In Review: Action Comics #959

Enjoyable, but I'm ready to move on.

The covers: Something familiar and something very different. Doomsday looks down upon Superman, ready to deliver another powerful blow to the Kryptonian, but the super hero is cradling a civilian in his arms that’s been caught in their destructive battle — Clark Kent! How is it possible for the Man of Steel to be holding his alter ego? Will this change his battle with Doomsday? The answers may lie within this issue. Strong cover from Clay Mann and Sonia Oback, with Dan Jurgens. The characters are top notch and the coloring beautiful: it’s always nice to see the eye drawn to the hero even when there’s so much in the illustration. The Variant cover is by Ryan Sook and though it has absolutely nothing to do with this issue’s contents, it’s so strong I had to pick it up. Superman is in a locked lab. Green gas is flooding the compartment. Behind him, through the glass, the reader can see that kryptonite is being used to kill him. As he struggles, the smiling face of Super Lex is shown reflected in the glass; he’s grinning as his long time adversary begins to succumb. Outstanding illustration with fantastic creepy greens. I love this! Overall grades: Regular A and Variant A+

The story: Dan Jurgens’s “Path of Doom” continues in this third action packed installment. Rather than jump right back into the action, The story shows the emotional impact of this knockdown on Lois. As she walks upstairs, she remembers when Superman first fought Doomsday, on their alternate Earth. It ended with Superman killed. ‘It was the worst day of my life.’ He came back, but ‘…it’s happening again. I want to be with my husband. But our son comes first. The concept of Clark being Superman is still new to him. How does a boy process the sight of a father fighting a monster?’ She finds the young boy standing in the middle of his room, holding something behind his back. She begins to say that she knows he wanted to watch television, but he interrupts by showing his cell phone which shows the battle. “You don’t want me to see it! You’re afraid that dad’s gonna get killed!” It’s always been a nightmare for Lois to see Superman fight this enemies, but now Jon has the same reactions, and he’s a child. How would any child react to these incidents happening to his father on a daily basis? What will it do to his psychological state? The two share a moment on Page 4 and it momentarily addresses the situation, but there is so much more to be said and felt that Jurgens must return to it soon. Meanwhile in Metropolis, there’s chaos on the streets and among it is Jimmy Olsen still disbelieving that the Clark Kent standing before him is not Superman. As they share words, Doomsday goes in for the kill on Lex Luthor who’s crawling on the ground. The intervention of someone saves his life, for the moment. There’s a lot of back and forth between the heroes and the villain, with Lois and Jon appearing at home, watching the battle. Including this family when Clark takes a hit really gives the reader an emotion punch: this is new territory for Superman and it’s great. I’m enjoying these moments, and Lex’s, more so than the Doomsday battle. I’m hoping this battle wraps up quickly, because I remember the first time this slugfest occurred, and I’d like to get some original content. Case in point, anyone not see that final page coming? Overall grade: B-

The art: The illustrator for this issue is Tyler Kirkham and he’s outstanding. Framing Lois’s climb upstairs on the first page are two stellar Doomsday panels: the first is a tight close up of the monster and the bottom shows it battling Superman. The following two pages are a partial double-paged spread with several panels created by Mrs. Smith’s hair swirling behind her. It’s a very clever way to show her reliving her pain while keeping her in the present. Kirkham is nailing the emotions on her and her son fantastically. The look of pain on 2 is great, and it’s mirrored by her son on 3. There are no flashbacks or images of Superman on Page 4; it’s just the two of them having a conversation. There’s a lot of emotion in these images, with the third panel being a gut-buster. The dialogue that Lois has in that panel only intensifies the art. When the creature is shown in the present he looks terrific; his power magnified by Luthor crawling before him. When Superman enters the fray (and that’s no spoiler) things get as epic as one would expect — punches are thrown, concrete shattered, cars tossed about…However, there’s a new setting that appears. I don’t remember this from the original Doomsday tussle, but it works great here and looks awesome. Pages 17 and 18 have a monstrous conclusion, whose devastation is shown staggeringly on 19. There’s a nice build of tension at the bottom of that page, but the end result on 20 couldn’t surprise anyone, regardless of who the artist is. Regardless, Kirkham does a terrific job on this book. Overall grade: A

The colors: The colors are a key component to this book due to the amount of details that Kirkham has put into the art. It’s implicit on Arif Prianto to lead the reader to the key characters and actions of this issue. For example, Doomsday is pretty much a rocky white and grey character, but by having his eyes being a glowing red shows the reader the character’s soul. In the bottom panel on Page 1, Prianto puts a nice explosion of yellow between Doomsday and Superman, drawing the reader to go to the battle of the titans. There are some dark colors on Lois on 2 as she makes her way to her son’s room, but note how her profile is bright, save her eyes, which are in shadow, giving a visual clue to the reader that her mind is consumed by dark thoughts. The colors add so much to the visuals. When the action kicks in, Superman’s reds and blues become a focal point, as does the lighter blue on Luthor. Sounds are bright explosions in color, making the action sound louder. Every page comes to life under Prianto. Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration, yells, dialogue, Doomsday utterances, Luthor’s weak speech, story’s title, book’s credits, scene settings, and next issue’s tease are created by Rob Leigh. The sounds really propel this issue into the stratosphere. When most comics seem to be going mute with sounds during their action sequences, I’m so grateful to see that Leigh is allowed to have the action makes noise, and this action is certainly loud, especially on Pages 17 and 18. Doomsday’s every groan and cry is a wonderful work of art, befitting the brute. I also enjoyed seeing Luthor’s breathy dialogue on 5 — I shouldn’t have felt this way, but seeing him at this low point was delicious. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is fun, but could the Doomsday story be over and the truly original content begin? This battle’s deja vu is not improving over the original story. I’m much more interested in the “new” Clark, Super Lex, and Lois and Jon. Enjoyable, but I’m ready to move on. Overall grade: A-

To find out more about this book and others that feature Superman go to http://www.dccomics.com/

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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