Action Comics #1036 review

Finally, after more than a year of foreshadowing and teasing, Superman’s quest to free the slaves of Mongul officially kicks off as he reaches Warworld territory. He’s greeted by a sight that would lift the heart of Vlad the Impaler.

As his associates in the new Authority marvel at Superman’s compassion, they’re confronted by a projection from one of Mongul’s minions. Its intention is to intimidate.

The Man of Steel isn’t put off, leading the team against a gang of Warzoons – warriors loyal to Mongol – before making a heartfelt promise to free the planet’s slaves. One being who isn’t impressed is Mongul’s most dedicated boot-licker.

And he’s not come alone…

Big battles, dramatic dialogue, intense art… there’s lots to enjoy in the latest issue of Action Comics. And I’ve not even laid out the superb opening scene, which introduces us to the new leader of the United Planets. As in the last Legion of Super-Heroes series, they’re a Durlan, so not necessarily what they seem.

Mind, neither is Superman, as writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson tries his darnedest to knit together the different presentations of his star as seen here and in the final issue of the Superman and the Authority mini-series. Colour me more confused than I was – the Grant Morrison-written SatA #4 had me thinking Superman was making himself look older to fool the Ultra-Humanite, but here we get a different story.

I’m not going to worry about it; the current DC Infinite Frontier set-up allows for a certain flexibility in storytelling. I’m sure Superman will be back to his youthful best once this storyline ends.

The creators having proved they can give us a classic Superman over the last several months, it’s the length of the storyline that’s my big worry. Kennedy Johnson has declared that he’s trying to give us something on a par with The Death of Superman, an epic with real impact. That’s an admirable ambition, but I hope that doesn’t mean the Warworld business will go on and on and on – when the original story came out the adventures of Superman appeared weekly, over five titles. Now we have two, and one is devoted to Superman Jr… about six months of this would be great, and then I want Superman back on Earth. That Future State story with Superman a gladiator on Warworld years in the future was good stuff, but not something I want to see again.

What I want is Kennedy Johnson‘s take on Superman’s Rogue’s Gallery and supporting cast; if we’re getting just one monthly ‘proper’ Superman title, let variety be the spice. And Clark Kent – Superman was never meant to be a hero 24/7, the best way this bound-to-be-epic could end is with the restoration of his secret identity as Clark Kent

For now, I’m happy to see how Superman and the Authority take on Mongul and a planet of battle-mad barbarians. The little we see of Midnighter, Enchantress and friends this time is great, but if they’re to be real co-stars, they need a bigger role. Yes, they should take their lead from Superman, but currently they’re very much junior partners. Still, this is just the first issue of the Warworld storyline, Kennedy Johnson likely knows the likes of Midnighter and Manchester Black – who’s singing a terribly rude song by the Dead Kennedy, perhaps a nod to Superman’s meeting with JFK in SatA #1 – won’t stay in the background.

Daniel Sampere’s art is the proverbial feast for the eyes – it’s big, bold storytelling featuring great-looking superhumans and delightfully weird aliens… Chaytil, who likely hacked off his own limbs to get a promotion from Mongul, is my favourite but his back-up team is also something – some things – to savour.

With colourist Adriano Lucas, Sampere conjures up an all-pervading atmosphere of menace, and Superman looks as godlike as ever. As for the Authority members, I especially like their presentation of Apollo; more, please.

There’s a lovely alien font on page one, and if that’s not the work of letterer Dave Sharpe, he can have his extra kudos for this tiny, but clever, point.

Or pointer, rather, one curved inwards! I love it.

The cliffhanger is pretty good, and I wish the story had continued into the remaining editorial pages. Instead we have another Tales of Metropolis, a souffle light affair concluding, far too easily, Guardian’s battle against an internet demon. It’s an efficient good-looking take on Tron from writer Sean Lewis and artist Sami Basri, but not something I want to be paying extra for. If we must have a Tales of Metropolis, the Daily Planet should star.

Colourist Alex Sinclair joins Daniel Sampere for the cover, a sharp poster piece.

Action Comics #1036 is a good start to the Warworld Saga, if subsequent issues keep up the pace along with the quality, brilliant. But let’s lose the back-ups.

6 thoughts on “Action Comics #1036 review

  1. It’s a good start, and I also hope there’s enough to do for the Authority members to get spotlights.

    It does look like when Lois said “The fading-powers look really suits you, Smallville” she didn’t mean it was a disguise. There are people who get gray hair overnight. Some of us just get bags under our eyes – which go away when we get better rested. Maybe Superman’s gray will go away if he ever regains all of his power. Or maybe a weaker, older-looking Superman is here to stay.

    Looks like the Sean Lewis Metropolis backups are done, at least through January. But it’s hard to say what’s coming next – DC has solicited the same exact contents for December’s #1038 and January’s #1039. I’ve checked around, and those solicits haven’t been updated anywhere. Anyway, it looks like Shawn Aldridge and Adriano Melo will be doing the backup story, and best I can tell the story is set up as “Meanwhile, Superman’s quest to turn the hordes of Warworld against their masters begins.” That’s vague, but I hope that means the backup will be telling a relevant tale set on Warworld. There are so many Authority characters, and it seems like the backups would be a great place to follow them.

    One peculiar thing I noticed: on the credits page, Siegel and Shuster are given credit for creating Supergirl. I know she doesn’t appear, but is there even a mention of her that might obligate a credit?

    Or hmmmm! Thao-La is mentioned. Hasn’t someone already speculated that she may be the next Supergirl? You or Anj or someone in your comments. It would be pretty wild if DC’S future plans for the Supergirl character already obligated them to give credit to the estate(s) when that character is used or mentioned, even before they give her the appellation. Or maybe the legal department thinks they should play it safe to avoid disputes with the estates later. But if so, what a massive spoiler.

    I wonder if Thao will ever visit Kara just to pick up some fresh vegetables from the Moon gardens.

    I also wonder what the official pronunciation of Thao is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no, that’s worrying about the Supergirl credit. Hopefully it’s just a left-over template deal… by all means let Thao – I say Thay-oh – survive the storyline and pop up occasionally, but I’m sick of substitute Supergirls.

      And I agree, back-ups to spotlight Authority members would make sense.

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      1. Great review.

        I say ‘Thou’

        I think the ‘Superman is dying like he was in the Authority miniseries’ isn’t perfect. (How could he meet Kennedy?) But it is better than nothing. It works 75% for me.

        But it does make me wonder if Superman has let on about how sick he is to Lois or Jon.

        I have a weird feeling about this projection person with their ‘I know phaelosians’ and sort of rhetoric. They don’t feel like a pure Mongul flunky. We’ll see.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As regards meeting Kennedy, he does tell Manchester Black in Superman and the Authority #1 that he’d been lost in time. It’s an obvious patch, but I’ll take it!

        I shall be watching the Destiny cosplayer carefully!

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  2. Oh, man, this issue was so good. I loved the book from the opening footnote. Johnson is so good with the cultural details — just giving the name of the Durlan’s language as Tialdurin (rather than lazily calling it “Durlan”) was the sort of touch I expect from him. And that leader’s turn from being gracious and conciliatory to angry and vengeful is handled so well! A great scene.

    And then we get to the main event — Superman & the Authority arriving at Warworld. I’m looking forward to seeing the group in action in the next issue, facing off against what look like impressive foes. (I loved how Sampere introduced them all in extreme close-up, making us FEEL the power & menace of these guys.)

    And thanks for pointing out Dave Sharpe’s special tail! That’s a great touch!

    Liked by 1 person

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