Action Comics #977 review

Clark Kent is back at the Daily Planet and super-speed typing is once again the order of the day. Perry White has held the front page for Clark’s latest scoop, while Lois Lane is keen to get back home to son Jon.

There’s a change of plan. Lois and Clark are happier than ever, yet Clark can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong. Specifically, memories of life before the recent attack by Mr Mxyzptlk are fading for him and Lois. So while Lois leaves to tuck Jon into bed, Clark switches to Superman and flies off to his Arctic Fortress of Solitude. He has one request for the memory crystals that link him to the Kryptonian heritage he can no longer quite remember: ‘Tell me everything,’
Superman’s mind is blown.  It’s like he’s never virtually visited Krypton and the tableau in which he finds himself feels real, connects him to the world he should have known. Soon the scene changes, and he ‘meets’ his birth parents, Lara and Jor-El. He sees their fear that Krypton will soon die, hears their dreams for the child they hold, wants to reassure them. 
And too soon, they’re gone. The holographic display shifts to Earth, and baby Kal’s first meeting with two very special people. Time passes, and Superman is reminded of growing up in Smallville. Later, he sees his Daily Planet colleagues, and embraces the peace that arrives with knowledge of where he came from, physically and emotionally. But there’s darkness around the corner.
That’s because while Superman’s been taking a refresher course in his history, someone has been gathering up old foes, offering them a shot at revenge. 
Is this striking figure a new version of Brainiac? The letters making up the holographic being presumably represent computer code rather than anagrams (fingers crossed they’re not verses from the Koran). And is it coincidence that a new Superman Revenge Squad is on the horizon just as the Man of Steel is trying to solve the mystery of who could terrify Mxyzptlk? Diversion, or just another day at the Super-Office?
After the adventure of Superman (and Lois) Reborn I’m thrilled that writer Dan Jurgens is letting us see where this book is going, along with what’s in and what’s out. The origin is basically Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Secret Origin, with odd bits from other continuities, such as the presence of an older Kara on Krypton and the mixing of fashions from different tellings. While Silver and Bronze Age Jor-El and Lara will always be my classic versions, others are equally authentic; the important thing is how well Jurgens writes them, and guest artist Ian Churchill draws them.
The scene with the Kents is equally good – Jurgens is a master of down-home dialogue, while Jurgens, with colour house Hi-Fi, gets the American heartland of Kansas dead on.  
The moments with Metallo, Blanque and the mystery gatherer have an equally strong mood, but an altogether darker one which bodes well for the continuation of this story. 
Other things I liked this issue: Clark’s pinboard with its references to creators past; Superman wondering if he could send Jon away for his own good as Jor-El and Lara despatched him; baby Kal sucking on a dummy, his head, bald but for a cute kiss curl; Perry White as godfather; the ‘generally uneventful’ phrase hinting at untold stories of the rocketship trip to Earth. Oh, and does anybody else want a Kryptonian hoodie?
Is the idea that Jor-El’s funding extended to just one small craft new? I don’t recall that, but you know how memories can be erased by any passing magical imp. 
Dan Jurgens has written hundreds of comics, and The New World is up there with the best. His contraction of the awfully drawn out Secret Origin book is artfully done, and all the origin I need. And it’s beautifully drawn by Churchill, whether he’s giving us a big panel of Clark flying through Metropolis or Martha Kent’s joy at being given a chance to be a mother. 
The escape from Krypton image is an instant classic, with Hi-FI’s bold tones a significant part of that.  
Adam Kubert’s movie poster-style cover is as iconic as anyone could wish, a lovely piece. It’s coloured by Brad Anderson, who also works with Gary Frank on the gorgeously eerie variant. 
If anyone you know has been curious about current Superman stories, having heard the great reviews – well, this is the place to point them. It’s a new beginning, and a beautiful one at that.   

14 thoughts on “Action Comics #977 review

  1. What a difference a week makes! I *loved* this. I know Krypton and his origin is told over and over but certain re telling like this just hits me and reminds me why I love this story so much.

    I think issue is my favorite since pre Flashpoint. Bravo!

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  2. Wait…Lara's a blonde? BLASPHEMY!

    I found this issue's look at the destruction of Krypton more moving than most similar looks back. When Clark told Lara that she would embrace his adoptive parents…it really hit me.

    Also, I'm not sure if the Science Council's disagreement with Jor-El has ever been explicitly called out as a greed issue before. (“They'd rather count their riches than save their own people from the disaster to come.”) Every time we go back to Krypton, the retelling gets more and more pointed about the U.S. government's lax attitude toward climate change. Or at least that's how I read it.

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  3. I was disappointed. Read like filler. I guess maybe DC felt this issue was needed to clarify things for readers. But it's yet another re-telling of Superman's origin. Not sure why it couldn't have been condensed to a couple of pages. It really didn't add any new info to what we were given in the final issue of Superman Reborn. The best part was at the beginning with Perry White and seeing how the pre-52 Clark and Lois are now fully integrated and back to normal. Everything else was been there, done that. Maybe it's fun for Superman die-hards to read and recognize the little nods – this is from “Secret Origin,” this is from Byrne's revamp, etc. But what's the really big revelation? Krypton explodes, Clark is rocketed to Earth, saved by the Kents, makes friends, moves to the big city. We need a whole issue to remind us? Also I'm not a fan of Blanque. Jurgens is really pushing this creation as a major antagonist – up there with Zod and Metallo. But he feels very 90s to me – killing for “art”. Bleh. And I was turned off by the scene where the truck he is sitting in squishes some innocents.

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  4. It's a shame this wasn't for you. I do know what you mean about new details, I like it when that happens. Mind, sometime you get something weird and overcomplicated, like the recent business with a hologram the night Bruce Wayne had his big idea. Oh dear.

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  5. THIS IS SUPERMAN! He's back! This is best Superman issue in a decade! Seriously, the series started its downward death spiral with the New Krypton never-ending saga in 2008.) Dialogue was sharp and natural, characters on target (what few we actually see), art absolutely wonderful, and the incredible blend of all that's come before on Krypton (including a nod to Man of Steel with a bearded Jor-El).

    I'm so giddy! Granted, it's hard to botch the origin, but alas, that has actually been accomplished. Coming on the heels of yesterday's sad news of Greg Rucka leaving Wonder Woman soon, I couldn't be happier!

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  6. It's more a mix of the various versions. The one that introduced me to the character was the Timm/Burnett/Dini show, and even though in hindsight a lot of his subsequent appearances hinged on trying (and not really succeeding) to find ways to make him grapple with Superman to poison him interesting, he was a charming (in his own mind) mercenary man of the world. Maybe it was that he was played by Malcolm McDowell, but his best scenes were the ones where he just casually drawled with his victims like a Bond villain. I was also an easily unsettled wee lad, so his first episode as a cyborg and the dawning horror that he can no longer experience human touch or senses always chilled me.

    The point being, as much as he was often reduced to Kryptonite heart and fists, he was something a little bit more than just a mook's brain in a metal skeleton. It also helped that he had a grudge against Lois and Lex too, and it's a shame they didn't do too much else with that. Two of the most resourceful non-superhero humans in the DCU trying to fend off a cyborg who can hold his own against the most powerful man in the world. I feel like that should write itself.

    And while I've never read anything that was SPECIFICALLY about them, I've always been interested in the pre-Crisis Corben brothers. Roger Corben's orange and green look is, if nothing else, more interesting than the silver skeleton look. And it was mostly the use of his gimmicks in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow and that Justice things Alex Ross did, but I liked the idea of Metallo as someone who can be tricky when he puts his mind to it. The synthetic skin adds something, like he could assume any appearance he wanted and lure Clark (or anyone else) into a trap. I also liked the idea of him having a cyborg army and wish that had stuck around in subsequent versions. Don't know how you'd do it but I'll always remember the terrifying images of hordes of ordinary people outside the Planet casually dawning Metallo masks and scaling the walls.

    So I suppose my ideal Metallo would be British accented, perhaps command a drone army and, most importantly, orange.

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  7. Simon, thank you so much for the brilliant reply. I've never seen Metallo on the cartoon so I'm going to see if it's on Amazon Prime – I suspect it will be. Being a Bronze Age kid, my Metallo is Roger Corben; I eventually read the original tale and really enjoyed it, though Lois comes across as incredibly shallow even by Silver Age standards. The army of Metallos, now that was creepy!

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