Action Comics #801 (May, 2003)
Writer – Joe Kelly
Guest Penciller – Tom Raney
Inker – Walden Wong
Colorist – Gina Going
Letters – Comicraft
Associate Editor – Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.25
Man, we’re just truckin’ along to April 18th, ain’t we?
When I first decided to try this #Action100 thing, it felt like I had all the time in the world to get it done. Now I look at the calendar (which I seem to have a hard time understanding at the best of times) and see just how close we are getting to Action Comics #1000.
Looks like we need to kick it into high gear… and so, random issue of Action Comics, ahoy!
We open in Little Falls, Colorado where a child is excitingly telling their mother about their day at school. The chat is interrupted by the arrival of… well, neither bird nor plane… but also not… well, you know. Meanwhile in Metropolis, Lois is exhausted after a long night’s work… but is still up for some “action” with her (currently unemployed) husband.
Elsewhere, young sorceress… ninja… lizard-wrangler, Traci Thirteen is being treated in a hospital. She is awakened from a nightmare.
Back to Little Falls, where a ski salesman and his daughter are having a contentious little back and forth about some lousy customers they just dealt with. Their chat is also interrupted by… neither bird nor plane, but also not… well, you know.
Back in Metropolis, Lois and Clark are stopped on the street by one of those “The End is Nigh” kooks. This really seems to bug Clark… leaving Lois to wonder aloud, “how long have you lived in a city?”… and, she’s totally got a point.
In Bialya, a shadowy man in a shadowy room watches a bank of monitors… and waits. I hate scenes like this… I mean, this dude must’ve dropped out after only taking Super-Villainry 101.
Back to Little Falls… where inside a car, a young boy plays with the World’s Finest action figures. Meanwhile outside, an unhappy couple (probably the tot’s parents) argue about his upcoming birthday party. Their argument is interrupted by neither bird nor plane, but also not… well, you know. This time, however, it’s clear whatever it is… it’s deadly.
Then, we’re off to Pokolistan where Avruiskin (Zod) hovers… and waits. He must’ve gone as far as Super Villainry 202.
Back in Metropolis, Clark makes Lois coffee… before, I dunno, hearing something weird coming out of Colorado? I mean, he bursts through their window, shattering it, without even a word! At the same time, back in Little Falls… a glowing man hovers in the fetal position above a massacre.
Superman arrives on the scene immediately and tries to stop the glowing fella. This whole thing is being watched by some kids from a classroom window. They turn to address their teacher, who has undergone a rather horrifying metamorphosis herself!
Superman rushes into the classroom to try and get control over the situation. Seems as though the teacher is conflicted… she still seems to know who she really is, and wants not to give in to her new baser insectoid instincts. They are then joined by… the daughter of the ski salesman… and, there’s definitely something not right about her! She sneezes… causing a very green explosion.
Next stop, Washington D.C…. where (hell yeah) President Lex Luthor is being given intel from DEO Agent Cameron Chase. She advises him that there has been a sudden boom in Metagene triggering… registering between a four and an eight on the “P.M. Scale”. Between a four and an eight? That’s a pretty wide margin.
Back in Little Falls, it’s revealed that Superman was able to save all the tots, however not the Sara the Sickly Sneezing Ski Salesgirl. No word on the teacher either. One of the kids goes into Aerobic Arrest… and Superman goes to rush him off to the hospital. He is stopped, however, by an officer “pulling rank” (yeah, right). They are then approached by some goofy slacker kid… who just sprouted wings! He tells Superman that he’d like to take the boy to the hospital for him… and so, he does.
That evening, after all the dust has settled, this group of new-Metas is corralled into a place for safe-keeping. They’re all freaked out (duh), and wonder if there might be a cure for their new “conditions”. Superman has no answers at this point.
Back in Washington, Agent Chase (and Secretary of Metahuman Affairs, Amanda Waller) continue to fill President Lex in on the day’s events. He learns of the Little Falls incident, and dismissively compliments Superman for his work their.
We wrap up with Chase directing Lex’s attention to the latest… the Metagene “boom” has exploded, leaving 1:1000 Americans with strange powers beyond those of mortal men!
Seems to be a trend these days… so much of what I’m reading, old or new, can be described as “Not bad… but boring”. That, unfortunately leaves a goofball like me with precious little to say about it. Maybe that was their plan all along?!
In revisiting this issue, I can recall that this was where I started to fall off a bit with Superman. I kept buying it for a couple more years (I think I finally “tapped out” when Chuck Austen was writing it under a pen-name (do I have that right? That was the popular opinion back in the day))… but at this point, I kinda stopped caring.
I guess it’s natural to have a bit of a malaise after a “big” issue (Action Comics #800)… but, I’d assume they’d want to come out of the gate with a bang… if only to hold on to some of the “looky-loos” who might’ve picked up #800 on a whim, and came back for more. Though, to be fair… this was during comics self-loathing period where “milestone” issues weren’t really hyped up anymore. Another example of over-correcting.
What we get instead is… a whole lot of table-setting, and a fairly uninteresting/uninspired story… complete with shadowy man in a shadowy room watching a bank of monitors. Was this already played out by 2003? I can’t remember. Bendis hadn’t yet foisted Maria Hill on us by this point, right? Because that’s when every single Marvel comic started having a scene of a darkened room and a bank of monitors in it (because she seemed to “guest-star” in every single Marvel comic). Man, what a horrible time.
Back to this issue. It’s good… not great. The cover is pretty cool… but has nothing to do with what’s going on inside. Tom Raney’s “guest” art is really good… and I enjoyed the scenes with President Lex (as I always do!). Worth tracking down? Well, that’s a toughie. You won’t get any sort of resolution here… and since the story hasn’t been collected, you’ll have to buy a few issues to get the full story. It is available digitally though… at $1.99, which in my mind, is a bit steep.