If you’ve read solicits you probably know what will happen as this issue closes, but dammit I don’t read them and you shouldn’t either. Why spoil the fun?! We have reached that (technically) arbitrary number we like to put extra emphasis on, but is it good?
Action Comics #50 (DC Comics)
Vandal Savage is a real jerk and he wants Superman to know it by ruining his life. We’ve recently learned a lot of Superman’s fights have been due to Savage—from HORDR_Root to Wrath, these villains were put in front of Superman to depower him, reveal his identity and crush him from all angles. With Supes recently discovering if he poisoned himself with Kryptonite he could regain his powers Savage knows time is of the essence to crush him for good.
Why does this book matter?
Greg Pak has been delivering solid Superman stories for what feels like ages now and he’s (in this reviewer’s opinion) managed to tell some gripping depowered-Superman stories in the process. Meanwhile, artist and co-story writer Aaron Kuder has an ability to draw superheroes that is solid and realistic.
A nice recap for new readers.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
There’s an interesting correlation between Superman and Savage’s son that’s made about two-thirds into this issue that will pay off next issue big time. I don’t want to spoil it, but connecting Superman’s origin to Savage’s son, however loosely here, is compelling. This element is built up as Superman rushes through this issue attempting to bide his fellow heroes’ time so that they can clear out innocent civilians.
Which is another element that works in this issue. With a hunk of kryptonite dangling from his neck like some kind of grenade, Clark looks like a soldier as he rushes around in this issue. He looks angry, ripped and ready for action. In a sense Pak and Kuder are showing us probably the last of the slightly depowered Superman. This all leads to the message of Superman’s strength never in doubt, never actually leaving as we know he’ll be there fighting till the end. That message works.
Overall there are a few layouts that are impressive: from Superman running through flames like some kind of super soldier, to a rather cool explosion shot encompassing two pages, to a full page spread of shards of kryptonite falling into a giant lens, there’s quite a collection of cool shots here.
It can’t be perfect can it?
A lot of this feels like decompressed filler. Ultimately half this issue or so is Superman zipping around presumably biding time to get the civilians out, but there’s no sense of what the heck he’s actually doing. Flying into pillars, floating and saying “Let’s do this” and immediately seeing fire with no idea what just happened are just two examples of the confusion in this issue.
The second half has Superman attempting to stop Savage from doing…something. Superman and even Savage aren’t clear on what he’s attempting to do. Test…something? The lack of knowledge in the threat weakens the drama leaving you wondering where or what the stakes even are. I guess the surrounding city is in danger, but how do the heroes even know that? A lot of the actions of these characters appear to be based on assumptions.
On the art side of things there are a few panels that certainly feel like filler. A bit underdone and lacking detail, there are quite a few pages in this issue that read as if the creators needed more time but didn’t have it. That extends to the big climactic final pages which are eye rolling at best. There’s a giant grin slapped on Superman’s face in these scenes that’s rather obnoxious and seems to negate all the empowerment and tough guy attitude he gained.
There are a bunch of cool full page spreads like this one.
Is It Good?
I was left wanting more. Greg Pak certainly closes off his run with a long tendril of connective tissue, but the actual climax is disappointing. Save for an interesting connection between Superman and Savage’s kid this is a decompressed sort of read with plenty of filler as the heroes rush around doing things to fill the page count.