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.
MORE NEWS FROM THE WEB
Action Comics #52 was released this week, bringing fans the most enthusiastically expected installment of Peter J. Tomasi’s The Final Days of Superman. ComiConverse’s Man of Steel writer, T. Kyle King, takes a look at the long awaited meeting between the pre-Flashpoint and New 52 Supermen.
The Clark Kent of the current continuity is dying, the Last Son of Krypton from the previous DC Universe has remained in the background, and a false Man of Tomorrow mistakenly believes himself to be the genuine Metropolis Marvel. Will the real Action Ace please stand up, up, and away? (Technically, I suppose that spoilers follow, but only if you thought something was going to happen and you consider it a spoiler to be told that nothing really happened.)
Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are continuing their search for the solar flare-powered imposter when Kal-El experiences an episode of weakness brought on by his terminal illness. The golden Superman doppelgänger, attempting to impress Lois Lane, takes her to visit the home of Clark, Lois, and Jonathan White in California.
The trio of Justice Leaguers locates the dangerous duplicate on the Whites’ farm and arrives to apprehend him, bringing the old and new Supermen face to face for the first time. Clark White whisks his wife and son away from the battle zone, leaving the three younger heroes to confront their glowing antagonist.
From the time the Super League storyline was announced, the most anticipated event of the arc unquestionably was the moment the New 52 Man of Steel would meet his predecessor from Dan Jurgens’s Superman: Lois and Clark. Following initial delays, Action Comics #52 finally made good on that promise. Unfortunately, although the issue has its moments, The Great Pretender too truly lived up to its title by failing at all to live up to the hype.
Though it was not awful, this issue was uneven and unfulfilling, starting with the artwork. Pencils were provided by Dale Eaglesham and Scot Eaton, with inks added by Eaglesham and Wayne Faucher. The figures are blocky and static, appearing immobile even in the midst of action sequences. Facial expressions frequently were either flat or exaggerated, and bodies often were awkwardly positioned. Tomeu Morey’s vibrant colors and Rob Leigh’s dramatic lettering helped to hide the visual deficiencies of Action Comics #52; however, the deft touch required to render a tale featuring three Supermen and two Lois Lanes was conspicuously missing from this issue.
Tomasi, who is credited on the masthead with producing both the plot and the script, is tasked with the responsibility of combining elements from multiple series, past, present, and future. As The Final Days of Superman increasingly calls upon the writer to be all things to all people, though, the results are more and more evidently neither fish nor fowl.
For fans of the power couple, there are a pair of opening pages of Superman and Wonder Woman holding hands while the dying Kryptonian emotes in his internal monologue. Shortly thereafter, we are given another couple of pages of Lois standing up to the luminescent pseudo-Superman, partly playing hostage negotiator and partly speaking truth to power. From that point, we’re off to Clark White and Jonathan being heartwarming in the kitchen while cooking pancakes and bacon, after which flying guys in capes commence punching one another in midair.
These formulaic vignettes transform Action Comics #52 into a patchwork sampler that merely checks the boxes and simply skims surfaces. The Great Pretender is the DC You initiative in its most attenuated and ill-conceived form, providing a choose-your-own-Superman adventure to separate sets of fans without either emotional heft or a true protagonist. Rather than giving everyone something to love, the story gives everyone something to despise.
Bringing the Supermen together requires a variety of contrivances. The New 52 Kal-El is driven by conflicting motivations quite literally from one panel to the next, defiantly declaring that he will not take a break until he and his comrades “find this energy creature who short-circuited my plan” — only to state with his very next breath that it is critical that he give “a face-to-face good-bye” to all of his friends. So is he on a vital mission or is he on a farewell tour?
As the three heroes pass the Pacific Coast on their way back to Gotham City, where the Batcave offers search capabilities superior even to the Justice League Watchtower’s, Batman detects the golden Superman duplicate’s solar flare signature in Salinas, California. So pseudo-Supes couldn’t be tracked while he departed from A.R.G.U.S., but Batman could detect the solar flare in China while he was in Gotham City, but the Darknight Detective couldn’t detect that same energy signature in Metropolis while he was in California, even though his technology beats that found on the satellite headquarters of a superhero team including several aliens from advanced planets?
All these inconsistencies and incongruities are concocted in order to unite the Supermen in one location, but even that has its problems. Asked why he brought the New 52 Lois to California, the glowing fake Superman stammers, “I d-don’t know — I was drawn to this p-place.” Nevertheless, he seemed well aware of the secret he was exposing to Lois before he ever left Metropolis.
The New 52 Superman, by contrast, is completely clueless, as he has no idea of the pre-Flashpoint Superman’s existence. When they first face one another, the anticlimactic meeting is limited to a baffled younger hero in a blue suit blankly observing, “I don’t understand—who are—” and a pensive older hero in a black suit unhelpfully explaining, “Quite a long story, which we have no time for, Kal-El.” And… scene.
No, seriously; that’s it. It’s a huge, worldview-shattering revelation, yet every single person in this issue underreacts to the news. Action Comics #52 is the moment at which the unwitting guest of honor arrives at the surprise party you’ve been planning for months and responds by saying, “Oh, hey, people. Well, that’s neat, I guess.”
Six issues into The Final Days of Superman, with Rebirth nearing its due date and no Super League in sight, Tomasi appears to have arrived at the chilling realization that he has not world enough and time, so superficiality will have to suffice as the next best thing to making the sun stand still. That approach makes Action Comics #52 an unsatisfactory exercise in painting by numbers; if the issue’s unintentionally ironic title, The Great Pretender, didn’t sum up the story exactly enough, an unfinished early line from Wonder Woman definitely did: “I understand, and whatever—”.
Understanding is in short supply in Action Comics #52, but I wholeheartedly agree with the “whatever”.
What was your reaction to the latest chapter of The Final Days of Superman? Jump into the ComiConversation in the comments below!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
This highly anticipated issue was an inconsistent, anticlimactic, and superficial hodgepodge that fell well short of expectations.