Despite its near-constant, often controversial, but well-meaning attempts to clarify its own complicated continuity, the DC Universe often feels impenetrable to new readers. Part of that lies in its never-ending flow of crossover events, any number of which might seem to an outside observer to be The Next Big Thing, the moment the books reboot for good or ill.
A second discomforting detail are those proud, massive issue numbers, as with Action Comics #1051. It seems like an insurmountable number, however justly celebrated. With a tally that high, just how far back do the uninitiated go to begin the current narrative threads?
As a reader long-since disconnected from the stories going on in present-day DC (only aware of details, as any comics journalist might be, by my constant near proximity), it’s a relief to see the sort of soft reboot going on in the Superman titles. Most of the threads of which are being established here, in Action Comics.
The issue is oversized for the immense task of establishing stepping-on points for the whole of the Superman family without fully and panderingly eradicating the contemporary continuity—there’s nothing here breaking the chain of current events, no full post-Crisis retcons. There’s only a sense of open-air welcoming to this portion of the DCU, an opening of doors for we looky-loos wondering what the hell is going on on the other side of that Big Blue fence.
Action Comics #1051 gives three quick opening chapters, offering gateways through that fence. The first story sets up the whole (literal) family, highlighting the various young Supers underneath Lois and Clark’s supervision as a means to establish a new familial structure. It’s dense with recent events and characters in flux, but invitingly so; the book wants to hook the reader quick and simply by displaying the moving parts of the family in snapshot detail. We understand who these characters are and what their relationships are, and we understand the thrust of the story moving forward: a Lex Luthor-puppet Metallo, a forward-looking corporate and scientific endeavor looked over by the family.
The book’s second story takes us back a bit, looking at young Superman Jon’s childhood, with a quick overview of then-recent events and a cliffhanger introduction of a space-borne stranger. It’s an uncomplicated beginning to what promises to be an informational and exciting story.
Third—and most steeped in current events—is a Power Girl story spinning out of Lazarus Planet and Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths. While those events deeply inform our setup, the execution of the story (telepathic therapy, the Titans, Beast Boy’s trauma) reads neatly and directs any new readers with curiosity back to those stories.
There isn’t anything groundbreaking going on in Action Comics #1051, but there is a feeling of warmness, familiarity, and kinship. It’s a book that welcomes new readers but never discards or undermines the faithful. This is a nice place to board the speeding (bullet) train of Superman for anyone who has been eager to. Next stop: next month’s Superman #1.
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