Action Comics #827-828

Written by Gail Simone
Penciled by John Byrne
Inked by Nelson
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

I’ve never understood why so many writers find it hard to write Superman. One of the oldest characters in comics, you’d think that would make it easy to get a handle on him, with so much history already established. Yet, time and time again, writers come on board the various books and fail to get a grasp on him; that’s probably why Gail Simone’s debut on Action Comics is all the more refreshing, because she “got it” immediately.

There are a handful of people in the DC Universe who have magnetic powers. Unfortunately for them, Repulse is now in town, and she’s hunting them down one by one. One hero has already fallen, and only Superman can save her next victim… even if that target turns out to be super-villain Doctor Polaris.

Simone’s debut two-part story has in many ways everything you’d want in a Superman story: the Daily Planet staff, Lois Lane being as savvy a journalist, Clark Kent’s “regular” life, and a reminder that Superman does more than worry about just Metropolis. Oh yeah, and since this is Action Comics, a fair share of action. The action is probably what’s going to grab a lot of readers’ attention first—Simone takes the idea of a character with magnetic powers and takes it to a logical conclusion, giving Repulse true control over all things electromagnetic. It’s nice, because it shows that you can give Superman a real challenge by coming up with a creative foe to fight, instead of one who’s just ultra-powerful and packs a good punch. More importantly, though, it’s all the little character bits, like Superman in Africa, or the start of the new novel, or even Lois’s confrontation with a corrupt congressman that really grabbed my attention. It all just felt right, making everyone interesting characters who you want to read about instead of just the stereotypes that have been passed down through the media thanks to the many different incarnations of Superman over the years.

The biggest surprise for me with Action Comics, though, was the art. Over the years I’ve seen John Byrne’s style slowly change, especially as he inked his own pencils more and more. Looking at the cover to Action Comics #827, it looked like what I was used to seeing: a slightly sketchy, loose art style. Even worse, the perspective seemed horribly off, making Superman look like a midget. Then I opened the book and discovered that thanks to Nelson inking Byrne’s pencils, what we were actually getting was something entirely different. The art is still recognizably Byrne, with the facial structures and character designs definitely his. It’s a tighter, more detailed final product on display in Action Comics, though. People’s hair looks like it has actual strands, and there’s a softness to people’s jaw lines. This is the sort of art that I remember seeing from Byrne in years past, and it’s great to see it back here. If Nelson inking Byrne is what it takes to achieve this look, then here’s hoping the two stay as collaborators for many years to come.

My only real complaint (aside from the covers) is the ending of the story. It felt a little rushed as the conclusion unfolded, something that I can’t help feel is in part thanks to a connection to all of the Infinite Crisis crossovers and mini-series currently running at DC Comics. I know that DC is pushing this to be a big deal and trying to make it genuinely affect all their different series, but as someone who isn’t as interested in the “big picture” it was a little disappointing. Two pages that could’ve gone towards a slightly more satisfying conclusion, instead of what appears to be a tie-in to Villains United, and it’s a shame because Simone’s ideas about Repulse and her connection to Doctor Polaris deserved to be explored a little more than they actually were. On the other hand, when your biggest complaint is that you wanted more, well, that’s not such a bad thing at all.

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