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.