Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: Action Comics #979

Action Comics #979 came out last week and was a good transition issue between the Reborn story and the upcoming Revenge Squad battle. As such, it was a very entertaining read as we toggled back and forth between a very happy Lois and Clark couple and an overly powerful group of villains eager for their destruction. That dissonance makes this a compelling read.

Writer Dan Jurgens is really amping up threat level of the Revenge Squad here. Any one of these villains alone has nearly defeated Superman. To put them all together makes this a true murderers' row.

I will say that I am hoping that the Cyborg Superman story will be fleshed out a bit. His origin is going to be relatively sticky in this post-Reborn universe. We know the Cyborg Superman and the Reign of the Supermen happened in this universe again. But we know that this Hank Henshaw is walking around, working for the military, and apparently human. How did that happen? The 'black suit' Superman stalked him in the Lois and Clark mini-series. Did that still happen? Was he cured? There is a lot to answer and I am hoping Jurgens realizes that.

But for me, the big win of the issue was the apartment hunting opening scene with Lois and Clark. Jurgens has such an ability to write these two in a very natural, comforting way. This whole scene made me smile. It even answered some 'real world' questions that have been nagging me!

Patch Zircher is on art and by now folks probably know I love his art. It is the small subtle things Zircher adds to his art that makes me really appreciate it, whether it be a pertinent background or even panel progression.

The book opens with Superman being held up by the throat, in the clutches of Mongul. The alien despot splits Superman open with an axe and smiles. It turns out the whole thing is a dream supplied by a Black Mercy.

This is one of those times where an editors box was exceedingly helpful. It turns out this Mercy was placed on Mongul very recently in the Trinity book. This old fogey wondered if it was a callback to 30 years ago and 'For the Man who has Everything'. Thankfully, the box was there.

I also like this panel. For me, it is an interesting bookend to the first panel where Superman is in a similar position to the Eradicator here, albeit being choked. It shows how the dream and reality are quite different while at the same time similar. I wonder if this was intentional. 

Meanwhile, oblivious of the impending danger, Clark and Lois are apartment shopping in Metropolis. With both back at the Planet, they need to be in the city proper. The commute is too long (my biggest gripe about the Hamilton house!) for them to get in and out daily.

Jon will be able to adjust. After all Lois did many times.

I love how Clark tries to 'outdo' Lois with his move from Krypton but she shuts him down. Even he acknowledges that no one can 'one up' Lois Lane. There is such an easy chemistry and respect between these two. I love it.

But even Clark realizes he missed the city. It will offer new experiences and cultures for Jon to explore. This is home. And it being a penthouse allows Superman access to the roof if he thinks the balcony is too blatant.

I love how much detail Zircher puts into the background here, really selling how this is a literal and figurative window into the city. The Planet is there, and LexCorp. But also tons of buildings and unnamed skyscrapers. Metropolis is a big busy city! And these two are in the thick of it!

While these two coo over their new digs, the new Revenge Squad is heading to the Himilayan Fortress to grab the Oblivion Stone, a key plot point in the Lois and Clark mini-series. We finally learn that the stone, should its two halves be united, has the power to rewrite one moment in a person's history.

Blanque, Mongul, and the Eradicator smash their way in. There they meet Klon and Dratania. Again, we met them in the Lois and Clark mini-series. Initially these two seemed to be prisoners. But here they are more like allies to Superman, ready to defend the Fortress for him.

Of course, Blanque, Mongul, and the Eradicator aren't pushovers. In fact, they seem excited to 'play' with these two.  I doubt we'll ever get the backstory of these two as they are sort of cannon fodder for the squad.

Between the Oblivion stone and these characters, it seems like in the post-Reborn world, Jurgens is wrapping up any number of old plot points so that a smoother, more cohesive future exists.

The city bliss that Clark and Lois were enjoying is broken by the alarm at the Himalayan Fortress.

Again, Jurgens does a great job of smoothing over the existence of this Fortress. This belonged to the 'black suit' Superman. It was his getaway place. But now why would one Superman need two Fortresses. Well, the advent of Jon had made Superman be extra cautious. So a second place was needed for weapons and the occasional prisoner.

At least we hear that Klon and Dratania were friends, extra-dimensional beings Superman was caring for.

But it is this post-Reborn reshuffling of the disparate timelines that I really appreciate in the books these days.

When Superman arrives, the Fortress is in ruins. Klon and Dratania are dead. And the Oblivion stone is gone. A battered Kelex tells Superman that it was Mongul, the Eradicator, and Blanque.

It was this quiet moment after seeing his fallen friends that struck me. That quiet first panel, of Superman on one knee grieving, is just powerful. But the subsequent scenes slowly pulling in on Superman vowing to avenge his friends just built on that moment. The last panel being smaller, Superman's face draped in shadows, it all works to show just how upset Superman is here.

Powerful art complementing a poignant moment.

The Squad comes together and Henshaw unites the two halves of the Oblivion Stone. He talks of how he once was master over Mongul. He wants to get back what he desires most. He wants to once again become the Cyborg Superman.

I'll reiterate that his story now becomes one of the more confusing in the post-Reborn continuity. How could he exist, disappear, become his human form again, and then come back as the Cyborg?

My mind aches trying to come up with a coherent story. So let's hope Jurgens knows what he's doing here. This is one I would hate to just roll with.

In the end, the Cyborg returns in all his glory. Mongul initially tries to rebel but is quickly shot down. Once again the Cyborg Superman is his master.

As I said above, this is already a nasty group of villains. But Henshaw isn't done. He wants to add Zod to the mix. Unreal.

We saw Superman going on a recruitment mission of his own these last months, preparing for a threat by organizing his 'family'. Could this be the threat.

Oh yeah ... and if this page looked familiar ...

It's because longtime readers have seen it before.

Mongul had kissed the hand of the Cyborg in the past, in exactly the same pose, lo those many years ago in Reign of the Supermen.

I was very entertained by this issue. Jurgens and Zircher are just perfectly in synch in story telling. The early warmth of Lois and Clark was a nice counterpoint to the violence and evil that happened after. And this certainly whet my appetite for more. This is what an early chapter in an arc should do, grab the reader and leave them wanting.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

This issue set up the upcoming nicely. And brutal battle it will be. The powers clashing are able to raze Metropolis to the ground even before the Superman Family joins Superman.

I'm loving Zircher's art.

Talking about the "Reign of Supermen" arc and that era of Superman stories... I've realized we haven't seen Conner... or Matrix. I was so irked because we barely saw Kara during the flashback issues that I didn't realize Matrix was not even mentioned. At least Superman saw a holopic of his cousin and acknowledged her existence. Matrix...

Supergirl Matrix exists in the new continuity? We know Superman exiling himself in space happened, so "The Supergirl Saga" happened? Or only some parts of it? Since the Kents died before their son became Superman, who looked after Matrix in case she turned up? And if she didn't show up... Peter David's stories are out of continuity?

God, what a mess. My guess is Matrix and Linda's adventures have been quietly and unofficially written out of continuity. DC will not tell they have not happened but they will behave as that is the case. Sort of Byrne telling he would imply but not state Superman is the Only Child of Krypton.

So now Superman is aware that Kara exists, but the existence of Matrix Supergirl has been wiped from his memories. How ironic.

I wonder how the Cyborg Superman story will play out. At least we can finally leave behind us the awful Cyborg Zor-El subplot.

Martin Gray said...

Great review, and super-well done on spotting the art homage. That passed me by.

Maybe when Supergirl shows up again the whole Cyborg-Superman business will be explained... I can see any explanation being so convoluted that I AM willing to wave away the New 52 Henshaw along with the New 52 Zor-El... I can accept that the original Cyborg Superman reverted to Henshaw at some point but went mad again and wanted to become a villain once more. Realityhas been revamped with Superman reborn, and away went the New 52 tweaks that didn't match the earlier, favoured continuity.

Fascinating points from Anon about Matrix, I thought we'd stopped talking about her once the Loeb/Turner version came in, and she was eventually dragged under by the continuity swamp? It doesn't matter, DC can take away the world's memories but, as with Silver Age Kara, we still have our... and more importantly, our comics.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I don't think we will ever hear of Matrix again and it is unfortunate as she really emerged from a terrible beginning to become a great hero.

As for Cyborg Superman's origins, between his and Superwoman's I think I have a migraine. I hope there is some unifying thread that smooths these over. Or at least some throwaway line that glosses over it (like 'somehow it all still happened') to let me know I should stop mulling about it.

Anonymous said...

"As for Cyborg Superman's origins, between his and Superwoman's I think I have a migraine."

I know I have one.

And I blame the unending rebooting and retconning. DC could just go ahead and say "We're going to tell nowstories set in another continuity. The old continuity and their heroes still exist and their stories happened, but we're now covering another Earth in the Multiverse" but nooo, they have to destroy the main continuity, reboot everything and then retcon it.

"I don't think we will ever hear of Matrix again and it is unfortunate as she really emerged from a terrible beginning to become a great hero."

Unfortunate, indeed. I bear no ill will towards Matrix. I wanted Kara back but I didn't want Matrix gone. Nonetheless, I'm feeling little patience towards some -some!- Matrix fans after reading a bunch of posts in the Peter David's site and seeing them hating and insulting Kara.

Anj, have you ever told in your blog what your reaction was back in 2004 when your found out about Kara Zor-El's return?

Off-topic, I wonder how well this will go down:

I dare hope Supergirl makes an appearance, even if it's a single panel?

And maybe I'm imagining things, but I think this poster gives off a kind of Silver Age vibe. Maybe it's the hair: