In Review: Action Comics #977

Superman's Rebirth origin is interesting, albeit a familiar one.

The covers: Superman is shown in several classic images on the Regular cover by Andy Kubert and Brad Anderson. Front and center is Superman ripping his shirt open as he’s running forward, revealing his trademark top. Clockwise there are Lois and Clark holding toddler John, Lois and Clark kissing at their wedding, Superman flying while holding a giant American Flag (ala Christopher Reeve from Superman II), Superman bursting some Kryptonite chains around his chest, and the Man of Steel replacing the bronze orb atop The Daily Planet as Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and Lois look on. These images sum up what Superman is all about. The Gary Frank and Brad Anderson Variant cover is a moody piece and the one I purchased. This features the inside of the Fortress of Solitude, resplendent in its crystalline formations. One crystal is being used as a computer screen, showing Kal-El’s departure from Krypton as it’s exploding. Sitting before this crystal is Superman, his legs crossed and arms atop them. Except he’s not really sitting as a reader would — he’s floating, as evidenced by his cape flowing. The look on his face is somber, as if he’s displeased at what he’s looking at. The harsh, cold crystals dominate this image and increase his dour expression. I love this. Overall grades: Both A

The story: There have been some major happenings in all Superman titles since Rebirth has occurred, with the Man of Steel’s new timeline causing consternation across the Internet. This issue, “The New World” Part 1 by Dan Jurgens, begins to get precise in Superman’s latest history. The issue begins with Perry White roaring at Clark Kent that he needs the reporter’s story now. He sends the story to layout just at that moment, easing the editor-in-chief’s mind. Lois arrives on the scene and she and Clark say good night to Perry. As the pair wait for the elevator, she says that he seems distant. ” I feel…I don’t know…Uneasy, Lois. Call it a haunting feeling. Hard to explain, but it’s been gnawing at me for days.” She asks if it was because of Mr. Myxzptlk’s doing (which have spanned the last few Super titles). He replies, “We know that he — and something more out there — messed with our lives. But the specifics of what happened are getting harder to recall.” She knows he’s going to go north for the answers. She leaves in the elevator alone while he changes in the shaft to his iconic persona and flies to the Fortress of Solitude. He asks the computer to show him everything from the beginning of his life, which then takes the reader to Krypton before its destruction and he sees his parents, as well as his himself as an infant. This is followed by his landing in Kansas and his discovery by the Kents. These moment will be familiar to long time readers, but provide a good jumping on point for those new to Superman. And even for older fans, seeing which elements from previous origin stories are used in this Rebirth tale will prove interesting. This issue isn’t just a rebooted origin: there is a computerized foe who appears before two of Superman’s rogues, asking if they’d like to join him. The identity of this villain isn’t revealed, but will be shown to all in an upcoming issue of one of the Superman titles. I’ve read several takes on Superman’s beginnings over my decades long readings, so this was familiar territory, but interesting nonetheless. Overall grade: B-

The art: This is some beautiful work by artist Ian Churchill. When a splash page of Clark Kent is exciting to look at, one knows that his will be an impressive book. The first page features Clark being surprised by White’s bellow. There are several notes taped to the walls of his cubicle and each has a neat in-joke, as do the books beside him. There’s a nice bit of foreshadowing with Clark’s exit at the bottom of Page 2, which justifies Lois’s conversation with him. Clark’s change in the sixth panel on 3 is outstanding. The full page splash on 4 that shows Superman leaving The Daily Planet has all the hallmarks of a cover for the eventual trade collection. The first two page interlude of the computer villain has him looking like something out of The Matrix, though his being is composed of several foreign words, which, when translated give clues to his identity. The character that he speaks with looks great and Churchill gets a nice look of surprise from the character on 6’s fourth panel, which is impressive given the character’s face can’t move. The images that will cause the most discussion are those of Krypton’s past which feature a conglomeration of characters and styles from previous origin stories; the introduction on 8 is lush with its details. Considering it’s been illustrated countless times, Churchill is able to create a good bit of tension and drama in Kal-El’s departure from his homework and his parents’ final embrace. I was also taken by the infant already having a signature curl of hair on his head. The Kents discovery of the baby is sweet, with Martha being both loving and strong. 18 shows Clark’s teenage years, including who he hung out with and when he discovered his abilities. This is followed by a full page splash of the individuals that Clark associates with in Metropolis. All in all, a really well drawn issue. Overall grade: A

The colors: Hi-Fi is an excellent match for Churchill’s artwork. The offices of The Daily Planet look as bland in their colors as one would expect, though there is a nice bit of bright rose for the background of Lois’s photo on the first page, reminding the reader where Clark’s heart is. The bright reveal of what Clark has under his shirt on Page 3 provides a dramatic transition for the story, with the colors exploding with Superman’s appearance on 4. The next two pages feature two of this issue’s villains and they feature heavy use of green and red. Several shades of each are used, creating a good amount of depth to both characters. The Fortress of Solitude uses blues and whites really well, and this impressed me: I’m used to seeing this locale in pure whites (Yes, the Donner films are my default), but the use of the blues really gave the setting an arctic feel. The citizens of the Krypton flashback have a nice splash of color in their clothes, allowing them to stand out from the pale colors of the setting. I liked that Kal-El’s parents have more colors in their home than the rest of Krypton, making them seem more human than the other citizens. Page 19 uses yellows and whites very well to produce a sun effect on the images, with Superman, in the dead center, the focus of attention in his bold colors. Hi-Fi continues to be the gold standard of colorists. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Yells, dialogue, notes, editorial notes, the story’s titles, the book’s credits, narration, sounds, scene settings, a holographic news bulletin, a robot’s speech, and the tease for next issue come from Rob Leigh. Everything on this looks great, but there were opportunities missed by using the color and shape of dialogue balloons to show differentiation, rather than a change in the style of fonts. This was not Leigh’s decision to do so, but I wish editors Paul Haminski, Mike Cotton, or Eddie Berganza, had allowed him to do so, for it would have made the words of the villains truly look nightmarish. Overall grade: B

The final line: Superman’s Rebirth origin is interesting, albeit a familiar one. The visuals on this book are incredible. A good entry point for those to want to begin the Man of Steel’s adventures. Overall grade: B+

To purchase a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Action-Comics-2016-977/digital-comic/480836?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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