Action Comics #1055 review

The Metallo storyline that’s occupied the Superman feature over the last few months morphs into a Cyborg Superman storyline, as Hank Henshaw’s latest incarnation heaps trouble on the Super Family. It turns out he’s the one who instructed Metallo to turn the anti-alien protestors of Metropolis into a rampaging ‘Necrohive’. Having declared himself, the Cyborg Superman consciousness withdraws, leaving Superman time to come up with a plan to fight back. Who could quickly track down a mixture of man and Kryptonian machine?

The Eradicator!

Or rather, not The Eradicator, an Eradicator. The original is locked away, this is a template – same skills, same obnoxious personality, just less tangible.

Soon the Kryptonian bloodhound leads the Super Family to an abandoned airfield…

Phillip Kennedy Johnson writes another compelling chapter of the current storyline, surprising those of us who thought that despite his protestations, Luthor was pulling Metallo’s strings. So now we have all four characters from the classic Reign of the Supermen story in this book – Superboy, Steel, the Eradicator and the Cyborg Superman. A big ‘well done’ to artist Rafa Sandoval for fitting them all onto the page, and that’s before we come to Superman himself, Supergirl, Jon Kent Superman, New Super-Man and the Super Twins. Sandoval’s art is terrific throughout, with the characters nicely differentiated and the action scenes well choreographed. The Eradicator looks incredible. My only moan is one that goes back to Sandoval’s work on Teen Titans Academy – female hair looks like it’s come from a mould, a little movement would do wonders. As I say, it’s a tiny complaint – the pages, with moody colours by Matt Herms and neat letters by Dave Sharpe, are looking and reading good.

Supergirl makes her return after a couple of issues on the sickbed due to an earlier encounter with Metallo, initially surrounded by floating Kelex lamps soaking her with yellow sun energy. I assume that’s why she’s pretty motionless and her face doesn’t move for several pages. She’s wary of reactivating any version of the Eradicator, and who can blame her, given the shenanigans associated with him in the past? Still, Superman seems unworried – probably understandable given that he’s previously beaten the Eradicator and Cyborg Superman alone, and here he has a whole team of Kryptonian types at his side. Heck, there are so many that I forgot to mention Superdog!

That’s my one qualm with this storyline – there are so many Supers protecting Metropolis right now that most are under-served in terms of involvement. I’d love it if, once Henshaw is dealt with, most everyone goes their own way for a while. Supergirl deserves her own book. New Super-Man Kenan Kong has a life in China. And so on.

Even Metallo is now firmly on the side of good, unwilling to be manipulated any more. Not that everyone is willing to give him a chance.

She’ll learn – Otho is a good kid who’s had a hard life. This chimes with Metallo, who tells us about his rough background in a four-page flashback.

It’s welcome to see such a strong anti-gun message in mainstream comics – young John Corben blasts his abusive dad, ending his immediate pain, but the desperate act sends him on a tragic path. Using the firearm was his ‘first taste of strength, and as the years passed he didn’t just use a weapon, he became the weapon, and lost himself.

The Lois & Clark flashback story sees space princess Glyanna revealed as a manipulative minx, and Doomsday spin-off Doombreaker providing a more immediate problem.

After being artistically AWOL last month, Lee Weeks is back and producing pin sharp, powerful art, gorgeously coloured by Elizabeth Breitweiser Writer Dan Jurgens – who did a splendid job of spotting for Weeks – gives us another pacy, efficient script, lettered by Rob Leigh. I’m enjoying this and wish we were getting longer chunks.

The Steel serial is proving a bit of a headscratcher. It’s connected to the main Superman story, with John Henry Irons out to edge the reality of Metropolis towards its nickname, ‘The City of Tomorrow’. We see him trying to convince financial bigwigs to back his vision via a demonstration.

Am I getting this wrong? Is John Henry keen to input personal identification information on every citizen into his system so his sinister robots can ‘protect’ them with maximum efficiency? And they’ll need a phone app to safeguard against the robots being taken over by bad guys? This sounds like a Lex Luthor plot. Also, he’s recklessly endangering people for his demo, which depends on the involvement of his niece Natasha – also Steel – and pal Kon-El, aka Superboy.

Writer Dorado Quick gives us a very wordy script, letterer Dave Sharpe deserves a bonus. And the words he gives John just seem wrong – he’s always been a man of the people, here he’s acting like a man above the people. Like, as I said, Luthor. Maybe I’m picking up clues, and John’s possessed by Brainiac or something.

Also, I just don’t get what he’s saying his new technology can do.

As for Natasha, who is this masked woman? She’s grumpy, she talks like a street tough… I’m all for authentic urban dialogue, but not to the extent of changing an established character’s speech patterns by 180 degrees (see also the surprise hero who shows up on the final page). Yasmín Flores Montañez does a decent job with the art, though I’d be interested to see her working with an inker, who could add a bit more finish – some of the heads look a bit off, for example. Colourist Brad Anderson does a good job with the colours and shades of the city.

Sebastian Fiumara’s cover does justice to Cyborg Superman, one of Superman’s scariest villains. Just look at him!

All in all, I’d say the new Action Comics has one back-up too many. The main strip, Superman & Lois…love them. The third feature – before Steel we had a very weird, and again, talky, Power Girl story – could happily be lost. Once Lois & Clark is over, extend the main story to give more room to the individual Supers. Take the price of the comic down, and the quality average up. How about that, DC?

12 thoughts on “Action Comics #1055 review

  1. Agreed on the Steel story. It’s a verbose mess of a thing. However, I would like the anthology format to continue for a while. It’s one of the things that was lost in comics, which provided a training ground for new talent, and for me as a reader, exposure to characters that I would have otherwise never read about in their own title. . .if they had one. Most of the characters seem to to be spinning-off into their own books: Power Girl has her own series (or is it a one-shot?) and Steel his own (limited series?), so I don’t expect to see them much longer, but maybe we could get the Private Life of Clark Kent, and I mean Clark Kent. No Lois or Jon, who are always around, so we can see some more storylines with the coessential “human” side of Superman, interacting with Clark’s friends and sorting out Clark’s actual life. Just a thought.

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  2. I’m with TANE8: I’d much rather see the third story become better than to drop it altogether. I love the anthology format, and it definitely introduces me to concepts & characters I might not read about otherwise… from creators I might not know about otherwise.

    And it looks like Dorado Quick is one of those creators. From what I can see on the GCD, this continuing Steel story is only his second published comics story (his first was a short in the DC Power: A Celebration anthology in March). With a creator this new, there are definitely going to be some growing pains. But that’s fine. That’s what backup strips are for — or at least, one of the things they can be for.

    I’m happy to realize DC’s commitment to anthologies and backup strips is stronger than it’s been in years. There’s a giant-size anthology coming out almost every month. The Lazarus Planet issues were basically anthologies, too. And there’s the Brave & Bold anthology series, and there are backups in Action, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Batman, Nightwing, and I’m sure a few others that I’m missing. That’s really good to see — it provides extra value, and is also an investment in DC’s future.

    Sure, not every story will hit. And there’s nothing wrong with saying so. But when these backup stories bring fresh voices into the conversation, and new storytellers to the table, I think that’s something to be celebrated, even if a particular story doesn’t quite measure up to the lead feature.

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    1. You’re right Rob, a better third story would be the ideal solution. I get excited by seeing new talent on the Superman Family, such as in the late Bronze Age when names such as Elizabeth M Smith and Tamsyn O’Flynn and Mindy Newell were getting a shot at DC Comics. I don’t think it’s the nostalgia goggles, they were just better, possibly because editors such as Julie Schwartz were veterans who weren’t shy of shaping the new writers’ scripts. The Steel story in this Action Comics reads like a first draft yet the author has been on a DC/Milestone writing programme. So many words!

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  3. I love … and I mean LOVE … the main arc. Metallo has an abused kid twisted into an instrument by people is a ‘sympathetic backstory’ I don’t mind. Superman trying to take the Warworld ethos out of Otho is such a wonderful background thread, is great. Kara is always the smartest person in the room. And bringing Cyborg and Eradicator means a reunion of the Reign of the Supermen. Kennedy Johnson and Sandavol are crushing it.

    The Lois/Superman/Young Jon story is (sigh) fine but feels like it is treading water a bit.

    But the Steel story is a mess. Two chapters in and just a jumble. John as tech overlord of Metropolis makes no sense. Conner and Nat throwing back cringey quips doesn’t work.

    It seems like this third leg of the anthology (PG being the first) are complete reimaginings of characters that don’t need reimagining!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The story is certainly compelling, I could easily enjoy it filling the whole book, see the Family members get a bit more time. But what we’re getting is certainly pretty darn fab.

      I really wish DC still had lettercols, I’d love to see the praises and pans for this book.


  4. I like the main storyline, too, even if there are just too many characters, and I’m having difficulty telling Jon Kent, Kon-El and Kong Kenan apart in the crowd scenes!

    First time I’ve ever really cared about Metallo. I like that he’s given a three-dimensional personality and a sympathetic backstory, but at the same time it’s not being used to excuse his numerous crimes, because he has free will. I don’t know if it’s possible for Metallo to reform, simply because he’s a longtime villain in the Superman mythos, and sooner or later the status quo almost always gets restored. Having said that, it’ll be interesting to see where the character goes from here in this specific storyline.

    I bought the variant cover by Rafa Sandoval & Matt Herms that’s a homage to the “Reign of the Supermen” storyline and, yipes, how can that now be 30 years old?

    So, what exactly is the current continuity for the planet Krypton? Is it back to something close to the original Golden Age pulp sci-fi version, but the Eradicator still exists and is obsessed with the “purity” of the Kryptonian race?

    I’m also continuing to enjoy “Home Again” by Dan Jurgens. Happy to see Lee Weeks back this issue. Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colors continue to amaze me.

    Like yourself, the Steel back-up really has me scratching my head. Irons’ suggestion that his high-tech security system have access to “facial recognition, retina scans and fingerprints” for the entire population of Metropolis sounds like a GIGANTIC civil liberties nightmare. “What could possibly go wrong?!?” I ask with generous helpings of sarcasm.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That homage cover was fab, I wish DC still included all the variants with the digital issues, as was the case.

      I’m completely lost on Krypton, I suspect it’ll be unseen for a while until the memory of Rogol Zaar fades.

      I’d love to see Metallo pack in the villainy. They could always retire John and, like in the Bronze Age, bring in brother John… or maybe Tracy could pick up the kryptonite baton.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Rogol Zaar? Who’s that? 🙂

    Good suggestion about introducing a new Metallo. That’s a tried & true tradition in superhero comic books: have a villain reform or retire, but then have someone else take on their costumed identity so the character can still be used as a bad guy.


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