DC Comics are persevering with their plan to rearrange their universe of superhero characters until everybody on the internet stops shouting at them. Their latest attempt involves using Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons's Watchmen characters (that's a whole can of worms in itself) to merge the best of their old stuff with the best of their new stuff. It's called DC Rebirth and I'm pleased to say it appears to be working! Sales are up and reviews are good, so let's hope it lasts (it won't).
But how does all this affect my favouritest superhero of all time, Superman? Well, quite a bit actually.
Superman is dead and has been replaced by a previous incarnation from a parallel world. The recently deceased Man of Steel is the revamped version who first appeared in 2011 as part of DC's last big revamp, The New 52. New52 Supes has been dispatched to make way for an older model, and to be honest it's hard not to view it as a big middle finger to fans both new and old who'd grown quite attached to him. But to be fair Supes the Younger was given a decent send-off in the recent Final Days of Superman storyline, as well as Superman Rebirth #1. Also, the aforementioned older model is a pretty awesome incarnation of the Last Son of Krypton, who comes complete with a wife (Lois Lane, of course) and a son (Jon Kent, the new Superboy).
Action Comics #957 (they went back to the original numbering, hurray!) marks our older Superman's return as the star of his flagship title. How did our comeback kid do?
Pretty darn well!
The issue begins with Lex Luthor, clad in Apokoliptian armour, attempting to take the place of the dead Superman in the hearts and minds of the people of Metropolis. This rubs the other Superman up the wrong way, and so he rushes to Metropolis in a new costume to confront Luthor, exposing himself to the world in the process. A fight ensues, and the two new/old adversaries slap each other around for a bit until a new threat suddenly drops from the sky - Doomsday, the monster who killed Superman in the '90s!
Despite my hurried summary this is a packed issue. One of the things I love about writer Dan Jurgens is his ability to juggle several ongoing plot threads in the same issue without losing the momentum or the clarity of the story. This issue is no exception. Jurgens' gives us the return to Metropolis of Maggie Sawyer - a fan favourite supporting character, another cameo by the mysterious Mr Oz, and an appearance by yet another Clark Kent (?!?!), and none of this distracts from the main action of the story.
One of my favourite bits in this issue was Superman and Lois attempting to instill their super-powered son with the same values and wisdom that was passed to Superman by his parents. I think the image of an innocent being given great power and not being corrupted by it is a big part of what many of us find so appealing about the Superman story. It's nice to see that story playing out in a slightly different way. I also love Jurgens' depiction of Luthor. Being a superhero is just a big ego trip for Lex, he wants to be Superman not to help people but to prove he's the best. It's difficult not to see real world parallels with the odious Donald Trump and his attempt to become President of the USA.
The art is absolutely amazing. Patrick Zircher has recently finished working on Green Arrow, where he did very well, but Action Comics with it's splash pages and, well, action, is much more suited to Zircher's style. Zircher has made each character clear, distinctive and realistic without sacrificing any of the dynamism of the art or the iconic nature of the characters. It really is top-notch superhero art.
Despite all the good stuff there were a few things about this issue I wasn't too sure of. The cliffhanger was a disappointment. After all, Doomsday's on the cover, we knew he was coming. It's a shame that a huge threat like Doomsday has lost his impact through overuse over the years. To be fair though, that's hardly Jurgens and Zircher's fault, and it's still a thrill to see Doomsday back in the hands of Jurgens, his creator.
I was also a little put off by the way Superman blatantly started the fight with Luthor. It gave Lex the moral high ground and tainted this Superman's reveal to the world somewhat. Having said that, it's quite in character for Superman to have his judgement affected by his anger towards Luthor, and Lois' reaction as she witnesses the fight on TV ("Don't ever think fighting is the preferred solution Jon.") indicates that Superman will face the repercussions of his actions. But diving in fist first was New52 Superman's thing (an aspect of the character I quite enjoyed actually), so it's a bit weird to see this Superman, one who is supposed to be older and wiser, acting in the same way.
I can't really fault the issue too much however. It sets out a complicated status quo succinctly, hits the ground running, and offers plenty of plot teasers to get readers back next issue, and you can't ask for much more from the first chapter of a new storyline. Hopefully this version of Superman, as well as Lois and Jon, will be around for a good long while, and Jurgens and Zircher will stick with them.
4/5 stars! ****