Tag Archives: Action Comics

Best of Batman & Superman: Action Comics #654

***Batman and Superman are friends. It’s an unlikely friendship, and one that can put them at odds. But ultimately, it’s a friendship based on mutual respect and trust. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on the horizon, we’re going to hear a lot about these two fighting. “Best of Batman & Superman” will show us the opposite end of the spectrum. These are the moments that showed us why Superman and Batman are better friends than enemies.***

Action Comics #654TITLE: Action Comics #654
AUTHOR: Roger Stern
PENCILLER: Bob McLeod, Brett Breeding. Cover by Kerry Gamill.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
ORIGINAL PRICE: $0.75
RELEASED: June 1990

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Kryptonite ring. A weapon given to Batman by Superman in the event he were to ever be the victim of mind control. But it’s so much more than that, isn’t it? It’s a symbol of trust between the world’s finest heroes. It represents Superman’s faith in Batman, his understanding of his own power, and his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. It also represents the necessary cynicism that makes Batman who he is. It gives him the responsibility of keeping Superman’s power in check, and guarding the Earth’s greatest guardian.

Over the years, many a creative team has made use of the Kryptonite ring. Perhaps the most notable was Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee in Batman: Hush. But it’s presence has been felt in stories like Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (also by Loeb), Infinite Crisis, and Superman and the Legion of Superheroes. Chip Kidd and Alex Ross also did a short story based around the concept for Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross. It even survived the New 52 reboot. The concept has been resilient for so many years because it’s a good one. It makes sense.

Action Comics #654, 1990And it all began right here in Action Comics #654.

The story, “Dark Knight Over Metropolis,” was a crossover between SupermanThe Adventures of Superman, and Action Comics. So it ended up being the work of three different teams. But the story’s enduring legacy comes from its final two pages, so that’s what we’ll be looking at for the most part.

I wish I could say “Dark Knight Over Metropolis” was an amazing story. But in truth it’s mostly underwhelming. Things also get convoluted when subplots involving Integrant, Cat Grant, and the street-level hero Gangbuster are woven in. But here are the important details: At a murder scene in Gotham City, Batman discovers a mysterious radioactive ring among the victim’s possessions. Batman’s investigation leads him to Metropolis, where he teams up with Superman and learns the ring is made of Kryptonite and was created by Lex Luthor. Batman keeps his possession of the ring a secret from Superman, but turns it over to him when the case is closed.

It’s important to note that these are the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman and Batman. A few years after their first meeting in The Man of Steel #3, they’re still chilly toward one another. The story makes it clear they don’t always appreciate one another’s methods. But they know one another’s identities, and obviously have a kind of professional courtesy going.

Action Comics #864, Kryptonite ring sceneThe pivotal moment in the issue happens after Bruce Wayne and Alfred have returned to Gotham. They suddenly find themselves with an uninvited guest in the Batcave. Batman descends into the cave to find Superman waiting for him. Bob McLeod and Brett Breeding give us a striking shot of Superman standing amongst some of Batman’s trophies. From a writing standpoint, it’s an interesting power play to have Superman simply show up in the Batcave because he can. Obviously he means no harm, but it’s a nice reminder that he can catch Batman off guard when he wants to.

Superman says that while many think Batman is insane, he’s come to believe Batman is simply a sane man trying to bring justice to an insane world. He talks about living in fear that one day one of his enemies may gain control over him. If that were to ever happen, there’d be only one way of stopping him. With that, he pulls out a lead box with the Kryptonite inside.

The story ends with the line that makes the entire story: “I want the means to stop me to be in the hands of a man I can trust with my life.”

At only three pages, this is a pretty modest scene, considering what’s happening. But there’s something to be said for keeping things concise. Had they known they were making history with this scene, I’m sure they would have upped the ante a little bit.

“Dark Knight Over Metropolis” is an unremarkable story that pays off with one of the great gems in the history of the Superman/Batman partnership. For that reason alone, it’s worth a read. Thankfully, DC reprinted it a few years ago in a trade of the same name.

For more of “Best of Batman & Superman,” check out Gotham Knights #27 and Superman #165.

Image 1 from superman86to99.tumblr.com. Images 2 from asylums.insanejournal.com. 

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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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A Nightwing & Flamebird, Vol. 2 Review – Rao Lives Again!

Nightwing & Flamebird, Vol. 2TITLE: Superman: Nightwing & Flamebird, Vol. 2
AUTHORS: James Robinson, Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann.
PENCILLERS: Pere Perez, Bernard Chang, Pier Gallo. Cover by Alex Garner.
COLLECTS: Action Comics #883-889, Superman #696, Adventure Comics #8-10
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Of all places to wage war against a Kryptonian god, Iran is probably in my bottom five. I imagine that’s how Nightwing & Flamebird feel in this book.

In the second of two volumes collecting their adventures, the duo of Nightwing (Chris Kent, Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s adopted son, and General Zod’s biological son) & Flamebird (Kryptonian Thara Ak Var) are still fugitives. They must quietly consult with Dr. Light and S.T.A.R. Labs when Nightwing suddenly begins to age rapidly. They meet a renowned geneticist, who turns out to be Jax-Ur, a Kryptonian sleeper General Zod has planted on Earth. Jax Ur creates a bastardized version of Rao, the Kryptonian god, and unleashes it in Iran. Nightwing & Flamebird are forced into the center of a battle that also attracts Wonder Woman, and members of the Justice Society. All the while, Lois Lane covers the fight and reports the truth, much to the chagrin of her own government.

Adventure Comics #9, Pier GalloAfter that story, we switch gears completely. In a short story, we meet Car-Vex, another Kryptonian sleeper tasked by General Zod with penetrating General Lane’s organization. We feel her inner turmoil as she’s forced to betray members of her own species in attempt to win a larger battle. Written by Eric Trautmann and drawn by Pier Gallo, it’s actually the strongest material in the book.

The Nightwing & Flamebird section of DC’s New Krypton storyline may have been the weakest one. Thara Ak Var fell a little flat with me as Flamebird. That’s not entirely Greg Rucka’s fault. We knew who Chris Kent was from the Geoff Johns/Richard Donner run on Action Comics. We were already invested in him because of his relationship to Superman, Lois Lane, and General Zod. Thara didn’t have that advantage. She had some great moments with Supergirl, but I still don’t feel like I know her as a character. We know she’s a passionate person, who loves Chris and believes the spirit of the Flamebird is with her. With all that was happening in the single issues, as well as the over-arcing New Krypton storyline, Rucka didn’t necessarily have time to distinguish her from DC’s other young female heroes. The stories still work, but I wasn’t as invested in them as I was in say, Mon El’s in Superman.

Action Comics #887, RaoMidway through the story, Rucka has to get a lot of exposition out, in the form of the Nightwing & Flamebird myth from Kryptonian mythology. He devotes about half an issue to it. It’s not thrilling reading. But it’s not terrible either, and it’s necessary to set up the fight against Jax-Ur and Rao. Unfortunately, the finale felt stale to me. It’s essentially a bunch of heroes against a hundred-foot-tall invincible giant. It’s not that exciting. Plus, the end comes as a result of something established in the exposition, and not necessarily a result of Chris and Thara’s efforts. It’s a logical ending, and it fits. But in terms of storytelling, it’s strictly okay.

Also, a hundred-foot god showing up in the middle of Iran certainly warrants the presence of multiple heroes. But I can’t help but feel Wonder Woman and the JSA were thrown in strictly to add star power to a stale story.

There’s a bit of foreshadowing for Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton in this book, but it’s not  integral to the overall story. Like James Robinson in Mon El, Vol. 2: Man of Valor, it seems like Rucka had to fit a story very large in scope into a limited number of issues. While necessary, it’s ultimately a little sad. We’ve all seen Rucka do better than this, and I wish he could’ve gotten that chance.

RATING: 5.5/10

Image 1 from comicboxcommentary.blogspot.com. Image 2 from babblingaboutdccomics3.wordpress.com.

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