In my review of last month’s Action Comics #959, I noted the reverence for Superman #75 that was evident, not only in script by Dan Jurgens – being no great surprise, as he himself had written both issues – but also in the artwork by Tyler Kirkham, with several scenes from the Death of Superman redrawn by him with exacting faithfulness.
A similar reverence is again on display in Action Comics #961, with series newcomer Stephen Segovia illustrating much of the rematch between Superman and Doomsday as a recapitulation of their first fight. Many of the movements of the combatants are the same, their poses perfect recreations of their prior bout, seen from the same angle and distance even. Doomsday’s punch on page two of Superman #75 is strikingly similar to his toss of Superman on page nine of Action Comics #961. Likewise, Superman’s embrace of Lois on page fifteen of the later is surely intended to evoke their final kiss on page seven of the former.
Action Comics #961 (DC Comics)
As fine an artist as Segovia is – his and previous penciller Tyler Kirkham’s work is certainly the best aspect of Action Comics at the moment – the art here compares poorly to Brett Breeding’s in Superman #75, especially knowing, even intending, that so many readers would draw comparisons between the two. Action Comics is the more aesthetically pleasing, to be sure, but such is almost entirely on account of modern printing techniques, which allow for finer pen strokes and a broader palette of colors, not to mention gradients, layering, and other effects. Without such advantages, none of Segovia’s pages would compare to the series of splash illustrations that Breeding had utilized throughout the entirety of Superman #75. The content of the latter is filled with more expressive faces, more consistent anatomies, more detailed backgrounds, and more visceral action.
Likewise, the one-panel-per-page layouts of Superman #75 better express the magnitude of the threat posed by Doomsday. Simply structuring the content of the comic differently conveys to the reader that the issue is more consequential than any they’d read before. Segovia’s traditional panel layouts seem trite in comparison, and oppositely expresses that Action Comics #961 is no more notable than any other monthly installment – and it’s not, of course, but Jurgens’ script is clearly trying to recapture the epic scope which Death of Superman possessed, and the art does not aid that aim in this particular aspect. Moreover, it could hardly be argued that a denser script required more economical art; there is little in the way of plot progression in this issue, with the vast majority of the character interactions and action scenes being entirely superfluous, further decompressing an already plodding arc.
Where the art does make purposeful changes to similar scenes shown in Superman #75, such serve to reinforce the critiques I made regarding his recent characterization in my reviews of Action Comics #957 and Justice League: Rebirth. Namely, his domestication has made him decisively less super. Apart from this issue I can recall only two prominent occasions on which the Man of Steel cried, both absolutely earned and to excellent effect. The first was at the end to part one of “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” wherein Superman had begun to despair, truly believing it to be the eve of his and his loved ones’ destruction. The second is American Alien #7, when Lobo’s taunts pierce to the very alienation which the series had shown Clark to suffer from all his life. Contra Moore’s and Landis’ to Jurgens and Segovia’s depiction, which serve only as shorthand to the reader that “this is an emotional scene” without actually being so. Frustratingly, Jurgens had in Superman #75 written a similar scene in which Superman blasts off after kissing Lois a final farewell, with the rage written on his face then much more engaging than the single tear shed at the top of page sixteen here.
I love how Tyler Kirkham and Stephen Segovia’s art recaptures so much of the DC house-style – which had received undue derision in recent years – while nevertheless maintaining wholly unique flavors of their own, and yet, aesthetics aside, Segovia’s art certainly contributes to the derivative and often uninspired storytelling which has plagued Action Comics throughout Path of Doom.