In Review: Action Comics #961

Good action and emotion with solid visuals.

The covers: Doomsday breaks through a wall behind the Man of Steel, who raises his hands to stop the monster that wants to kill him. Below the Kryptonian are his wife and son, stunned at the ferocity of the violence occurring before them. This Regular cover is definitely full of lots of action. Clay Mann, Sonia Orback, and Dan Jurgens have created a terrific frontpiece that places the reader right in the thick of things. The Variant cover, by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson, is more of a classic nature and it’s the cover I had to purchase. As bullets fall around and on him, Clark Kent rips his shirt open to reveal the iconic letter on the costume under his street clothes. This image has been done a hundred times, and it will be done one hundred times more, but when it works like this does, I’m all for it being done again and again. Clark looks great, the angle making it seem that the bullets are coming from up high, and the coloring, especially on those bullets, is fantastic. This is poster, print, and tee shirt worthy. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant A+

The story: A flying figure gazes down the city while thinking, ‘Metropolis. My city. Wounded. Hurt. Bleeding. Because of…’ and then Lex Luthor speaks “Doomsday.” A building is about to collapse, so the new Superman of Metropolis warns citizens away while he tries to brace the building. Clark Kent runs up to ask if the hero’s work will hold, prompting Luthor to realize that his man couldn’t be Superman, “Because there’s no way a real Superman would stand by and not involve himself.” Suddenly pieces of the building begin to fall, imperiling a mother and child. Before Luthor can save the pair a blue and red streak appears and whisks them to safetly: Superwoman has revealed herself to Metropolis. She has not only shown herself to the city but to the green cloak clad individual who has watched Superman’s progress since the Rebirth has occurred. Looking at the craft that brought Doomsday to the city, Luthor discovers that the alloy that comprises the ship’s hull is unknown to him. Kent comments, “At least we’re safe, for now. But who knows what that means for happens to be in Doomsday’s way?” Dan Jurgens’s story then moves to upstate, where the monster swings its fists down upon Wonder Woman. She’s belted aside and then Superman takes his turn upon the creature. The slugfest of “Path of Doom” continues, with punches thrown, though there’s no longer any bystanders in danger or buildings to be destroyed. Doomsday continues to show he’s not the mindless brute of his original appearances in the 1990s, with his actions on 11 very cool. The villain’s actions spurs another hero to spring to action, resulting in an almost lethal response from the antagonist. It’s after this moment where the story really sings, and, again, it’s a quiet moment where Superman and Lois have great emotional dialogue, followed with Superman speaking with Jon. These moments are what I’m living for in the Superman Rebirth books, and Jurgens is nailing these scenes. The cliffhanger has a character finally taking a direct action into Superman’s affairs and this has me very interested to learn more. Decent action, with solid emotional moments. Overall grade: A

The art: Stephen Segovia provides the art with Art Thibert doing the inks. They are a good pairing for this book. The opening shows Luthor flying down to the debris strewn steet from the Doomsday fight and he looks strong, but threatening with his stance. Superwoman’s appearance is only a blur, which isn’t either of these artists’ faults, since her look probably wasn’t finalized when this issue was created. Still, it would have been nice to see her. Doomsday looks great on every page. His first appearance as he battles Wonder Woman has him visually dominating the panel. Making him look incredibly powerful is not only his visage, but the debris that he kicks up whenever his fists hit the ground or anything metallic. Superman’s first appearance is a full paged splash as he delivers a left to the monster’s jaw. As impressive as the two look fighting, the cloud work under them was a nice touch, making the action look more real. The five pages of fighting that follow are good, with the action easy to follow, considering this is a battle of titans. The bottom of Page 11 gave me a visual I was waiting for and it looked great. The follow up at the top of 12 is awesome and the reaction from Doomsday excellent. Pages 13 and 14 have Superman speaking with Lois and Jon and these were the visual high points for me. It’s not often that Superman has any quiet time, especially during a battle, and I’m always impressed with an artist can make these moments interesting and Segovia and Thibert sure do: the emotion at the battle of 13 is great, with the tears being gut busting. I didn’t think I could feel any more for these two characters, but the large panel that begins 14 would make Gustav Klimt jealous. This is followed with words with Jon and the boy’s reactions will make readers feel similarly. These two pages are outstanding. The location that three characters go to on 17 looks great. I would have loved to have seen more of its interiors, but the quick look at what Jon is doing foreshadows that his actions will be shown soon enough. 20 shows Doomsday in a position he’s not been shown in before and it looks cool, having a very Jack Kirby flair to it. Segovia and Thibert should do more work with the Man of Steel. Overall grade: A

The colors: The first page demonstrates that Arif Prianto will be a wonderful colorist on this book. Take note of how he uses bright colors to showcase Luthor to the reader as he glides down to Metropolis. The ruined city is done in much lighter colors, not to dismiss, but to ensure the reader focuses on the hero. The red border around Luthor’s final line of dialogue emphasizes the strength of his words. The streak of colors that identifies Superwoman’s first appearance is realistic, considering the speed with which she must fly to save the mother and daughter. The dimming of colors for the screens of the mysterious green cloak wearing character’s computers makes them look real. When Doomsday, Wonder Woman, and Superman appear the colors are incredibly vivid. The sounds of the battle are bold in red, while the villain’s exclamations are an appropriate creepy light green. The excellent work with blues on 14 highlights the muscles of the hero and subtly show the light source. The use of yellows on the final two pages glow dramatically to show their technological superiority. Great work on every page. Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration, yells, dialogue, the story’s title, the book’s credits, sounds, an editorial note, Doomsday’s utterances, and the beautiful tease for next issue are all crafted by Rob Leigh. I’m always immensely pleased when a letterer differs narration from dialogue, so I tip my hat to Mr. Leigh. I keep my hat off for the spectacular sounds on this book, which increase the action in this issue of Action. I’m still finding a lot of pleasure with the look of Doomsday’s speech, which continue to create thrills and chills. The tease for next issue is a gorgeous font which seems more suited for a Jazz Age story, but it works, making next issue seem as if it will be a classical told tale. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Good action and emotion with solid visuals. This issue may be starting the reveal of the DC Universe’s Rebirth. I’ll absolutely be coming back in two weeks for more. 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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