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 #960 brought Wonder Woman into the mix as she joined Superman and Lex Luthor in their battle against Doomsday. ComiConverse’s Man of Steel reviewer, T. Kyle King, offers his thoughts on this week’s Path of Doom — Part Four.
Writer Dan Jurgens and artist Tyler Kirkham continued expanding the cast of what was already a super-sized epic by adding Princess Diana to a clash in Metropolis that previously had combined most of the familiar characters from DC Comics’ oldest enduring title. Did the Amazon Warrior bring the Last Son of Krypton closer to finding any answers, though?
Doomsday emerges from his confrontation with Superman and directs his rage at the powerless Clark Kent. Wonder Woman arrives to save the injured reporter and aid the Man of Steel in the fight. Jonathan Smith, watching the titanic struggle on television with his mother, Lois Lane, lets out a superpowered shout of joy at his father’s success, and the sound attracts Doomsday’s attention.
The monster disappears, giving Superman time to explain the creature’s history to Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor. Miles away from one another, Lois and the Action Ace simultaneously realize Doomsday has left to hunt for their son. Lois quickly drives Jon away from the farm, and they are met en route by Kal-El and Diana — and by Doomsday.
Action Comics #960 is proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Clay Mann’s and Sonia Oback’s cover, while by no means badly rendered, nevertheless was a poor fit for this issue. Since Jurgens took over the writing chores, this series has portrayed its protagonists as positive, hopeful, and dynamic. It was disappointing, therefore, that this issue’s exterior image looked like a grim, gloomy, and static throwback to the dark days of Truth.
Fortunately, the tone set by the cover was no more than skin deep, as the brightness of Ulises Arreola’s colors illuminated the kinetic energy and human warmth of Kirkham’s artwork as soon as the reader turned the first page. The imagery of Path of Doom — Part Four shows the large cast of characters running both a marathon of physical exertion and the full gamut of emotions with seldom so much as a brushstroke out of place. Add to that Rob Leigh’s emphatic lettering in a tale full of big sound effects and bold exclamations, and Action Comics #960 is packed full of grand graphics.
Jurgens keeps pace with his collaborators in this latest exhaustingly exhilarating installment. The issue opens with Mr. Oz observing, “Events are moving swiftly.” During a brief break in the action, Wonder Woman assures Clark that “you can explain that later.” Superman ends the story with the revelation: “I know what I have to do.” The first statement, we knew already; the other two, we’re taking on faith, because — after Mr. Oz at the outset, and Superman around the midpoint, provide some obligatory exposition — Jurgens is off and running, taking the audience along for the ride.
Action Comics #960 is quite a ride, as well. Doomsday’s bone-spiked fists come crashing down on the second page, where they would have killed Clark had Diana not already swept through swiftly to carry the bespectacled journalist to safety on the other half of the double-page splash. A flurry of 4,035 and a half punches follows from the Man of Steel before Superman crushes his relentless antagonist with a bus — and that is ere the story even gets to the halfway point.
What is so marvelous about Jurgens’s writing in Path of Doom — Part Four, though, is that he manages to maintain this frenetic clip without once sacrificing the centrality of character. Diana and Kal-El cooperate as teammates to move the creature away from Metropolis with the objective of protecting innocent life. Lex instantly and admiringly apprehends the process that produced their enemy. Although she is at the farm and he is in the city, Lois and Superman remain in sync, realizing in unison what Doomsday is doing and reacting independently in ways that dovetail exactly.
Although the Action Ace’s stunned utterance of his son’s name when awareness suddenly dawns is unwise on his part, it piques the Amazon Princess’s interest and paves the way for the highlight of Action Comics #960. While the decision to include Wonder Woman so soon after the New 52 concluded seemed questionable at first, Jurgens deftly and respectfully dispensed with past baggage, perfectly handling matters between Lois and Diana in a mere handful of panels. The understated elegance of this sequence presents perhaps the finest moment in a Superman comic since the start of Rebirth.
Even the grunting lump of blind rage and jagged bone who poses the danger in, and lends his name to, Path of Doom — Part Four is relatively multifaceted in this issue. There is genuine and nuanced drama to the plot twist of Doomsday hearing Jon, switching gears, and setting his sights on a new victim. There also is an exquisite and subtle subversiveness to the bad guy’s guttural utterances of “BRAH” and “YAAAUUUUSSSS!” — vocabulary that suggests strongly that this villain is as much a stand-in for the worst of the fanboy element as another villain from the first Jurgens era of writing Superman titles. We have met the enemy; let’s make sure he isn’t us.
The congruity of Doomsday’s historic Kryptonian-hunting hatred and Jonathan’s emerging superpowers is but the latest and greatest of Action Comics #960’s expertly integrated plot points. The same can be said for the sensible explanations for why various cast members leave the stage: Clark needs to seek medical attention, or at least stay out of harm’s way, because he’s wounded, yet Lex needs to stay put to safeguard Metropolis. It would be nice to know how the timing of the events of this series lines up with the occurrences in Peter J. Tomasi’s Superman, but Jurgens’s writing is agreeably free of contrivances, allowing Path of Doom — Part Four to flow rapidly and with nary a ripple as an adventure story, a character study, and an intricate plot.
Did Action Comics #960 meet your expectations?
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
Hard-hitting action, character-driven storytelling, and energetically compelling graphics combine to make this latest issue another winner.