Review - DC Rebirth: Action Comics #957
Preface to say I haven’t picked up a monthly Action Comics or Superman comic in quite some time. I had started to at the beginning of DC’s rebooted New 52 universe but I fell off as I wasn’t interested in the development of the Superman character and the writing between Grant Morrision in Action Comics and George Perez were often conflicting. Morrison focused on the character’s reimagined origin donning a t-shirt and blue jeans while Perez’s Superman focused on the present in full ‘S’ shield garb. I tried getting into the series again once Greg Pak took over as I liked his take on Hulk and Magneto for Marvel and for a time, I was hooked. Pak made Clark Ken more relatable, as the naiive, kindhearted farmboy from Kansas he should be and his Superman portrayed as gentle as he is powerful, often abstaining from violence as much as possible. I fell off the book again when the DOOMED crossover took over because crossovers often obstruct a writer’s creative vision more for sales than for story and I didn’t really want to read yet another recycled Doomsday story.
Now comes DC’s restructuring of the New 52, dubbed ‘Rebirth,’ with implications of the Pre-New 52 world colliding with the current run at the hand of possibly none other than Dr. Manhattan from Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbon’s acclaimed Watchmen graphic novel. At the end of Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan, the man who is a literal god, decides to leave his Earth to create a better one and the implied result of this is the creation of the New 52. Because of this (maybe?), the Pre-New 52 Clark Kent/Superman became a part of the New 52 universe with his world’s Lois Lane in tow and during their time in the New 52 universe they’ve managed to keep their identities hidden as well as even raise a son together. Also during their time in this world, Pre-Clark’s kept an eye on New-Clark, championing his decisions as this world’s Superman and protector of Earth. However, the New-Clark recently passed away as a result of the lengths he went to to reclaim his lost powers during the end of Greg Pak’s run. Of course, what would a world be without a Superman so Pre-Clark dons the red and blue uniform for another go around as the one true Superman, but is he the Superman readers hope him to be?
The issue opens with armed gunmen holding hostages in downtown Metropolis until an ‘S’ shielded and caped Lex Luthor rushes in and turns them over to the police, proclaiming that in New-Clark’s absence, he will act as Metropolis’s savior. Oh yeah, Superman’s identity was exposed in the New 52 universe so everyone knows that Clark Kent is Superman, finally. Meanwhile, Pre-Clark, now with full lumberjack beard, and his family are moving into what appears to be a farmstead upstate and readers are treated to his and Lois’s child, Jon, questioning Pre-Clark about the worlds he’s seen and their inhabitants he’s met, meaning Jon knows full well he’s half kryptonian and that he possibly has powers of his own. There is also a few nice panels of Pre-Clark and Lois explaining to Jon that while he and his son have abilities, the world they now belong to is not their own and that because they have these abilities, they shouldn’t use them to take the easy way out. The family session is sadly interrupted when out of the corner of his eye, Pre-Clark catches the news stream of Lex Luthor’s speech as the new Superman and immediately shaves to suit up and face Luthor but to the reluctance of Lois, who’s worried that Pre-Clark may be recklessly rushing into a situation without knowing all of the facts.
There was a lot of promise in the beginning of this issue: Lex taking up the mantle of Superman, Pre-Clark raising a son in the countryside with Lois, but it all comes to pieces in a violent fashion akin to Batman v. Superman, with a punch-first-ask-questions-later mentality. It’s interesting as this is the return of veteran Superman writer Dan Jurgens, who famously wrote and pencilled the the Death of Superman issue. Instead of re-introducing Pre-Clark at a slower pace to the masses or developing Lois and their child, Jon, Jurgens throws that to the wayside in need of mindless violence. Without even rationalizing or analyzing the situation, Superman judges Lex upon his immediate appearance on TV which even Lois calls out as unfair as they’ve investigated him before, finding nothing, while at the same time mentioning that Clark’s hotheadedness could lead to his family being exposed to the world. This Superman ignores that warning, apparently willing to risk that for a fight. While the second issue has yet to be released it is possible that Jurgens is trying to paint this Superman as a little more villainous and brash in nature but the problem with that is New-Clark was introduced in the same manner, always acting without thinking. This issue presents an aged Superman, a man who’s fought countless battles and seen numerous worlds, who is best friends with Batman, and he should know not to rush blindly into a fight but he does so without regreat. that this Superman is portrayed purposely to be the villain because the Lex Luthor in this issue comes off believably heroic, almost annoyingly so but there isn’t a moment where he isn’t believable or he’s putting on a facade. Of course, with this being Lex Luthor it could all be a facade but he and Superman could have resolved their quarrel without fighting. The appearance is another reason this felt so escalated and rushed. First issue out and they’re already introducing Doomsday even though Doomsday was last seen during the Doomed crossover a couple years ago. The threat of this character diminished long ago and now DC’s running him into the ground.
What the issue lacks in writing, it more or less makes up for in art. While the art isn’t bad, it’s actually quite serviceable, but there isn’t anything that stands out except for the three splash pages of Luthor in his suit, Pre-Clark suited up and flying off, and Doomsday masked in fire at the cliffhanger ending. Patrick Zircher’s art is very reminiscent of Gary Frank’s in some aspects with room to grow. His early panels are quite detailed but as the book continues, there’s a diminishing return. The fight at the end feels a little rushed and some of the minute details Zircher has a liking for suddenly become chunky, especially one panel of Lex punching Superman through a wall. Even the colors which are more vibrant in the beginning fall flat towards the end of the issue. The return of Superman should be bright and triumphant but it feels ho-hum like the rest of the issue.
There is a lot of progress and improvements Jurgens could make in a second issue and if the person picking up this book is interested in a Superman story that pulls no punches then this is the right book for them; however, if someone’s looking for a more negotiable, mature, and passive Superman, they should probably steer clear.
Written by Jacob Johnson on 7/14/16