Action Comics #1053 review

It’s the third month of Action Comics’ new anthology format and the best issue yet.

Starting with the Superman story – or really, the Super Family story – writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson and illustrator Rafa Sandoval do a great job of balancing scenes of intense drama with more personal moments. If you’re new to the comic, you’ve missed Metallo being manipulated by Lex Luthor to attack the new Steelworks building. This issue begins with Steelworks maestro John Henry Irons, the sometimes superhero Steel, attacked by members of the anti-alien Blue Earth movement. But they’ve changed a lot since he saw them at a recent protest.

Reinforcements arrive in the shape of Superman, Superboy Kon-El, the Super-Man of China and Supergirl, but there are casualties on both sides of the conflict.

PKJ is such a fine writer – month after month he reminds us that it’s the man in Superman that makes him Earth’s greatest hero. He’s just a very, very good guy.

And that’s why Lex Luthor hates Superman so much. Knowing Lex is somehow involved in Metallo’s recent MO change – warping lackeys into insectoid cyborgs tinged with green kryptonite isn’t something he’s done previously – Superman visits his arch foe in jail.

Just look at how Sandoval, partnered with colourist Matt Herms, moves Superman around Lex’s cell, and captures the scientist’s supercilious nature. But who is manipulating Metallo? He thinks he’s ŵorking with his sister Tracy.

There follows a revelation as to what’s happening with the real Tracy, carefully, horrifically described in words and pictures. It’s almost too much.

It’s a relief to get back to the quiet of Metropolis, where Jon Kent is about to babysit his new “sister and brother”, Warworld refugees Otho and Osul. Parents Lois and Clark are rushing to the Daily Planet.

This scene plays out over a page turn, apologies to the creators

Poor Jon, he obviously wants a little time alone with his dad. There follows a wonderfully crafted scene between Jon and one of the Super Twins. And that leads to the story’s cliffhanger, which is really rather good.

Johnson, Sandoval, Herms and letterer Dave Sharpe are firing on all cylinders here, their creative partnership growing tighter, more synergistic as the months pass.

Jon reappears in the first back-up strip, a tale of Lois & Clark in the Rebirth days. Last month a space princess landed in a field at the family farm in California and got him into trouble. I didn’t trust her for a minute but as she and Jon squirm in the face of imprisonment, she does seem a little more on the level.

Back on Earth, Lois has a tricky house caller.

If you don’t know who Doombreaker is, check out my thoughts on last year’s Death of Superman special. If you can’t be bothered, he’s a man devolving into a very familiar monster. Writer Dan Jurgens, artist Lee Weeks, colourist Elizabeth Breitweiser and letterer Rob Leigh gift us another suspenseful, fast-moving and above all, fun chapter of ‘Home Again’.

The final story, the continuing Power Girl serial, guest stars – wouldn’t you know it? – Jon. He’s called in to help telepathic Titan Omen find out who’s been targeting the suddenly psychic Power Girl. Apparently Jon is especially multi-lingual, and that will help.

Power Girl is pretty much unbearable, whining once more about how nobody wuvs her. I enjoyed Leah Williams’ story more than the previous two chapters, though, because Jon points out that she’s talking rubbish. He’s the soul of calm despite her snapping at him not to call her ‘cuz’ and protesting that she’s not ‘Karen’, that was just a codename she made up for an identity that no longer exists.

Oh dear. Paige? Power Girl has used the name ‘Karen Starr’ since the comics of the Seventies. As Karen Starr she used the technical wizardry she relishes tapping into here to build a software empire. Her personality is the same, there’s nothing fake about Karen, it’s just Power Girl wearing a different hat. When did she reject the Karen half of her life. When did she cede the right to her birth name, Kara Zor-L (not even Zor-El), to Supergirl?

None of this rings true.

If it wasn’t for Jon’s presence, I’d likely dislike this chapter as much as I did the previous two, but Williams at least has him point out how unbearable the jargon Power Girl and Lilith use in their new metahuman counselling gig is.

And how about the full-colour art of Marguerite Sauvage? Jon, Lilith and Power Girl look wonderful, and Jon’s mindscape is a pick’n’mix delight, a wonderland of balloon language. And thanks, too, to Becca Carey for Jon’s fun off-language.

The villain of the piece is revealed on the final page. I’m honestly surprised it doesn’t turn out to be the mind of Karen – yes, Karen – attacking itself. Despite how she’s acting towards the idea of the Super Family, she really seems to hate herself. The story continues in the upcoming Power Girl Special – I do hope a recognisable Karen shows up there.

So, one story I loved, one I liked a lot and one that at least provided food for thought and looked fantastic. Plus, a tremendously moody cover from Steve Beach. I’d say that’s pretty great value for $4.99.

20 thoughts on “Action Comics #1053 review

  1. I agree that Marguerite Sauvage’s incredible artwork makes the Power Girl stories bearable.

    Regarding the alien princess in the Lois & Clark story, I really hope she doesn’t turn out to just be pretending to be some overthrown rightful heir fighting against an oppressive conqueror so that she can trick Superman into helping her stage a coup, because Dan Jurgens *already* did that one way back in Booster Gold #6-7. I realize that was 37 years ago, but surely I’m not the only one who remembers that story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Who is responsible for the covers we’ve been getting? They’re honestly horrifying and such a poor representation of the stories inside the book. It’s like they’re marketing Action Comics as some kind of moody, horror book. Bleagh!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agree with so much here.
    The scene with Superman and Kenan is so powerful, a reminder of why he is Superman.
    The scene with Jon and Osul is so wonderful, reminding us about the trauma Jon has been through and his trying to reclaim/understand his life.
    And the cliffhanger … I hope is a feint. But if it isn’t, it makes sense who is doing the destruction.

    Lastly, the Power Girl strip is just wrong. This isn’t Power Girl. Power Girl doesn’t need a revamp. This makes no sense. Lovely art … all wrong. Poor Marguerite Sauvage. I keep waiting for her art on a strip I love!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Marguerite Sauvage’s art is great as are the colours but Leah Williams’s script… Oog. I wonder if the foolishness over rejecting the Karen Starr name has anything to do with the idiotic “Karen” meme which has led to that name representing a certain thing to thinking-impaired ignoramuses? Perhaps it’s similar to Dick Grayson temporarily becoming “Ric” due to adolescent-minded neurotics who can’t see the name “Dick” without thinking “penis” (although I did have the same problem whenever I saw Dick Cheney in the 2000s!).
    It’s incredibly weird that writing which seems designed to “empower” female characters in a dunderheaded way has the net effect of disempowering them, making them less likeable and even close to DISlikeable. Your review of the latest Lazarus Planet has an example of that when recent character Yara “Wonder Girl” Flor treats Billy Batson/Captain Marvel (Shazam Fazam!) like garbage for even mentioning the Wonder GIRL name as if being a “girl” is a bad thing. When Kon-El had a fit over being called SuperBOY in the ’90s, the joke was that he was an adolescent who was *very much* a boy. He wasn’t Superman, he WAS Superboy. In the present Yara is totally obnoxious, a character far less interesting or likeable than Donna Troy BECAUSE she thinks she’s too good to be Wonder Girl but the writers *don’t get this*. It’s completely sexist to have female characters acting like tantrum-throwing babies and being unpleasant not only to perfectly likeable male characters (we aren’t talking about Black Adam or hilarious assh*le Guy Gardner in the late ’80s but Billy Batson/the Big Red Cheese) but to *female characters* as well! The mind reels as it boggles.
    Williams’s take on Power Girl is mystifying, despite the Girl part of her name she’s always been womanly suddenly she’s been de-aged (a problem with much modern comic book art, even the good is that too many characters are consistently drawn looking too young, take a look at David Marquez’s or Sara Pichelli’s work, great artists but it’s like Logan’s Run or a show on the CW) and is acting like a whiny adolescent, specifically a whiny adolescent who is completely mistaken in their whining. The doofus writers would be better off reading how Geoff Johns often wrote her, heck even the JLE Power Girl came across as an adult (I could a comment about her embonpoint…but I shan’t, out of an instinct for self-preservation! And good taste.) compared to this delusional mentally fragile imposter. DC’s Editbot 3000 should honestly do some editing. Or the writers should get the characters they are writing right rather than completely changing their personalities. Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Lucky you! I hope you meet Thomas Magnum and Jonathan Higgins (from the real Magnum, p.i.!). Don’t go telling me they don’t exist. Aloha!


  5. Just read this online. Hooray for the 1-month delay!

    Like you, I’m really enjoying the first two stories. And like you, I think this is the strongest of the Power Girl stories so far — I like Jon pushing back against Karen’s whining that she’s not part of the family. I think the conclusion of the story will have her realizing that she IS part of the Superfamily, and that the barriers she sees are entirely of her own making.

    Actually, maybe not entirely; I suspect the psychic attack by Johnny Sorrow is behind some of this. But we’ll see.

    As for “Paige”? I’m not crazy about it — Karen Starr was a fine ID, and as you said, it has ties to her Kryptonian name, Kara. Her former job — CEO of a software company — doesn’t thrill me though, so I don’t mind a change of ID in that respect. And sure, if she wants to call herself Paige while repositioning her life, that’s fine, too — it’s not the worst thing in the world to make a little more distance between Karen and Kara. But the logic behind these changes is also the worst thing about them — you can really see the gears of DC Editorial at work here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always liked Karen having the high-tech job, it seemed a good fit for a Kryptonian, and was a nice change from the journalism life of Clark and, often, Linda.

      Yes please, let’s just blame the far-too-complicated Johnny Sorrow and move on.


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