Action Comics #1037 review

Superman and the Authority are on Warworld to free the slaves of the latest tyrant in the Mongul line. The thing is, they don’t seem to want to be rescued.

While Superman takes on the master, his allies face up to the servants of Warworld.

Once again Action Comics lives up to its name, as super-powered battles dominate the book. Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson does a marvellous job showing how the latest Mongul isn’t intimidated in the least by Superman. Bring it on, is his attitude – even were the Man of Steel at full power, which he most decidedly is not, the warlord would be right in his face.

As for his minions, that big mother isn’t even the scariest. There are some splendid encounters between Apollo, Midnighter, Lightray, Omac, Steel, Enchantress, Manchester Black and the members of Mongul’s monstrous honour guard. And at least one hero pays the heaviest of prices.

New artist Miguel Mendonça choreographs the dance of death with real skill, providing powerful layouts – that pic above of Superman coming in from the side of the panels isn’t something I’ve ever seen, and it is amazing. The movement within the panels is supplemented by clever curving of frames within pages, adding to the sense of motion, while Mendonça constantly gives us dizzying perspectives. The artist also scores when it comes to showing the confusion and pain of battle on our heroes’ faces.

The story isn’t all biffing and bashing – there’s a compelling cutaway to the meeting chamber of the United Planets, where the Durlan chief we met last month runs rings around their fellow representatives.

The demonisation of refugees couldn’t be more on point for our times and it’ll be interesting to see where Kennedy Johnson goes with this aspect of the story. As for the sly Lord Premier Thaaros, they bear watching closely.

Adriano Lucas conjures up a cosmos of convincing colour, while Dave Sharpe’s file of fonts is put to great use for the various alien scumbags.

As I’ve said previously, I hope this storyline doesn’t go on for months and months and months – Superman without Metropolis doesn’t feel quite right – but for now, The Warworld Saga is a great read. It’s intense, good-looking, packed with intrigue and fun characters… I’m all in.

Recent Action Comics mainstay Daniel Sampere sticks around to provide another powerful cover, coloured by Alejandro Sanchez. Superman and Mongul really don’t like each other, do they?

The recent Tales of Metropolis strip is replaced this month by a new back-up starring one of my absolute favourite heroes, the Martian Manhunter. He’s proven adaptable down the years, starring in detective strips with a side of super-powers, straightforward superhero fables, serious and silly team tales, intense Noir yarns, loopy sci-fi… what’s next?

Courtesy of writer Shawn Aldridge, it seems like a blend is the order of the day. Which makes some sense, as the shapeshifting J’onn J’onzz is keen to blend in with the people of his new home, Metropolis, trying various bodies on for size. Behind closed doors, though, J’onn can be himself. Whoever that is.

Elsewhere, a Metropolis PD detective ponders a different case.

Missing kids, stolen artefact pieces… could the mysteries by connected? I’d bet on it, but for now J’onn’s focus is on the museum riddle, and an item that goes all the way back to his House of Secrets series in the Sixties.

Aldridge is obviously a Martian Manhunter scholar, not only referencing a certain troublesome statue but naming that detective after J’onn’s first artist, Joe Certa And calling his apartment complex after one of our hero’s old towns. And having J’onn’s flat number be the same as the issue of Detective Comics in which he debuted… what have I missed?

I like this J’onn, introspective but far from glum, and I can’t wait to see where Aldridge takes the longtime Justice Leaguer. Maybe to the Daily Planet offices? There has to be a reason J’onn is in Metropolis other than to justify his being in Action Comics… he has form when it comes to impersonating other heroes, perhaps he could take up the slack as Superman and Clark while Jon Kent is going through his ‘Greta Krypton’ phase.

More likely, J’onn’s going to dig out John Jones’ old detective hat and coat and assisted our cop – in fact, I’d say it’s a dead Certa (sorry).

Adriana Melo doesn’t show up nearly enough at DC Comics, so it’s great to see her work here – J’onn is attractively buff, the regular folk look natural, Double Stuff the cat is very cute (dig those love hearts above moggy and Martian!), and the compositions are clever. For example, this downshot is a great depiction of everyday motion.

Hi-Fi’s colours are always a treat – details such as the cat’s fur and J’onn’s skin tones really add to the reality. And Dave Sharpe’s letters are the icing on the creative cake.

Action Comics has been on a roll lately with its lead strip, and with the arrival of the Martian Manhunter, I know what the comic’s been missing. Don’t you miss this superb issue.

9 thoughts on “Action Comics #1037 review

  1. I really enjoyed this issue, and you point out a lot of great moments in the art. And the Martian Manhunter backup is head-and-shoulders better than what we’ve gotten in recent months. (Even though in the police station, J’onn wasn’t identified in the script or art, which seems like a rookie mistake to me.) And am I correct in assuming J’onn *is* detective Certa? (Rather than being detective Jones?)

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    1. I don’t think he’s Certa, given J’onn has his attention on the museum business. If he knew about a child abduction case that would be his priority.

      Now you mention it, I see what you mean about not identifying J’onn. Maybe they thought him standing over his logo would do.

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  2. Oh, wait — so J’onn’s not in that detective scene at all? I didn’t realize that at all. Since J’onn’s a shapeshifter who is often a standard-issue white-guy-detective that looks just like Certa, I think preceding the police station scene with the line “Maybe daddy will be working tomorrow” set me off on the wrong foot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know… if this was a Superman story, or Green Lantern we wouldn’t be wondering, we’d just accept it was a new character. I think that despite his predilection for different IDs, if he presents and a dark-haired detective, he’ll go by John Jones.

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  3. You’d think so — especially with our history with the character. But when the previous scene ends with “Daddy will be working tomorrow” and on the page turn we see a) it’s tomorrow, and b) people are at work, I think it’s fair to assume that the character who said he’d be working tomorrow would be in the scene. With any other character, it’d just be an awkward transition, but since J’onn’s a shapeshifter, we’re left guessing.

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      1. Honestly, upon a reread, I think *you’re* right — John’s not there. But I think the storytelling could have been better handled to make us certain it’s a cutaway with new characters.

        I used to want to be a comic book editor. (And fingers crossed, I’ll get that chance, for a friend, in the coming year.) But special cases like this — making it crystal clear that the shapeshifter main character ISN’T on a given page — could drive a person mad.

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