In Review: Action Comics #991

The conclusion will make or break one's love of this issue, though the visuals are top notch.

The covers: Three covers for this final issue in “The Oz Effect” story. The Regular cover is by Nick Bradshaw & Brad Anderson and shows Superman bursting from some Kryptonite chains while being held in the palm of a gigantic Jor-El, who’s shocked at his son’s actions. Superman looks a little stout on his cover, almost like Puck from Alpha Flight, but I like this cover. I thought it was pencilled by Arthur Adams until I read the credits. The Variant cover is by Yanick Paquette & Nathan Fairbairn and is a Justice League movie tie-in. Against a red Superman logo on a white background, the cinema versions of Batman and Wonder Woman stand before the reader. The characters do look like Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot, which is good, but one’s love of this will depend on how much one likes the films. I like this, but am not thrilled with it. The Lenticular Variant cover is also by Bradshaw and Anderson, featuring the same art as the Regular cover, but if one were to move the cover slightly a reader could see Superman confined by the chains, his fists against his chest before he frees himself. Jor-El looks impassively at his son and the background behind the pair is a deep blue. Very cool and recommended. Overall grades: Regular A, Variant B, and Lenticular A

The story: Superman is facing off against his father Jor-El, with Superboy inserting himself between them as Lois looks on. Jonathan is telling his father, “You gotta listen to granddad! He says we have to leave Earth. Everyone on it is gonna die!” Kal is angered that his son calls Oz “granddad”, but the boy pleads for him to listen. The hero tells his family that this man is the infamous Oz that he’s been looking for and is the source for all the woes that have broken out across the globe. Jor-El doesn’t deny this and transports he and Superman to “…my prison. Now my home. Free from the restraints of time and space…When Earth dies…like so many doomed worlds before…this place will provide a safe haven.” Superman says if something threatens Earth, he won’t hide because he’ll be there trying to save it. This angers Oz, who lets loose an energy beam from his staff and the fight is on. Writer Dan Jurgens has the two fighting for the best possible reasons: each thinks he is right. There is a terrific reveal on Page 7 that justifies a villain’s appearance in this series’ earlier issues. Another surprise is revealed on 9 and it’s even better. The conclusion of the issue shows that there’s much more going on with Jor-El than has been shown previously. There’s a good twist that doesn’t resolve him off what he’s done, but does give insight as to why. I wasn’t happy with the actions on 15 and 16 — it lessens the previous installment in this series. Obviously the payoff is going to really come with this character in the Doomsday Clock series starting later this month. The final two issues do put Oz’s goals into perspective with Superman going about his routine. This was a cool, frustrating, and downer of a story. Not horrible, but a downer. Overall grade: B

The art: The breakdown art on this issue is by Dan Jurgens, with pencils by Viktor Bogdanovic and inks by Bogdanovic, Trevor Scott & Scott Hanna. All make this look incredible. The first page is full-page splash showing an incredible stare down with the most heart breaking image of Superboy between the two. The eyes on the characters communicate so much — hate, love, concern, and loss. I love that Superman’s cape is splaying behind him as he confronts his father, it magnifies his anger and distrust immensely. One of the coolest early panels in this issue is the second panel on Page 4 with father and son gliding to the ground. The full-paged splash on 5 is difficult to make out because of the coloring, which is justified for being that bright on one element, but it does make things difficult to see. I do like the bottom of Page 7 which shows the frantic mind of a past villain. The energy that Jor-El can project on 8 was a surprise and it provides several opportunities for cool images. The reveal on 9 is also a full-paged splash and the way in which the new character is drawn is appropriately threatening. I also like how Jor-El’s face is hidden, damning his actions. The bottom of 11 shows a great series of panels that show the Man of Steel in motion. The exit on 15 is good, but very ambiguous, but then I doubt anyone on this book knows where this individual is going and how they’re being transported. The penultimate page of the book is my favorite; it’s dominated by lettering, but the visual shows the weight of the world on its most famous hero. Overall grade: A

The colors: Mike Spicer makes this book wonderfully bright, even when things are dark. The opening page is glorious in pinks and flesh tones, with the book’s title lit sensationally in the background. The blues in Superman and Superboy’s eyes constantly caught my focus, pulling me into their words. The color used for Oz’s staff blasts stands out on several pages, but is overwhelming at times, making the artwork indecipherable, such as on 4 and 5. The coloring for the space revealed on 7 makes it seem incredibly ancient, like the interior of a pyramid. Greens sweetly dominate panels and pages when Jor-El is winning, while a strong blue dispatches a character on 15. Take note of when Superman returns back to his world, the sky is a muddy tan, showing his conflicted thoughts to the conclusion of this encounter. Well done, Mr. Spicer. Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration, dialogue, yells, the book’s credits, sounds, and the closing word are created by Rob Leigh. The sounds are fantastic when the characters are wailing on each other, and there are several of them, but the high point of the book is Page 19. There is more dialogue on this page than I’ve seen on any other splash page in the last few years. It’s the same font, but done from an overwhelming amount of voices that only Superman can hear. I was impressed with how Leigh could fill the page and have the words remain readable, yet slowly fade as they reach the bottom of the image. Fantastic. Overall grade: A

The final line: The conclusion will make or break one’s love of this issue, though the visuals are top notch. I was mildly disappointed in the ending, much like the recent “The Button” stories in Batman and The Flash. Much is teased, but not much is really revealed. I loved the visuals, but wanting something more solid with the story. 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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