Drawn Conclusions – Action Comics (Rebirth) vol. 1

You know, it’s becoming increasingly apparent to me, as I read Rebirth titles, that the New 52 was at least 95% secretly written as fan fiction…

Normally I’d include the descriptor from the back of the book, but this one’s even longer than last time, so here’s the short version.

The original Superman returns, after escaping the deletion of his reality with his wife and son. The Superman of this new world has died, and it’s time for the original to step forth to replace him. But a true identity crisis is afoot when Lex Luthor arrives in Metropolis, announcing himself as Superman’s replacement. And to make matters more complicated, their own altercation is soon interrupted by one of the most dangerous foes Superman has ever faced: Doomsday. In order to defeat this monstrous menace, he’ll need all the help he can get… even if that means getting it his most enduring adversary.

Writer
Dan Jurgens

Artists
Patch Zircher – Tyler Kirkman – Stephen Segovia – Art Thibert

Colorists
Tomeu Morey – Ulises Arreola – Arif Prianto

Letterer
Rob Leigh

Rebirth has been such a breath of fresh air. While not completely excised, the cynicism, pretentiousness, and woefully bleak framework of the New 52 in its desperate attempt to be “cool” is largely reduced. This is closer to the DC Universe I grew up admiring. And what a comeback! See, DC? You can still tell captivating stories while being bright and colorful. It’s okay. Really. So let’s do this.

Characters & Tone

Superman, Lex Luthor, Lois, Jon. That’s pretty much everyone that matters. Plus someone else I’ll save for a little bit. And what do we get out of this?

We get a Clark Kent in a role he really hasn’t played in… ever: the family man. That’s instantly what makes this a more interesting story. Of the times it has been done, writing Superman as a family man usually wasn’t at the forefront. In this story it’s front and center. When you get down to it, Superman has always been the pinnacle of the altruistic, good for the sake of good hero. And that is, in itself, awesome. Why? A lot of people think it’s lazy writing, but, honestly… in a world in which every other character around him is evolving to be more complex than that, all it really does is make Superman stand out more. And don’t get me wrong. There are others. For all intents and purposes, two heroes who rate higher on my personal favorites list – Captain America and Wonder Woman – are basically the exact same thing, just to different degrees. And ultimately they both have different driving forces. They have a mission. Captain America is a soldier, coming up in a rough time, under rough conditions. Wonder Woman is a warrior, and royalty, raised by the Amazons to be the embodiment of love and compassion. Superman? The simplest. Raised on a farm by a couple of good people and taught him to just do the right thing. It’s why I’m often iffy on things like Smallville and Man of Steel, and whatnot. I’m not saying his life before the cape was devoid of complication or anything. But the simplicity of the origin, itself, is a very appealing thing. Initially. But people go through things and new developments in life that grant them new perspectives. It doesn’t necessarily change their outlook, but it grants them another lens, so to speak. And giving Superman a family, not just a love interest, but a family is a very intriguing lens to give the greatest hero alive. As if there wasn’t already a ton of pressure on him, he now has a ten-year-old son. Have you ever tried to impress a ten-year-old? That said, this is the Superman I’ve been wanting to read. A competent, noble, heroic Superman who keeps a cool head, and choosing to make violence a last resort… unless your name is Doomsday or Darkseid. Because let’s be real. There ain’t no way either of those situations is going down without violence in spades.

Then there’s Lex. Now, I’m not completely up on Luthor’s most recent ventures from the New 52, but this Luthor does seem different from the self-serving, manipulative sociopath we’ve all come to know as Superman’s greatest foe. Still arrogant beyond measure, but he seems to be acting with genuinely heroic intention. That said, he’s still Luthor in many ways. The brain comes first. And given his history, the man has decidedly more brutal methods of dealing with situations, as shown when he first appears on the scene. What I like about this is the dynamic shown between him and Superman, here. Neither of them trust one another. Luthor knows his world’s Clark died, so he can’t comprehend what the deal is with this new one (let alone the other new one, which I’ll get into in a bit). And obviously Clark’s history with his world’s Luthor hasn’t left him feeling any admiration for the man. The two of them appear to be on equal standing, here. Not so much in the actual fighting part. Obviously one of them has an advantage, there. But in matching wits, they’re pretty much on even terms. Superman has good ideas, Lex has good ideas. They both do their fair share to handle the situation to the best of their combined ability by playing to one another’s strengths. Despite the very clear resentment. And that’s how these team-ups between enemies should work. Think about it. At the end of the day who would make a better ally than your greatest enemy? The enemy you’ve spent the majority of your heroing career fighting? The one who’s spent countless hours, days, years adapting to what they know you can do, just so you can adapt right back? That understanding is on a level that even some incredibly close heroes wouldn’t have. It’s interesting to think about.

Lois and Jon are the driving forces behind all of this. Jon, being a child who’s new to the very concept of his father being… well… one of the most important people alive, obviously feels one way about it. He adores his father, and wants to help as much as he can. And, in a way, he gets to. If not for him, the situation could’ve ended much more poorly than it did. But then there’s Lois. Lois remembers the first time Clark fought Doomsday, and she’s worried stiff that history might just repeat itself. But that’s offset by Jon, who she’s equally as worried about. Jon isn’t at an age where she thinks he’s ready to know about the truly dark side of the superhero role. What it can mean. So she’s trying incredibly hard to shield him from that reality. It’s just incredibly difficult, now that the threat is something she has such heartbreaking memories of.

And then there’s the surprise role of… Wonder Woman! Yeah, she makes her way into the book about halfway through. Her role’s pretty small, but it’s clear that this is the Wonder Woman I’ve been missing. A topic I’ll cover when I get into volume 1 of her series. Oh yeah. I’ll be doing that. Soon. The reason I bring it up at all is because she’s asked to protect Jon and Lois at one point, leaving Clark behind. She’s reluctant to do so, but not because she’d rather be fighting. It’s because Clark is a friend, and she wants to help. Made all the more apparent once she’s gotten Jon and Lois away, when you can tell she’s aching to go back and assist. It’s a small moment that really paints Wonder Woman in a perfect light.

Plot

Pretty straightforward in the basic sense. Someone’s unleashed Doomsday on Metropolis just as Lex has appeared to take over as the new Superman. Where did Doomsday come from? Who knows? But more importantly… where did this second Clark Kent come from? That’s right, there’s yet another Clark Kent running around, and at the same time as Superman. Both of them in the same place at once? What could it mean?! Well, your guess is as good as anyone else’s who hasn’t read beyond volume 1 (which I have), because it’s not explained yet. And it makes sense. Rebirth has obviously been winding up for a big pitch, this whole time, and the ball’s about to leave the mound. What will unfold as a result of all this? It’ll be interesting to see. For the purposes of this one volume, it lays out all of the necessary breadcrumbs to set up an interesting long-term event while telling a very large spectacle character story. When you get down to it, after all, Doomsday is an ironic creation, from a writer’s perspective. An entity designed to show character through spectacle, considering the scale of Superman’s abilities. Usually it’s the other way around. But, then, usually Superman stories aren’t actually about the man, himself, unless the more powerful characters start coming out of the woodwork – Zodd, Brainiac, Doomsday, Darkseid – people who can actually threaten him long-term. This, in particular, manages to be pretty basic, seeing as Doomsday isn’t prone to a lot of complication. But it’s satisfying, all the same.

Art

Eh. It was all right. As you can see, there were quite a few different art teams on this. It’s one of the down-sides to doing major relaunches like this. Some books will blow through several creative teams until they find a style they think really fits best for the book. None of the art was especially bad, and all the colorists did amazing work. But none of the art really brought that vibrant pop that I really like out of superhero books. It all took the slightly more grounded, realistic approach. Which is fine. It accentuates the more human elements of the story, too, as opposed to the more stylized stuff, which tends to be better as accentuating spectacle and action… ironic for Action Comics, but whatever.

Setting

The first two thirds of it are in Metropolis, but it seems contained to about one or two blocks. We don’t see much of the city at all. Doomsday doesn’t lend to a lot of creative uses of scenery, given that he tends to just destroy everything in sight. The last stretch of the story takes place in the middle of nowhere, about three or so pages on the Watchtower, just observing the fight with Jon, Lois, and Diana, and then it’s off to this Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Unfortunately we don’t see much of the place, but that’s because there isn’t much there, anyway. Given time, I’m sure Clark will fill the place out with trophies, just like the original.

Conclusion

I’d say to read it. It’s a welcome return to form for Superman. I look forward to seeing what new tales can be spun for the Man, and the Family of Tomorrow. ‘Nuff Said. As always, thanks for reading, ladies and gents.

Keep up the awesome, and take care
Chris V.

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