In Review: Action Comics #992

A fantastic follow up to "The Oz Effect" with Superman questioning his identity.

The covers: Kneeling and holding the broken remains of Oz’s staff, Superman’s cape flays behind him to show a city crumbling, another destroyed by flood, and the people he loves witnessing a devastating explosion. Talk about a dramatic cover! Francis Manapul has made this anything but a Regular cover. This looks great, capturing the emotion of a broken Man of Steel. The coloring on this is also strong. One of my favorite Superman artists, Jerry Ordway, is responsible for the Variant cover. When I had to choose between covers, I grabbed this, unaware that Ordway did it. Looking at the credits I was pleased to see it was by him, confirming that he’s still got impressive skills. Superman stands within the Fortress of Solitude, his fists clenched as he screams at the sky. This is how I picture the hero after the events of last issue once he’s away from Lois and Jonathan. I love Ordway’s art and would love to see him back full time on another DC book. If not Superman related, All-Star Squadron series would be great! Overall grades: Regular A and Variant A+

The story: Dan Jurgens created the story for this issue, with Rob Williams providing the script. Alone in the Fortress of Solitude, Superman is repairing faithful robot Kelex. With the machine reactivated, Superman asks who its master is. It responds Jor-El. Squinting in anger, Superman asks, “…Who is Mr. Oz?” Kelex answers with Jor-El again. In fury, Superman smashes the ground beneath him and thinks, ‘This house was meant to be a fortress. A place that was mine alone…but he’s in here, isn’t he? He always was. Mr. Oz did awful things…manipulated people…I refuse to think he’s Jor-El. I can’t…I’ On his knees looking at the destruction he’s wrought, Superman says aloud, “I…I don’t know who I am.” A voice from behind surprises him. “You broke your little table.” It’s Batman, who’s there not because he’s worried what Superman is capable of, but because he’s concerned for him. Superman has been this way for too long. Taking off his mask, Bruce tells him he’s received a surprising revelation about his own father. Eventually, Superman comes to a conclusion at the bottom of Page 6, only to find himself needing someone. This issue nicely shows the pull that Kal-El has from so many sides: family, friends, and obligations. Superman truly doesn’t know what to believe. After a brief moment with Lois, he’s summoned by Hal Jordan to come to Mogo to look at something the Green Lantern Corps has discovered. Page 15 has him commenting on something world shattering. Thankfully, a conversation eases his worries momentarily. The book ends with the hero locating a specific piece of equipment that could solve his current crisis. I love seeing Superman act human and I love seeing other heroes help him out. This is not an action issue, but a strong character issue that features believable fallout from the “The Oz Effect” saga. Overall grade: A

The art: Will Conrad is a superb artist. He recently finished The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom mini-series and he did a phenomenal job on Angel & Faith for Dark Horse Comics. If a company wants to have realistic art, Conrad is the go-to illustrator. Since this issue so strongly focuses on the man within Superman, Conrad is a good choice. The book begins dramatically with an exterior of the famous setting, moving inside to show him speaking to the Fortress’s AI, then to a tight close up of his eyes. The page ends with the reader looking at Superman’s back, hunched over in distress. It’s a powerful image and the reader isn’t even looking at the character’s face! Pages 2 and 3 are primarily a double-paged spread showing a downward view of the table containing the broken robot. Several small panels are at the bottom of 3 showing Kal-El questioning Kelex and not being happy with his responses. The shattering of the table is well done on 4 and the look he gives in the final panel to Batman’s entrance looks amazing. The pair’s conversation is well done, showing them on equal footing as they stare at one another. The Man of Steel’s exit is dramatic, but Bruce’s visage as he flies off is wonderfully sad. Superman’s conversation with Lois is great for the staging of the characters, with him unable to get close her, which symbolizes how he’s feeling. The scenes on Mogo are also cool, with the technology being high, but not over the top tech heavy. Page 19 provides the tenderness that an earlier scene was missing, showing that one person will always support him. I knew where Superman was and what he had acquired before reading the text and I was left screaming for the next installment. Conrad gave this story the humanity it needed for the character to find himself. Overall grade: A

The colors: Hi-Fi does their usual high quality job with this book. Look at how well they shade Superman’s face on the opening page and how wonderful the blues are for the Fortress’s walls. I love the colors in the large panel on this page which make the artwork incredibly realistic. As Superman gets angry with Kelex, note how his face gets slightly darker; what a cool way to visually increase his anger. His rage abated on Page 4, the darkness in his face is gone. In the pages that follow, Superman’s costume has him standing out in every panel, whether in Metropolis or on Mogo, he’s an eye magnet with his bright colors. I love the greens on the lanterns and their settings, of which there are many different shades. The emerald outline around Hal is particularly powerful, looking positively electric. The warmth of the penultimate page vanishes for the shaded colors of the final page, when Superman retrieves something he shouldn’t. Overall grade: A

The letters: The text of the book is created by Rob Leigh and includes scene settings, narration, dialogue, the Fortress’s AI and Kelex’s speech (the same font), the story’s title, the book’s credits, editorial notes, and yells. Surprisingly, there are no sounds in this issue, and some could have been inserted on Page 4. The scene settings have an elongated font that makes each location seem epic. Differentiating Superman’s narration from his speech is the sign of an outstanding letterer. I also like the computerized font for the devices in the Fortress, separating them from living characters. Leigh is doing his typical high quality job as well on this book. Overall grade: A 

The final line: A fantastic follow up to “The Oz Effect” with Superman questioning his identity. Several supporting heroes help out, while Lois provides the never ending support he now needs. The visuals are incredibly realistic, making his quest very human. A perfect comic in every way. 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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