Action Comics #1000
Writers: Dan Jurgens, Peter J. Tomasi, Marv Wolfman, Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Louise Simonson, Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer & Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund; Patrick Gleason; Curt Swan, Butch Guice & Kurt Schaffenberger; Olivier Coipel; Rafael Albuquerque; Clay Mann; Jerry Ordway; Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez & Kevin Nowlan; John Cassaday; and Jim Lee & Scott Williams
Colors: Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, Dave McCaig, Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Laura Martin & Alex Sinclair
Letters: Rob Leigh, Tom Napolitano, Nick Napolitano, John Workman, Carlos M. Mangual, Josh Reed, Chris Eliopoulos & Cory Petit
Cover artists: Jim Lee & Scott Williams (regular)/Steve Rude, Michael Cho, Dave Gibbons, Michael Allred, Jim Steranko, Joshua Middleton, Dan Jurgens & Kevin Nowlan, and Lee Bermejo
Editor: Paul Kaminski & Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $7.99 US
It’s fitting that writer/penciller Dan Jurgens offers up the story that opens this milestone issue. Jurgens has been a driving creative force in Superman’s world for more than a quarter century. This short story — “From the City That Has Everything” — is understandably schmaltzy, given the nature of this issue, but it’s also predictable. Jurgens has teamed with inker Norm Rapmund almost exclusively in recent years, so their collaboration on this story was to be expected. Honestly, though, I always thought Jurgens’s art was at its most appealing when he paired with inker Art Thibert, back in his earlier days on the Superman titles, and it’s a shame we didn’t get to see that look that helped to make Jurgens a fan favorite in the first place. I was pleased to see Jurgens’s pencils matched with Kevin Nowlan’s wonderful inks for one of the variant covers, though.
The current creative team on Superman takes the audience on a journey through the decades with the appropriately titled “Never-Ending Battle,” crafting a story that takes the Man of Steel on a trip through the Multiverse, but really, he’s acting as and encountering versions of himself from over the years. I fully anticipated seeing something like this, and Peter J. Tomasi’s story, such as it is, is more like a series of pinups than a real plot. Patrick Gleason’s art is oddly dark and intense at all times, which seems to run contrary to the overall tone of this celebratory issue; even a Super Friends incarnation of Superman manages to look a little harsh.
It’s wonderful that DC managed to find a way to include artwork by the late Curt Swan in this special issue, given that Swan defined the look of the Man of Tomorrow for decades, including his work on a multitude of issues of Action. It’s unfortunate that they had Butch Guice ink his pencils, as the latter’s style is a bit too gritty for Swan’s soft, smooth, realistic lines. Writer Marv Wolfman has apparently crafted a script for “An Enemy Within” to repurpose some pre-existing Swan pages; the Brainiac plot unfolds only in the narrative captions and not in the line art itself. The inclusion of this five-pager came from a good place, with the intent of including Swan here, but it’s an awkward experiment that just didn’t work.
It was with ”The Car” that this oversized anthology issue really turned around, rising from simply middling fare to some special stories worthy of the benchmark. The premise from which writers Geoff Johns and Richard Donner begin is simple: whatever happened to the guy whose car Superman wrecks on the cover of Action #1? It’s with this story that the creators cast aside any concerns about continuity and just focus on pure storytelling. A recurring theme in this issue is the notion of inspiring people, and Johns and Donner embrace it with this short story. Olivier Coipel’s atmospheric artwork captures the late 1930s period perfectly, and I loved the brighter tone that colorist Alejandro Sanchez brings to the story with Superman’s arrival.
A number of the stories in this book explore the various relationships in Superman’s life, and with “The Fifth Season,” Scott Snyder touches upon one of the longest (depending on which version of the characters with which one is familiar): that with Lex Luthor. This story delves into Lex as a kid who grew up in Smallville. Appropriately, Rafael Albuquerque’s portrayal of Lex in this story makes him seem particularly young, but as it’s his childhood trauma that drives and defines him, it makes sense. Snyder’s plot delves into the irony of Lex’s hatred (and envy) of the Man of Steel given that he’s unknowingly focused that hate on one of the few people who treated him with kindness.
Writer Tom King explores another key relationship in ”Of Tomorrow.” It’s set in the future, and in that context, King suggests Superman is practically immortal. But the point of the setting isn’t to explore that idea, but rather to reflect on the past: specifically, Ma and Pa Kent, and that no matter how much time goes by, no matter how much things change in the world, Superman will always be the boy raised with kindness and love by Jonathan and Martha. Artist Clay Mann nicely juxtaposes the destruction and chaotic energy whirling around Superman with the delicate bit of artistry the character exhibits in a reflective scene.
Superman’s relationship with The Daily Planet is the subject of ”Five Minutes.” I was thrilled to see Jerry Ordway’s art included in this 1,000th issue, as his take on Supes is one of several iconic ones that merited this spotlight. He conveys the hectic and chaotic nature of both a busy newsroom and the non-stop rescues that the hero routinely undertakes. I love the interplay among Clark, Perry and Jimmy in this piece, and writer Louise Simonson offers a great gag ending for this story. However, I was constantly distracted by the erroneous and awkward portrayals of the practice of print journalism here (and it’s been an issue with Superman comics for decades). A publisher holding the presses would be an incredibly rare decision because it costs money in an industry that’s hurting financially. And Clark’s last-minute filing of a story should have been to copy editing, not “layout.” These are just a couple of the misrepresentations of the business that stand out to me. That being said, I love that Superman’s life as a reporter and his connections with the other Planet staffers earned a slot in this issue.
Paul Dini’s plot and premise for “Actionland!” is fun and offers a nice retrospective on Superman’s history, but by the end of the piece, it spotlights another recurring relationship in his life (but I don’t want to spoil it here). The story is entertaining and serviceable, but the real draw here is the artwork by Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan. While other artists who contributed to this comic are well known for their representations of Superman, Garcia-Lopez is probably the most iconic artist when it comes to rendering the entire DC Universe. As the foundation of that super-hero world, Superman has obviously been central in the artist’s career. I love the wonder, energy and lightness Garcia-Lopez brings to this piece.
Novelist Brad Meltzer is no stranger to the Superman mythos and comics, and I thoroughly enjoyed his story, “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet.” Clearly, some of the writers were given iconic phrases connected to the Man of Steel, and Meltzer embraced it here. But while the initial focus appears to be on Superman’s powers, it’s actually another story about inspiration — but not about how Superman inspires people. It speaks to who Clark Kent is at heart, and it was a lovely piece. John Cassaday’s realistic style works well with the freeze-frame motif of the story.
“The Truth” is undoubtedly going to be a controversial story for some Superman fans, as writer Brian Michael Bendis’s debut at DC promises to revise the iconic hero’s history as far as back it goes, to the planet Krypton. Personally, I’m not worried about it, because revisions to history is one of the key elements in an evolving shared-continuity universe. Bendis also brings Supergirl into the mix, and the most recent incarnations of these Super cousins haven’t been portrayed as close lately; the tone of her role her suggests a possible change in approach. The new villain introduced here is rather generic; he’s almost indistinguishable in concept from Mongul, and he’s rather similar in appearance as well. Bendis brings his trademark dialogue beats to bear here, and it was fun seeing a couple of regular denizens of the DC Universe compare super-hero notes. Jim Lee’s line art conveys the enormity of the power being unleashed by hero and villain alike, and while I found the villain to be somewhat generic, the design is definitely monstrous.
Several of the stories make a point of spotlighting an aspect of Superman’s costume design: the red trunks. The in-continuity stories feature characters making a big deal about the return of the trunks. However, it occurs to me that this is a continuity error, as this incarnation of the DC Universe (assuming it’s the same as the one that started in the New 52) has never had a Superman with red trunks. Furthermore, the current Superman is from yet another reality, having replaced a Superman who died. It’s neither here nor there when it comes to the storytelling throughout this comic, but it struck me as something of an editorial oversight.
While there were some rather ordinary, lackluster stories included in this comic, overall, the stronger pieces definitely made the eight-dollar experience worthwhile. 7/10