In Review: Action Comics #988

A disappointing second installment that comes across as padded and visually inconsistent.

The covers: A trio to search for on this second part of “The Oz Effect.” The Lenticular cover is by Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, & Jason Wright. This features a nice nod to Watchmen as Jor-El and Lara are holding hands as Krypton is being destroyed. Their bodies are drawn to resemble Doctor Manhattan and Laurie Jupiter. Moving the cover side to side shows them looking fine and then being killed. Twisted, but neat! The non-lenticular cover is by the same team, with things quite a bit calmer. The couple hold hands and look upon their son who rests in the ship that will save his life and take him to Earth. I prefer this to the Lenticular cover because the art is clearer. The colors are also really sharp. The Variant cover is by Neil Edwards & Jeromy Cox. This has Jor-el strapped to a chair surrounded by images of his son as Earth’s finest hero. The point of view is looking down on the screaming man, which is good, but the colors are overpowering the art. Too much red on the screens, with the purple-blue floor looking like an effortless splotch. This could have been good. Overall grades: Lenticular A, Non-lenticular A+, and Variant D+ 

The story: This is the justification for Jor-El, revealed last issue as to be the mysterious Mister Oz of DC’s Rebirth, hiding in the shadows and watching his son’s adventures. After having Kelex confirm his identity, Jor-El manipulates the memory of the Fortress of Solitude to show Kal how he was betrayed on Krypton before the hero was born. This was fine, but seemed to be establishing another character more so than the speaker. This is followed by how Jor-El survived the destruction of Krypton and it’s not pretty. Once on Earth, writer Dan Jurgens shows how humans didn’t exactly endear themselves to the Kryptonian. This part of the story goes on far too long, as the conclusion is never really in doubt; two pages would have sufficed to create the same emotion from the character and the reader. After leaving the people that found him, Jor-El reveals something important on Page 18 that creates more questions than answers them. The conclusion of this installment is predictable, leaving Superman to make a decision…which won’t be revealed until next issue. This felt very padded. I’m excited that Jor-El is Oz, but outside of last issue’s reveal, there’s no payoff in this chapter. In fact, it could probably be skipped and nothing lost in the overall story arc. Overall grade: C-

The art: Ryan Sook is the artist for this issue. I’m a tremendous fan of his covers for several books, so I was looking forward to seeing what his interiors would look like. The issue begins with a super full-paged splash of the Man of Steel looking angry. What a way to start! On the next page, father and son are shown squaring off, with the father not being very detailed. This is due to him being far from the character and the reader. This happens often: characters close-up look great, but the farther from the reader has them losing details. Kelex has too much reflection work done on his surfaces, having him look muddled, but the faithful servant leaves the story once Jor-El’s story begins. The full-paged splash on 4 has a spectacular point of view, though the characters at the bottom are mostly outlines — look at Jor-El’s hands for proof. In the past, the Krytonians have clothes that recall Curt Swan’s days as artist and I enjoyed those. The settings on Krypton on sci-fi generic/streamlined; I was hoping that more would be shown of the Rebirth Krypton. Jor-El and Lara’s death are very emotional, with Sook making them look horrific and incredibly sad. Where Jor-El ends up looks okay, but the story’s choices make these visuals a conventional war story. The full-paged splash on 18 features several monitors whose images are just too sketchy; it’s hard to imagine that the master of this situation would use monitors that don’t have clear pictures. This issue’s visuals go from hot to cold very quickly. Overall grade: C

The colors: There’s no denying that the colors on this book aren’t bright. That’s something that’s wonderful to see, given how dark most hero books are these days. Hi-Fi knows that Superman’s adventures should be bold and bright to mirror his optimism and they do not disappoint on any page. The first page gloriously has Kal-El’s colors dominating, with his eyes being wonderful. The interiors of the Fortress of Solitude are nicely chilled by light blues and whites. Though seen briefly, the exteriors of Krypton are given a healthy yellow and orange, creating a very alien environment. Jor-El’s survival in space uses some excellent blues, yellows, and pinks to highlight his state. Due to the setting, a range of colors cannot be employed to make the Kryptonian’s first encounter with humans bright. This contributes to these pages feeling lackluster. Hi-Fi does a decent job for what they were given to work with. Overall grade: B

The letters: Rob Leigh is responsible for the powerful opening proclamation, dialogue, Kelex speech, the book’s credits, editorial notes, sounds, yells, and the tease for next issue. The first word of the book is a great way to begin, with it looking incredibly strong. Kelex has a neat robotic font that’s not the typical italicized form of speech often employed by letterers. Though they are tiny, the editorial notations are nicely inserted without diverting the reader’s attention from the action or text of the panel. The issue’s closing tease looks incredibly classy due to the script used on the first two words. Leigh is doing a great job on this book. Overall grade: A 

The final line: A disappointing second installment that comes across as padded and visually inconsistent. This is not a way to impress old fans or create new ones. I’ll continue to follow this story to see what truths are revealed about Oz and the Rebirth event, but this doesn’t have me excited. Overall grade: C+

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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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