T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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The Justice story arc is picking up steam as Superman seeks to tie together the shadowy conspiracy that uncovered his secret identity and stole most of his powers. The latest installment was released this week in Action Comics #47, and ComiConverse’s Man of Steel correspondent, T. Kyle King, provides an overview.
After producing a standout issue in Action Comics #46, Greg Pak is back with Consumed, the third chapter of Blind Justice. In a story crafted with the aid of Aaron Kuder and penciled by Georges Jeanty, Superman fights Frankenstein’s monster, learns Wrath’s origin, and gives in to the dark side.
Wrath works to persuade Lee Lambert that the battling Superman and Frankenstein are equally monstrous. When the villain fails to convert the firefighter, she turns her attention to the Man of Steel instead. The malevolent Metropolis mayor explains how she rose from the city’s slums to law school to elected office, only to see her mother slain by Brainiac and the Action Ace infected by the Doomsday virus. Disaffected by her powerlessness against such threats, she accepted the Black Mass from Vandal Savage.
Finally understanding what makes Wrath tick, the Man of Tomorrow uses her power to travel through shadows and destroy one of the two planes headed to drop Black Mass bombs on Houston. Wrath intercepts him on the way to take down the second aircraft, showing the effect his own infection has on his friends. Surrendering completely to the Black Mass, Superman absorbs all of the darkness and uses its power to stop the bombs dropped by the second plane. Savage returns to take the Black Mass back, removing the infection from everyone, including the Man of Steel, who is once again depowered.
It was disappointing that Scott Kolins was not back for this issue. His artwork in the previous installment took a story that was over the top and gave it a fitting look that was larger than life. Jeanty’s pencils lacked Kolins’s daring, making the action sequences feel somewhat reduced by comparison. The artwork was not helped by having four different inkers and a pair of colorists, which hampered the consistency of the imagery and made some panels appear distorted, cartoonish, and hastily completed.
In the story’s deliberately subtler and more subdued moments, though, Jeanty’s pencils were more compelling. His illustrations effectively brought Wrath’s humanizing backstory to life and convincingly portrayed the issue’s denouement as the sunlight returned to Houston, Vandal Savage slipped back into the shadows, and Lee retrieved Clark from where he had landed after being liberated from the Black Mass.
Aided in the plotting by Kuder, Pak had a lot to accomplish in a scant 22 pages, so some plot points were slighted or rushed. After the previous issue’s cliffhanger presented Superman punching Frankenstein, the showdown between Clark Kent and Boris Karloff was given pretty short shrift. Because Wrath’s origin story needed adequate time to unfold, the Man of Steel had to make a rapid transition from reaction to realization, and that hurried conversion fell flat in the quick switch between panels that alternately had Superman looking like Dax Shepard and the Joker.
John Henry Irons’s and Lana Lang’s arrival to assist the test subjects rescued from Wrath’s Alabama laboratory occurred offstage and had to be revealed in passing. A single line of dialogue informed the audience that Wrath is Vandal Savage’s daughter, but this brief treatment made the unveiling feel forced and (in light of the similar announcement about the Angle Man and the forthcoming epiphany about HORDR_ROOT) redundant. The ending, while providing closure, was a tad too pat: “I’m just me again”, Superman tells Lee, who replies, “And so am I! And so are the kids with John Henry!”
Despite flaws caused by the need to do too much in a single story, Consumed achieves its major goals. Wrath’s descent from sincere motivations to sinister intentions is portrayed well, and Clark’s interior monologue charts his inner search for the light even as he outwardly plunges into the dark. The Man of Steel concedes the villain’s point that perhaps no one should possess such power, but, given the choice between the two of them, “I trust myself a little more.”
Superman reminds us why he ultimately is worthy of that trust, ejecting the pilot to safety before destroying the first of the bomber jets. The Metropolis Marvel’s mental battle to use the Black Mass for good rather than be used by it for evil is presented persuasively in words and pictures, particularly as Wrath attempts to overcome Clark’s resistance by revealing his friends’ reactions to his infection. (It should be noted, though, that, in the midst of these shifts showing Lee, Lana, John Henry, and Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane was conspicuous by her absence.)
Finally, after multiple issues in which Superman knew Wrath was being fueled by his fury yet gave in to his anger anyway, he at long last chooses the proper course. As the mindless Frankenstein charges at the Man of Steel, the villain taunts him: “Go ahead. Keep on fighting him. Lose yourself to rage. That’s how I’ll take you.” The hero answers, “I know… so let’s try something different.” Instead of punching the monster, Clark trips him, absorbs all the shadows into himself, and rides above Houston on a rising plume of Black Mass to save the city by catching the bombs.
Superman can ingest the worst in Wrath because “I know myself. And you can give it all to me.” The Black Mass empowers the physically weakened Man of Tomorrow, but it cannot corrupt him because, despite his struggles, his noble spirit, though long hidden, is undiminished. Although he misses the capabilities the darkness gave him when Vandal Savage reclaims the shadowy substance for his own, Clark knows Lee speaks the truth when she tells him at the story’s close that, “if anyone could have handled it, it’s you”, yet she prefers “Superman just the way you are.”
Space limitations necessitated that such sentiments be stated a bit too forthrightly, but, after so many Truth stories showed us an embittered Man of Steel whose decency and judgment were severely compromised, it is good to see a happy ending defined by sunlight instead of darkness. Although it remains unclear in which sequence the separate strands of the Justice storyline are occurring, it increasingly is apparent that the plot threads all will be tied together in the end.
Action Comics #47 was not on a par with the Justice stories that immediately preceded it (two of which were penned by Pak), but it nevertheless was a good issue, especially in view of the multiple demands Consumed had to meet. Superman began the third chapter of Blind Justice still wearing the blackened “S” on his chest and ended it with the red restored, providing a welcome symbolic reminder that it’s not an “S” and offering further encouragement that we are very close to seeing the genuine Man of Tomorrow restored in the present day.
What was your reaction to the Wrath wrap-up? Share your thoughts on this issue in the comments below and ComiConverse with us!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Though rushed and forced in places, Greg Pak’s latest effort possessed depth, moved the story forward, and led Superman upward.