Action Comics #1031 review

Many times, we’ve seen Superman looked on as a god by people he encounters. Rarely have we had such a fine visual representation of the feeling as on the first page on Action Comics #1031.

The composition and execution by artist Daniel Sampere, allied to the hazy colouring effects from Adriano Lucas, sell the idea of Superman as an unknowable figure. The irony is that he couldn’t be friendlier, by virtue of the dialogue given him by writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson.

Of course, the young woman he’s addressing can’t understand him; she’s from far, far away. And Superman has an idea as to where that is, thanks to her whispering ‘Haramethea ua Thalkis’.

The Super Family have brought the girl and several more extraterrestrial refugees to the Fortress of Solitude after saving them from their pursuers – the hordes of Warworld. Superman and son Jon didn’t find frustrating Mongul’s warriors easy, but they managed it. They couldn’t save the sick refugees’ ship, a real ‘hunk of junk’, though, and it plunged into Atlantean waters. Unsalvageable the craft may be, but it does have something of potentially great value.

Superman doesn’t argue, the Atlanteans are in the right. Neither does he fight the ‘Warzoon’ prisoners in the cells of Atlantis, despite what can fairly be described as provocation.

Back at the Fortress, Kryptonian science whiz Supergirl and investigative reporter Lois Lane try to work out where their charges are from. Jon, though, isn’t showing a great deal of commitment.

And in the hospital wing of the Fortress, one of the visitors wakes up.

Warworld Rising Part 2 amps up the adventure and intrigue as possible Kryptonians crash to Earth. Who are the strangers? What’s their relationship with Warworld? What will the Atlanteans do with a piece of the fabled Source wall?

Several things stood out this issue, besides the incredible art – the opening battle scene is epic. The addition of Supergirl at her wisest made me smile, we’ve not seen her since the Bendis run; the mystery as to why the young alien woman is panicky when she sees her chains have been removed; and the callback to Theta waves, a peculiar mental state that occasionally popped up in the Superman books at the turn of the century.

Best of all, there’s very little of Jon moping about Superman’s supposed death – and when he does show moodiness, it’s immediately picked up on by Lois and Kara.

Johnson does a great job with the personalities and interactions, and I hope he continues with a bigger cast as he drops the Superman book and concentrates on Action Comics, because when it’s solely Clark and Jon, things get far too introspective. We need Lois, we need Kara, we certainly need the Daily Planet crew and the return of Clark Kent as secret identity – take away the duality of the hero and Superman becomes generic. On the villainous front. Mongul appears before close of play, waxing lyrical in a wonderfully creepy way.

Someone who doesn’t get any dialogue yet still makes an impression is Krypto, due to Sampere ladling on the adorability. Did you spot him up there?

I’d also like to see more of Sampere’s confident Supergirl, and I have to highlight the highlights of Kara’s uniform, as engineered by Lucas – it looks like she’s wearing velour while Jon is in standard Spandex… this is quietly stunning work.

Letterer Dave Sharpe likewise acquits himself rather well, with his splashdown sound effect one of my favourite things of the issue – keep an eye out for it.

A story this impressive made me all the sadder that the Midnighter back-up strip is using up eight pages that could go to the main story. I’m a little ashamed to admit I couldn’t be bothered to read it this time. I just couldn’t face it – the story hasn’t grabbed me and the art is stylised in a style I don’t enjoy. I’m not saying it’s not good for what it is, it’s just not my cup of tea.

I do admire the cover by Mikel Janín, it’s slick, powerful, daring you not to buy this issue.

I liked the first chapter of Warworld Rising, this instalment is even better – can the creators up the ante further next month?

15 thoughts on “Action Comics #1031 review

      1. He is always hanging around to stop Kara from being a monster. Makes her look bad in comparison.

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  1. I’m so glad this issue is better than Superman! I’ll be reading it next week (as well as taking a closer look at your review) once I get my comics. Still making bi-weekly trips.

    But as for Midnighter, I can’t blame you. I think I like it better than you do (and definitely better than the Tale of Metropolis backups in Superman), but I’ll still be skipping the special that wraps up the story. (Will I check it out 6 months later in DCU Infinite? I doubt I’ll care by then.) That said, I never blame a backup for taking up pages; I figure the front creative team is doing as many as they can on a monthly basis. Sometimes I blame it for taking an extra buck out of my pocket, though.

    But it looks like Superman’s going down to a $3.99/no-backup book again with the August issue… maybe Action will follow suit in September? I don’t know quite how to feel about that. I love backup stories…I just want better ones! Give me a Krypto or Streaky spotlight! Or let’s see what The Atom or Firestorm is up to! Done-in-one, ten pages, something new every issue!

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    1. See, now those kind of back-ups would be fantastic. If they need an umbrella title it could be Tales of the DC Universe or something. Action Plus! But a different star every issue? Count me in. The digital Infinite Frontier Secret Files have been OK with their one-offs, but I’d love DC to put a veteran editor, with experience of shorts, in charge – Joey Cavalieri, say.

      Supposedly, non-US readers will finally get access to DC Infinite this summer. Roll on.

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      1. With regards to DC Access, I’ll believe it when I see it. I remember when they were originally announcing the DC Digital platform. I was at Fan Expo in Toronto and questions were asked at a DC panel about why we weren’t able to access the platform and when we would be able to and the DC staff told us all with a straight face that there would be an announcement shortly. tick tick tick tick

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  2. I agree. Backup one shots would be like dessert. Ongoing backups are simultaneous but unconnected serials. And while in reading many books I am certainly reading many unconnected serials each month, mentally it’s easier for me to keep each continuing story associated with one book.

    The hardest for me to follow right now is Batman: urban legends. Each of its stories is in a different position in its arc – part three of three part three of five part two or four etc. There’s really no way to ever dip back into the title once you’re finished reading it because no matter what issue you pick up it’s got 4 stories each at a different point in their arc. I think the book consists of two 22 page stories and two 10 page stories. One of the 10 pagers may be a one shot. It’s just a publishing phase dc is going through that I hope they stop.

    They do seem to persevere though with their worst instincts. An example is variant card stock covers – they used to experiment by putting out only a few a month, rotating the titles. Now, 100% of the variants have card stock covers no exceptions. So dc took a hated initiative and went all in. They also didn’t used to have a variant for every book – usually annuals never had variants. But now annuals always do have a variant..

    Another bad instinct is when DC started to do 1:25, 1:50, 1:125 incentive variant covers. Years ago they did that on rare occasions but now they do it with almost every book. Plus they’ve added another concept called team variant covers which are like shared retailer exclusive covers. All gimmicks.

    Which books have back ups right now? Batman, detective, action, Superman, wonder woman, justice league, joker. Green lantern so far is uniquely a single 40 page book but that’s long so it might conceivably switch to a two story format in its current size. Are there others?

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    1. I’ve not even tried Batman: Urban Legends, the mix of characters and storylines doesn’t appeal. I really don’t want any more Batman unless it’s far fro Future State. It’s a shame, I loved Tynion’s Detective Comics, but his Batman is too bad high concept for me. I get what you’re saying about trying to follow the individual strips, though.

      Not buying physical copies, I don’t have the choice of variants. Mind, I’m far too mean to pay an extra dollar or whatever for a picture I like a bit more!

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  3. Great issue for all the reasons you say. This was a ‘show us’ what Jon is feeling, not tell us issue. And we needed it.

    Sampere’s art is great. The opening battle sequence, the fight with the prisoners, and the way he conveys Superman’s presence is all top notch.

    But ‘Kara being her wisest’ was my favorite moment. Johnson could have had Lois say all that stuff after researching but letting Kara be smart and caring was wonderful. And good spot on the velour feel to her costume. I didn’t register it!

    I dont read the Midnighter stuff either. Pity.

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    1. I always love it when Kara is shown to know things her peers don’t, going back to when Kara pointed out the Warworld big picture to Clark in that first Mongul story. Every character should get such moments.

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  4. Finally read it, and I liked this one a lot — though I maybe could have used one less page of Warworld intrigue, and one more page of the Superman fam. But even the Midnighter story worked a bit better for me than usual.

    As for the Batman: Urban Legend discussion, I love anthologies! If it was a general DCU anthology, I’d probably be buying it. My preferred mix is actually ongoing stories of varying lengths (so one starts or ends in almost every issue), with always, ALWAYS, a done-in-one story. Regardless, I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading it on DC Infinite — I’ve discovered I really like Zdarsky’s writing!

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    1. Oh, I love anthologies too but more Red Hood and Harley Quinn? The current Outsiders? Grifter? They just don’t appeal, Rob. It’s not like we need more Bat-material. If we are to have some, I’d rather a bit of Brave and Bold or something equally timeless.

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      1. Or lead with Batman for the sales but put Gangbuster and Judo Master with him or something like that!

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