It’s just another day in the Warworld neighbourhood and captive warlords are swearing fealty to its ruler, Mongul. Sidekick Chaytil isn’t impressed.
On Earth, Superman’s brief fight with a giant robot provides the Atom and Batman with statistics to argue over.
In the Middle East, Jon Kent tells Damian Wayne what’s on his mind.
And in Kandor, Lois Lane learns something new about her husband’s homeworld.
The peace of the bottle city is interrupted by a job for Superman.
New series writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson delivers his best script yet. In just five scenes he sets up what looks to be an epic adventure. While I’m not thrilled with the upcoming change to the Superman Family status quo, as revealed by DC last week, if the quality of Action Comics stays this high, I’ll be happy.
Johnson gives up on the first person narration he’s used to date, so banishing the maudlin tone; while there are still heavy pointers towards – at the very least – something bad happening to Superman, the overall feeling is positive. For example, there’s Batman pretty much writing off his best friend, but the Man of Steel bats away the negativity.
The art also helps – Daniel Sampere’s images of Supeman in flight are joyous – the sense of motion, the grace, the power, the freedom. And the way Superman slowly lowers himself into Ray’s lab in the image shown is a lovely touch.
Sampere’s Superboy and Robin – their previous age gap flipped, with Jon 17 and Damian 14 – also look tremendous, their emotions convincingly etched. Good on Johnson or editor Jamie S Rich, whoever managed to coordinate this issue so nicely with this week’s Robin #1 launch, what with Damian in his new suit and in the Middle East. And if it’s all just coincidence, that’s good too!
Johnson definitely deserves credit for the creepy Warworld scene, starring the aggressively cringing Chaytil and a sackful of surprise gifts for Mongul. And then there’s the description of Kryptonian culture, which is as wonderful as anything I’ve ever read about the planet (I assume Fortress of Solitude curator Kelex Humptied the place back together after the unfortunate business with Rogol Zaar). Joining Lois, Clark tells her about Batman’s fears, but, in an especially beautiful panel, she’s not having it.
The ‘only constant’? Has someone been reading Doomsday Clock #10?
And again, how lovely are those visuals? Sampere is partnered with colour artist Adriano Lucas, who dazzles throughout; I don’t doubt Sampere’s uncoloured original is terrific, but here’s a panel of Superman and bad robot as finished by Lucas.
And that’s a heck of a rendition of DC Comics’ favourite sound effect.
The lettering, too, is a boon, with Dave Sharpe adding extra value everywhere from the title treatment to Chaytil’s sinister stylings.
The whole creative team is on fire; if they stick together awhile, and Superman isn’t shuffled offstage after the Warworld storyline, we could be in for a great run.
Midnighter again fills the new back-up slot, continuing the Trojan serial that began in the Future State Superman issues. There’s a nice scene with our hero’s partner, Apollo, but overall this is dragging. It’s a shame, as writers Becky Cloonan and Michael J Conrad, and artist Michael Avon Oeming are all on good form.
The cover by Mikel Janín is stunning, with a godlike Superman yet straining against a Warworld battleship, the fiery rocket trails giving the familiar red and blue extra pop.
While I’m not keen to see Superman on Warworld for an extended period – I had enough of that in Future State – I loved this issue, which seems to be heading there. Still, Johnson may be planning a swerve away from the obvious. Let’s hope so.