Part five of Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s epic “Warworld Rising” takes place this week in Action Comics #1034, and he pushes Superman in all-new ways. It’s a story arc that has been great throughout, but when war is coming between humans and Atlanteans, what will Superman do? Not what you expect!
This issue opens with an A story that has Lois Lane and Thao-La facing off against some very muscular and angry Warzoons. Thao-La is the descendent of a lost colony of Kryptonians who has recently discovered she has powers thanks to our yellow sun. Johnson has done well to show how pure Superman is in this story arc, but with Thao-La’s tortured past and what she’s put through in this issue, one can surmise she may not be as interested in sparing lives.
Superman is pushed too as far as keeping the peace. Literally floating between human battleships and Atlantean forces, this issue opens on Superman trying to keep both sides from firing first. Johnson pushes Superman to the brink of his patience and it’s interesting to see how he reacts. He’s not perfect, and it shows here, even though he does embody the ideal. There’s a kettle boiling over here and it’ll be interesting to see how bad it gets in the next issue.
Much like that boiling kettle, the A story is more about raising the tensions. It feels like a middle chapter more than a definitive one, though Superman’s actions are intriguing as we try to understand his actions.
Christian Duce’s art, with Adriano Lucas’ colors are strong throughout, from the opening panel of the Warzoons in their eclectic garb to Superman’s tough choice midway through. The Superman scene is the tightest in the book, with two gorgeous double page splashes. There’s a rougher inked panel here or there though that pulled me out of the story just a touch.
The B story continues Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, and Michael Avon Oeming’s Midnighter story. If previous chapters were a little slow for you, you can rest easy knowing this is an action packed story. It’s the penultimate chapter to “The Passenger” and has Midnighter teaming up with Mister Miracle. It’s fun to see Midnighter speak to his inner monologue and how that plays off Mister Miracle having no idea what he’s saying. Expect the finale in the Midnighter 2021 Special.
Oeming’s art is fabulous pop-art fun with cool nods to Kirby and other classic comics. Nearly every panel mixes up the backgrounds, which aren’t always rendered with environments, but have some effect to draw the eye and lift the characters off the page a bit. The art is never stale in part because every panel seems to move around the characters and find the most dynamic angle.
Action Comics #1034 is all about building tension with some close calls thrown in to boot. It’s limited on those climactic beats, but it’s doing the work to make the next issue a must-read.
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