In Action Comics #1038, Superman and the Authority have traveled to Warworld to bring peace and stop the new Mongul. But at what cost? Given the cliffhanger of the last issue, the answer might be real lives. Can Superman and his new team stop a killer like Mongul who has his own devilish team, let alone convince an entire culture war and killing is wrong? This week’s issue begins to answer if there’s any hope at all.
If you’re new to this series, stop what you’re doing and start reading with Action Comics #1036. This is part three in Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s third chapter in “The Warworld Saga” storyline, and opens on a bit of a spoiler for the last issue. Spoilers ahead for this issue!
So Superman apparently didn’t die in the last issue as he’s chained up, bloody, and defeated at the start of this issue. It’s unclear how he survived, but then again, he is Superman. Much of this issue is about Superman and the remaining living members of his team enduring intense torture and humiliation. There is a bit of an uprising at the start, but make no mistake: this is not a happy heroic issue. It’s grueling, sometimes hard to get through, and clearly a statement on how far Superman can be pushed without taking vengeance upon others.
This is unique comic story thanks in part to the meditative messages of the hero’s captors. The defeat is felt hard due to these words, but it also helps that our heroes are so battered. There is some hope though and by the end, Kennedy has clearly begun to spin up a story that will bring us closer to believing in the dream Superman instills in us. There’s also a bit of hope for Midnighter getting an impressive arc out of this story, though he only appears briefly.
Because the issue is so sullen, and it takes its time doing it, it feels a bit slow. There isn’t a lot of plot development, but the emotional resonance is strong and likely the main point.
Miguel Mendonca draws this issue with Adriano Lucas coloring. Lucas brings the sullen fallen hero element to the forefront with some cool blues and good use of shadow. The heroes may be on a planet basking in yellow, but much of this book is dark and gloomy. Mendonca will make you feel every bruise on Superman, who has certainly seen better days. Details are evident in clothing and weaponry, as seen in the ax Mongul tosses to Superman at one point.
The backup by Shawn Aldridge and Adriana Melo continues their Martian Manhunter story that started last issue. Martian Manhunter must use his detective skills and intuition to figure out who is messing with him. There are some rumblings of a story here involving the young people falling into the wrong crowd, but it’s a slower chapter for sure. The cliffhanger doesn’t have the pizazz of the first issue, though the mystery is interesting enough to draw your interest.
Action Comics hasn’t felt this different in some time. Issue #1038 delivers an adventure story with high stakes that are testing Superman beyond anything we’ve seen before. This may be a slower and sadder chapter, but it’s incredibly important as it’s always darkest before the dawn.
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