"Back in Action"
Writers: Fabian Nicieza (plot), Kurt Busiek (plot and script)
Artist: Pete Woods
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: Superman has to not only deal with an invading galactic auctioning group but also with his fellow heroes, the military and the general public having doubts if he is the genuine Man of Steel.
Commentary: I have to give it to Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza: they know how to do a good, old fashioned super-hero story that has action, a hint of mystery, aliens and a good bit of characterization thrown in for good measure. This issue addressed some interesting matters, but at its heart it was just a lot of fun, and I really dug that. I'm all for deep, philosophical tales where characters spend panel after panel talking about the significance of their abilities and what that means for them in relation to the rest of the world, but sometimes I just want to read a comic where Superman fights a bunch of alien robots.
Everything in moderation I say.
It has been a while since an issue of Action Comics or Superman opened with Superman fighting some random villain. Kurt and Fabian are both very good at this type of scene. They drop me right in the middle of the action, and I like the fact that they are trying to shake me up as a reader. There's a certain level of confusion (or at the very least curiosity) that this type of opening produces. Kurt kept this feeling alive throughout the issue with the dialogue provided to the invading aliens. There was a certain amount of work involved to figure out what they were saying and what was going on. Again, I like to be engaged like this. It may be a little aggravating at the time I'm reading the issue, but once the dust has settled, it makes perfect sense.
And kudos to Kurt and Fabian for pulling Carapax out of the drawer. Talk about a random Blue Beetle villain.
I also respect that Kurt and Fabian are trying to examine something that has never really been explored before. They brought up a legitimate issue regarding what the reaction would be if Superman had returned after another disappearance. I can sort of see his fellow heroes, the villains he faced, the general public and the military giving him something of a pass the first time because he had died. The battle with Doomsday took their hero away, and while it stretches credibility it doesn't break it when everyone was just happy to see him back. Now he's done it again, this time for seemingly no reason and during a crisis that threatened the universe itself.
The doubt the civilian and military characters feel is believable. I also dug the range of reactions that Superman received from the guest starring heroes. Firestorm, being a relatively new hero, would be prone to doubt even if Lorraine admonished him for it. Nightwing had no doubts at all, and given their relationship and his ability to spot a fake, that also made sense. The Titans really didn't have a lot of time to question his legitimacy since they were in the middle of a battle against alien invaders, but it was interesting to see Ravager place her life in Superman's hands. All of these scenes, in addition to Carapax's comments on Superman's history of leaving, made for a well rounded look at the subject and I was impressed with Kurt and Fabian's ability to weave it into the plot.
Pete Woods also deserves recognition. His work grew on me during the "Up, Up, and Away" story arc, and I was very pleased with the art he turned in on this issue. His page layouts are the total package. You get an exciting battle in addition to detailed background and shots of civilians fleeing for their lives. Woods knows how to draw your eye to where he wants it to go, and his pacing as well as his page layouts are both fantastic.
In The End: Now that's how you end the first chapter of a story arc; a giant alien hovering next to the Golden Gate Bridge. In all seriousness, I thoroughly enjoyed this issue. The Dave Gibbons cover, with its mock tabloid appearance, was great, and the story had a good mix of humor and action. I will admit that I'm glad that Kurt handled the dialogue as I believe that he is the stronger of the two writers working on this story. Fabian is good, but to me Kurt is better. While Superman seems to be focusing on Clark in Metropolis and the world, this arc appears to be working on a more galactic level. As a reader of both titles, I appreciate the balance in that. While I am looking forward to seeing Geoff Johns and Richard Donner coming on to this title, I am equally looking forward to see how this story arc plays out.
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