Henry Cavill posted the following on his Instagram and Facebook pages last Wednesday, the day Action Comics #1000 came out, and perfectly describes exactly what we were all feeling this week:
“For 80 years he has been saving our tails and indeed perhaps our souls. Inspiring us to be greater than we thought ourselves able. He’s certainly changed me, given me hope, allowed me space to push myself beyond the limits of my patience. Truly, what would a world be without Superman? He paved the way for all of our favourite heroes even if he’s not yours personally.
A huuuuge thank you to the incredibly talented artists and writers over the years who have given us so much. Within us, Superman will now live no matter how old he gets. Happy Birthday my friend.“
Love that guy.
In the early ‘90s, I remember Action Comics #700 coming out, and how big of a deal that was. At the time, it wrapped up the “Fall of Metropolis” storyline, which gave us back bald Lex Luthor (as opposed to Australian, furry Lex Luthor), and was a pretty good issue in its own right. Years later, I remember Superman #700, as well as Action Comics #900. All were big deals, but if you didn’t read them, it wasn’t the end of the world.
Action Comics #1000, on the other hand? HUGE deal. I wouldn’t miss it!
I may or may not have been waiting outside the comic store this last Wednesday before it opened. But I can neither confirm nor deny that. Just saying.
The folks at DC felt the same way I did, apparently, because I don’t ever remember a “jam book” that has ever had this caliber of creators. And really, that’s the way it should be for such a momentous event in the industry! A book like this should have an all-star lineup of creators or should not be done at all. The list of writers and artists just for the contents of this one issue (not to mention all the variant covers that have been done!) reads like a “Who’s Who?” in the history of the character of Superman, and I am totally good with that.
We know the hype has been building. We know the lineup is legendary. What about the book itself? Were the contents any good? Did it succeed in what it was trying to do?
I think so!
The first story is written and drawn by Dan Jurgens and is wonderful. It’s about the citizens of Metropolis putting on an annual “Superman Day” (appropriate for the release of the book, too) and is about individual people who have been rescued by Superman sharing their stories with the rest of the city. A very touching and nice, albeit a little corny, story, which I’m totally okay with. Contrast this with so many current renditions of the character which deal with the issue of fearing Superman or mistrust due to his incredible power, and it was a welcome change. The character has been around for years, and I think works best when the people love him. There is no need to mistrust Superman, as that’s what makes him Superman! Good stuff, all around.
Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason then have their shot at fifteen pages, and really, theirs might be the most creative story of all included in this issue. While I think Jurgens’ Action gets the nod, at least for me, as the best Superman book currently, Tomasi and Gleason’s Superman isn’t too far behind. The pair craft a brilliant story about Vandal Savage (here calling himself, “The Immortal” Vandal Savage) discovering some kind of weapon which can send Superman hurtling through time and space and needing to claw his way back to the present of his reality. Of course, in doing so, it allows Gleason and Tomasi to draw splash pages of him landing in each major era of Supes’ history, from the Golden Age, to George Reeves, to “Superman II” through the animated series and much more, all in just a few pages! It finishes with Supes standing over his own birthday cake with Lois and Jon, getting ready to blow out 80 candles. Just tonally perfect, and a classy way to contribute to the character’s story!
Seven stories then follow at five pages each, so I won’t review each in detail but just touch on a few points:
- Geoff Johns/Richard Donner/Oliver Coipel, “The Car”: The aftermath of Butch Mason’s encounter with Superman in Action Comics #1, when Superman smashed his car famously on the book’s cover, shows Supes giving Butch a pep talk he has never had in his life but has always needed. Beautiful story from a phenomenal creative team!
- Marv Wolfman/Curt Swan: A snapshot of the citizens of Metropolis stopping a criminal manipulated by Brainiac. AMAZING (and previously unpublished) art by Curt Swan.
- Louise Simonson/Jerry Ordway: Fantastic story about Superman trying to stop crimes and save civilians while meeting a work deadline. The triangle numbers era was my entry point into the printed world of Superman, so I’m a sucker for these types of stories. I think Ordway is very underrated as a Superman artist, and in general love a more grounded, less Silver Age-ie take on the character.
- Tom King/Clay Mann: A heartfelt story set in the far future about Superman reminiscing about his earth parents while the Earth is slowly going the “way of all flesh,” disintegrating into the sun. Weird but good, typical Tom King.
- Scott Snyder/Rafael Albuquerque: Superman and Luthor having a conversation about the nature of the universe and use of power. A little wordy for five pages, but that’s Snyder, whom I love as a writer, so I’m okay with it. Great story, nonetheless.
- Paul Dini/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez: A typical Paul Dini story that’s a nod to the Timmverse Superman animated series, with gorgeous art by one of the quintessential Superman artists of any era. Great, snarky Mxyzptlk-y story, Dini’s favorite Superman foil, according to him. I echo my Swan comments above for Garcia-Lopez as well. Really glad to see he’s still got it!
- Brad Meltzer/John Cassaday: Maybe my favorite of all the short stories in this volume and perfectly suited to Meltzer’s strengths as a writer describing minute details. The story is about Superman racing to save a woman being held hostage after a bullet has been fired straight towards her head. I’ll leave you to determine what happens there. 🙂
Finally, we get our first taste of Brian Bendis on Superman, in a 12 page story with art by the great Jim Lee that wraps up this volume. I must admit, while the art is gorgeous and Jim Lee is my favorite artist ever, this brief taste of Bendis was all I needed to confirm my worst fears about him taking on this character. His style, which is too wordy and constantly features pointless banter, for me just does not work. The villain, Rogol Zaar, seems like a great bad guy and wonderful new addition to Superman’s rogues, but, as I’ve said before, I’m tired of retconning origins and status quos. Zaar’s comments indicate he was present at Krypton’s destruction and had something to do with it.
I know it’s only twelve pages, but let’s just say I’m not in any hurry to pick up the new Man of Steel miniseries by Bendis after reading this.
All in all though, even Bendis’ weird take on my favorite character in the DCU was not enough to ruin this wonderful book for me. We get a nice little wrapup from both Rebirth creative teams which have been rock solid, as well as beautiful vignettes from fantastic creators who have contributed to Superman’s history and formation as a character.
Did the issue live up to all the hype? Maybe, maybe not, but I enjoyed the heck out of it. Very much looking forward to a deluxe edition of this issue, a la DC Universe: Rebirth and Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade.
My highest praise… again!
Capeage Meter: 10 out of 10