The Infinite Frontier era for the Man of Steel continues this week in Action Comics #1029. Earlier this month, Phillip Kennedy Johnson kicked off this new era with a modest start in Superman #29. While this issue serves as Johnson’s first on Action Comics, it continues the “Golden Age” arc directly from the preceding Superman #29. This issue retains the heart and consistent visuals of the previous entry, but is unfortunately held back by an overly decompressed narrative.
The narrative picks up with Superman and his son Jon working to close an interdimensional incursion once again. However, this repeated alien force seems to be taking its toll on Superman. Will Jon be forced to take on the mantle of his father, and the possible Future State come to pass? Or will Superman triumph once more? On the whole, it’s a simple tale with a solid emotional core.
Johnson continues to nail the voice for Clark and Jon. He captures the unwavering spirit that Superman possesses and translates that into his narrative. The story also does a good job of balancing Jon’s role. With his relationship with his father being as bizarre as it was in the previous run, it becomes important to have the father/son moments to solidify their understanding of one another. Johnson ties all this together through an overarching narration that adds thematic resonance. For all its emotional weight, there is a solid story here; however, it becomes difficult to look at apart from its predecessor.
This is where the issue falls flat. It in essence retreads the same story beats and narration of Superman #29, just this time with a final act. Both ruminate on the day that a child sees their parents just as fallible as they are and focus this through Jon’s precognition of his father’s demise. It was an interesting angle to take on Clark and Jon’s relationship the first time, but this issue seems content to rehash this narrative for half its page length before providing anything new. Taken together, this two-part arc reads like an issue and a half of repetitive build-up, followed by a fair conclusion. It’s unfortunate to see such a promising initial arc marred by decompression.
Fortunately, the artistic talent behind the issue helps to pick up some of the slack. Phil Hester’s cartoony and expressive style continues to work well, especially when paired with inker Eric Gapstur and Hi-Fi’s colors. The action beats are crisp and fully realized, and the coloring by Hi-Fi gives the book a particularly vibrant flair. Alongside this, the artwork helps to sell some of the emotional beats. However, due to the narrative’s repetitive nature, the visuals come off as less than fresh. Despite this, one cannot deny the consistent talent on display.
The issue also features a Midnighter backup story by returning Future State collaborators Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, and Michael Avon Oeming. Picking up immediately after his Future State adventures, the Midnighter is back in the present but plagued by the memories of the future. With an intriguing narrative hook and exhilarating action beats, it makes for an enjoyable addition to the issue. Oeming’s art is the highlight here with his viscerally expressive stylings, fully realized through Taki Soma’s colors.
Action Comics #1029 on its own is a serviceable issue, but when considered within the context of the previous issue, it comes off as redundant. The emotional core that Johnson brings to the characters remains but loses some of its punch here. For concurrent Superman readers, this entry will fall short, but if one were to pick up this issue standalone it would read much better.
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