In Review: Action Comics #978

This summary of the Man of Steel's timeline is a good primer for old and new fans.

The covers: The Regular cover is by Andy Kubert and Brad Anderson and features Superman trying to overcome six villains: Bizarro, Silver Banshee, Parasite, Metallo, Doomsday, and the Cyborg Superman. He’s not having an easy time of it, going against these heavy hitters, but he’s Superman and this is what he was born to do. Good action cover by Kubert, with a lot of characters fairly close up to the reader. The coloring is also good, with the hero standing out from the villains. The Variant cover is by Gary Frank and Anderson with the iconic hero in an iconic pose: holding up a downed helicopter with one hand, while keeping Lois Lane safe from danger in the other. Great image with the pair of heroes being the focus. However, one should also look down at the bottom — there are people within The Daily Planet reacting to the action outside. Nice. Overall grades: Both A 

The story: This is the second half of “The New World” by Dan Jurgens that’s seeking to crystallize Superman’s past in the era after DC’s massive Rebirth. Superman summons a recording of his first day working at The Daily Planet. Lois is falling after her helicopter suffered a crash.  He catches her and creates a commotion, which he is how he remembers the events. He asks his robot Kelex to pause the recordings. Everything he’s seen is as they occurred, yet he has the feeling that’s something is not right. Again, he hears a whisper that the robot cannot detect. It seems to be saying, “…consider the long game.” Realizing he has to make sure his memories are unchanged, Kal resumes the recordings, showing when his co-workers rallied behind him and he realized he had found his family. This is followed by a partial double-page spread showing the villains he would encounter, ending with him revealing his identity to Lois. His battle with Doomsday, death, rebirth, and marriage are shown, as is the birth of Jonathan. As Kal witnesses these key moments of his life, the computerized villain shown last issue reappears, returning to life another iconic Superman villain. Back at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman is visited by an ominous character he saw in Rebirth #1. This character says something that sparks him to action, but what that action is is left for next issue. Meanwhile, on the moon, of group of antagonists gather, with their leader revealed, all chosen to defeat the Man of Steel. I’m an infrequent reader of Superman comics, having stopped just before the final Doomsday issue from months ago. Having this issue briefly spell out what of Superman’s past remains unchanged by 2016’s big event was good for me. The cameos by two other heroes was also good. Having the villains interrupt this trip down memory lane was a smart way to break that up and foreshadow upcoming conflict. A good read. Overall grade: A

The art: The visuals on this issue were created by penciller Carlo Barberi and inker Matt Santorelli. They are a little cartoony compared to the previous issue by Ian Churchill, but they still look good. The splash page is a terrific illustration to bring the reader into the book: you can’t go wrong with Lois in peril, and she’s plunging headfirst to her doom. The first panel of the second page features Clark ripping his shirt open to reveal his costume, and it looks great. Pages 6 and 7 have a partial double-paged splash of many of Superman’s villains, from Darkseid to Lex Luthor. It’s a great Who’s Who of villainy that I’m sure someone on the Internet has listed every name. The rebirth of the foe on 8 is like the raising of the dead, and his stance makes him especially mechanical. The Doomsday pages look good, though there is one key Superman replacement that’s missing from the time when he was considered dead, and that’s a shame because I really liked that character. 14 and 15 features a key moment from Lois and Kal’s life and Barberi and Santorelli pack a lot of heart into that scene, with the panel at the bottom that stretches across the bottom of those two pages a great transition. The action that occurs on 17 is good, with a key structure crumbling — I sure hope that it gets rebuilt! The final page of the issue nicely reveals the computerized antagonist that’s been assembling a team to take Superman down. In fact, he even gives them a name and they looks cool, though I would have liked to see the figures closer to the reader, as the top right corner is fairly empty. The visuals on this book are sleek, with clear shots of every character to make them easy to identify. Overall grade: A- 

The colors: The first page is pale blue as Lois plummets to her death. Only the red around her dialogue balloon shines as she screams stands out on this page. This is no error, but a calculated move, I’m sure, by Hi-Fi to allow Superman to bring color into Lois’s life. The second and third page has the Kryptonian’s costume being focal points of every panel and a joy to behold. Inside the Fortress of Solitude the colors are a series of chilly blues to give this setting an appropriate cool flavor, which, again, make the hero the focal point. The villains on 6 and 7 look great with no one’s costume overpowering the other, but giving each an equal moment to shine in their evil. When the story shifts to the computerized villain, a sinister supernatural red is employed to make him hellish, while a cool emerald is used to make his dialogue completely alien. My favorite coloring comes in the panel that stretches across 14 and 15 because it perfectly captures the setting and the warmth it should emit. Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration, dialogue, screams, the story’s title, the book’s credits, newspaper text, Kelex’s speech, the speech of the resurrected villain, a key sound, scene settings, and the tease for next issue are created by Rob Leigh. I really like when he’s allowed to give characters their own unique speech font, making them stand apart from the more normal characters of this issue. There’s only one sound in this issue, and it’s the only one needed, but it punctuates the action at the end of the book superbly. Overall grade: A

The final line: This summary of the Man of Steel’s timeline is a good primer for old and new fans. It goes beyond the history lesson by introducing a new team of villains that will make Superman’s life miserable soon. 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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