Action Comics #978 review

Superman continues his trip into the past via the Fortress of Solitude’s crystal collection (not available on QVC). Having been told by Mr Mxyzptlk that his history was altered, he’s out to learn what doesn’t match his memories. 
The problem is, that as his memories were tweaked, reality was tweaked too, so what he sees is what he recalls. Emotional connections are intact, so he’s none the wiser by the end of the issue.  While the reader notices that Jackee, the reporter introduced by writer Geoff Johns a couple of years back, was now at the Daily Planet before Clark, likewise Steve Lombard with ugly moustache, for Clark it’s history. 
This concluding part of a two-issue primer on Superman’s life takes us from his first day ‘on the job’ to the recent Mxy encounter, via his exaggerated death, marriage to Lois and the birth of Jon. 
As of now, Jonathan and Martha Kent died at the same time; he donned the New 52 costume just after his ‘resurrection’ post-Doomsday; he had Batman and Wonder Woman present at Jon’s birth to keep enemies at bay; he and Lois moved to California as a safe space for the baby to spend his first few years, then back east. 
All the detail might be exhausting were it not fascinating to this old fan of super-minutae – writer Dan Jurgens elegantly blends Superman eras from the Eighties onwards, while setting the scene for new adventures. 
But while Superman really can’t say anything is wrong, and he’s certainly in a happy place with Lois and Jon, the nagging feeling doesn’t go away. Finally, it becomes manifest. 
This is new. When Mr Oz previously unveiled himself to Superman he was content to be enigmatic, and since then he’s stayed resolutely behind the scenes. Now he’s attacking the Fortress, wrecking something that means a lot to Clark. Warning, or declaration of war? It doesn’t matter, the result is the same – one angry Superman. 
On the Moon, meanwhile, the mystery being who last issue gathered the Eradicator, Metallo and Blanque shows himself. That’s a last-page reveal so me no spoilee, let’s just say that traditionalist Supergirl and Superman fans will likely approve. 
The only thing I don’t approve of is this panel. 
Never mind the eradication of The Kid, Kon-El, unless I missed an earlier continuity tweak, Steel never claimed to be Superman, though Lois considered the possibility that Superman’s soul had somehow taken over John Henry’s body. Unless the idea comes up again, I’m just going to assume this is Jurgens having a forgetful moment, rather than the reality rewrite, as I can’t imagine how it might improve Steel’s legend.  
Last issue’s Ian Churchill art was a gorgeous surprise, and I’m disappointed he’s not around this time. That said, this issue’s pencil and inks team of Carlo Barberi and Matt Santorelli produce good work, packing the panels with villains, heroes, friends and family, while keep the storytelling not just legible, but stylish. House of colour Hi-Fi add extra layers of goodness, with the entire art team – and I include regular Superman letterer Rob Leigh – particularly popping in the space-set scenes. 
Illustrator Gary Frank and colourist Brad Anderson continue their run of gorgeous alternate covers with a variation of this issue’s opening scene… imagine how great this would look with the classic costume seen within. The regular cover is an action-packed image from Andy Kubert, again coloured by Anderson; it’s a little busy – the removal of the ever-ugly Doomsday would certainly help, and the choice of dull sludge for the background doesn’t help. 
Action Comics #978 is a treat for the detail-oriented, illuminating parts of the Superman Legend while deepening the overall DC Rebirth mystery and setting up a run-in with the new Superman Revenge Squad. Coupled with last fortnight’s issue, it’s a splendid way into the current stories. 
**** 4/5

8 thoughts on “Action Comics #978 review

  1. Should Legion fans give this a look? Was there a Superboy? Did young Clark have friends from the future? Or is it not mentioned at all, while the creators wait to figure out what's going on with the Legion.

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  2. Honestly, this issue gave me a headache. The fact that Superman's history has been rewritten still again and he doesn't even remember is groan-inducing. DC also continues their trend of telling fans: “Those stories you liked, you paid money for and were emotionally invested on? They don't count. They never happened.”

    I find hilarious DC revisits over and again the Death of Superman. Clark doesn't talk about standing up to Machester Black, finding his long-lost cousin, adopting Chris Kent (what happened with that story, by the way?) or his greatest battles against Zod and Brainiac. He only thinks abbout Doomsday. You would believe that was the only Superman story written after the reboot. We were told the Crisis would streamline the universe and the reboot would lead to better Superman stories, and the Pre-1985 stories were silly, puerile garbage deservedly consigned to oblivion. And still The Death of Superman and its two sequels are the only 90's Superman stories that most of people remembers.

    You know how a alarmingly large number of fans think the only thing Supergirl/Batgirl/Phoenix did was getting killed by the Anti-Monitor/getting shot by the Joker/killing herself? Apparently, the only thing Post-Crisis Superman did was getting killed by Doomsday.

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  3. They're always going to reference Doomsday as that was such a big touchstone of the Superman saga in the 90s. But it's not like they didn't reference tons of other stuff, even if only visually – including Manchester Black, who's right there of the spread with Doomsday and tons of other villains. And we know he still has lots of history with Kara.

    Jon being treated as their first shot at parenting by Lois and Clark means Chris Kent is most likely gone, at least until someone comes up with a story for him. This is comics… as I said, I'm not please Kon has gone, but he'll be back. They all come back.

    I couldn't agree more about Babs and Jean.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  4. I figure they don't want to tie themselves down to something yet. Keep all their options open until they have a good solid plan for the team. Which is fine.

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  5. Man, I'm glad that's over.

    From a historical standpoint, it was a lot of continuity, skillfully woven together. But on the other hand, it was pretty much a clip show — a framing sequence that let us relive all of Superman's greatest hits. I guess it's a necessary evil, especially to establish some history for future creators. But ultimately, it was a $3 look at things we mostly already knew. I'm sure there's a creative team somewhere who'll make some storytelling hay about Jon being born in the Fortress rather than the Batcave, but I'd rather have watched Clark foil bank robberies all issue. I think Jurgens has a gift for telling fun Superman adventures, whatever the stakes. But Superman watching home movies is pretty dull. (Great Gary Frank cover, though.)

    Whatever happened to the New 52 Superboy? He hasn't been seen in a while — did he die or get sent to another dimension or something?

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  6. That's fair, $3 is a lot for a clip show, but it did clear some things up, and give us some new stuff as regards the Revenge Squad. I guess I'm an easy mark!

    I think Superboy just had a team-up with Superman and Supergirl, and was never seen again.

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  7. Luckily Jurgens has built up a *lot* of credit with me on this book, so I'm not going to drop it for an off issue or two…and I can recognize that it's a necessary evil. And I'm certainly happy for the Revenge Squad pages — they'll help us jump right into it next issue.

    This came at a dicey time, though, as I'm starting to let certain Rebirth books fall from my usual rotation. Justice League Europe's initial storyline is lousy, and the main JL book just spins its wheels. Trinity never really geared up, and even the otherwise delightful Super Sons feels inessential — I like the interaction between the leads, but the Kid Amazo storyline didn't grab me. So I've been in a mood to keep money in my pocket lately…but Action Comics is safe, because I know Jurgens will bring the goods next issue.

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