It has all come down to this as Superman and his new super-team the Authority head to Warworld to fight Mongul! Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Daniel Sampere have been building towards this — including Grant Morrison for that matter with Superman and the Authority — which puts a lot of extra anticipation on it. On top of that, Superman is depowered and more vulnerable than ever, making this quite a high-stakes story.
This issue hammers three things home very strongly. The first is that Superman truly cares about all life in the universe. The second is the complicated nature of Warworld and the many people and factions that make up its horror. The third is how this issue sets up a new villainous team to give the Authority a run for their money. All three combine into a satisfying read, even if Superman is a bit distant. Instead, the identity of this book is more of an ensemble with Superman being a kind of wholesome battery that drives the heroes forward.
Daniel Sampere once again proves he’s one of the best in the business. The size and scope of an entire world are on full display at one point and it inspires awe. The opening involves a scene with a space alien who sits amongst plenty of strange flora and fauna — colored superbly by Adriano Lucas — further showing creativity that seems to have no bounds. We also get cool new character designs and some epic moments. You can feel the intensity of new character reveals and big moments thanks to the art.
I can’t say casual readers will totally understand what is going on — you really should know something about Superman and the Authority before diving in — but if you liked the Action Comics Future State story you can see where this is going. The focus does feel a bit jarring if you enjoyed the previous story arc, in part because Superman is less of the central focus.
Throughout much of the issue, Superman is a silent observer. That said, this book isn’t called Superman, but Action Comics, and given the incredible alien world and its inhabitants introduced here it certainly leans into the sci-fi notions of the series. It does ironically lack action, although it certainly is filled to the brim with adventure.
This issue also continues the backup story by Sean Lewis and Sami Basri, with colors by Ulises Arreola which features Guardian. He’s trying to nab a digital kidnapper and takes the fight directly to him. I can’t say the story makes a ton of sense, but it is intriguing to see a more matter-of-fact hero like Guardian face off against a digital threat.
All in all, Action Comics #1036 begins a story that feels huge in its scope as it introduces readers to a new world and a bevy of evil characters. It also has its heart in the right place as Superman can’t stand the awfulness of Warworld while setting up an adventure we’ve never seen Superman face since he was created 83 years ago. It’s a masterclass in worldbuilding.
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