Action Comics #25 review

Tying into the Zero Year series in Batman provides new Action Comics creators Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder with a great excuse to give us more of Grant Morrison's tee-shirt Superman. The story begins even earlier, though, as Lana Lang says goodbye to Clark Kent and Smallville, ready to make her mark on the world. Flashforward four years and Superman is learning his limitations on the battlefield, tackling a bunch of supremacists who subscribe to both hi-tech techniques and mad mysticism.

Clark is realising how much he can do, as he gets stronger by the day; truth be told, he's a little drunk on power, but he gets the job done and is soon writing up the story for the Metropolis Daily Star. Hearing - via his neighbours' TV - that a superstorm is heading for Gotham, he realises he should see what he can do to help. Not yet able to fly under his own steam, he leaps onto a passing plane and sets down over the ocean, hoping to stop the storm in its tracks by creating a water vortex. Also in the area is Lana, now electrical engineer on a cargo boat, and doing everything she can to keep the craft out of danger.

Killing the typhoon proves beyond him, and Superman realises he must save the ship, which is in danger of being flattened by an abandoned, storm-tossed oil tanker. It takes titanic efforts on both their parts, but eventually the Smallville sensations save the day - without either one knowing the other is there (apparently Lana's stopped using the shampoo which, on page one, Superman could smell from three miles away).

Pak and Kuder make an impressive debut. Pak's script provides an insight-packed snapshot of Clark at a formative point in his superheroic career, while giving Lana more of a spotlight than she's had so far in the New 52 continuity. Dual narration points up the similarities between the pair - both risk becoming danger junkies, and both have an implacable drive to get the job done. Clark's excitement and joy in his abilities makes sense, and it's much more my cup of tea than the angsty guy we saw on the Smallville TV show, forever depressed by being able to fly, bend steel with his bare hands, ignite dormant suns ... how awful for him. And his joy becoming overconfidence is a logical follow through, motivating lessons without lectures.

There's so much to praise in this issue that it's tough to pick a standout moment. So here's one of many, as Pakuder (maybe not!) show us the tension the young Superman faces between being accepted, and doing the right thing.
I'm impressed that Pak links in so neatly with Zero Year without Superman having to show up in Gotham - let's hope the rest of this month's tie-ins are so deft.
Kuder's artwork is pitch perfect for Pak's script, from the outstanding opening fight scene onwards. Pak and Kuder's Superman isn't yet at full power, but the tussle with the surpremicists is more thrilling than your average Superman vs Brainac/Mongul/Darkseid encounter - there's real pace, and a sense of peril. Indeedy, afterwards Clark is awash with sticking plasters. I like how Kuder represents x-ray vision, I love his Clark leaping upwards into the rain, and I adore his smiley sharks.
His Lana doesn't quite hit the spot, there's something awkward about her, especially so far as the mouth goes, but I've faith she'll settle down. Colourist Arif Prianto does an excellent job too - I really like the toning here. I feel wet just reading this stuff
With DC's $3.99 books having shrunk in page count lately, it's great to see 28 pages of story and art this time, making room for a short by Pak and artist Scott McDaniel (with a page by Kuder) which acts as a transition between the Zero Year focus and next issue. It's centred on Clark, in the present, having a sandwich on the streets of the city, noticing how much better his hearing gets by the day. He's picking up more cries for help all the time, and some he manages to respond to without even leaving his seat. Others, such as a homeless man in need of cash, require a more hands-on touch. Clark wonders how he'll cope as he becomes ever more aware of greater dangers to the world - how can he help everybody? It's a dilemma that has faced Superman in many incarnations, and I'm fine with it being raised again here as it truly is a question for the generations - how much can one man do?

The musing is interrupted by a new mystery, something rumbling under Clark's feet. And there are stirrings thousands of miles away, in Venezuela, where Lana and a mining crew are confronted by a massively mouthed monster.

Pak's script has lots of pep, and  McDaniel is on good form, giving us sharp layouts and a pretty good Clark. Colourist Dan Brown takes advantage of the script's reference to a lovely autumn day to bring us sunshine colours, while Carlos M Mangual letters with style, as he does on the main strip.

The cover by Kuder is a clever composition, with Wil Quintana's colours the perfect finishing touch.

After a tumultuous period, the best thing DC could do with this book is keep Pak and Kuder tethered to the title for awhile - they have ideas, they have talent, so let them build up a head of steam and take Superman somewhere new.

And one more thing - is it me or has a certain pose from Man of Steel become near iconic? Twice in one issue!


  1. I love the issue but the timeline doesn't make any sense to me. How can the storm/black out happen six years and also four years after Superman emerged. Am I missing something? Was the four years later thing a mistake?

    1. I think you're reading it wrong. The opening Smallville scene is an unspecified number of years ago, then we move forward four years, and THAT'S six years ago from the current DCU present.

    2. Now i get it. I was reading the Zero Hour box narrative as part of the past timeline. Thanks for replying.

    3. No bother, cheers for reading and getting involved.

  2. Ok so here's my issue with this: I appreciate giving Lana some attention bc she is, of course, part of Clark's past. I'll be honest that I've never been the biggest fan of the character. There's nothing about her that, to me, has ever challenged anything for women in comics in way that Lois Lane does and I've never found her as interesting or complex as Lois. That said, I don't actually begrudge the character getting attention in an early Superman story.

    The problem here is that....this didn't read AT ALL like Lana Lang. It read like a young Lois Lane just given the name Lana Lang because DC is essentially shoving Lois out of the Superbooks. The bravery, the intense desire to not give up---that's not Lana. It's never been Lana. If anything, the characterization and dialogue scremed Erica Durance's Lois Lane on Smallville. Even the jeans and ponytail looked like Erica Durance.

    See here's my problem with this repeated behavior from DC. They don't want to use Lois Lane. They don't want her anywhere near Superman. This isn't conspiracy---this is really going on. Several people have been anticipating that within a few months we are not going to see Lois Lane at all in the Superman books going forward for a very long time.

    But despite not wanting to really do anything with Lois Lane (and despite wanting absolutely nothing to do with Lois/Clark)....DC still wants to use and steal and borrow iconic traits and things that BELONGED to her and are associated with her and with her relationship with Superman and try and re-purpose them for other women. They've already done it multiple times with the Superman/WW relationship. They've openly ripped off certain traits and scenes and just re-purposed them without Lois. They are going to have Superman fight Doomsday again....just without Lois there this time to be part of the story. etc.

    And now we have Lana Lang. And sure---it's cool to see her. But she's not Lana. She's coming off like Erica Durance's Lois Lane. This is DC trying to have their cake and eat it too. They don't want to use Lois but they want to use all the things about her personality and persona that made the Superman So they are taking things that made her special and identifiable and essentially just distributing them out among other female characters.

    This was a perfectly fine book. But it wasn't a characterization of Lana Lang with the brash bravery and desire to save the world with Superman. It was Pak writing Lana Lang with slight adjustments posing as Lois Lane because Lana Lang, as she is usually characterized, just isn't anywhere near as interesting or complex so in order to make her interesting and worthy of space in the book they had to borrow from another female character. It all leaves me a bit unimpressed. ---Shades

  3. Hello Shades, thanks for the comments. I love Lois, as you know, but I'm going to argue the toss here!

    'The problem here is that....this didn't read AT ALL like Lana Lang.' Certainly, we've never had Lana Lang as an engineer previously, but a brave, adventurous Lana? Yeah, that's the Lana I grew up with, the woman who ran with Superboy and served as a reserve member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The woman who went all over the world as a TV reporter. It was the John Byrne Eighties revamp that made Lana a timid thing, but for decades prior to that she was a spitfire to rival Lois - heck, for far too long they were indistinguishable in character as snoopy Superman-fixated pests. Even then, though, in a crisis Lana would come through - she and Lois became proper friends in the Bronze Age, exchanging their rivalry for respect. And happily, the John Byrne Lana eventually evolved into a self-possessed woman, a former First Lady, corporate executive and mother.

    And I wouldn't say Lana wanted to 'save the world' here, just see it. And save her boat.

    While I want to see Lois regularly, that doesn't mean I want to see her and no one else. Annoying as it was to have the marriage wiped away, the fact is that this Superman isn't yet her boyfriend, and can have a few romances along the way. Plus. It's not as if she's pining over him, Lois is busy with that fine Jonathan Carroll fella. And who's to say Lana is being introduced into present day continuity to be a romantic interest to Superman or Clark? And even if she were, well, at least Lana is a proper Superman character, unlike Wonder Woman.

    We know how the story ends - Superman and Lois will get together. Even if there are people at DC who don't want Lois around right now, things will change. Who knows how things will settle after the current DC HQ shake-up? Meanwhile, Lois is still appearing, she's not been written out.

    How about you give Lana a chance, see how she fits into the story? Or if it's too painful, skip this series for a while. And you could always tweet Pak and Kuder and lobby for Lois; who knows, they may have plans, or they may be persuadable - I'd be astonished if she weren't a part of their cast.

    1. I don't want to speak for Shades, but for my part, I have no problem with giving Lana a chance. My critique of her characterization here is that it is too similar to not only Lois but also to Clark. Traditionally, Lana had a unique voice and personality to contrast with Lois. Now it seems most of the human women in Clark's life have to be witty risk-takers. Also, as a Lois fan, I welcome a larger and more well-developed cast of female supporting characters in Superman's books. What I don't care for, however, is what seems like a revolving door model in which only one lady can exist at any given moment. Whenever another woman takes center stage in Clark's life, you can bet Lois will appear only briefly, sporadically, and have very little to contribute to the overarching story. So seeing more of Lana is great. I welcome it. I wish it didn't have to come at the expense of established supporting cast.

    2. Well, it's only been one issue - let's see if Lana's appearance keeps Lois at bay, and whether there's something to her other than 'witty risk taker'. Greg Pak's a pretty good writer, I'd be surprised if he didn't produce some good work, using all the toys in the box.

  4. You know, since Lois is dating Jon Carroll and Cat is dating Aaron Lord, wouldn't it be just
    hilarious if Lana already has a boyfriend too?

    I'm mean why not, right? There's CERTAINLY can't be ANY possibility for Superman to have
    a relationship with a regular, non-superpowered, human woman. "No human tethers." Ugh.

    On different note regarding "the Supremacists", it's nice to see who these "Neo-Nazis" that
    Superman was referring to and that they somehow have ties to the 5th dimension.

    I wonder if they will return but maybe like with Captain Nazi alongside. Or are they just one-
    shot villains that are probably already dead like Titano and the Sky Raiders?

    1. Cat hasn't been positioned as a possible romantic partner for Clark, so I don't see how she enters the equation.

      Great idea about Captain Nazi, he'd be an interesting enemy for Superman, while he's in this 'borror everyone else's enemies' period!

  5. I checked this out for two reason:
    1. Zero Year tie in, which it wasn't that good at.
    2. To see if what the new team can bring to Action Comics. They certainly brought it.

    This was great and fun as heck comic. It's been awhile since I read a Superman comic that I enjoyed that wasn't written by Scott Snyder this much. The characterization is pitch perfect, showing off a great contrast in how far the character has grown over the years in the stories. I'm certainly looking forward to see where Greg Pak takes this title in the coming months.

    1. Hi IG, what would have made this a better ZY tie? A Batman appearance? I'm good with these add-ons hovering around the periphery of Scott Snyder's story, rather than diving right in.

    2. A Batman appearance is not necessarily needed to get the point across of this being a Zero Year tie-in. Here's a neat idea that might work. Have Clark be in Gotham instead of outside of it during Zero Year. When the blackout occurred, he heard about what happening in Gotham and decided to go and live there to cover the story. Maybe spend some more time there with his reaction to it and wondering how he could make a difference. Then he hears about the storm coming and then he goes out to stop it.

      I dunno, something that just feels more Zero Year. It's just with a few slight changes, this could easily not be a Zero Year tie-in at all. Reading something like Green Arrow this week, I saw what a title with a character not from the bat-universe could do to be involved in the story and it worked.

    3. OK, ta for getting back to me on that. I could quite easily see the whole future JL being around in Gotham, and neverr getting together ... that could be quite funny.

  6. pak has some great stuff planned including some of the events in superman unleashed a subterranean world led by the beast lord and the best part in my opinion the ghost soldier


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