Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: John Byrne(p), Nelson(i), Guy Major(c)
Action Comics mixes the old and the new. John Byrne returns to a title he rebooted to help re-establish the new shared world of the DC Universe--later totally ignored. This time former “You’ll All Be Sorry” columnist Gail Simone joins him. Together these two talents should have been able to pull Action Comics from the mire, but all they do is make the title an interesting failure.
One-named inker Nelson robs a lot of style and substance from John Byrne's pencils. Byrne is a tight penciler, but Superman in Action Comics barely looks like a Byrne creature. In fact very few of the characters do. They all exhibit Byrne bestiary behavior and body language, but their lack of detail and their offness becomes distracting especially for those who bought the book specifically for Mr. Byrne's artwork. Yes, that would be me. One also must ask the question why is Superman yellow? Guy Major, former Buffy the Vampire Slayer colorist can do much, much better fleshtones. It looks as though somebody melted a goldenrod Crayola in the panels.
The ham-strung artwork affects Simone's story. The best scene in the book would have looked fantastic had Byrne alone, or perhaps with the enhancement of one his inkers from Doom Patrol or Blood of the Demon, illustrated. Instead, the reader becomes preoccupied with the oddity of the artwork. The impact of the scene becomes lost in the inker's or DC's need to hide Byrne's pencil lines. This is a pity because Simone puts quite a bit of effort into this scene.
Simone bases the setting on a portion of the very real warlord run Africa. She then transplants the real world setting into the DC universe where there exists a Superman. She then correctly directs how Superman would immediately react. Simone further shows Superman's experience and intelligence by having him conceive of a long-term solution to the tribe's problem. Furthermore, without clunky exposition, Simone displays almost every one of Superman's commonly used powers.
Other scenes in the book fail to reach this level of excitement or interest. While the scene where Superman brings home breakfast to Lois begins well, Simone puts in a little too much verbiage and overly cutesy, nonsense--such as the "spit-curl" gag. She probably should have cut the scene at the point where the Big Red S uses his X-ray vision to spot Lois' shoes and not continue with Kal-El's somewhat egotistical reflection. While her bid to show the couple as affectionate is winning, this is once again cut down by the weird look of the artwork.
Then we have the main draw of Dr. Polaris and new villain Repulse. I like the irony of Repulse being a sort of Betty Page look-a-like, but given the artwork, she doesn't quite match Betty's looks, and only Byrne knows how the original pencils appeared. Perhaps, he'll post them on byrnerobotics. In any case, a lot of the plot doesn't add up or sloppily gets pushed aside. For instance, what is Dr. Polaris doing here in the first place? Did he escape from prison or STAR Labs? Did Repulse remove him from incarceration? How did Repulse track down Aura, a former member of Superboy and the Ravers? Why is this happening now? What about Action Comics forced the editor to actually note that this issue takes place before Superman #217?
Simone sadly does not research her subject enough. How can Repulse affect a bronze statue? Bronze is a precious metal and unaffected by magnetism. Magnetism cannot bend light. Gravity bends light, and exactly why is Superman blinded by the infra-red spectra? He can see that far down the rainbow, but why would specifically that portion blind him? Magnetism shouldn't be able to affect Superman's ability to absorb sunlight. This is implied by Repulse's dialogue. In fact, Superman even blinded should be able to mop up the floor with Repulse and Polaris. Maybe the next story will be better.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!