Doomsday is back, but not the one from the New 52. This one is more reminiscent of the one Superman fought in the past. Not the New 52 Superman, though. I’m talking about the pre-Flashpoint Superman, who has partnered up with Lex Luthor, a Superman in his own right, to battle the beast. Throw in a second Clark Kent and you have a new reader’s nightmare as Major Spoilers reviews Action Comics #959.
Previously in Action Comics: After confronting Lex Luthor for proclaiming himself to be the new Superman, an unexpected guest crashed the party in the form of Doomsday. Despite not trusting the Lex Luthor of this world, Superman temporarily aligned himself with “Superlex” to try and save Metropolis.
RETREADING OLD GROUND
Our story begins with a narration by the Man of Steel’s First Lady, Lois Lane (or in this case, Lois Smith). She recounts the ruthlessness displayed by Doomsday when he first appeared and engaged Superman in a battle to the death. While there was nothing inherently wrong with the way this portion of the story was executed by Dan Jurgens, it would have been far more impactful if we hadn’t just gotten a similarly vivid retelling of this iconic moment last month in the Superman Rebirth one-shot. Likewise, the idea that Doomsday must be a serious threat, given his name, is another motif first introduced by Jon in the last issue that resurfaces again, this time referenced by both him and Lois. Again, I don’t find anything wrong with how the information and dialogue is presented by Jurgens but what I do find bothersome is that we see Jon ask Lois if his Dad ever fought Doomsday before and after Lois answers in the affirmative, Jon concludes that his Dad must have been victorious since he’s still around now. This same exchange between Lois and Jon played out nearly panel for panel in the last issue and given that this title is being double-shipped, two weeks isn’t a lot of time for readers to forget that they just read the same thing the last time they picked up a copy of Action Comics.
The real meat of this issue takes place during the battle in Metropolis as Superman and Lex Luthor continue their reluctant partnership as they attempt to stop Doomsday from destroying the city. Some of the best dialogue in the story comes from the exchanges between Lex and Supes, such as Lex sheepishly remarking that he softened Doomsday up for Kal-El. It’s also during the battle that we get another brief appearance of the enigmatic Mr. Oz, a character whose slow build has created much anticipation as far as what role he will play in Superman’s world and possibly the greater DC Universe. We still don’t get a straight answer as to why there is a second Clark Kent roaming around Metropolis but much like the last issue, his banter with Jimmy Olsen seems to confirm that this doppelganger doesn’t share his counterpart’s super abilities. There is clearly a lot more to this plot point that has yet to be unraveled but given the fact that both Clarks appeared on Mr. Oz’s monitor as he looked on at the chaos in Metropolis, I would imagine everything will start to tie together as the rest of the larger story unfolds.
After two recaps of the death of Superman at the bony hands of Doomsday in as many months, plus the recent death of the New 52 Superman, this issue ends as one might expect – with the apparent death of Superman. Though this is most certainly a just tease, the full effect of the cliffhanger ending wasn’t felt in the way I’m sure Jurgens expected it to be.
ROUGH AROUND THE EDGES
We learned months ago that we would be getting a rotating panel of artists on Action Comics after the start of “Rebirth” and stepping up to the plate following a strong at-bat by Patrick Zircher is Tyler Kirkham. Kirkham’s love for comics began in the early 90s and at times, this shows in his art style. There are a few panels where I found the line work to be a little rough and this leads me to question the inking. There is no Inker listed in the credits so I’m wondering if Kirkham inked the issue himself or if perhaps the art was just penciled, scanned and colored. If Kirkham did ink this himself, I think some of the panels might have benefited from a slightly heavier hand.
The double-page spread that features the profile shot of Lois as her hair extends to form the panels as they encompass the flashback of the Death of Superman was one of the visual highlights of this issue for me. The emotional weight felt by Lois as she recalls the worst day of her life is conveyed through the beautifully tragic imagery and the extension of her hair not only helps form the panels, but helps to establish that we are taking a brief look into the past.
The action scenes are intense and despite Doomsday not being my first choice as far as post-“Rebirth” Superman villains, Kirkham’s depiction of him is every bit as imposing as you could ask for. The climax of the battle and the ensuing explosion look nothing short of epic. A big part of this comes from the Color Artist, Arif Prianto, whose transitions from the cool, soft tones in the scenes between Lois and Jon to the fiery-hot colors of the battle are exceptional.
BOTTOM LINE: WORTH YOUR TIME
Despite feeling repetitive at times, this was a good read that was big on the action and laid some of the groundwork for what I’m hoping will be a satisfying payoff to the slow-building story of Mr. Oz and the second Clark Kent. Only time will tell if ends justify the means, but I’m happy to come along for the ride.