Action Comics #968
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Art: Tyler Kirkham
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Ulises Arreola
I have not read an issue of Action comics in a very long time. That’s ok, because if the continuity of numbering the series did not give it away, Action Comics is kind of the same comic it has always been. That’s comforting, as under the New 52 run, Action was arguably the best thing going in Superman books. I have read a recent issue of the main Superman comic, last shipping week, in fact, I believe, and I felt like the whole Damian / Jonathan storyline was a disaster. I was pleased to find that was not the case in this week’s issue of Action Comics, #968.
Apparently in last issue, the new Clark Kent, whose origin no one has figured out yet, initiated an Alert signal that Supes picked up with his super-hearing. When not-Earth-1 Superman showed up, he found some kind of inter-dimensional bounty hunter out for his blood or his head or both. This issue opens with the thick of that fight. Fortunately, Superman drew the lesser of what actually turned out to be two of these agents, the more formidable one having gone after Lex. These two hunters turn out to be kind of like a pair of Minority Report cops who have foreseen that Lex will ascend to the throne of Apokolips. Once in control of Darkseid’s minions, he conquers all of the dimensions, including ours, killing millions in the process. The two hunters aren’t having it. Supes has to not only deal with his assailant, but has to get cross-town to aid Lex as well.
If you are a DC reader, you’ve gotta be on board with Dan Jurgens. He’s just a staple of DC. No getting around it. I think that, for the most part, I’ve always liked what Jurgens has done, and this issue is no exception. In this issue Jonathan and, more importantly, how Superman deals with him, is a bit more normalized and not as much camp. The extreme cheesiness of the previous week’s Superman #11 issue was like a straight-up 1980s episode of the Superfriends, complete with a totally off-tone Bruce Wayne and Alfred. Jurgens reels that back in a good bit. It’s a bit more mainstream, and that made the issue much more readable. There’s some smart scripting here. At one point, Jon drives a truck into the first hunter, in actuality saving his dad’s buns. I like that Superman does not totally dismiss his kid; he just wants to make sure that he knows what they are dealing with before he lets him in on the fray. There’s a great ideological conflict in dialog between Supes and the bounty hunters, Superman of course taking the side that they cannot condemn Lex for crimes that he has not yet committed. I can think of some heroes in another continuity that could have used Superman’s muscle on the side of that particular argument.
Kirkham’s art is a bit hit and miss, but in a way that I will give a bye on this issue. I’ve seen a lot of his art, in the Earth 2 series over the last few years especially, and what he is doing here is something a bit different. It looks a bit experimental. Either that or Arreola’s color gives it a slightly different veneer that what I am used to. But I do feel like Kirkham is stretching here, trying to hit a slightly new stylistic stroke to his usual pencils, while doing his own inks. It works masterfully most of the time. There are a few inconsistent panels here and there, enough to be distracting, but I appreciate a veteran who has already arrived taking the risk to do something a bit different. And when it is on, it’s on. His splash panels are wonderful, and there are two or three in this issue; wonderful portraits and landscape full screen splashes filled with vibrant color and a Superman that looks truly super. And Leigh’s letters with the requisite sound effects of a major throwdown worthy of the Kryptonian add a wonderful flare to the whole setting.
The only other thing I did not really care too much for was Luthor’s scripting. He felt like so much window dressing. A bit less of that and this issue may have broken the 8.0 mark. While it is a great jumping on point and features worthy enemies that present a real threat to Superman, the Lex stuff falling flat and the occasionally distracting art panel left it falling short of getting into that higher review bracket. But it was highly entertaining and encouraging to see where this arc is going. And we have that issue to deal with of Lex eventually taking out Darkseid and taking over Apokolips as a juicy morsel of foretelling that could pop up at any time in the future. Solid work, just shy of greatness, results in what is still a great pull in my stack for this week. And it’s nice to see that Action Comics is still where you want to go for the best Superman stories being told.