Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s Superman epic continues to rapidly expand across time and space, accruing an intimidating classic rival and an endearing new Superman. Action Comics and Superman are a compelling duo of books that show why this classic character really never goes out of style. Teaming with Danial Sampere, Johnson is using Action Comics to specifically invest in the sci-fi epic toward which Superman has been set on the path.
Johnson uses Action Comics #1031 to take a few deliberate steps forward in this grand story. Each is measured and important to the growing intrigue of the series, and fateful for the eventual Future State the book is headed towards.
Kryptonians take center stage here, and Johnson isn’t shy about defining intricate elements of their culture. It’s this specific investment in long-lost cultural sayings and specific cellular structures that make these Kyrptonians feel so appropriate for this world.
Additionally, Mongul and his Warzoons create an equally intriguing antagonist, and allow the former to finally usurp the role of Mastermind, which he has often pined for but traditionally been denied by DC Comics. This elevation of a traditionally transitional antagonist has added gravitas to the Superman mythos as a whole, and presented a fresh challenge for the Man of Steel.
Johnson is as diligent as ever here in his commitment to developing Jon Kent. Here we see him displaying complex emotions which he hasn’t before, but it happens in such a nuanced way, allowing for him to still be relatively easy to empathize with. It doesn’t hurt that Jon is often treated as if he’s in a similar class to his father. His knowing what’s best to do before other members of the Super-family lend him an air of maturity that’s appropriate for his new age.
This issue sees some of Johnson’s first faults in world-building. They aren’t huge, but he uses weird terminology just enough for it to be noticeable. Whether it’s Vulko calling surface-dwellers surfacers, calling some MacGuffin a “piece of source,” or referring to the Kyptonian language as “Kryptonese”, it just all stands out and pulls readers’ attention from the story.
Outside of that, this is Johnson’s typically exceptional work.
Sampere is similarly in top form for this issue, specifically in the issue’s opening action sequence. Splash pages and large panels depict a grand moment which seems only appropriate for the Supermen. It’s bombastic and dynamic, and Adriano Lucas’s flashy colors give the book a cinematic feeling.
Sampere continues to show-off throughout the issue as he quickly finds his way through a variety of highly-dense and diverse locales. Each comes with its own distinct personality and tone, brought wholly to life by Sampere’s pen. Whether he’s traversing harsh, medieval environments or the cold and clinical worlds of Atlantis, his attention to detail gives off the impression that any of these worlds might be fit to headline DC’s premier book.
It’s simply a joy to read.
Additionally, Sampere does the very important job of making aged-up Jon finally feel cool. He’s not dorky, or angst-ridden, or out-of-place here. Right next to his father, he’s the exciting action hero readers want to spend more and more time with. It’s an essential job that someone had to do eventually if Jon was going to headline his own book, and Sampere is clearly the man for that job.
In total, Johnson and Sampere have delivered a simple followup to Action Comics #1030, which better details the mystery at hand. It also does that with so much style and skill that simple developments feel like revelations, and decades-old characters feel brand new.
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