Review: Action Comics #50

March 13th, 2016 | by Kyle King
Review: Action Comics #50
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On March 13, 2016
Last modified:March 13, 2016

Summary:

Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder hit the highlights and achieved their goals, but the art and the story were inconsistent and erratic.

Action Comics #50, released this week, marked the end of Greg Pak’s and Aaron Kuder’s collaboration on DC’s oldest superhero title, but the creative team went out with a bang in the 40-page special Resurrection. ComiConverse’s Superman Writer, T. Kyle King, is here with a review of the super-sized story.

The Man of Steel has come through Truth and now hopes to survive Savage Dawn as the New 52 draws to a close and Rebirth looms. Yes, there is a lot going on for Superman, but is Action Comics #50 strong enough to bear the weight of everything this issue has to accomplish? (Major, though fairly obvious, spoilers follow!)

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Synopsis:

Empowered by Metallo’s kryptonite heart, Superman attacks Vandal Savage’s Stormwatch Carrier as the comet is drawn nearer to Metropolis. Lois Lane, Lee Lambert, and Jimmy Olsen assist with relief efforts on the ground. Batman, Wonder Woman, and Mr. Terrific provide backup while the Man of Steel goes after Savage and his descendants. Superman rescues Lana Lang and the Justice League.

In order to test the effects of the interstellar phenomenon, Vandal launches his children toward the comet and detonates the Stormwatch Carrier. Superman attempts to free the Savage offspring, but the immortal patriarch fires a fatal shot into the hero’s chest. The Last Son of Krypton plummets toward the Fortress of Solitude, which recognizes Kal-El, lets him in, repairs his damaged cells, and releases the fully restored Superman, complete with cape and costume.

Action Comics #50

Credit: DC Comics

Analysis:

Despite being oversized, Action Comics #50 still is overstuffed. Its 40 pages all were overseen by co-plotters Pak, who wrote the words, and Kuder, who handled the layouts. Kuder also was one of the issue’s five pencillers, and he shared the inking chores with four other contributors, but Kuder left the coloring duties to Tomeu Morey, Arif Prianto, and Wil Quintana.

Resurrection, in sum, has a lot of cooks, and, while they do not combine to spoil the broth, the result is a bit of a visual mishmash. The artwork is never bad, and it quite often is very strong, particularly in the double-page collages and spreads, but stylistic changes occur suddenly and without warning. This creates an inconsistent experience for the reader, as the surprising shifts between images distract and detract from the quality of each of the artists’ work.

Likewise, Pak has a lot of ground to cover in the antepenultimate installment of Savage Dawn. In his final turn scripting Action Comics, the writer has to bring together multiple characters and several storylines, and the act of attempting to force so much through the funnel interferes with Resurrection’s flow.

In particular, Action Comics #50 features some inelegant exposition at the outset, when the villain endeavors at long last to unite the threads making up his nefarious web. Even if the resulting montage of scenes from Truth added up — which it doesn’t, though Pak gets an A for effort — the immortal caveman’s stilted delivery comes across like the explanatory monologue of a B-grade Bond villain.

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“My name is Vandal Savage”, he helpfully explains to the captive Justice League, who probably weren’t in need of an introduction by that point. Later, Salvaxe assumes center stage for no particularly good reason, but his unbecoming childishness is necessary to provide the eyebrow-furrowing impetus for his father’s ensuing weird behaviour. It’s too bad HORDR_ROOT is dead, because we could use a few “sort of”s to leaven the uniting excuses that fail to provide explanations.

Action Comics #50

Credit: DC Comics

As Resurrection continues, however, Pak hits his stride, covering the ground previously trod in Truth less awkwardly and more convincingly through the silent ruminations and realizations of the fully revitalized Superman. The hero’s emotional epiphanies draw more compelling connections than the antagonist’s intellectual rationalizations, as Superman experiences the revelation that his friends’ faith was rooted in his steadfastness.

“Lois could save me”, he finally recognizes, by letting the world know his secret identity, “because she couldn’t imagine it changing me.” While the Man of Steel is in the process of connecting the dots, Pak and his collaborators provide such stirring affirmations as the admission by Jimmy that he asks himself, “What would Superman do?” and the image of Lois sharing a fist bump with Lee after the conclusion of the heroics. What dawns on Superman is not Savage’s subterfuge, but the certainty that “my friends would still stand by me when it mattered.”

All this is artfully unveiled and appropriately inspirational, but Truth was too damaging and too messy to be redeemed by a few long-overdue platitudes, however heartening. “I realize that for them”, the airborne Action Ace says to himself while considering those closest to him, “I never left.” Yes, you never left, unless you count stranding Lee on a hillside or slipping out a side door to evade Lois or dismissively dispatching Jimmy or dumping Diana or telling Hiro Okamura to leave you alone. Yes, you could count on your friends to stand by you, except for Perry White, the only noteworthy cast member conspicuously absent from Action Comics #50, because he’s mad as Hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore.

Action Comics #50 is highlighted by scenes that soar, in some cases quite literally, but those needed sequences are stitched to one another with the seams showing because the scraps of fabric were put together piecemeal rather than patterned from whole cloth. Resurrection necessarily glosses over what was inconvenient in Truth and consigns the irreconcilable to the memory hole.

If what you were looking for from Action Comics #50 was a blockbuster superhero adventure jam-packed with characters that brought back Superman and superficially made sense of it all, Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder definitely delivered. I doubt whether they could have done a better job than they did using the materials with which circumstances required them to work. Just don’t think too hard about Savage Dawn or ask too many questions about Truth unless you’re prepared to spot the editor behind the curtain who gave his creators only hammers and left them with no option except to treat Resurrection exclusively as a nail.

With two chapters remaining in Savage Dawn, were you satisfied by Action Comics #50?

Let us know your reaction to Resurrection in the comments and ComiConverse with us!

 

T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.

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Action Comics #50
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Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder hit the highlights and achieved their goals, but the art and the story were inconsistent and erratic.

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