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 #968 continued the Men of Steel storyline, pitting Superman, Superboy, and Lex Luthor against L’Call the Godslayer and Zade in a pitched battle in Metropolis. Writer Dan Jurgens was joined by artist Tyler Kirkham for the latest issue, which ComiConverse Krypton correspondent T. Kyle King is here to review.
(Warning: Spoilers Follow!)
Action Comics #968 Review:
Self-appointed Superman Lex Luthor is under attack from alien assassins convinced that the battle-suited billionaire is destined to become the new Darkseid. Is it the pre-Flashpoint Superman’s duty to save his archenemy… or to let L’Call execute the ultimate judgment against the nefarious supervillain?
Action Comics #968 Synopsis:
Aided by Superboy’s unwanted intervention, Superman struggles with the alien Zade, who appears to have the ability slowly to sap the Action Ace’s superpowers. Luthor briefly holds his own against L’Call until the Man of Tomorrow arrives. The Godslayer explains to Kal-El that, in the future, Lex will take over the vacant throne of Apokolips and take up its former occupant’s genocidal mission.
In order to achieve his objective, L’Call moves to execute the Kryptonian who stands in his way. However, when the Godslayer sees Superboy and hears the child’s plea to spare his father, the executioner grants Superman a reprieve and transports himself away, along with Luthor and Zade. The powerless Clark Kent opines that perhaps the Man of Steel should allow Lex to be slain for the sake of the greater good.
Action Comics #968 Analysis:
Men of Steel — Part 2 features the fast-paced high-octane superhero adventure that has typified DC Comics’ oldest title since Jurgens took over the authorial chores at the outset of Rebirth. After a one-page cold open set the scene, a double-page splash got the fight off to a literally explosive start. Slashing swords, firing blasters, and crashing trucks were among the weaponry employed in the hard-hitting fracas involving combatants and ordinance of otherworldly origins. As has been the norm during Jurgens’s run, Action Comics #968 lived up to the publication’s nomenclature.
Also as usual, though, the writer finds the time to give the participants their due through the use of careful characterization conveyed in a few telling words. Although Clark Kent and Lois Lane largely are bystanders — he has lines in just ten panels; she, in only six — the Daily Planet reporters offer observations extending beyond mere exposition: Lois provides a humanizing maternal concern for Jonathan, prompting Clark to answer initially with an awkward indication of his misapprehension followed swiftly by a curious “Hmm” hinting at forthcoming complications. Lane’s skepticism and bravado in the beginning of Action Comics #968, then Kent’s earnest moral inquiries at its end, supply the scaffolding forming the frame for the story’s physical force and philosophical thrust.
Kirkham’s pencils and inks in Men of Steel — Part 2 come straight from the Jim Lee school; the artist’s images are heavily lined, hyperbolically exaggerated, and highly dynamic. The jawlines may be blocky and the skylines may be spartan, but the melee maintains its movement and the skirmishes burst out of the page at the reader. Angled panels with jagged borders, figures flying outside the lines, and close-up shots of backlit faces give the graphics a vitality that is as visceral as it is vivid. Given emphasis by the sizzling colors of Ulises Arreola, the artwork of Action Comics #968 always is both in motion and in the moment.
This sense of intimacy in the midst of the fisticuffs highlights the emotional resonance of Jurgens’s script. The story’s opening vignette features an overwrought father leaping to the defense of his disappointed son when the family’s helicopter tour of Metropolis fails to produce a sighting of so much as a single caped superhero. This provides an element of levity when the Last Son of Krypton and his alien antagonist come crashing through in mid-flight combat, but it also serves as the precursor to the paternal concern subsequently shown by Kal-El for Jonathan and by L’Call for his own absent offspring, T’Sai.
Naturally, Lois likewise displays her own parental protective instincts, catching herself in the act of calling Superboy by his given name, but her interrupted expression of affection is echoed by the Godslayer’s defense of his mission: “If my mission fails, worlds will die. Worlds with families. Fathers. Mothers. Children.” Almost immediately thereafter, Jon’s tearful plea for his father — like the lad’s crying to his father on the issue’s initial page — affects a change in an adult’s behavior: L’Call spares Kal-El’s life just before Clark advocates taking advantage of “the chance to kill Hitler as a baby.”
Ultimately, Action Comics #968 is about whether to slay in the name of the salvation of another generation, and Jurgens leaves the question tantalizingly unanswered. Along the way, the plot requires careless revelations to be made, most of which are understandable. Lois stops herself short when ordering her son to stay on the sidelines, while Jonathan is an excited kid who forgets himself when thanking his dad for teaching him to drive a tractor in the heat of the fracas. Rather than chide his child for his risky slip-up, however, Superman compounds the error by indiscreetly addressing Superboy as “Jon” and improvidently announcing, “Mom needs us.”
Such ill-considered exclamations by the trio of Hamilton County heroes and by the otherwise relentless Godslayer show the personal vulnerability that makes them relatable. These moments also stand in sharp contrast to the absolutist expressions of Luthor and Kent, who both lack children, spouses, or similar familial ties in Metropolis. Bereft of these connections, Lex is arrogant and inflexible, while Clark is callous and condemnatory. This explicit dependence of universal compassion upon individual kinship in Men of Steel — Part 2 certainly serves the story, but some of the ways in which that linkage manifests itself strain credulity.
Nevertheless, Action Comics #968 works both as an intense superhero adventure and as a subtle character study imbued with weighty ideas. The writer has reinvigorated the familiar characters who define this title, which permits Dan Jurgens to achieve a great deal with considerable economy of words. Meanwhile, Tyler Kirkham and Ulises Arreola have added scope and scale to a sweeping story, yielding a most effective combination of big images and small details in a potentially epic arc.
Did the creative team iron out any problems with Men of Steel — Part 2?
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
Featuring fast-paced action and high-impact graphics, the latest issue succeeded in ways both large and small.