In Review: Action Comics #1000

This wonderfully celebrates the past, present, and future of the greatest superhero of all time.

The covers: There are a lot of covers to this landmark issue. Seriously, a lot. As I’m writing this review more images are popping up online. Rather than devote a ton of space to all the variants, I’m going to do a separate review of all the covers I can find. However, I will review the Regular cover, which is the visual that accompanies this review. The new artistic team of Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair have Superman, hands on his hips, cape splaying behind him, smiling broadly, looking into the future, standing before the beautiful architecture of Metropolis, with The Daily Planet’s iconic globe clearly seen. This is how the world thinks of Superman, so this is a completely fitting frontpiece. Overall grade: A 

The stories: There are ten stories in this issue. Since they aren’t very long, I will tease as much as possible of each without spoiling them. The first story is a thirteen page tale titled “From the City That Has Everything” by Dan Jurgens. This opens with the Man of Steel dealing with some infamous cosmic baddies before returning to Earth to take part in a ceremony he’s unaware of. Familiar faces make this fun and make this the perfect opening to this giant sized issue. Next up is the fifteen page “Never-Ending Battle” by Peter J. Tomasi. This consists of a series of full-page splashes that recount how Superman is shot across time to battle several villains. I want to see the hero’s famous adventures revisited and this is the perfect way to give them to the reader, regardless of how long he or she has been a fan of the Kryptonian. This was really cool. Marv Wolfman has written “An Enemy Within.” This is five paged previously unpublished tale that has a situation for the Metropolis Police. Superman’s not in it, but narrates the tale. It comes off as disjointed due to the narration. This would have been a better tale without Superman. “The Car” by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner follows with a five pager that’s flat out brilliant. This short captures the essence of what it means to speak with the iconic hero when one has come to a crossroads. This is my favorite story of the issue. Not working is the five page “The Fifth Season” by Scott Snyder which is a confrontation between Superman and Lex Luthor at a very unique location. An unrevealed story from both characters’ past is given, but it sadly has no emotional impact. Much better is the next story, “Of Tomorrow” by Tom King. This five paged tale clearly resonates with the emotion of Superman. It’s sad, it’s beautiful, and it’s absolutely fitting for this issue. In fact, I wish this had been the closing tale. One of my favorite writers growing up was Louise Simonson, so I was pleased as punch to see that she wrote “Five Minutes.” The time frame of this story is to be found in its title, which has Superman doing several things in this short span. It’s only five pages long, but I wish it could have gone on forever. “Actionland!” by Paul Dini is a fun tale of an impossible theme park that spotlights Superman, but is hiding something behind the scenes. Funny stories with iconic characters are tough to pull off, but Dini makes it look deceptively easy. The final dialogue had me laughing out loud. Bestselling author Brad Meltzer also has a five paged tale, “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet,” and it is incredibly deceptive in having the reader think the story is going to be about one particular thing and winds up twisting it into something downright brilliant. I swear I started to tear up with the closing dialogue. This is Superman. The final twelve pages tease the new writer of the Superman books, Brian Michael Bendis. “The Truth” has Superman fighting a new villain named Rogol Zaar. This buff baddie puts the hero through the ringer, as well as another familiar character, with the story ending just as the antagonist makes a surprising pronouncement. To be continued in The Man of Steel! This is solid collection of tales, some better than others, but all making this celebration momentous. Overall grade: A

The art: In addition to there being several writers, there are several artists. Dan Jurgens’s work is inked by Norm Rapmund on the first tale. I’m a tremendous fan of both artists, so to have them in this book is heaven. The opening battle in space is fantastic and the characters who later appear look exactly as I’d want them to. Patrick Gleason creates some fun splash pages for the second story, but the efforts are hit and miss. He’s capturing some key moments from Superman’s past and there are some great illustrations, while others are just oddly set up, such as one involving some tiny characters and one spotlighting an infamous prison. A surprise is the Wolfman tale that features pencils by Curt Swan with inks by Butch Guice (Pages 1 – 4) and Kurt Schaffenberger. It’s always cool to look at Swan’s work, though, given the hype for the release of this story, I was expecting some more Superman in my Superman comic. Olivier Coipel’s art on “The Car” is gorgeous, capturing a specific time period and making Superman an incredibly powerful character whose presence is a match for this strength. The final panel is joyous. Rafael Albuquerque is the next artist and I just don’t like these visuals. The characters are inconsistent and the linework seems unfocused. I’ve liked Albuquerque’s work on other books, just not this. Clay Mann’s work is also uneven. He definitely is using the environment of the story to shape the visuals, but he makes the images too scratchy. I salute him for committing to this choice, though it’s not for me. Much better is the work of Jerry Ordway. I admit to being completely biased to Ordway’s Superman because I was in college when he first began to illustrate his exploits. Additionally, I’m a huge All-Star Squadron fan, so Ordway can do no wrong. So, yes, I really enjoyed what he contributed to this issue. Another superior artist is José Luis García-López with inks by Kevin Nowlan, who is also a superior artist in his own right. I was a huge fan of the Atari Force monthly, so seeing the sumptuous visuals on this book makes me feel young and puts me in my happy place. The villain that’s revealed in the final two pages is fantastic under this artistic team. The visuals in John Cassaday’s story rub me the wrong way with a computer blur used to show the hero’s speed. This is an overused and unnecessary technique that looks horrible. I wish that comic books would lose this incredibly poor visual choice. Comics have been able to create motion, including speed, fantastically for decades. This looks like a Roger Corman film. That said, the visuals dramatically improve for the final two pages. Many fans are going to be interested to see what penciler Jim Lee and inker Scott Williams are going to do on the newest Superman book and this shows what they can do. What can they do? Create incredibly detailed scenes with stunning action, strength, and characters. Yeah, their Superman will look terrific. As a collection of short stories, some of the visuals will be more enjoyable than others, but what’s indisputable is that there’s something for everyone in this. Overall grade: A

The colors: One of the best coloring companies in the business is Hi-Fi, who color two stories in this issue. The opening story allows Hi-Fi several locations and many characters to show their skills and they do so perfectly. Another two stories are colored by Alejandro Sanchez. The results are mixed due to the art that Sanchez has to work with. I found “The Car” to have the better coloring. Dave McCaig also does two stories, but due to the nature of the visuals, I can’t find much in the colors to like. The colors by Jordie Bellaire on “Of Tomorrow” greatly contribute to the power of the story and create an explosive tone. Also getting to color several locations and many character is Trish Mulvihill who does an expert job on her pages, using realistic and fanciful colors. Another superb colorist is Laura Martin. She gives the city an incredibly realistic color scheme, which allows Superman to stand out strongly with his blues and reds. The exit of the Man of Steel in the final panel is beautiful due in no small part to the perfect colors. Alex Sinclair is the colorist for Lee and Williams’s work and he’s got his work cut out for him coloring all the tremendous details of the art. He’s able to do so well, subtly directing the reader where to look in all the carnage. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, the story title and credits, sounds, yells, signage, a bullhorn, and a villain’s thoughts are created by Rob Leigh for two stories. Leigh continually does strong work and this issue shows that this declamation is true. “Never-Ending Battle” has Tom Napolitano creating primarily dialogue, though the final page has him employing dialogue and the story’s title and credits. “The Car” has him doing the same, though focus should be placed on both stories’ titles which look fantastic. I’m not liking Nick Napoliano’s work, which is too thin, though it does match the visuals well. John Workman creates dialogue and signage for his tale, but it’s his story title and credits that are visually striking. Carlos M. Mangual is responsible for creating his story’s title and credits, dialogue, and sounds, but it’s the narration that caught my eye. I prefer to see characters’ narration in a font that’s different from their dialogue and Mangual did that. Thank you, sir! The story’s title and credit, dialogue, and character names are crafted by Josh Reed for “Actionland!” His work is good, but the dialogue heavy story doesn’t allow him to create much variation, save italicizing or thickening some words for emphasis. The story title is beautiful, though. Chris Elioploulos is a lettering star, doing the narration, dialogue, and sounds for his tale. He, too, differentiates the narration from the dialogue, which demonstrates his deft choices. Cory Petit (No “VC’s”?) letters the final tale, using a neat design for the story’s title and credits. He also creates good dialogue, sounds, scene settings, transmissions, and yells. They’re big and bold to match the huge actions on the page. Overall grade: A

Pinups: Three different pinups are inserted in this issue. The first is by John Romita, Jr., Danny Miki, and Peter Steigerwald. This has Superman being hit by a bolt of electricity as he he stands atop an outcrop. The art looks nothing like anything I’ve seen of Romita’s work, but I do like the colors. There’s a lot of blank space at the top. This looks like an unpublished cover. Considerably better is the work of Walter Simonson and Brennan Wagner. This is an incredibly strong image of Superman flying away from a sun. I love this! The final pinup is by Jorge Jimenez and it’s a terrific change of pace showing the Kryptonian sitting on a cloud looking down with a smile. This is also exceptional. Overall grade: A

The final line: A must-own book for any comic book fan. It wonderfully celebrates the past, present, and future of the greatest superhero of all time. I initially gawked at the cover price, but, having read it, I didn’t pay enough. Overall grade: A

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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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