Action Comics #1051 review

You know Chekhov’s Gun – the idea that if a writer mentions a firearm early in a story, it has to be fired by the end. Here’s Chekhov’s Building – or rather, John and Natasha Irons’ Building.

Talk about poking Lex Luthor with a stick. And sure enough, just a few pages later…

It’s not the peaceful opening ceremony the Super Family had hoped for, but they’re soon on top of things. I mean. Look at them all – there’s Supergirl, Superboy Kon-El, Superman II Jon Kent, Superman of China Kong Kenan, recently arrived Super Twins Otho and Osul-Ra… and they’re just the ones in costume. Also on the scene are the aforementioned Jon and Natasha, aka Steel and, er, Steel, and Superman in his Clark Kent disguise.

We first meet the gang this issue at Lois and Clark’s apartment, and a scorecard really would be handy for any new readers jumping onto this heavily promoted issue. Happily, I’ve been reading Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s terrific Action Comics run since he joined the book, so I’m up to date with the likes of the alien refugee twins who, we learn, are going to be sticking around.

Will they become permanent fixtures? Who knows, kids raised by Lois and Clark haven’t had the best of luck, with foster son Chris Kent aged up and down and thrown in and out of the Phantom Zone, while biological boy Jon was lost on an alternate world for years and kept in an active volcano by a doppelgänger of his Dad. Here’s hoping the twins have better luck – I’d be very happy if by the end of this storyline, ‘Speeding Bullets’, they’re found permanent parents in Kandor. Meanwhile, they should provide entertaining complications for Lois and Clark now the secret ID genie is back in the bottle. Will Mr & Mrs Superman tell the authorities the kids are survivors of a big disaster that wiped out their whole community?

I’m assuming all the heroes will find a new home and role by the end of Johnson’s arc, because a Metropolis as replete with Super Family members as this – I count nine – is a Metropolis that’s just plain greedy. We know Kon is off on a space odyssey in an upcoming mini, having recognised Earth can get by without him for a while. I imagine Kong will be going home to China, as that’s his deal. Supergirl deserves her own city and strip, while the storyline for Jon’s upcoming mini sounds very promising – hunting for his inter-dimensional abuser Ultraman

I’ve been anticipating this issue for awhile – a new status quo for the Super Family. A new Metropolis. New costumes. It’s the latter that brings my only real disappointment, with everyone already in them as the story kicks off… I was hoping to hear why everyone bar Superman has dumped the cape. What’s the sudden fondness for leather jackets? Who designed them (in universe, I mean – Dan Mora, who draws the great cover, came up with them in the real world)… Clark? Lois? Kel-Ex the Fortress AI? What does everyone think of them? I like them all, the only change I’d make would be to give Kara a cape – Supergirl isn’t a sidekick, she’s Superman’s original partner and deserves the grandeur a cloak bestows.

Otherwise, I’d say this opening chapter is a hit, with plenty of action thanks to a fun first scene and a refreshed Metallo, forced back into destructive mode by the ever evil Lex Luthor; a funny scene hinting at Lois and Clark’s post-Warworld hobbies; and the new Steelworks set-up.

Because STAR Labs doesn’t bring enough scientific horror to Metropolis! Superman has traditionally believed he shouldn’t push Earth technology forward too much, so his decision to embrace and promote UP innovations is a headscratcher. As he kinda sorta says, though, a person can change their mind. And we see that there’s an anti-alien mob, the Blue Earth movement, determined to hold Superman and co to account – one thing they might ask is: how can master gadgeteers John and Natasha have got behind a building with such lousy security and defences against bombs?

I’m a fan of Rafa Sandoval, but some of the work here looks rushed, such as the gathering of the Super Family, above, with them posed like the Stepford Heroes. Most of the pages look good, though, especially those following the explosion. Metallo’s new visual is suitably imposing, while Supergirl looks adorable (funnily enough, both characters debuted in Action Comics exactly 800 issues ago… next issue). And the Steelworks building, seen in full only on page one, looks terrific.

Matt Herms opts for darker skin tones than usual, but his colour work overall is fine, whole Dave Sharpe’s letters are spot on.

The first of two back-up strips, as Action Comics becomes an anthology once more, stars Lois, Clark and a younger Jon in a sequel story to the DC Rebirth era’s superb Superman: Lois & Clark limited series. Writer Dan Jurgens and artist Lee Weeks have the Kents return to their old California home via a contrived excuse, but who cares, this is great stuff. Jurgens is a magician when it comes to conveying the warmth and wit of the Kents, while Weeks’ gritty work suits the tone of the tale. ‘Home again’ sees young Jon trying to keep the Doomsday bone from the recent Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Special out of the clutches of bad folk – but someone seems to be on their way to claim it…

The final tale features Power Girl and continues the story from last week’s Lazarus Planet: Assault on Krypton #1. There, a splash of magical rain sparked psionic powers and she met the psychic superhero Omen, better known as Old Teen Titan Lilith. We join them a while later, and it’s all very surprising.

Ooo-kay. Punch first proponent Power Girl is foregoing her position as head of an international tech firm to help a psychic go-go dancer counsel confused metahumans. Their first client?

It’s all very strange, but looks great thanks to the art of Marguerite Sauvage, while writer Leah Williams deserves credit for tapping into Power Girl’s computer skills to help Gar. But boy, this is a slog at times, with Lilith’s dialogue sounding like a lecture.

Maybe Williams doesn’t wish to scare off new readers with ancient continuity, but it feels very odd that Lilith never mentions that she was a Titan for years, and that neither she nor former partner Nightwing have a kind word for one another.

And Williams tries far too hard to justify Power Girl keeping her traditional boob window in her new costume, leading to a terrible exchange about body sweat. If Peege has to justify anything it’s why she’s sporting the Super Family’s S-symbol on her new jacket – yes, she’s Superman’s cousin, but don’t call her a derivative.

I commend Williams and Sauvage on an impressive ten-pager, it feels like they’ve succeeding in producing exactly what they intended; but ‘Head like a whole’ feels more like a pilot for a Lilith series than a Power Girl story. And if you’re giving me a Lilith strip, I want green plaid mini-skirts and, yes, go-go dancing.

The new Action Comics is a chunky read, and I appreciate the different tones of the tales. Even my least favourite, the Lilith strip, entertained me, and I’m excited that we’re apparently going to get a slew of different character spotlights. Give this issue a look.

5 thoughts on “Action Comics #1051 review

  1. I tried but I didn’t find much to like myself. Okay, the first two stories had nice art and it was good to see Keenan again. Supergirl and Natasha might as well have been left out for all they added to things. Okay, Supergirl seems he only one to learn Chinese so half a point there. I also hate modern day settings given alien or future tech as much aseveryone else hated the secret identity going away. If nothing else it opens the door to why don’they do more with the tech they have and have aquired o make Earth a paradise? Add in the only thig I find interesting about Steel is if he’s still dating Lana and find Natasha a bore.

    The second story is gorgeous and very well written. It also hurts my brain trying to make the backstory for it fit. I know DC hasn’t any cohesive continuity for years but Jon’s childhood doesn’t fit any timeline. I’m okay with Convergence Superman and New 52/Rebirth Superman merging. We just handwaved Jon’s early years and just accepted the setting as it was for Super Family stories going forward. Oh and without the secret identity reveal how is Jon Kent aging up like Superboy explained? Do they tell people he was kidnapped with Superboy after being thrown in the past? I have an explanation in my head canon but I don’t want it out there because it’s lazy and stupid.

    The Omen/Power Girl story is indeed utter crap. I guess you can call it okay art if you ignore the clinically insane facial expressions. Williams had some early promise but I’m done expecting anything ike a decent story from her. Her ignoring Dick, Gar, and Lilith’s very strong connections was bad enough. I don’t blame WIlliams for the absolutely stupid idea for giving Karen ESP. I blame her for having PG so bad with it. Power Girl is an ass kicking ball buster who drives herself harder than others around her. When writers were forced to alter PG’s powers and make her Arion’s descendant, they didn’t waste space with her unable to cope or master these changes. I wanted to start reading Action for Power Girl, my favorite DC female hero. It’s a big nope now. First we got evil corporate Power Girl in that dung heap of a mini last year and now we get her having to be mentored by the second most useless Teen Titan ever!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep on all fronts. They tried the City of Tomorrow bit around the Millennium and quickly rolled it back – Superman should be the most amazing element in Metropolis.

      I’m waiting to see what happens with Supergirl. Phillip Kennedy Johnson having assured me there are big things coming up for her in Action Comics.

      Poor Natasha has suffered from being considered a character DC can drop into a strip and change at the drop of a hat. I’m interested to see what happens in Steelworks. A bit of Traci 13 would be nice.

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  2. I brought this one for the Dan Jurgens & Lee Weeks story because I *really* enjoyed Superman: Lois and Clark miniseries they did. Weeks’ art is gorgeous as ever. I bought his very sweet variant cover for this issue featuring Jon and Ranger. I think Jon is acting like an imbecile taking the Doomsday bone shard, but he *is* a kid, and I’m sure I also made plenty of stupid decisions when I was one. So I’m going to wait & see how this plays out.

    My major problem with the Power Girl story is I had no damn clue who was the redheaded woman was supposed to be. We finally find out halfway through the story that her name is Omen at last calls her by name, but that still didn’t tell me much. If it wasn’t for your review I would not have known that Omen was Lilith.

    I feel this points to a major problem with both DC and Marvel, in that the editors & writers really do not provide enough information for readers. It’s strange that Leah Williams spends an entire page with multiple captions recounting the events of Lazarus Planet: Assault on New Krypton but she fails to tell us who one of the two characters in this story actually is. Oh, well, at least the artwork by Marguerite Sauvage was beautiful.

    As for the main feature, how many Superpersons *does* Metropolis need anyway? The problem with all of these characters being in the same city is that inevitably Superman is going to overshadow them.

    It occurs to me that after the Power Girl feature concludes (I think it’s only three parts) John Henry and Natasha Irons should get the slot. I’d rather see them in starring roles than sharing space in a crowed main feature. But, again, guess we’ll have to see how it develops.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree on all points, Ben. I’ve just been reading a Renee Montoya story in an anthology today and she’s not named until page four or something.

      Metropolis needs one Super Person, so I hope they’re quickly spread out.. it’s not as if they can’t quickly gather for a cuppa as required.

      I think Natasha and John are indeed upcoming in an Action short as a lead-in to the Steelworks book.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great, I’m definitely up for a Natasha and John back-up story. And if it’s good I’ll pick up Steelworks.

        I forgot to say that I felt Rafa Sandoval did a good job with the artwork on the main story. It could not have been easy to draw a group of characters most of whom had such similar costumes and make them all appear distinct from one another, but he was successful.

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