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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Action Comics #959 arrived in stores last Wednesday. Together with artist Tyler Kirkham, writer Dan Jurgens brought Rebirth readers Path of Doom — Part Three, which continued Superman’s and Lex Luthor’s battle with Doomsday. T. Kyle King, ComiConverse’s Man of Steel reviewer, shares his thoughts on the latest installment.
Lois Lane is being pressed for answers by her son, Jonathan. Jimmy Olsen has questions for Clark Kent, who wants explanations from Superman, who is trying to figure out both Doomsday and Lex Luthor. Is the audience any closer to comprehension than the characters?
While going over her husband’s original encounter with Doomsday in her mind, Lois attempts to calm Jon’s fears without revealing more than the boy can handle. Lex uses a Motherbox to repair his battle suit and aids in the effort to evacuate Metropolis while Superman forces Doomsday down into the city’s sewers to isolate him.
After failing to provide satisfactory answers to Jimmy’s inquiries, Clark plummets into the sewer, breaking his arm in the fall. Evidently mistaking the pre-Flashpoint Man of Steel for his deceased New 52 counterpart, the injured reporter attempts to elicit information from the Action Ace. Unleashing the full power of his heat vision against Doomsday, Superman receives a nasty surprise when the bony monster cleverly counterattacks.
With Kirkham and colorist Arif Prianto subbing in for Patrick Zircher and Ulises Arreola, respectively, Action Comics #959 has a somewhat different look from the previous issues in the renumbered series. Kirkham’s visual style is reminiscent of Jim Lee’s, depicting high-impact action between heroes with rough-hewn features and chiseled forms. However, his softer and subtler portrayals of Lois and Jonathan, highlighted by the glistening finish of Prianto’s hues, are where the penciler’s images particularly shine.
Path of Doom continues its rapid pace — can even an hour of real time have passed since the start of Action Comics #957? — but the lack of any let-up in the clash with Doomsday still left room for the plot to unfold. The tension and suspicion between Superman and Lex continued to color their interplay, while the mounting frustration defining Kent’s and Olsen’s exchanges spilled over into Clark’s cryptic colloquy with the Metropolis Marvel. Jurgens expertly keeps the story moving steadily forward even as he slowly and shrewdly introduces further clues.
Action Comics #959 is at its best, though, in the scenes showing Lois and Jonathan. Returning to the dual-narration technique that served him so well in Superman: Lois and Clark, Jurgens has half the tale be told by the mother, wife, and journalist who grounds not just her husband and her son, but also the story in its historical context and the reader as a participant in the narrative. Overseeing it all is the mysterious Mr. Oz, offering unheard advice from on high and holding a scythe that combines the staff and the blade from the painting in the background of Adrian Veidt’s triumphant moment in Watchmen.
The middle of Path of Doom — Part Three was marred by a series of pages for which the creative team was not at fault. A Snickers ad shows Superman battling Doomsday, who turns out to be a hungry Wonder Woman. The quality and propriety of the “you’re not you when you’re hungry” joke are debatable — hasn’t Diana had to deal with enough unfavorable portrayals lately? — but, since Action Comics #959 is a comic book in which Superman actually is fighting Doomsday, the set-up causes confusion, paving the way for a punch line that produces a growl, not a guffaw.
Fortunately, such flaws are ancillary, while the issue’s strengths are evident.
We welcome you to jump into the ComiConversation in the comments and share your thoughts on Action Comics #959!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Dan Jurgens and his collaborators once again have produced a good-looking book filled with action and intrigue.