In his cell on Stryker’s Island, John Corben aka Metallo, receives an unwanted visitor. Working for Lex Luthor is the last thing war-weary Corben wants. Unfortunately, Lex knows where Corben’s sister lives.
Meanwhile, at Metropolis Zoo, Superman is fighting to stop New Gods Orion, Kalibak and Desaad – watched by arch schemer Metron – kidnapping Osul-Ra. The boy and his sister Otho-Ra are newly escaped from Warworld, refugees from the planet Phaelosia, and Superman’s wards. A recent brush with death saw the spirit of Olgrun, an old god, enter the boy, and the infiltrators from Apokolips and New Genesis believe that makes him their business… worse, their property.
This is a job for Super-er-man! While he’s tussling with Kalibak, though, Darkseid’s sinister scientist, Desaad, makes a grab for Osul.
Just as Kalibak isn’t prepared for the newly amped-up Superman, Desaad gets a big surprise from Osul, one that ultimately leads to the New Gods retreating.
With distinctly unveiled threats, the New Gods take their leave, allowing Superman time to visit Warworld, which has been stationed near Earth since the Man of Steel liberated Mongul’s slaves. He has good news – the United Planets members have found ways home for most of the beings captured by, or born under, Mongul.
The story then returns to where it began, at Stryker’s Island where, it’s safe to say, Corben disappoints me.
Also disappointing me is a member of The Authority, Superman’s allies in his liberation of Warworld, who, we find, has been a spy for Lex Luthor. As it turns out, they were won round by Superman’s character, his courage, brains and heart, and want nothing more to do with the evil scientist. But if you throw your lot in with Luthor, you shouldn’t turn your back on him…
‘Kal-El Returns chapter 5: The Fight Ahead’ is another compelling read from Phillip Kennedy Johnson. The action scenes between Superman and the New Gods are terrific, but it’s the intrigue surrounding Luthor and poor old Corben that are still running through my mind a day after first reading the story. Artist Mike Perkins and colourist Lee Loughridge bring Corben’s dilemma, and decision, to tragic life. Which isn’t to say the Superman fight scene don’t look terrific, I especially like the warping of Kalibak’s frame on the splash page – he’s the monstrous firstborn of Darkseid, who knows what that body can do!
Less successful is that page of Superman talking about his family crest – I don’t get what happens…he does something with his heat vision and afterwards a few more people than previously seem to be bearing S-shields on their clothing or bodies. Does he actually brand people? Of course he doesn’t, but what does he do? Something to do with his temporary white sun upgrade (you will of course recall that the effect of white sun radiation on Kryptonians was firmly established in Super Friends #17)? Is that our hero manifesting a white sunburst on page 6?
There’s a glorious-looking sequence in which former Mongul minion Orphan teleports Warworld out of Earth space…at least I think that’s what’s happening; there’s no dialogue or narration in the panels, and for a second it looks like the baby, with their unreadable expression, must be doing something sinister.
There’s no doubt that fellow baldie Luthor’s every action is sinister – the man is blatant. Just as Superman inspires people to find their best selves, Luthor browbeats and blackmails others to access their worst selves. Johnson’s Luthor is up there with John Byrne’s in terms of sheer hatefulness.
I didn’t quite understand Superman’s story about the puzzle box as a way to calm Osul down. I do understand Orion’s point that the boy may be too much for Superman to handle – he certainly seems to have an ancient god inside him, one that can manifest at will… that’s a bigger deal than having to control your emotions. I’m not saying Superman should let the New Gods take a scared little boy away, but given the latter know more about Olgrun than him, the two sides really should have a conversation. Then again, Orion does give the impression that it’s his way or the interstellar highway.
Had Action Comics #1049 contained just the Kal-El Returns chapter, I’d declare it a winner. But there’s more – another entertaining instalment of the Red Moon story. I don’t actually know why it’s called ‘Red Moon’, perhaps that’s how Warworld looks to people on Earth. I do know that the serial is concentrating on the wider Super Family. Metropolis has been attacked by the worst of Mongul’s lieutenants, Chaytil Ironbled. He thinks freed Warworld prisoner Thao-La, who is being mentored by Supergirl, is easy meat.
Wrong. While Supergirl is saving citizens from falling masonry, Thao-La shows she has what it takes to be a member of the Super Family, using her new powers intelligently while giving her foe a good telling off. Philip Kennedy Johnson’s story complements the main feature, while David Lapham’s superbly direct compositions blaze across the pages. I particularly like the glimpse we get of a new look for Thao-La. Trish Mulvihill provides the attractive colours while Dave Sharpe, as with the Superman story, supplies dramatic lettering.
Steve Beach’s cover is just glorious. It’s not directly linked to the two stories in this issue of Action Comics, but it’s thematically spot-on – the Super Family united against whatever threat may come. I love the calm vibe, the lovely colours of this Arctic scene.
Next issue is an anniversary number, and given the quality of recent issues, it’s going to be a winner.
8 thoughts on “Action Comics 1049 review”
But what ARE they all looking at on that great cover? My guess is that Lex Luthor either went through on of those bizarre metamorphoses that Jimmy Olsen or had his mind temporarily transferred into Titano. Whichever he proceeded to show how much greater he is in his diseased maniac mind by doing a big poo near the Fortress of Solitude. His own Fortress of Salty-‘tude if you will? The Super-family are observing his handiwork shaking their heads and saying, “You dirty dirty man.” The Kon-El Superboy then makes a first class “Donald Dump” joke. No? Please yerself.
Ach. Lex Luthor is just SO evil that it becomes unfun particularly since he rarely gets any proper punishment. Claiming that we’re going to see much more of Luthor seems misguided. After Forever Evil, Luthor in the League, Super-Lex, and Apex (retches) Lex he really should be given a rest, a looking rest. Just like the Joker should. Alas, there’s no way they would do this, they never learn. Not to mention there are many loonies who seem to prefer the villains. No matter how psychotic. I’ll leave it as an exercise as to whether this has parallels to anything in real life.
In the last panel of the page illustrating Superman “branding” the former WarWorldians he looks like the Alan Davis version, interesting as Davis and Perkins’s art is nothing alikePossibly a little (very little) bit Dale Eaglesham.
Don’t do it, Metallo!
Luthor had an insider in the Authority? ARRRGH! No thank you.
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Well, at least the issue gave you plenty to think about, George. I wonder if you’ll like this week’s Kal-El Returns special, I’ve only read a few of the shorts so far, but am impressed
Hm. Perhaps. It appears I was merely gibbering.
I decided Superman must have been etching his sigil on the clothes of the people, not their skin. But I wonder if it’s on just the Phaelosians, or on everyone left on Warworld? (Some of the Phaelosians had already defiantly worn the sigil when this story started.)
And, where is the United Planets going to leave the Phaelosians? Is there still a Phaelosian homeworld out there somewhere, that was unknown to the United Planets and to Superman, all this time?
We haven’t heard anything about the New Krypton that was set up for a good part of the Kandor population a few years ago. That would be a reasonable place to drop off their Phaelosian distant cousins.
I was surprised Thao-La went off with Warworld. My prediction that she would be a replacement Supergirl was way off the mark.
Anyway, it’s been a great long story and I’m looking forward to seeing where Action goes next.
(BTW you wrote Dave Stewart but meant Dave Sharpe on letters.)
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Thanks for the correction, tweaked with gratitude.
Excellent point about New Krypton, that would be a top solution to the T-people problem.
I got this since I was leaning towards trying outthe new format next issue. I won’t be doing that after all. I can’t explain exactly why but Johnson’s writing leaves me cold. I lasted a few issues when he came on and being disinterested to say the least, I bailed before Warworld. Superman as a warrior on a barbaric alien planet is one of the least interesting plots to me. In the main story, add in Orion actually allying with Desaad and Kalibak and I’m done.
There was also zero in Red Moon to interest me this issue and last. I hate that Kara somehow found a way to get a Kryptonian perm and now wears long pants. The person who this time stole panel time from Supergirl (It’s been an hour since I read it and not only can’t I remember the character’s name, I don’t want to) went from cowering and then in a panel or two winning somehow.
I’ll try Action and Superman again when the next writer shows up.
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It’s a shame the current Action run hasn’t worked for you. Will you be trying the Joshua Williamson/Jamal Campbell book?
After Dark Crisis and how badly he wrote Barry Allen specifically and that run of Flash in general? He’s above King for me but not by much.