillation unit” with which he hopes to take over Metropolis.  Superman dashes those dreams with the quickness… but doesn’t take the baddie in.  Guess he’s still got a bit of the “holiday spirit” in ‘im.  We close with Spectro asking how it feels to be able to do “everything”, to which our man says it’s “the greatest”.

This was okay… but kinda fell short for me.

It’s like, you know that this is trying to be a heartwarming issue… and, I dunno… sometimes you just can’t set out to do that.  There’s very little in the way of subtlety… it’s just page after page of “Awww“.

I mean, the scenes were decent… but didn’t have the heart of previous Metropolis Mailbag type of stories.  It just felt like it was trying too hard… which, I dunno… is something I also associate with Joe Kelly’s writing.  I get the feeling he believes he’s far more profound than he actually is.  Don’t know the fella… and for the most part, really enjoy his stuff… but there’s that air about his writing.

The issue is gimmicky, but it really is the perfect way for a Superman New Year’s story to go.  The “people in need” all requesting Superman’s presence exactly at midnight is a bit “eh”, but I like the idea of our man visiting every time zone… even if it is simply “because he can”.

The Iraq War commentary… I could’ve done without.  I’m guessing that bit was chock full of projection… which, ya know… is fine, I guess.  It gets his point across… and, I’ll hand it to Mr. Kelly… this was far more subtle than that hamfisted JLA story he cranked out on the subject.  I’m very rarely happy to see real-world stuff in my comics… especially when it’s the first war of the “Internet era”.  I mean, it was wall-to-wall Iraq War from 2003-2005.  

You couldn’t escape it!  We had dozens of 24-hour news channels… every website giving their two cents.  The last thing I wanted to see was comics giving a (highly politicized) view on the subject.  Plus, there’s that whole “Why wouldn’t Superman get involved?” thing that we try to ignore.  I’ll tell ya what, it’s far easier to ignore if we quit mentioning the War in comics.

The ending didn’t quite work for me.  More on my perception of Kelly’s profundity… it’s as though he knew the final line of the book (and, as it happens his run on Action Comics), and worked backwards.  Leaving Doctor Spectro to stew on the roof feels completely wrong.  Seconds earlier he built a doomsday device to take over the city… and now he’s just free to go?  Not buyin’ it.

Overall… I don’t know that this is an issue you need to rush out and grab… but if you come across it in the wild, I suppose you could do worse.  It’s really pretty to look at!

Before we go… I want to raise my rapidly-cooling cuppa coffee and wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2018!

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