Action Comics #1042 review

In his quieter moments away from the Warworld arena, Superman has been keeping a journal. Back on Earth, Lois Lane is also writing.

As it turns out, Thao-La, a Phaelosian escapee from Warworld injured in battle after a Fortress rampage, is having fits and power surges as she slowly recovers. Lois intuits that a piece of tech containing ‘Genesis energy’, the Orphan Box, might be able to help.

Meanwhile, the depowered Superman is leading the resistance against a horde of thugs led by Mongul’s lieutenant, Teacher. Among the attackers is one of Superman’s own comrades, Omac, who has been turned by the promise of a return to life for their beloved Lightray. The stronger Omac can’t believe Superman is standing against them.

And that’s Superman. Never mind the odds, never mind the attitude of his foe, he wants the best outcome for everyone. I’ve said this a lot, but Phillip Kennedy Johnson really gets the Man of Steel, making him inspiring without coming across as unbearably preachy. He also writes a terrific villain, making malevolent mentalist Teacher truly fearsome in his attitude to the lives of others.

And then there’s Mongul himself. Artist Riccardo Federici ensures we don’t need words to understand how he’s feeling.

Brrrrr. Johnson and Federici are a great partnership, worldbuilding in words and pictures so that Warworld, after decades of floating around comics, finally feels like a place rather than an object. A place of punishment and pain but, thanks to the presence of Superman and allies such as Natasha Irons and Midnighter, hope too. The characters of supporting players such as Kryl-Ux also shine through, adding to the story texture. The stakes feel truly high, and I’ve no idea where the story is going.

The muscularity of Federici’s illustrations is something else – the warriors, the creatures… this Warworld is a realm that wouldn’t shame a Frank Frazetta Conan painting. The effect is completed by Lee Loughridge, whose colours evoke a dusty, twilight world. The Warworld Saga – this is part seven, and I’m nowhere near bored – is going to be a fantastic-looking collection. And Kennedy’s words look perfect on the page thanks to letterer Dave Sharpe – emphasis is important for dramatic exchanges and Sharpe gets it right every time.

The story ends on a very intriguing note, so bring on Action Comics 1043. Next month promises more pages for the Warworld story, as the Martian Manhunter serial ends here. I’ve been enjoying the story hugely, with all its callbacks to J’onn J’onzz’ Silver Age adventures. Sadly, writer Shawn Aldridge and Adriana Melo’s conclusion rather drops the ball. Our hero ends the conspiracy against him, but the villain’s motivations, while spelt out, make no sense to me. He’s unmasked but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to recognised him as one of the two similar-looking brown-haired cops, Certa and Fox, who have been around throughout, or if he’s someone we don’t know and a point is being made about the randomness of evil. It’s left unclear if the Zook kid with the rugby ball head who showed up is actually J’onn’s old alien sidekick of the same name in disguise. At the end, J’onn picks up a police badge, presumably from the one of the cops – is he going to take their identity?

Answers, as they used to say, on a postcard.

It’s such a shame, this serial was going so well, there have been good character moments, and J’onn’s powers are used in ways that show he’s not a Kryptonian clone, but, finally, Aldridge under-explains things. Melo’s art is again pretty good, the fight scene has impact, and the colours of Hi-Fi are, as always, great. Dave Sharpe letters, so no complaints there.

Should DC ever collect this story they could do worse than tweak the last chapter, clarify things. Or is it just me?

As usual, I’ll close with a few words about the cover. In this case, all you need is one.

Wow. Riccardo Federici has produced a knockout, full-colour image, with the logo positioning and treatment unusually effective. The cover is as gorgeous as it is powerful.

The Warworld Saga is going to go down as a Superman classic.

5 thoughts on “Action Comics #1042 review

  1. It is a classic, gorgeous and great storytelling. Everything you said

    Federici also draws a great-looking Lois (except for one awkward panel outside John Henry’s door). And I like how proactive and on top of things Lois is.

    I didn’t understand some parts of the backup that you did understand, and didn’t grasp much of the ending. Maybe you’re being generous. Aldridge hasn’t done a lot at DC, and like many of the new stable of writers, I think he tried to be somewhat oblique. And he succeeded.

    Plus, DC should not be encouraged in their backup fever!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m loving this Warworld story. I was just thinking that this is a rare modern comic that I might double up and buy the collection for, if it gets a nice, complete (maybe oversize?) hardcover. And to think how down I was on Kennedy’s first few issues!

    As for the Martian Manhunter conclusion, I read the final pages ENTIRELY differently. While I’ve got no idea who the person is behind the mask either, what I got out of the last page was that after this attack, J’onn decided that his multiple identities was a weakness, a series of falsehoods preventing him from engaging with society on any meaningful level. I think it’s John’s own badge that he’s throwing in the trash — abandoning his detective identity, and all the others — to just live openly as J’onn J’onnz for a while.

    I just read it once, so I might be wrong, but that’s the idea I took away from it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A collection would sit nicely on the shelf, and be a marvellous family heirloom. Do it!

      I agree that J’onn is off for a new life, but don’t remember any reference to his John Jones ID in this serial, so hadn’t made the leap that the police badge was his own – shamefully, I hadn’t even noticed the badge going into the bin in the penultimate panel. Well done you!


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