If you’ve not been reading Action Comics, any attempt at summation of this issue by me is going to fall very flat. We’re almost a year and a half into a grand, glorious storyline spanning several periods in Superman’s life, as well as the far future. Then there are the representatives from the magical Fifth Dimension, a coterie of villains, a smidgen of Lex Luthor … and this issue, Doomsday enters the fray. Yep, the beast who kinda sorta killed Superman is back, not quite the same as when we met him in the Nineties, but close enough to cement a version of the storyline into DC’s latest continuity revamp.
For about ten minutes, at least – writer Grant Morrison has built into the series a get-out clause, in that the major villain of the piece, Vyndyktvx, is screwing with time as he attacks Superman. So by the time he’s through, Superman will have died at the hands of Doomsday. Or maybe not.
If you’re new and intrigued, order a trade paperback – knowing DC’s glacial release schedule, it’ll likely be out just in time for next Christmas. If you have been following along at home, you’ll perhaps be intrigued to see Action Comics #16’s encounter between Lois Lane and her magical minx of a niece Susie; you may cheer as Lois and Jimmy show what they’re made of; you might wonder what the Legion of Super-Heroes are doing back in the storyline. All of these reactions were mine. I was also a little confused by the Blue Kryptonite Man, and a bit bored to see bandaged bad guy Xa-Du still around. But the quest for Mr Triple X – aka Mr Mxyzptlk aka Superman’s last hope – had my attention. There’s one more issue of this story, and Morrison’s tenure as writer, to go, and I’m excited.
It’s a busy issue, and while a moment or two went over my head, all is forgiven for the wonderful portrayal of one of the lost Legions, the Zero Hour/Archie version of the team. Morrison captures their teamwork and ingenuity wonderfully well, and I do hope that one day we see him write them as leads, rather than guests.
Rags Morales and Brad Walker share the position of penciller once more, with Andrew Hennessy and Mark Propst inking. I think it’s Morales and Propst handling the opening, with the adult version of the Legion fighting against the rule of the tyrant Universo. They make Saturn Woman, Lightning Man and co look suitably harried, while appropriately heroic. In a nice touch, a 3030 street scene shows the same statue we see in 21st-century Metropolis a few pages later (it’s the familiar Superman with eagle figure, revised to meet the silly demands of DC New 52 costuming). Walker and Hennessy (I think – please correct me if my eyes err) conjure up an especially lovely Lois Lane, and do wonders presenting Superman’s tussle with Xa-Du. Then there’s Vyndyktvx, superbly eerie and alien, like Lucky the Leprechaun crossed with a sunburnt spider – whoever drew that one, take a bow (Morales?). And likewise step forward Brad Anderson, for colouring that helps drive the drama, and Steve Wands, for super-solid lettering.
An earlier version of the Zero Hour Legion stars in this issue’s back-up (a slot the Legion regularly filled in the late Sixties), as we see the incident that led to the dark future of 3030. It’s a solid tale of triumph leading to tragedy, with that dose of irony Silver Age DC readers so loved >choke<. Sholly Fisch's script is tight and taut, and there's the bonus of seeing penciller Chris Sprouse and inker Karl Story return to the characters they illustrated at DC in the Nineties. Their clean stylings are well served by the retro-colours of Jordie Bellaire, who throws in a few zip-a-tone style effects every now and then.
All in all, another busy, brilliant issue, but one which will read better as part of a block than in single issue form. I can stand it – who knows when we’ll see such a sustained, smart run of Superman again.