Action Comics #1052 review

The unveiling of the new Steelworks building in Metropolis has been hit by an explosion, and Metallo has risen from the wreckage. Luckily the entire Super Family is on the scene. While our two Steels – Natasha and John Henry Irons – get in some good blows, it’s Superman who ends the immediate Metallo threat with a different kind of blow.

Kudos to Phillip Kennedy Johnson for giving us one of Superman’s lesser-seen powers, freeze breath. And how cool does it look as depicted by illustrator Rafa Sandoval and colourist Matt Herms? They do a similarly great job with the other story beats. These include a Super Family conflab about why Steelworks was targeted by, likely, Lex Luthor acting as Metallo’s puppet master.

Ha, that’s what I thought too!

Meanwhile, Metallo drifts in space where he’s been punched by Superman, dreaming of a dark incident from his childhood that’s given a lovely nostalgic air by Sandoval and Herms. Metallo, aka John Corben, returns to Earth at the bidding of his sister Tracey, who has been kidnapped by Lex Luthor to force him to do his bidding – the deal was that if he attacked Steelworks, she’d get her freedom.

I don’t think that’s a live projection of Tracey, I reckon it’s a deep fake.

Johnson’s dialogue conveys the desperation Metallo is feeling, while the artists give us a chilling depiction of space, as Metallo floats, weightless.

The story ends on a note of foreboding, as Metallo encounters members of the alien-hating Blue Earth movement.

The bigots also come up in my favourite scene, as Superman’s explanation of his secret identity to the super ‘twins’ (they aren’t actually the same age) the Kents have taken in sparks a question about the Blue Earthers. The girl, Otho, has been putting on a brave face, but her sleeping mode puts the lie to the idea that she’s totally relaxed now she’s escaped Warworld, where Mongul’s slaves were conditioned to embrace chains as a sign of strength.

A surprising moment sees Superman argue that Lex isn’t behind the return of Metallo,

Surely Superman knows Lex is tricky enough to fake innocence?

Our hero’s usual level of wisdom is present and correct in that scene in which he gives Otho his thoughts – lettered by the splendid Dave Sharpe – on bigotry. And there’s a wonderfully playful moment, nicely staged by Sandoval, as Lois and Clark teach the kids about oral hygiene.

One thing this latest instalment of the Never-ending Battle doesn’t have is an explanation as to why everyone is hanging around Lois and Clark. They clearly don’t have enough chairs. Don’t Kara, Kon, Natasha, John Henry and Kong have homes to go to? And responsibilities? And what is the deal with the new looks, did Kelex move into fashion design?

Overall, this was another terrific instalment, and I understand that soon Action Comics and the new Superman book will be in synch, as in the classic Triangle days. I can’t wait, but meanwhile we have two separate, excellent series.

As well as the Superman lead, the new-look Action Comics has two back-ups. The first sees tween Jon Kent encounter a space princess who shows up at the Kent farm.

Writer Dan Jurgens, artist Lee Weeks, colourist Elizabeth Breitweiser and letterer Rob Leigh bring us a tight little tale that gives Jon a chance to learn that he’s not quite the fully formed hero…but he tries hard, and I love him! The artwork is simply stunning.

Supergirl, who doesn’t have much to do in the main strip beyond pass Jon a chocolate and deny Krypto same, shows up in the Power Girl strip as the latest hero needing a hand from psychic shrinks Peege and Lilith, the former Teen Titan. Actually, I should say ‘Omen’, the superhero name she used for about five minutes in the Nineties, as writer Leah Williams, as last month, doesn’t use the name ‘Lilith’. Anyway, Kara is finding herself unable to speak in English for reasons unknown. Lilith – oops, sorry! – boosts Power Girl into Supergirl’s mindscape where she cures Kara sharpish by basically annoying her beyond reason. According to Williams, Kara and Karen don’t get on. Worse, Power Girl is the red-headed stepchild of the Super Family.

That’s Power Girl in a new outfit totally in the style of the new Super Family uniforms. Power Girl who has happily teamed with Supergirl several times. Power Girl who was on pretty great terms with Superman just a month ago, in publishing terms, in Harley Quinn Romances.

Words by Amanda Delbert, visuals by Adriana Melo, colours by John Kalisz, letters by Becca Carey

OK, we have different editors, but if Karen is on the outs, we need at least a flashback to show when things changed.

And then there’s the way Power Girl lays down Supergirl’s state of mind.

Give me a break. Give Kara a break. We had the Future State Superwoman mini-series in which Kara had basically given up, then Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow in which Kara was friendless, in constant pain and happy to take a kid to a stoning. Now we have a Supergirl who supposedly believes she must be Princess Perfection. Why would she do that, no one is judging her? No one is claiming that Superman is putting on a front because he represents the whole of Krypton. Can’t modern DC writers simply accept that Kara is a good person?

The idea is also reductive of Power Girl, reframing her occasionally spiky persona as a reaction to Supergirl, her dimensional duplicate.

More positively, we learn that the problems Lilith and Karen are solving have been caused by an outside force, one who sends a definite message to them on the final page. That’s good, hinting that Williams has a finite story in mind here, meaning we can enjoy it for what it is and Karen can then get back to what she does best – punching first. And I’m pleased to see that Williams has cut down on the, not psychobabble because it sounds authentic, but the dry detail behind the mental problems superheroes are suffering.

And Marguerite Sauvage’s art is once again eye-wateringly beautiful, full-colour frames of well observed body language, easy-to-read facial expressions and powerful action. Every panel is a joy. Becca Carey deserves a nod, too, for her lettering choices, which observe and underline the drama of the script.

Steve Beach’s cover is another winner, with the Super Family gathered to protect the planet… but where’s John Henry? That’s two issues in a row without him in shot. He’s a good-looking guy, why so shy? The air inflating the twins’ looser outfits is fun – it’s obviously amusing them – and I love the heavier stubble on Kon, making it easier to distinguish him from the almost identical Jon.

Two issues in, I’m enjoying the new Action Comics, and looking forward to seeing how the back-up slots are used. How about you?

11 thoughts on “Action Comics #1052 review

  1. I’m very weak resisting even bad stories with Karen so I’ll get around to it eventually. Too bad they don’t want to use PeeGee being DC’s She-Hulk anymore: A brilliant mind and a powerful form and a woman who prefers brawling and fun to complex solutions.

    And Omen as nom du super-hero is that old? I first read it in New 52 Teen Titans and thought Lobdell had coined it. Either way, it’s a cool name that doesn’t suit her. At least it’s better than Donna Troy having no battle name.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Okay, those were comments based on the review. The comic? Ugh. Metallo
      is a B lister and carries no sense of threat, especially with Super-Mob on the job. All we need is Keenan and the four Superwomen. (BTW, was Kara already suffering aphasia or did only the artist remember she was there?)

      I like the alt continuity Titans minis so I’m down with good stories that don’t fit (like Jon before Bendis) but this is just good art. If this isn’t the beautiful alien escaping hunters is actually eeeeeeevil trope I’ll be surprised. Over five decades I’ve seen way too many writers think that still has a drop of originality left.

      The Power Girl Show guest starring Omen? Yes, the art is pretty but it’s all poses and very little storytelling. Creepy eyes for everyone is also a downer. The story is better, even if psychic Karen is awful. It’s like Williams had a story idea and was assigned Power Girl rather than who she wanted. That said, Power Girl is almost never remembered by Super-Writers, the lead story proving that. That sets up her having the valid feeling she’s not a core member of the family. Also, almost everything Karen says to Kara is after Lilith says to piss her off and she looks surprised at her own outfit that causes Karen’s snark.

      BTW, why did Omen rent when Karen is a billionaire with properties scattered all over. Heck, even if they rented the Bizarro version of Jean Grey is sitting across from two people who could fix that hole in seconds.

      Yeah, I’m out when Power Girl is.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh and does anyone else think Supergirl looks in the middle of a psychotic break on the cover?


      2. Omen is likely pretty rich too, as heir to Loren Jupiter.

        I wonder if the quickest way wouldn’t be to get the non-Kryptonians to bash him, Steel and Steeletto and New Super-Man.

        I’m with you, this will likely be ‘But SHE’S the bad gal!’


    2. If you missed the Jurgens Teen Titans you may not know that Lilith was revealed to be the daughter of… Mr Jupiter! She now casts illusions and is a TK (Omen was originally meant to be revealed as Raven).

      I love the likening of Peege to Shulkie, that works!


  2. Hey Martin,
    Not about the review, but “somewhat” Superman related…
    Saw your photos on Twitter of your TP/Hardcover shelves.
    I smiled because I also own that stuffed Krypto (that’s the Superman-related part) along with that 365 Days of DC’s Golden Age book.
    I too am a big fan of The Avengers and Giffen’s Legion and some of the other titles you own, but those two items in particular caught my attention. I’m sure they’re not “rare” but still it was nice seeing another collector with them on display!
    I remember picking up that 365 Days book for a song years ago. It was deeply discounted at a chain bookstore.
    I almost donated the Krypto a few years back to a Toys for Tots organization (it’s in great shape, with box) but just couldn’t part with it…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree the writing on the Power girl back-up isn’t the best, and the excellent artwork by Sauvage basically elevates it to a decent quality.

    As I commented last month, I definitely want a back-up featuring John Henry & Natasha Irons. Khary Randolph did a really nice variant cover featuring them for this issue, so I think he’d be a good artist for such a feature.


  4. Great review on all counts.

    Sandavol’s art is wonderful. The ‘blanket around Otho’s wrists’ moment is so powerful! I love how so much of this issue is the family hanging around together. Gives this anthology book a true “Superman Family” feel.

    As for the Power Girl back-up, I applaud your very simple ‘Give Kara a break’ statement. This is wrong on all levels. As you point out, Kara has a different and flawed backstory without fair continuity anywhere. And it is a shame that Sauvage is once again tasked with bringing wonderful art to the proceedings given she also was on the Future State story too!

    Thanks for this critique!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And thank you for yours over at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary. I see Power Girl is getting a special to conclude the serial. Wouldn’t it be great if Supergirl got one? Or even a series, would this not have been the perfect issue for the resumption of her strip? Maybe she could go full circle and take over the running of Midvale Orphanage…


  5. I’m enjoying the main series — especially the notion that Metallo isn’t being driven by Luthor at all — and the Lois & Clark backup is solid fun, and Weeks’s art is gorgeous as always. But I’ll be happy when Power Girl swerves out of this odd detour, back to the no-nonsense asskicker she deserves to be. (That said, I love the art.) It’s also a weird take on Supergirl.

    That said, I don’t really mind Kara’s perceptions of the tight-knit Super-Family. It’s not unusual to feel like an outsider even if the group you’re in is trying to welcome you. Brains are weird, and they lie to us all the time.


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