In Review: Action Comics #994

Superman and Booster try to escape a past that never should have existed.

The covers: Against a white backdrop, Superman steps upon a crescent which fractures into several pieces. Within each piece is an image: his parents, himself as an infant, a flaming skull, and Booster Gold. This image represents the timeline that the Man of Steel fractured last issue by trying to visit his past. This is a good symbolic cover that teases what the reader will discover within. This frontpiece was created by Dan Jurgens, Trevor Scott, &.  Hi-Fi. The Variant cover is by Francis Manapul and it’s a very stylized cover. In the foreground Superman swings at an Eradicator coming at him while another comes at him from his right. Just behind him Booster Gold is battling three of the mechanical menaces. Behind all the characters is a mountain of Eradicators waiting to take their turns at the heroes. The coloring is making it difficult to find a focus. Superman stands out strongly with his dynamic blues, but the gray Eradicators don’t stick out and Booster and his foes are lost. A change in coloring might have helped. Give Manapul some credit, he’s willing to try something new. Overall grades: Regular A- and Variant C

The story: Having gone back in time to see if his father did die in the explosion of Krypton, Superman is being saved by Booster Gold. Somehow time has been altered and Krypton never exploded and Zod is the ruler of this world. Seeing Superman, an unknown intruders, the Kryptonians fire at them. Oh, and Superman has no powers under Krypton’s red sun. Dan Jurgens has his story put the heroes in the predicament of trying to escape without being killed, because the longer they stay in this timeline the more it will create a bridge between the past and the present, strengthening its existence. A powerless Superman puts the hero in the position of having to do what Booster says, which allows this character to shine for the reader, and he does — I’d like Booster to have his own book again, DC. It was good to see that Superman does get a bit of boost from something that Booster has, but it doesn’t get him too far. Lois and Jonathan are in the book for two pages, in the correct timeline. Though brief, their pages promise bigger things to come from their actions. Pages 18 and 19 were good gut punches for the title character and the reader, giving the hero a reason for wanting this past to continue. DC, is there any chance of bringing back the Elseworlds line? In addition to Zod, the big bads of the book are the Eradicators, humanoid robots that do some damage to Superman. These characters pack some punch and have a good surprise by this issue’s end. This was a solid time travel romp, that showed Superman he doesn’t know how to find what he’s looking for. Overall grade: A

The art: As with the twice monthly Superman comics, there are a lot of artists on this book: Dan Jurgens does the pencil art, while Art Thibert, Trevor Scott, Johnny Desjardins, and Joe Prado do the finished ink art. DC, it’s time you reconsider having these books put out so often, because you don’t seem to be able to have one artist, yet alone a pair of artists, completing your Super titles. I’ve been reading comics since Jurgens first started in the industry, and I can recognize his style instantly. That said, it’s easy to spot when different finishers take over. The first page captures some solid movement with the heroes in four vertical panels that have the pair coming in closer to the reader, though the background remains the same. Having Skeets swoop around in the panels was also a nice touch. Pages 2 and 3 are a double-paged splash of the heroes being attacked by a type of weaponry that I’m a hard-core fan of and I was overjoyed to see it return to a Super book. Booster Gold’s costume looked terrific on every page; it’s a reflective material and it’s always impressive to see the work done to make it shiny. Skeets provided a lot of information in this issue, so he’s shown often, which had me missing that dorsal fin all the more; he’s just too flat looking. I love when villains yell in comics, so Zod did exactly what I wanted in this book as he raged at Jor-El or Kal-El. The arrival of the Eradicators is a full-paged splash which looks great. I wish some more time had been spent on them because their design, from what I could see of it, looked great. For the two pages where Superman sees a missed possibility, the line work becomes really heavy. It’s obvious there’s been another finisher here, and it fits somewhat for this look into the future, but I wish it had been a thinner line to fit in with the rest of the book. The line work is also thick for the final page. The characters are fairly rough, with that last panel not helped by the coloring. I’m liking the majority of the artwork, but can we please, DC, have just one artist and one inker on a book? Overall grade: B+

The colors: I’ve said time and time again that Hi-Fi is the gold standard for coloring in the comic book industry and they reinforce that pronouncement in this issue. The first page has the an urban setting colored in grays, and a light utilitarian blue. This allows Booster’s narration boxes in bright yellow to pop off the page. It also allows the bright colors on the heroes to stand out, drawing the reader’s eyes to them. The double-paged splash that follows has a beautiful violet for my favorite Kryptonian weapons, a light orange for the sky (showing the reader that this setting is not Earth), a bright blast of energy to move the reader’s eyes to the heroes, and the protagonists of the book in their bold costumes. This what a hero book should look like for every reader. The orange sky dominates the rest of the scenes on Krypton, a constant reminder to the reader of the location. When the heroes are in a sparse rural setting, the villains, dressed in black and gray, stand out as much as the heroes did in the urban locale. The only nick in Hi-Fi’s work for this issue is the final panel: the background is dark, the debris is dark, the villain is dark, and the character in the foreground is dark. Too much of the artwork is lost in all the dark colors. Still, that’s only one panel out of the entire issue. Overall grade: A- 

The letters: Rob Leigh creates scene settings, narration, dialogue, Skeets’s speech, the story’s title, the book’s credits, sounds, Eradicator speech, and the tease for next issue. Leigh creates a lot of varied work in this issue and it’s right on target. The scene setting that opens the book has a futuristic look in thin block letters, and the tilt to the right has the reader speeding along right into the story. The narration is slightly different from the dialogue font, as it should be, and I’m always happy to see when a letterer makes this distinction. Skeets and the Eradicators are mechanical creatures and even they have different fonts, which also made me happy. There are several sounds in this issue, as one would expect from a Superman book and they look terrific, with KA-CHOOM being my favorite. Overall grade: A

The final line: Superman and Booster try to escape a past that never should have existed. The action is good, the drama heartbreaking, and the tease for next issue excellent. I wish that there had been only one artist and one inker for this issue, because there are pages that don’t gel with the rest of the issue. That said, I need to have Booster Gold back in his monthly book after reading this! 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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