Superman and Superboy are above the earth again, battling space shrimps. They’ve seen them off once, but Jon’s time spent in the 31st century has told him his father dies as a result of their encounter with the beasties. The unwelcome visitors have arrived via an inter-dimensional rift, with the supposedly friendly scientists of Star Labs behind the incursion.
Jon is scared to death he’s about to lose his father, but Clark bids to reassure him.
Does Superman believe it? It’s hard to say, but whatever the case he’s not going to let Jon risk being trapped as he closes the breach. Jon, though, has a mind of his own…
The conclusion to Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s first outing as new Superman writer is better than the opener, with a good action scene as the threat of the space shrimps is put to bed. There’s still, though, too much wasted page space, with the opening splash followed by a very similar spread with words and pictures recalling the previous chapter’s opening. I get that Johnson is deliberately echoing the first part, but this feels more repetitive than additive: Superman and Superboy vs space shrimps as Clark ruminates on the ‘Golden Age’, when a child believes their parents are invulnerable.
Clark’s musings, it turns out, come directly from Pa Kent, farmer and philosopher. One day, I hope, a writer will come along and let Jonathan Kent be a human being again, rather than the walking fortune cookie he’s been for the past several years.
The resolution to the situation is agreeable, but the whole story could have been told quite happily in the 30 pages available in this month’s Superman – 8pp were spent on a Bibbo short.
Penciller Phil Hester and inker Eric Gapstur once again produce sharp, powerful art, with the final form of the space shrimps pretty darn terrifying. And the artists really nail the emotion in a post-fight scene on Earth. Hi-Fi handle the colours, Dave Sharpe the letters, and everyone is on top form.
The issue closes with the revelation that three aliens are watching from afar, and while one of them is a very familiar – over-familiar – foe, the two new guys are freakishly fresh.
The issue’s second story is the continuation of the Midnighter serial from the Future State Superman comics. I didn’t much enjoy that so wasn’t expecting to love this strip, which is again by writers Becky Cloonan and Michael W Conrad, and artist Michael Avon Oeming. Well, I enjoyed this slightly more, mainly because it’s around half the length. Otherwise, it’s more of the same, Midnighter chatting to robotic bad guy Trojan, and enjoying inflicting pain and fear. And very stylised art… has Infinite Frontier changed the race of Apollo (but not old photographs)?
Oh, we do learn something new. Apollo wears Mormon underwear.
I’ve enjoyed a fair few stories featuring Midnighter; heck, I bought the entire run of his last DC series. But he has no business being co-feature in a Superman book. There are many characters, Super and other, who could complement a Superman strip (heck, Supergirl could hang out here until her mini-series starts in June). Midnighter isn’t one of them.
This issue’s cover, by Hester, Gapstur and Hi-Fi, isn’t bad – we could do without Superman’s head being lost under the logo – but it falls too much on the ‘lie’ side of ‘not strictly representative of the issue’s contents’ for my liking.
Overall, I’d say this issue of Action is as good as last month’s Superman; there the lead is the weakest of the two stories, here the position is reversed. Let’s hope next issue is all win.