Action Comics #1043 review

The Warworld revolution is underway, with Superman and his ragtag bunch of rebels determined to dismantle alien dictator Mongul’s evil kingdom. And today the target is the headquarters of Mongul’s mad scientist lieutenant Teacher, as he bids to turn the Authority’s resident mentalist, Manchester Black, into a weapon of mass destruction.

Elsewhere on Warworld, another Authority member, Apollo, is in thrall to Mongul himself.

And after Black has been rescued, and the Mongul minion known as Orphan captured – or perhaps rescued – the rebels share information.

Of course, rescuing June Moone and Apollo isn’t going to be easy, and who should Superman and friends try to free first? Whatever is decided, it’s not going to happen this night, giving the bard Byla time to enlighten Superman as to the universal nature of stories.

Goodness me, this issue is so full of stories it might be called Expositon Comics. That’s not a complaint, though, as writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson continues world-building in fine style. Actually, make that multiverse building, as we begin to see the scope of the current Mongul’s ambitions. While the parallels between baby Kale-El and Moses have long been recognised, the context of Superman’s quest to free the Phaelosians – an offshoot of the Kryptonian people – makes the mapping even more precise.

My favourite sequence this issue shows Mongul having a wee chat with a representative of the United Planets. Safe to say, he has his own style of diplomacy.

In terms of plot surprises, we learn that despite the name, the Orphan Box that’s been a story element may not be related to the Mother Boxes of New Genesis… it’s obvious in retrospect.

Recent issues of Action have had Tales of Metropolis and Martian Manhunter back-up features, but this time the spotlight character is Mongul. But not the current one – it’s the original, the first member of the family to use the title.

You can guess what happens next – and doesn’t that yellow jewel on the alien look familiar?

It’s an interesting little tale from Johnson and artist Will Conrad, showing that despite umpteen generations having passed the Mongul family haven’t evolved one bit, bunch of thugs the lot of them! I wonder if it’s significant, though, that the short is titled ‘Myth of the Mongul’. How many of the details are true? And how the heck does Byla know so much about, well, everything? I wouldn’t have recognised Conrad’s art here as he tweaks his approach, I think, to fit the feel of current Action stories. It’s pretty darn good.

Conrad also contributes a few pages to the main chapter, in another story from Byla, one including that familiar DC phrase, ‘there came a time that the old gods died…’ Safe to say, the Warworld Saga is getting bigger with every issue.

The illustrations for most of the issue are by regular artist Riccardo Federici, working with colourist Lee Loughridge. The work is powerful, sinewy, a feast for the eyes, with Superman and the Authority surrounded by aliens both humanoid and not. There’s always something fascinating to look at, and the storytelling is sharp (though the ComiXology guided view goes awry on one spread of panels). The colours on Federici’s work have the quality of coloured pencils work, it’s a refreshing look. The tones are more intense on the sequence about the old gods, let’s say… bejewelled.

Loughridge also works on the back-up, doing double duty alongside letterer Dave Sharpe, who produces nicely dramatic work throughout.

All in all, this is another great issue, capped by Dale Eaglesham’s wonderfully bombastic cover – I miss the days when we saw Eaglesham’s work monthly at DC… bring back Secret Six! Or even give him an issue or two of this series when Federici needs a break

2 thoughts on “Action Comics #1043 review

  1. I’m still on board with this, but this issue sure did get heavy into the exposition, and at times lost me. Between the main story and the backup, I can’t tell if Warworld existed and one of the 7 aspects of Olgrun got buried there, or if Warworld was created as the “device” to cloak that aspect… and can’t tell if or how the jewel that Guldejo took off the alien god relates to that flame aspect. It looks similar, doesn’t it? But that wouldn’t make sense. If all the Monguls have been searching in vain for this thing, they wouldn’t be already wearing it.

    I also don’t know what’s going on in the last 2 pages. What world is being attacked? The inhabitants don’t look like those we saw earlier.

    It’s not a surprise that guided view was broken on one of the 2-page spreads Frederici drew. He went against convention on both of them. The convention is: if any panel crosses the “staple”, the whole 2-page spread is read as if it’s one wide page, meaning you should read left to right straight across the two pages. But in both these cases, the reading order is actually the conventional left page, then right page.

    BTW I said once that I would alert you to a DC “montage” page. There’s an example of one in this issue: the first Conrad page telling the story of Olgrun the god. It’s not a great example of the style – the orange, blue, purple, pink and green/yellow sections are for the most part abruptly delineated, rather than being blended into each other, or are blended poorly (part of Olgrun’s orange-colored claw-like hand is oddly colored with the purple that is used for the panel where he impales his daughter). This is a pretty lousy-looking montage; I’ve seen many where the various scenic elements are blended very subtly by the colorist, so that it can be difficult to tell where one “panel” ends and another begins. In any event, as I think I mentioned before, this is a style I’ve seen at DC (less often these days, though) that I have never seen used at Marvel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some very good questions! At one point I thought that the alien ‘god’ was the device containing the aspect of Oldgrun, but he was flesh and blood. I think Warworld existed in its pre-Warworld form, and that the aspect was thrown down there by the old gods, deep within the planet. Necropolis,the shifting ‘puzzlebox’, would be the device containing it… but then, how was the god guy there already after it made planetfall? Is the jewel on his body echoing what he’s looking for, a guide? Once worn by Monguls does it compel them to make Warworld ever bigger, to make the aspect tougher to find?

      I think that was a second world Mongul’s forces were attacking. Enough excuses, the Justice League should take out the dynasty once and for all.

      Top insight into Federici’s spreads…. I do think there are far too many non-spread spreads these days, ie panels doing across two pages for no reason at all. Bendis was crazy for them.


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