Action Comics #844
“Last Son, Part One”
Writers: Geoff Johns & Richard Donner
Artist/Cover artist: Adam Kubert
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$4 CAN
Marvel Comics has made a lot of noise about its ability to lure TV and movie talent into the world of creating comics, especially as of late. DC has had its fair share of contributing talent coming in from other media (such as Kevin Smith and Brad Meltzer), but much more has been made of blockbuster movie director Richard Donner’s collaboration with Geoff Johns, his one-time assistant turned sought-after comics scribe. Donner’s probably best known as the director of Lethal Weapon, but almost three decades ago, he mesmerized moviegoers with Superman and Superman II. There’s definitely a more cinematic tone to the pacing of the plot, the way the dialogue plays and the simpler, more traditional characterizations for the supporting cast. Fans of recent, in-continuity Superman stories might find this story to be a bit frustrating at times, but viewed outside of that context, Donner and Johns’s story is fun and yet promises something epic in tone.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Ace reporter Clark Kent is still something of a klutz, and Daily Planet editor-in-chief still spends his days yelling at young Jimmy Olsen and chomping on a cigar. But this afternoon is about to get very different and very memorable, as a pod from space burns through the sky, headed for the crowded streets of Metropolis. Superman is on the case, of course, but what he finds inside the pod is shocking even to the fabled Man of Tomorrow. Well, not so much what’s inside, but who.
Adam Kubert’s art is at times majestic and awe-inspiring, and at others, it’s awkward and even inconsistent. There’s no denying that his angular style suits the kinetic, hectic quality of the plot and its pacing. The opening scene is the strongest one, visually speaking. Kubert’s efforts on pages two and three are stunning, boasting the sort of detail and magic one expects to find in Pasqual (Ultimate Fantastic Four) Ferry’s art or that of Leinil Francis (Superman: Birthright) Yu. Later on, his work looks a bit like Walter (Thor, Orion) Simonson’s style, but the faces shift from panel to panel on a couple of pages. Also, Kubert depicts Superman as being… well, too damn pretty on a couple of occasions. Kubert redeems himself later in the issue, though, with Superman’s thundering advance through a government facility and his explosive confrontation with Sarge Steel.
Kubert’s cover is full of drama and captures some of the iconic qualities of the Man of Steel. I also like the coloring scheme, which brings a sense of history to the image. Dave Stewart’s colors on the interior artwork also merit praise. He balances the brightness, power and positive energy that are inherent in the main character with muted tones at the periphery, indicating a darker, more mature atmosphere.
It’s a bit frustrating to see key characters — namely Perry White and Jimmy Olsen — regressed to earlier versions. Perry’s bluster and his demands on Jimmy just aren’t in keeping with the years of history the characters share. At one time, I can see Perry riding Jimmy, trying to toughen him up, but these incarnations of the characters have known each other longer. There are cues in the script that place this story in current continuity, so the old-fashioned, throwback characterizations are a bit frustrating. Furthermore, the substance of this plot seems a bit redundant, given the recency of the new Supergirl’s arrival in current continuity.
Still, when one sets that unnecessary context aside, this story emerges as an entertaining Superman yarn. More importantly, Johns and Donner ensure that there’s a grounded, human heart to this sci-fi, action tale. Perhaps one might expect the Man of Steel to be a bit more suspicious of the circumstances in which he finds himself, but I think it works. The writers tap into the inherent innocence, trust and goodness of the character to present him with emotional challenges rather than feats of physical strength. 7/10