Tag Archives: Aaron Kuder

Superman Against Police Brutality – An Action Comics #42 Review

Action Comics #42 coverTITLE: Action Comics #42
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
PENCILLER: Aaron Kuder
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 1, 2015

Miss last issue? Check out Action Comics #41.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Superman vs. The Cops. Yeesh. Well, it’s timely. You can’t fault them for not being relevant…

Indeed, in the year that the town of Ferguson became synonymous with racial prejudice and police brutality, and headlines continue to pop up about cops going too far, Superman finds himself standing between the police and innocent people. While I’m still not a big fan of the de-powered “Tough Guy Superman” approach, this is very much in line with what a Superman comic should be. The Man of Steel taking on issues that effect real people.

As Superman, whose identity has been exposed to the world, battles a monster made of “solidified shadow,” the Metropolis police descend on the citizens assembled in “Kentville.” Now the question is, can Superman protect these people? And what will he have to do to accomplish that?

Action Comics #42, chainsGreg Pak and Aaron Kuder return Superman to his roots here as a champion for the oppressed and defenseless. As we see police in riot gear attempt to tear gas civilians, our hero is set up in a somewhat contrived, yet visually arresting scenario. He wraps himself in a giant chain and creates a barrier between the police and the citizens. He then takes repeated shots to the face from gimmicked up S.W.A.T. team guys. It’s hokey, but it creates the sense of drama and sacrifice they’re going for. And of course, the chain harkens back to the tried-and-true image of Superman snapping the chains off his body.

To be fair, the police aren’t completely demonized here. We see reluctance among the cops, and some of them acknowledge how Superman has saved them in the past. But the bad apples spoil the bunch. We also see the civilians debating whether they should fight back, so the hostility isn’t entirely one-sided. But it’s fairly obvious what this issue is meant to be. The police are the bad guys. One can definitely argue whether this is in good taste, but I think much depends on how the in-story conflict is resolved. We end on a rather dramatic image, so we’ll obviously be seeing more of this next month.

Action Comics #42, splashAs far as Clark Kent himself is concerned, the man we see here is more likeable than the one we saw last issue. While issue #41 saw him using mild profanity, and at one point talking like he was in a gritty noir comic, he feels more like Clark here. He still has more of a cynical edge to him. But he doesn’t feel as darkened here. At one point they actually have him hogtie the big monster he’s fighting, i.e. “farm boy.” That’s a little on the nose, but I prefer that to what we saw last issue. Action Comics #41 felt like we were reading the exploits of a different character. This issue feels like a Superman comic. That’s a very welcome change. If it’s not Superman, this whole Truth thing doesn’t even matter, does it?

Pak and Kuder will have me back for next month. For my money, culturally relevant Superman beats sci-fi monster battling Superman any day. Tough Guy Superman? That’s another story. But the intrigue of how they’ll follow this issue is too much to resist.

Image 1 from nothingbutcomics.net. Image 2 from kotaku.com.

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An Action Comics #41 Review – The Supercycle?

Action Comics #41 coverTITLE: Action Comics #41
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
PENCILLER: Aaron Kuder
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 3, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

For better or worse, the glasses are off, folks.

Action Comics #41 is the first issue to be published as part of the Truth storyline. Thanks to an expose written by Lois Lane in The Daily Planet, the world now knows Clark Kent is Superman. When we open the issue, an injured Clark is walking back from a fight of some kind, with fewer powers than he’s ever had. He has some of his strength, he can leap great distances, and has some of his speed. The world’s most powerful man is now a marked man, and he’s more vulnerable than he’s ever been. In his new exposed state, Superman will find both unexpected friends and enemies.

The Truth storyline as a whole seems to be an attempt to not only “humanize” Superman more, but to darken him up. Both have been tried before, with varying degrees of success. In Superman #40, John Romita Jr. seemed to be trying to de-humanize Superman in order to make this transformation more meaningful. Apparently, New 52 Superman couldn’t taste food or get hungry. In a bizarre scene, Romita even had him get drunk with the Justice League.

Action Comics #41, page 2There are some more groaners in this issue, as Clark uses a little bit of salty language. Nothing too harsh. Stuff like “Can’t even really feel my damn fingers right now.” Some might say this is too boy scoutish, but I’m not a fan of Superman swearing. At least not unless he’s got a really good reason. Then a few pages later he gets into a fight with some thugs at a gas station and rides off on a motorcycle (the Supercycle?). Parts of this issue almost feel like a noir comic.

Superman is wearing a t-shirt and jeans now, much like he was drawn in 2011’s Action Comics #1. The cape is gone, reduced to rags that he has wrapped around his knuckles. His shirt features the famous “S” symbol as red and black, instead of the classic red and gold. Again, a darkening of the character. His hair has also been cut, which is actually an improvement in my book. One can argue his appearance is a little on the nose in terms of the “Superman is just like you!” agenda. But then again, does a hero like Superman really need a costume if his identity is public?

None of this stuff is outright offensive, and I do like the concept of the Truth story. But the impression I get from this issue is that they’re trying to play Superman off as a bad ass. And that’s really not what Superman is about. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: He’s an idealist. Truth, justice, peace, etc. If you want to see how the public reacts when they see who this iconic figure is in day-to-day life, that’s one thing. And putting him in a t-shirt and jeans does make him seem like more of a man of the people. But there’s a grittiness at play here that doesn’t feel true to Superman.

Action Comics #41, hungryDC has been trying to shoehorn more dark elements into the Superman mythos for years. For my money, that’s always been a product of writers not knowing what to do with the character. Point blank: Superman can be a hard character to write. But it can be done. Hell, Geoff Johns just had a great little run with Superman. It just seems to be a matter of knowing where the intrigue lies, and how to create drama with him.

This issue also suffers from timing problems. Divergence and preview materials notwithstanding, we don’t know what’s happened to Superman leading up to this issue. He’s apparently been locked out of the Fortress of Solitude and stripped of his costume, but we won’t see that until Superman #41 on June 24. The issue also references something that happens next month in Superman #42. In essence, we’re coming into this issue missing a lot of important information.

Still, the central story in this issue, Clark returning to Metropolis, is interesting. Certain people are on his side, and certain people aren’t. The public’s reaction to Clark being outed, which I suspect is a major part of what we’ll see in Action going forward, is compelling.

I’ll give this issue credit. Despite the groan factor of Superman riding a motorcycle, and talking like a gritty detective, it’s got me interested in what the other ramifications of Clark’s “outing” will be. I’ll be glancing at Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman for the first time in months. Truth has the potential to bring a lot of new eyes to the Superman books. But if they go too far in the wrong direction, they’ll send those eyes rolling somewhere else.

Image 1 from newsarama.com. Image 2 from adventuresinpoortaste.com.

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