Action Comics #37 review

The Haunting of Smallville storyline continues with Superman's ally the Toyman arriving in town and thrilled to bits by the teleportation effect that sends anyone trying to break through a bizarro barrier bouncing from one end to another. Superman, who's been having less fun with the phenomenon, finally comes to a stop in a cornfield where apparently possessed locals shut him down.

He flashes back to an incident in his boyhood, then awakens in the Lang home, where he, Lana and John Henry Irons - the superhero Steel - try to work out what the heck is going on.

The rest of the issue sees the mystery further develop, as hints are dropped as to what's happening. It's likely we're seeing an incursion from the Phantom Zone, home to alien beasts and psychic Kryptonian killers, meaning that knowing what's up is a long way from resolving the situation.

It's mindboggling that DC should be currently pushing the 'superstar creative team' of Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr while pretty much ignoring the excellent work of Action's Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder. Sure, Johns and Romita have big fanbases, but is there a law saying DC can't promote two Superman books at once? Because if there were more eyes on this run, were more readers to experience the incredible storytelling chops of Pak, Kuder and hugely talented colourist Wil Quintana (just look at how tones add to this spooky autumnal scene), sales would soar. Over in Superman, Johns and Romita are telling their story ever ... so ... slowly; here we're getting a run of similar length packed to the proverbial gills with action, incident and character.

I'm not trying to play one team off against another - it just saddens me that great work is being sidelined because more easily marketable names are on the supposed main title. Pull your finger out, DC!

Superman's a little fuzzy of head this issue, as the possessed 'Smallvillains' (great title!) noodle around in Superman's noggin, but he's still starting to put things together. And with Steel, and Lana and her zap gun, at his side, he's far from alone. But the menace gets bigger and bigger, leading to a tremendous final page that really demonstrates Kuder's way with monsters.

In scenes reminiscent of Stephen King film The Mist, we see hell unleashed on Earth, with Superman and his allies very much on he backfoot. Pak's script builds tension throughout, both in the big mystery and the relationship between Lana and Clark. All in all, this issue is another great read, with the only negative being yet another flashback to a lesson learned by the boy Clark. I'd happily purchase a proper Superboy book - ie young Clark Kent, not killer clones - but I'm bored with flashbacks in the Superman books. Attractively presented as this moment was by Kuder and Quinta - softer than the present day sequences - let's hope this is it for a while.

The artists are also responsible for the instant-classic cover - talk about an iconic image. It does, though, make me laugh that the currently beardy Superman gets shaved for his cover appearance.

If you've been looking for a good Superman book, and not yet tried Pak, Kuder and Quintana's Action Comics, grab this issue. You'll be up to speed in a minute, and enjoying the wild ride.


  1. I really don't see what the hype behind Pak's Action Comics run is. At best it's bland and generic and at its worst, it's repetitive in reinforcing the negative traits of the New 52 Superman. He's still just as angry, arrogant and disconnected from humanity as he's ever been since the New 52 started. His plots are also really directionless and formulaic this time round which is a far cry from the engaging narrative of Pak's Hulk run. And as for the characters, Lana is now basically a carbon copy of Lois Lane and Baka is in it for the 'cute' factor. They're just used as tools to advance the plot.

    All in all, I'm not seeing anything new from Pak here. Despite your dissatisfacation with DC focusing on Johns over Pak, Johns knows how to write a classic, mature Superman. That's why he's on the title and it's the only place where we get a classic Superman. That's not to say there's anything wrong with liking Pak's Superman but I prefer my Superman stories with some integrity, optimism and consistency. And I'm not getting that from Pak.

    1. There isn't hype behind the Pak run, Shades, that was my point. I think it deserves more attention and I'm surprised you don't seem to like it much at all. Given that you read this issue, I'm amazed you see a Superman who is 'arrogant, angry and disconnected from humanity' - yes, a couple of months back he was Mr Depressed, but now I see a Superman who's staying with Lana and John Henry and mingling with the Smallville folk. As for plots that are 'directionless' - the ghost storyline actually flows seamlessly from Doomed, with its Phantom Zone connections. Inserted-for-cuteness Baka (why would that necessarily be bad?)? Well, he ain't even in this storyline.

      And again with the 'Lana is a copy of Lois' business... No, she isn't. I'll not go over my arguments again. I will say that for a character DC is supposedly determined to sideline, Lois has done OK this year with big roles in Doomed, Unchained, a 75th-anniversary celebration hardback and a special.

      I do appreciate you taking the time to comment but it's as if we're reading too entirely different series.

  2. I finally caught up on this and I have to agree with you that Pak's story is moving at a faster clip than Johns. I've had issues with Johns deconstruction before.

    I liked the flashback to his youth and the mistake he made and how in the present he overcomes that momentary self doubt. I also appreciated that we saw his thought process as he worried about Mrs.Takahara and Burt Gunderson in the context of how their bodies would react to being knocked unconscious by a clap, and then he found another way.

    I'm intrigued by the tension between Lana and Clark and I hope to see a conversation about this and it's not forgotten as the story goes forward. It gave me Smallville (the tv show) flashbacks though, as for the first season at least she moped a lot about her parents death and Clark was angsty that if she found out his arrival was behind it all she'd blame him.

    Thanks for the review and motivating me to read it!

    1. Glad it's not just me enjoying the book! Excellent point about Clark considering the health of his neighbours before taking action, I loved that he concluded that he was now a Superman, not s scared boy.

      TV Smallville Lana was a proper wet blanket, perfect for misery Clark!

  3. Jeez Mart .. we are on the same page, even down to this being like The Mist! I was leaning towards The Fog until the last reveal.

    I love this book right now. As you say, there is a nice vibe here. I like this Superman. I like this Lana (outside of the moping). I like the pace of this story.

    And the art is crazy good.

    I don't think this is necessarily the Phantom Zone, probably some other dimension. Maybe something related to Blaze or Satanus? And I am surprised that Supes isn't more concerned about the 'calm' of the town. That should be alarming.

    My review up tomorrow!

    1. Hmm, Blaze it Satanus? Could be - or perhaps someone new. but I still say Phantom Zone - even though the possessed townsfolk referring to Kryptonians may mean there not from Superman's homeward. But it still could...

  4. This is definitely the best-looking, most interesting Superman I think DC has done since the reboot. Nice review!

    1. Thanks, let's tell the world about this book!


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