Action Comics #1044 review

Superman’s struggle against galactic monster Mongul continues in Warworld Revolution part 2, the latest chapter of Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s ambitious story. Having escaped Mongul’s cells, Superman and his allies are moving around the Necropolis, the ever-changing city below Warworld. Last month Superman and Authority colleagues Midnighter and Natasha Irons, along with fellow Warworld prisoners, rescued psychic anti-hero Manchester Black. They also freed one of Mongul’s minions, the child known as Orphan, from its casing, the robotic Darling.

The baby’s powers turn out to be connected to a Justice League mission during which the Source Wall – one of the universe’s fundamental forces – was broken, releasing untold energies. The child was still in its mother’s womb as she and her partner travelled through space to their homeworld of Valeron.

Oh yes, there was also a ‘Technofamiliar’ – a robotic pet – at the side of the parents as they face their end in a way reminiscent of Jor-El and Lara as Krypton exploded.

In the now, Superman and Orphan come to an agreement: if the latter can be reunited with Darling – its mother mingled with the robopet – Orphan will help him rescue Enchantress from the clutches of another of Mongul’s minions, the nightmare that calls itself, ironically. Mother.

Mongul, meanwhile, is trying to get extra value from Authority member Lightray, who is currently dead.

Yechh!

Also this month, Superman has a sweet moment with the two child prisoners who initially rejected his friendship, as we see how much he still regrets having missed out of several years of son Jon’s childhood.

And in the linked back-up strip, back on Earth Supergirl and Steel try to help Warworld escapee Thao-La survive withdrawal from Genesis energy, which is connected to the Source. Her body wants the juice, but it causes seizures. This is a job for Supergirl!

How splendid to see the respect John Henry Irons has for Supergirl. He knows that if Kara says she’ll get the job done, she’ll get the job done. And she does, the Girl of Steel is awesome. Which makes my worry that DC may be lining up Thao-Al to replace her all the worse – I think Dr Anj put that idea in my head! Supergirl needs a good long run by a decent creative team, not to be shuffled aside for the latest temporary replacement.

Anyway, Johnson’s script is as intense as his work on the main strip, with my only quibble there being the awkward speech pattern given to the tragic Valeron pair. Yes, it conveys strangeness, but as we have the language translated, why not also the grammar and syntax? As I say, though, it’s a minor moan about another compelling issue, one that ends with the return of a Superman villain I never expected to see again.

And I’ve no complaints with the way Johnson shows that while his super abilities on Warworld are weakened, Clark’s use of words remains a formidable power. Over the months he’s persuaded the slaves of Warworld to rally behind him and here he gains the confidence of Orphan. Mongul has raw physical power and numbers, but Clark can translate his heart, his hope, into words, and great deeds will surely follow.

There’s also a bit of a throwback in the main strip, with the planet Valeron being a reference to DC in the Bronze Age of comics, when it was the homeworld of this body confident fella.

Dare we hope Vartox will appear before the story’s over? Well done to artist Will Conrad for referencing Curt Swan’s boot design this issue! It’s the little touches that make a great comic even better.

I say Will Conrad, but as ever, DC doesn’t give page breakdowns for which illustrator worked on which pages. It makes sense, though, that Conrad would handle the flashback, and regular artist Riccardo Federici the present day scenes. And Federico’s soft yet strong stylings are pretty familiar by now, especially as coloured by the ever-excellent Lee Loughridge. Every page is filled with distinctive, fascinating characters, but as it should be, it’s Superman who I enjoy looking at the most. Particularly, his facial expression in that last panel as he’s chatting to the kids.

Adorable.

As for the scenes reflecting this comic’s title?

I think it’s safe to say Federici is meeting the remit to bring us action – that’s one scary Mother. Loughridge’s colours effectively illustrate the shock of that blast, and are just one example of the thought he puts into storytelling. A more subtle example is that, over the months, the purple dye in Manchester Black’s hair has grown out and he’s back to basic brown.

Dave Sharpe gives us some fantastic fonts, bestowing suitable voices on weird characters such as Orphan and Mother – and the sound effects are superb.

Sharpe also letters the back-up, ‘A World Without Clark Kent’, ‘ while the effective colours are by DC stalwart Trish Mulvihill. The artist is a surprise, Stray Bullets legend David Lapham, and while the line isn’t as delicate as in the rest of the issue, it works for this dynamic short. I doubt Lapham’s behind Supergirl wearing the unflattering look from the end of Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, so no demerits there. I quite like the intensity he gives her, and the Silver Age-style hair.

The Warworld Saga wraps up in a few months, and I continue to be impressed by Johnson’s careful plotting and the talents of his artistic partners. We get a new one this month, Lucio Parillo, who provides a cover image that wouldn’t disgrace a Seventies pulp paperback; I love it.

A grotesque origin, a tender moment, the machinations of Mongul and Clark’s planet-wide revolution building momentum… it all adds up to another high quality adventure of Superman.

9 thoughts on “Action Comics #1044 review

  1. That’s Supergirl’s new outfit? That’s terrible! It looks like they just want to cover her up from neck to foot. DC should have a design contest for her like they did in the Bronze Age.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m very happy to see Steel and Kara back in the story, as they’re some of my favorite Superman supporting heroes. I’m a little confused by the last two pages of that backup — I can’t quite figure out what they have to do with the rest of the story. If you’ve got a clue, let me know! Otherwise, I guess we’ll find out next month.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is what happens after years and years of comic writers who don’t understand that you can have a B plot and a C plot as well as an A plot – we don’t recognise them when they do come along. Now, remember way back when, Johnson did a couple of issue of Superman after Bendis? There was an alien threat that depowered Superman, hence the current grey hair… Waller was behind the scenes there, distrusting Superman. Now she seems to want the Genesis fragment.

      Like

      1. Ah, thanks! I’d forgotten Waller’s involvement in the Breach. Coulda used a bit of a refresher. Those days when A, B, and C plots were the rage (and how I wish they’d return), the plots would get touched on every issue (or so). This one’s been gone for over a year, so I won’t be too hard on myself for missing it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What is Waller doing back in our universe?!

    Anyway, this was a great main story, with quite a horror vibe.

    I’m not a fan of David Lapham’s art, and he absolutely did make the new outfit on Supergirl look as bad as it could. It’s not like she has to wear a skirt! Many times in her history, she didn’t, and well, nobody else does either. But you won’t hear me complaining about any of the Batgirls (though Barbara’s outfit has been redesigned and is actually not particularly good – it is ill fitting and makes her look awkward). There’s no better costumed young woman than Steph’s Spoiler/Batgirl hybrid outfit, and she’s not just covered from head to toe but is wrapped in a huge cloak.

    There’s something simply wrong about Supergirl’s new look, and it’s like some kind of overreaction to the past, to make her the opposite.

    But Lapham has taken it to extremes, because he drew her a bit like a male bodybuilder. She only has a woman’s narrower waist (vs. hips) in one of the panels he drew. Otherwise, she’s just manly, and with a man’s broad shoulders and torso. Her ridiculous gold thing makes her look even more like a bodybuilder.

    Now, in fairness to this particular situation, Lapham is also drawing others in the same awful way. He’s been drawing backups in Detective, and this week he actually drew an overtly FAT Huntress. I mean – she is actually fat. He also put some folds on Gotham Girl’s stomach in one panel. And then he drew a large (near splash) panel featuring a truly Rubinesque Talia with enormous womanly hips. Which I guess is the opposite of a Supergirl with no hips at all (or with a thick waist). One extreme or the other, the one thing he apparently won’t draw is the stereotypically proportioned (if unrealistic) woman.

    Wonder Woman has also often gotten the manly treatment. Variant covers often depict her as very broad-shouldered and with muscular arms.

    I don’t know how much of this coming from editorial direction. These days nothing would surprise me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know if there is any strong editorial direction across the line, look at the myriad ways Diana has been dressed over the last few years. And I really do want this new Supergirl look to go away (without taking Kara with it! ).

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.