Or – “The Last Of The First Comics Books…”

For the first time in quite some time, we have a big anniversary issue that actually IS the issue that it purports to be.  Captain America, The Hulk, Wonder Woman and Daredevil all had false 600th issues, while Wolverine and Deadpool both for some reason invented #1000’s.  Action Comics debuted back in 1938, making this issue a legitimate issue 600, although the weekly frequency of the book in the late 80’s could be considered cheating.  In any case, the Man of Steel returns to his original title this issue after a pretty long absence, and the question in my mind is this:

Am I the only one who finds Alex Ross’ cover image creepy as all heck?

Writer: Paul Cornell/Damon Lindelof/Paul Dini/Geoff Johns/David S. Goyer
Artists: Pete Woods/Jesus Marino/Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund/Rags Morales/Ardian Syaf/Jamal Igle & Jon Sibal/Gary Frank/Ryan Sook/RB Silva/Miguel Sepulveda
Inkers: Rob Lean
Cover Art: David Finch/Adam Hughes/Alex Ross
Colorist: Brad Anderson/Java Tartaglia/Paul Mounts
Letterer: Rob Leigh/John J. Hill
Editor: Matt Idelson/Wil Moss
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $5.99

Previously, on Action Comics: Clark Kent, secretly Superman, was rocketed from a dead planet by his parents many years ago.  In recent months, he found that the planet wasn’t quite as dead as it seemed, but recent events have returned us (as they always seem to do) to the status quo.  This title has recently been taken over by his childhood friend Lex Luthor, whose experience during the Blackest Night has led him to seek the power of Nekron’s black power ring.  Also:  Doomsday.  Sigh…

Man, This One Is Big…

First thing I can tell you is that we haven’t seen books this thick since Marvel’s 100-Page Monster experiment in the 90’s, as I recall, with somewhere over 90 pages of story content in this anniversary issue.  It’s, esssentially, 4 times the package for not quite twice the price, which makes me happy from the get-go.  The fact that the primary story (by Paul Cornell and a host of artists) is a tie-in to ‘Reign of Doomsday’ dampens that joy just a little bit, but it at least gives us a nice climax to the Lex Luthor arc of recent months.  Lex’s search for phenomenal cosmic power has ended with him attaining his goal, and immediately using it to punish Superman.  The best part of it all comes when Lex reads Superman’s mind to find out what his greatest pain is, and realizes that the Big Red S is none other than his old pal Clark.  In true Luthor logic, though, he is immediately filled with rage that the monstrous alien has been laughing at him all these years.  While the boys from Smallville work out their social issues, everybody else who wears the S crest is getting beaten up by Doomsday, which undermines some of the emotional depth, and the art on the Team Superman sections is very unpolished, very 1993 in it’s execution.

Superman Means A Lot Of Things To A Lot Of People

If you read Superman #400 back in the day, congratulations!  You’re old!  But you also remember how there are a lot of differing thoughts on what it is that makes Superman iconic and awesome and such.  This issue plays with those elements again, as the main story is followed with several tales that work with different elements of the mythos ranging from Lost’s Damon Lindelof taking on the death of Krypton to Geoff Johns’ story of Lois inviting her husband’s old friends over for dinner.  Of course, when those old friends are the freakin’ Legion of Super-Heroes, it makes things a bit more complicated than when I have my pals over for Wii Party and pizza rolls.  There’s a pretty shocking moment wherein Superman gives up his American citizenship to prove a point (!!) and a nicely handled story written by Richard Donner, but the overall effect of this issue is a whirlwind of super-stuff that makes me forgive them for several overt artistic references to the ‘Death of Superman,’ a story that has not aged well at all.

The Verdict: So… Much… CONTENT…

I am frankly overwhelmed by the amount of stuff going on in this issue, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.  It’s good in that the amount of story content for the dollar is very strong, but not so much with the good that it’s hard to remember the first story once you’ve gotten to the end.  I’ve read the issue three times through and I’m still finding things that I missed in prior readings.  I am thankful that we have very little “Superman as Jesus” going on, a metaphor that has officially worn out it’s welcome in my corner of Stately Spoilers Manor, and a couple of points in the issue (Superman arriving at a demonstration and standing silently in solidarity, the hero of a lost race commisserating with the Man of Steel about their status as outsider and protector) are quite unique and excellent.  It’s a shame that DC chose not one, not two but THREE spectacularly unappealing covers, with David Finch’s striking me as particularly misbegotten to look at.  Overall, though, you take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both and there you have the Facts of Life and you tally them all up and the good of this issue far outweighs the Doomsday.  Errr…  I mean the bad.  We’re set up for our next big Super-event (which I’m not looking forward to, really), we have a nice cameo from Death of the Endless, Lex Luthor’s quest comes to a fitting (and dramatically appropriate) end, and there’s a whole lot of lovely Superman moments during the journey.  It’s also REALLY #900, which earns a half-star in and of itself.  Action Comics #900 is a pretty strong anniversary special, and earns a well-deserved 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Why do people keep hitting the ‘Superman as Jesus’ button when it’s clear as day that Superman is, in fact, Moses?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. barbara aka kitten
    April 28, 2011 at 10:29 pm — Reply

    After reading your review I decided that maybe I will have to give it a chance but when I first heard about Action #900 it broke my heart. Why do they have to fuck with thing I love. Superman gives up on being an American? That sucks..and the idiots in charge of ABC daytime canceled “All My Children.”

    What’s the world coming to?


  2. Kirby
    April 28, 2011 at 10:36 pm — Reply

    Considered buying this issue, but money was tight. May have to go and pick it up at somepoint.

    As for your question: I actually wrote a paper on the Moses analogue. I think the Jesus-thing is a more prominant image in Western culture?

  3. ~wyntermute~
    April 29, 2011 at 4:19 am — Reply

    Everybody pushes the “super-jesus” button because it’s an easy analogy to make? That seems to be what people do: create easy but slightly-inaccurate analogies in order to explain/relate to things. :D

    • Gary
      April 29, 2011 at 6:43 am — Reply

      All analogies are inaccurate if you push them too far. That’s why they are analogies instead of the real thing!

  4. April 29, 2011 at 7:21 am — Reply

    About Superman giveing up being American. It made headlines in my dear Denmark!

  5. Marty
    April 29, 2011 at 8:34 am — Reply

    May i say that your question is an excellent one? i had always thought of Superman as the Golem of jewish mythology and found the nigh constant allusion to superman as Jesus (since at least the death of superman) a painful mis-opportunity. an outsider with incredible power that is almost but never can quite be human. Being ultimatiely unfallible (as jesus must be) robs any story told about him of an… urgency? that i feel is needed to read to find out what happens to him month after month.

  6. TaZ
    April 29, 2011 at 9:05 am — Reply

    Well, scratch Superman and Action comics from the list of stuff I read. Damn I am so tired of the legacy of my nation being trashed. As my English pals would say, “Bullocks to this bloody ‘world citizen’ nonsense!”

    • April 29, 2011 at 12:16 pm — Reply

      Agreed. It strikes me as soapboxing, using a character you are borrowing to be steamed that people who don’t think like you exist (which is the attitude the modern American political system runs on); any other country having a character who is part of their national identity renounce it because of authorial preference would be a huge deal, but because it’s America we’re all supposed to just shrug & go “oh, well”? It bothers me, and it bothers me more that there’s plenty of otherwise intelligent people who see this as a logical story move rather than a particularly ill-timed publicity stunt with little regard for the character’s symbolism (religious or otherwise) outside of comicdom’s isolated perspective.

      Mark my words, this will wind up being another black eye move that makes comics & their readers look like fools to the general public. And it’ll definitely feed the paranoia machines known as news networks, which is always death for any sort of respectability.

      • johnny
        May 2, 2011 at 12:11 am — Reply

        Feeding the news networks is death for respectability? I tend to think that anything the news networks hate is probably the right way to go.

  7. brainypirate
    April 29, 2011 at 11:20 am — Reply

    It’s about time they got past the “American way” stuff. When was the last time any of the major superheroes had to deal with threats that were actually about the USA? The stories are usually either localized to one city (and very often they’re unrelated to politics) or they’re global in scope. I think we could drop the A off of the JLA and the JSA and not lose anything major.

  8. Mike
    April 29, 2011 at 12:46 pm — Reply

    Well they tried dropping the “A” and what they had was a mess (JLI) that no one cared for or read and it got cancelled.

    The majority of comic book readers are Americans and when you tend to crap all over their country the ones that are not leaning far left tend to get annoyed and abandon whatever product is being pushed by those folks (think Dixie Chicks, they have never or well ever recover for being cowards and attacking the country and people that made them rich), Dc/WB will also follow suit with a decrease in sales and readers abandoning their products.

    • April 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm — Reply

      It got cancelled after TEN years, and then only because Grant Morrison had a pitch for Big Gun JLA.

    • johnny
      May 2, 2011 at 12:08 am — Reply

      AND its been revived in an awesome mini-series!

  9. Alexi
    April 29, 2011 at 12:50 pm — Reply

    I haven’t read the story, so I don’t know the context. But Superman has legitimate reasons to drop his US citizenship, if really does value “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” in THAT order. Unlike President Obama, Supes wasn’t born in America (Look I made it relevant to current events!). And he never officially emigrated, since that would involve blowing his Clark Kent cover. So for the sake of “Truth,” he might have to refuse official recognition as an American.

    Of course, that’s probably not how the matter was handled in the issue at hand.

    • TaZ
      April 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm — Reply

      Kal-El was the ultimate “illegal immigrant” to the United States who, as many liberals out there champion, was given American citizenship due to his good works and his love and service to this country. Much like the immigrants who start off serving in the US military and then becoming citizens. So in that respect as well I find it amusing that comic writers (who tend to be more liberal in their views, much like others from the entertainment and media world) who would probably support amnesty for an “illegal immigrant” from Central America would take a character that was actually GIVEN citizenship status and have him toss it to the side as if it were some noble gesture. Ditto for Wonder Woman, who was also an “immigrant” from Paradise Island but came on the scene with a costume designed like an American flag. How ironic that the only member of the DC Trinity that’s actually an “American” is the one that has been the least concerned about politics, public perception and “patriotism”: Batman.

      So if “Superman” is no longer an American citizen, then this also makes Clark Kent exactly what Lex Luthor sees him as…a hypocritical, manipulating alien with god-like powers. If Supes is all of a sudden such a paragon of virtue, then he should dump “Clark Kent” as well.

      I looked forward to the #900 of Action Comics as being at least a bit of a return to the status quo for Superman. I am extremely dissapointed.

      • brainypirate
        April 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm — Reply

        Think of how many DC artists aren’t even in the States–it makes perfect sense that they’d want to expand Supes beyond the USA. Besides, his conflict is clear–he has to uphold what is right, and the government wants to restrict him from doing that. So in order to uphold his own principles, he has to let go of his allegiance to the USA-above-all.

        It’s kinda Christian, if you think about it: justice, virtue, humanity all trump nationalism.

  10. Scott
    April 29, 2011 at 5:03 pm — Reply

    This snippet from bessettepitney.net just sums things up for me:

    At The Weekly Standard, Jonathan Last writes:
    Heck, what does “citizen of the Universe” even mean? Will Superman now adhere to the Tamaran code of honor? Will he follow the Atlantean system of monarchy? Does he believe in liberté, égalité, fraternité, or sharia? Does he believe in British interventionism or Swiss neutrality? You see where I’m going with this: If Superman doesn’t believe in America, then he doesn’t believe in anything.

    Last is not the first to make such a point about citizenship. As our chapter on civic culture notes, James Madison recorded similar comments from Gouverneur Morris at the Constitutional Convention:

    As to those philosophical gentlemen, those Citizens of the World as they call themselves, He owned he did not wish to see any of them in our public Councils. He would not trust them. The men who can shake off their attachments to their own Country can never love any other.

  11. April 29, 2011 at 6:46 pm — Reply

    Nationalism isn’t even a good idea in the first place. It was never a very good fit for Superman (well, at least since WW II ended, I guess).

    I only wish it included Clark’s citizenship. It is unconfortable to see him have Clark’s US citizenship as a fallback or worse.

  12. jurman
    April 30, 2011 at 2:08 am — Reply

    I wonder if anyone here actually read the issue?

    Superman basically stands with and protects a bunch of protesters on foreign soil. Since he represents the U.S. he must give up his citizenship to prevent the impending international crisis. He then goes on for a bit about the symbol of Superman and how it belongs to the world, the “big picture”, and how he doesn’t want the U.S. blamed for his actions.

    It is a short story written by David Goyer and I would be shocked if it’s addressed again or included in continuity.

    It didn’t seem like that big of deal when I read it. I just wanted to assure everyone posting on here that Superman did not become a Nazi or some filthy hippy.

    • April 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm — Reply

      I wonder if anyone here actually read the issue?

      Um… Hi? I kinda reviewed it, and I’m here. :)

      • jurman
        April 30, 2011 at 5:41 pm — Reply

        heh. “anyone here” obviously meaning uh… a couple of angry posters?

  13. Armaan Babu
    April 30, 2011 at 10:24 am — Reply

    I second Jurman, totally.

    Also, what about that Lex story, eh?
    I kinda loved it, especially as a conclusion to the whole ‘The Black Ring’ story. Makes for AWESOME re-reading, too.

  14. exmalakite
    April 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm — Reply

    If the renouncing of Superman’s citizenship kicks off a story arc where the Government doesn’t allow him to operate in US borders, that could be interesting. If I am not mistaken, Clark was legally adopted in the pre crisis era, and in the Post crisis his birthing matrix hatched on Earth giving him citizenship (see the Elseworld where Supes became President.) I think my biggest issue with this is, he didn’t do this when Lex was President, why would he now? Jonathan Kent is probably rolling in his grave right now…

  15. exmalakite
    April 30, 2011 at 2:13 pm — Reply

    Oh, and another thing. I have said it once and I’ll say it again, if this is just a stunt because the new Superman is a Brit, I am done with David Goyer.

  16. Damascus
    May 18, 2011 at 3:47 am — Reply

    Made perfect sense to me.

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