In Review: Action Comics #987

The guessing is over, Mr. Oz is revealed and Superman's life will never be the same. Recommended.

The covers: With a return to the secret of the Rebirth Universe, there are three covers to collect for this first part of “The Oz Effect.” The Regular cover is by Nick Bradshaw and Brad Anderson and it features the Superman S logo against the clouds with the word HOPE underneath it. A fairly simple cover, however, if one were to purchase the Lenticular Variant cover by the same pair the image is much different. Moving the cover it changes from the Regular cover’s imagery to a host of alien bodies formed into the S logo with the word HOPE transforming into the word OZ, for the issue’s antagonist. The background has also changed from a serene blue sky to an apocalyptic orange. This is an eerie image and I found a picture online to accompany this review that shows this transition. The Variant cover is by Neil Edwards and Jeromy Cox. This has Superman falling backwards with his hands trying to ward off Oz, who’s taken off his hood to reveal himself. Sadly, his back is to the reader, so one will have to purchase this comic to learn this man’s identity. Good point of view on this cover, but the covers are very dark. Too dark, in fact. Overall grades: Regular B, Lenticular Variant A+, and Variant C+

The story: Deep within the A.R.G.U.S. weaponization center, Metallo begs for mercy. He’s been dissembled and is in pain. He wants to be released. Mr. Oz appears and says, “The only thing keeping you alive is that piece of Kryptonite. How ironic. I’ll free you. Though not in the way you expect.” Using his scythe, he hooks the piece of crystal, saying, “I’ll free you from your wretched life.” The villain screams as the crystal is ripped from his chest, but Oz persists. “You will never use remnants of his world against him again.” With the Kryptonite in his possession, Oz turns to a wall of monitors that display Superman and his family. “And you, Kal-El…will come to realize that they don’t deserve you or your family.” The scene then moves to Metropolis where Maggie Sawyer has come to aid an officer who has had a high speed chase end poorly for the pursued, which went off a bridge and into the water. The driver was stealing vaccinations for a smallpox virus that’s running rampant overseas. Luckily, the Man of Steel arrives to pull the van from the water and save the vaccines. Dan Jurgens then goes on to show Superman going about his tasks to make all right with the world. It’s exactly what one would expect of the icon. There’s even a good respite from his chores as he returns to the Daily Planet as Clark Kent, where his wife and son are speaking with the familiar staff. That’s when Oz launches a series of events to make the hero’s life a living hell. Things get worse and worse for the Kryptonian until Mr. Oz reveals himself, ultimately showing his face. It’s a good shock and will set Superman off in unexpected directions in upcoming issues. This is a good entry point for new readers with this villain showing his true face and its repercussions will be felt throughout all DC titles. Overall grade: A

The art: The visuals on this book are stunning. The pencils are provided by Viktor Bogdanovic, with inks by Jonathan Glapion, Jay Leisten, & Bogdanovic himself. I have to say it again, this book looks stunning. The opening page is a splash with a distant shot of the pleading man with the Kryptonite heart. He looks so frail, like the Tin Man taken apart. It’s impossible to look at the next two pages and not feel sympathy for the character as the crystal is pulled from his chest. Page 5 is also a full-page splash, this time showing Superman lifting the van from the water, with the reader below the vehicle and the hero as it’s raised. It looks sensational. The water coming off the auto sells the strength of the illustration. When Superman dashes off on Page 6 and flies by the city on 7 he is a god, plain and simple. He is perfection. The sly subtle smile that Clark has when meeting his co-workers and family is fantastic. When Oz sets loose his plan for chaos, the panels become warped and uneven, matching his psychological state — they’re fantastic! The bottom panel on 12 will set every fan’s heart pumping in anticipation for what they know is coming. The response by the hero atop 14 is outstanding, and the pair of pages that follow show his heart breaking, which makes the reader’s faith begin to falter in his deeds. 18 and 19 feature close-up of Superman’s eyes and they are incredible. Christopher Reeve made Superman’s every gaze piercing and the artists have matched that intensity with their illustrations. The final page is a full-page splash showing who Oz is and it’s magnificent, with the structure behind him being wonderfully ironic. I would love to see this team on this book forever. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Mike Spicer does a sensational job directing the reader’s eyes through the visuals. On the first page, surrounded by hostile roses, a bright white glow at the feet of Metallo draws the reader to look at how the character has been taken apart. The rose becomes a crimson when Oz states his name and it returns to its original hue as the villain loses the Kryptonite. The deep blue and reds on Superman’s costume make him stand out on every panel he’s in, especially when he’s streaking through the sky. The lack of colors in the background on the final panel on 12 has the reader absolutely focus on the character, upping the intensity of the visual. The explosion that occurs in this issue is dynamite in orange and yellow, which taints everything in the panel, including the Man of Steel. The final setting is wonderfully cool, practically lifeless with its colors, allowing the characters to pop off the page. Colors make the character on the final page gorgeously grotesque. Spicer is aces on every page. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, the text on A.R.G.U.S.’s logo, sounds, the book’s credits, narration, broadcasts’ text, yells, death rattles, and the tease for next issue are brought to life by Rob Leigh. The scene settings are very dynamic, being an outstanding visual clue to the reader that the location has changed. There are several sounds in this issue and all are superb, with them starting very small and becoming immense by the book’s climax. One character’s final words are appropriately weak and jarred, showing that incredible effort is being made by the individual to warm Superman. Leigh is batting one thousand on this book. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The guessing is over, Mr. Oz is revealed and Superman’s life will never be the same. The story is great, though doesn’t rate a + because it’s only the first chapter in “The Oz Effect.” Future issues will see if this upgrade is warranted in the story. The visuals are exceptionally strong, making Superman a god and his struggles colossal. Recommended. 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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