Action Comics #43 review

The continuation of the Hard Truth storyline opens with Superman attacking police officer Binghamptom. He’s been provoked by the authorities’ assaults on his neighbours, but it doesn’t look good as Jimmy Olsen captures everything on camera and automatically uploads it online. And then, Binghamptom stands revealed as one of the shadow monsters who have been bedevilling the newly outed and underpowered Superman.

There’s some question as to whether the gathered police will continue to stand with their ‘brother’ against Superman, but eventually the fight is over and Binghamptom escapes, leaving only a husk. Along the way, Superman’s neighbours Dante and Lee get hurt. The former is ‘merely’ beaten up by Binghamptom, but the latter has been stabbed in the shoulder by him. Superman gives the firefighter one of the shards of cape he’s been using as fist protectors cum knuckledusters.

The mayor urges Superman to leave the city, because he’s become a target, but he indicates that he’s staying, a decision vindicated after he discovers his apartment has been wrecked by alien-haters. He organises his neighbours into their own defence force, ready for what comes next.

Downtown, the mayor asks officers who were on the scene, including Binghampton’s loyal pal Angela Petruzzelli, to see her and give their side of the situation. And that’s when all hell breaks loose again…

One of the things about reviewing is that you have to try and look at something for what it is, not what you want it to be. I’ve posted previously about how I’d rather be reading a traditional Superman story than DC’s current spin on the character. So let’s forget that and just look at what writer Greg Pak and artist Aaron Kuder – they’re co-plotting – build with the Lego they’ve been handed.

A fast-paced character piece filled with mystery, that’s what. It’s good that Superman realises he really isn’t acting in a very Superman-like manner, brutally pounding his enemies with as much force as he can muster. I like that the storytellers introduce a character, have me feel one thing about her, then force me to do a 180-degree turn in the space of one page. Superman gathering his neighbours to ask them to look out for one another – he can’t really leave the city because that’s where the corruption is centred – makes for a heartwarming scene. Jimmy’s support for his pal Clark speaks well of him.

And here’s an interesting moment.

Handing his cape rag to Lee to use either because it’s a handy tourniquet or has healing powers is a mistake? The implication is that he’s feeling an inappropriate warmth towards her, attracted by her bravery and spirit. Lee may have a partner, he definitely does. OK, the fact that Clark never gives supposed girlfriend Wonder Woman a moment’s thought outside their shared comic shows the romance is just a longtime stunt, but still, Superman should be able to focus a bit better at a time like this. If he’s not feeling committed to Diana, he needs to do them both a favour and end it – don’t start messing others about, this isn’t the Sixties when it was OK to play Lois off against Lana.

And while I realise the Lois part of the overall Truth sequence is a focus of the sister Superman title, it’d be nice were she to cross Superman’s mind for even a second. Whether he currently likes or loathes her, she’s meant to be important to him.

Jimmy, as I said, is being a rock, but he really needs to alter his tech settings; journalism isn’t about posting every bit of visual or verbal information you pick up as it happens, it’s a matter of finding the story and presenting it in its best form. He’s meant to be a professional, not a ‘citizen journalist’ amateur.

Though that meeting with the neighbours was great, with Pak capturing the voice of Superman, the ‘you’re all Superman now’ is a bit Charlie Hebdo on-the-nose.

And the opening revelation of Binghampton as a monster is far too easy an out for a Superman who has lost control.

The art throughout is just eye-popping; Aaron Kuder to one of DC’s biggest assets right now, able to tell a story with power, economy and humour. Action scenes such as Superman’s punching across the street by Binghmapton, followed by Dante’s re-entering the fray, have real, no pun intended, impact. 

And quieter moments such as the Mayor’s chat with her aide, composed to fit the back and forth balloon into a single, not overcrowded panel, alongside insets of the fight aftermath, work equally well. The two-page meeting scene, while twice as big as it should be in a 22-page comic costing $3.99, shows Kuder’s willingness to take the time to give us recognisable human beings rather than repeated stock types. Cute baby!

Then there are the shadows closing in on someone we learn is an agent of darkness – another great composition by Kuder, smartly coloured by Tomeu Morey and lettered by Steve Wands.

The hands-down best scene is this one, as Clark looks at a smashed picture of him with his parents, and realises that while his image has been shattered (again, a bit on the nose), they’re OK. That’s my Superman. 

And the last page, which I shan’t reproduce, because it is the last page, is a dramatic gem.

Action Comics, while embroiled in a direction I’m not behind, continues to be the best Superman book DC is publishing. I wish the company would make it an out-of-continuity series featuring a traditional Superman – powers, trunks, supporting cast – because Pak and Kuder would likely produce timeless classics, but for what it is, it’s excellent.

Oh, and here’s a look at the DC Bombshells variant cover, a great image by Ant Lucia. 

19 thoughts on “Action Comics #43 review

  1. IMO the reason he thinks that he shouldn't give Lee his cape is because it's the last remnant of his Superman suit, his childhood, Krypton, and his parents. That was the cape he was wrapped in as a child.


  2. I thought he felt it was a mistake because he's getting more emotionally involved with his neighbors as Superman which makes them targets. In an earlier panel he thought to himself that he wanted to keep Lee out of this. So when he puts that piece of cape on her he is marking her if you will as a friend and a potential target? (I am using a question mark because I don't really know…)

    Meanwhile, I couldn't agree more with your comments about Diana. It is telling that when the writers aren't asked by the publishers to remember the relationship, it's as if it doesn't exist.

    I also agree that you have to review what is, not what we all wish was. The writers on this title have been given a world and set of circumstances which makes it hard to tell a coherent story. All the interference has caused so many plot lines to be dropped or forgotten or just introduced out of thin air. I think Pak is doing the best he can with what he has but I, like you said, would have loved to have seen what he could have done with a recognizable Superman.


  3. I also didn't feel any romantic vibe between Clark and Lee, IMO he was just taking care of a friend who was injured. But what do I know? Honestly it would be awful if DC decides to go in that direction during this arc. Clark is “still” in a relationship with Diana as far as I know and flirting or something else with another woman would be terrible. As much as I loathe the SMWW relationship I don't think Diana or any other woman deserves to be treated like that. And I totally agree with both of you, what;s the point of this so called relationship between Diana and Clark when other books flat out ignore it most of the time? Another way to continue the torture to fans?
    I picked up this issue because was curious because of the preview, but I am not a fan of Pak's run so don't think I will read future issues.


  4. You're probably right, Lee certainly seems straightforward and professional, and there's been no flirting. Blame my age – a woman is introduced with the initials LL and I assume one thing!


  5. I didn't get anything romantically inappropriate from that scene, either. More like amazement that something as iconic and meaningful as Superman's cape was being used to bind her wounds.


  6. I liked this issue a lot, although I agree that having Binghampton be a shadow monster was an easy out. But I loved that two-page spread. Yes, it's a lot of real estate, but it really took my breath away, setting Superman among real people in a way that few images have. It's so rare that two-pagers are used for quiet moments that when one is, and done this well, I really appreciate it.

    And like you, I loved the last page — right down to the great next-issue tease!


  7. HAHAHA! I didn't see any romance either. However, yes, the LL initials and being female (because of the era). We grew up when hook ups with women with LL initials was a given and in fact a fellow commenter of the blog, Keith, visited with us last weekend and we were talking about that.


  8. I took Jimmy's uploads to be part of the volatile situation (as we've seen here in the states QUITE a lot in the last couple of years), uploading the images quickly so that there's even if the police interfere with him, the shots are out there. I suspect that any intentional Ferguson, MO parallels were kept to a minimum out of respect for the deeper meanings and nuance of real-world rave relations, but even though Superman is only one alien, he has a community supporting him, a community also under attack.


  9. Hullo Rob, good to hear another perspective on that spread. Compositionally, I see it would be a tough ask to do that image in a portrait format, but still… Basically, you're right, but weren't these higher price books meant to have 24 story pages?


  10. As usual Mart, you and I are on the same page.

    I also felt that there was some smoldering by Superman for Lee. How can he not be astonished and impressed by this woman? And then when she says 'Clark', I think Clark would swoon … even just a little. I thought giving her the cape was a big deal, almost a 'letterman jacket' or favorite t-shirt moment, giving her something of utmost importance to him.

    And that 'town meeting' moment was my favorite part mostly because I wasn't expecting it. I thought Clark was going to leave to try to protect the people.

    I also think that Kuder's art is just perfect for the book and adds a ton of information and power to this book, clearly the best of the Super-books.


  11. Given the quality of the work PaKuder is producing (well, SwAnderson caught on!,), I'm amazed this pairing hasn't been poached by Marvel. I guess they really like Superman.

    (And if anyone hasn't read it, might I refer you to Anj's review over at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary,)


  12. Clark rocked back on his heels when he heard Lee call him by his name – a sweet moment amidst all the tension and craziness. Lee and Clark have a budding friendship with room for more if the editors don't get cold feet and press the Lois/WW button.


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