The Superman comic books under DC Comics Infinite Frontier direction have been the comics that most teased a connection to the status quo of Future State becoming the true future for the franchise. Specifically, we saw in both Action Comics and Superman two-part event involving the Breach that Clark Kent’s powers started to weaken due to the injuries he suffered. Now with Superman’s powers fluctuating there is a possibility that we could see Jon Kent forced to step up to claim his father’s mantle. Will that be what happens next? Let’s find out with Action Comics #1030.
Writers: Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Superman: Warworld Rising); Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad (Midnighter: The Passenger)
Artists: Daniel Sampere (Superman: Warworld Rising); Michael Avon Oeming (Midnighter: The Passenger)
Colorists: Adriano Lucas (Superman: Warworld Rising); Taki Soma (Midnighter: The Passenger)
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: As the Chainsmen of the Hordes of Warworld pledge their loyalty to Mongul (the son of the original Mongul, who he killed by ripping out his heart in a sneak attack in Superman: Villains) a person only known as Scavenger shows up in the Warworld throne room. The Scavenger presents Mongul with a gift: the heads of all his sons. Mongul is not impacted by this as it saves him from being concerned that his sons will do what he did to his father. The Scavenger then offers to provide another gift to Mongul: the key to mastering everything about Warworld.
On Earth, Superman trains by defeating several robots Batman and the Atom (Ray Palmer) have created.
Later, at the Batcave Superman meets with Atom and Batman to check on his results. Atom believes that while Superman’s power levels aren’t what they are normally that they are just fluctuating because of the solar cycles. Batman does not agree as the readings show that Superman cellular decay is consistent with radiation poisoning. Superman requests Batman and Atom keep his current power level struggle to just the three of them so Lex Luthor or other villains find out. Batman and Atom agree.
Batman then takes Superman to the side to tell him that it may be time to talk to Jon Kent about possibly taking over as Superman and joining the Justice League.
Elsewhere Superboy (Jon Kent) and Robin (Damian Wayne) catch up while eating lunch. Robin avoids talking about his problems with his dad (see our Robin #1 review for more details on this).
Seeing this be the case Superboy opens up about how during his time with the Legion of Super-Heroes there were many conflicting reports on the fate of his father with the only consistent thing being that stories of his dad end any day now in the present. Superboy goes on to say that the one story about his dad being badly injured in a fight leading to the appearance of a ship of Kryptonians taking Superman home.
This surprises Robin to hear. Superboy says he is not ready to live without his dad or become Superman. Robin says that it is not up to Superboy as there will eventually be a time he will become Superman because that is what he was born to become.
Hearing this Superboy asks Robin if he wants to talk about his own dad. Robin once again avoids talking about his dad.
Over in Kandor, Lois Lane reads all about how when Krypton became the advance society it was known for it was because they eventually found a way to marry the search for arts and science together. Superman shows up to catch up with Lois. As they talk about what they’ve found Superman opens up about his concern over his power problems possibly leading to his death. Lois says that while she would never be okay with Clark dying that he has always found a way to beat death as one of the constants in the universe.
Superman and Lois are suddenly pulled out of Kandor by Kelex. Kelex tells Superman that he did so because vessels from Warworld have just appeared on Earth.
Superman immediately flies out of the Fortress of Solitude. As he does so Superman calls on Jon, Kara, and Connor to back him up if they can hear him.
Superboy (Jon Kent) is the only one who joins Superman in fighting off all of the Warworld vessels. As they take down the vessels Superman suddenly recognizes one of the languages that is being spoken from one of the vessels as being a dead Kryptonian language.
Superman flies right into the vessel and is stunned to find to Kryptonians with chains on their forearms, one of whom is wielding a sword, inside. End of main story.
The Good: In terms of using what we saw with all of the stories that took place in Future State a few months ago Action Comics #1030 does the best job at using all the established storylines. What makes it work is that Phillip Johnson explains how inconsistent the history books are with Superman’s story. The way it is all presented gives more weight to the greater story going on with Superman and Superboy accepting where they are in their lives.
Specifically, immediately makes the whole conflict with the breach that took place in the Action Comics and Superman crossover have a greater importance. The injuries that Superman received in that battle are actually matter even more than whenever someone used Kryptonite to weaken him. Having Superman actually work with Batman and Atom to figure out his current power level and what is possibly affecting his body further showed how big of a deal this is.
Johnson also does a great job in having Batman and Atom give two different sides of what is going on with Superman. With Atom we get a more optimistic outlook that plays into how these types of injuries, especially when it comes to Superman, are normally short-term. That is where what Batman says carries even more weight. There is a sense that what is going on with Superman’s fluctuating power due to possible radiation poisoning is permanent and must be dealt with sooner rather than attempting to let it naturally heal.
Having Superman’s current status quo be presented first was a smart play to make the conversation Superboy and Robin have with one another be even more impactful. You completely understand why Superboy is taking it so hard that they’ve reach the point in the history books from the Legion of Super-Heroes timeline that his father disappeared. It is a good way to use continuity from Brian Bendis run without making you as the reader feel like you are missing out on what Superboy talks in the tone he does.
What makes Superboy relaying all the stories about Superman’s disappearance work even better is how what we saw in Future State factor in. Through Superboy’s dialogue we are told the events of everything we saw Superman go through in all the various time periods that the Superman Family Future State titles took place in. The way it was all framed by Johnson implied that all these Future State events are all hypothetical events that historians used to explain Superman’s disappearance. Establishing that type of context opens things up so that what we saw in all the Future State Superman comics not to be what is set in stone. It could provide insight on what may happen in future issues but not required to understand what will be taking place in the Superman Family titles.
Through all this Johnson does a great job working in the strong friendship Jonathan Kent and Damian Wayne have. The conversation the two have shows that they trust each other more than anyone else in their respective lives. Which plays in well into how Johnson implies that Jon is the only person Damian is talking to after his fallout with his father, Bruce Wayne. This makes the friendship between Jon and Damian come across as even more important to both as they are each embarking on paths that could decide their greater futures.
While Clark and Jon aren’t talking with each other about their respective feelings with each other Action Comics #1030 shows that Clark and Lois’ relationship is as strong as ever. Lois is the one person that Clark feels he can be completely honest to. Everything about their interaction speaks to how they have a relationship where they do see each other as equals. In doing so Lois is portrayed as the strong pillar in Clark’s life that gives him the confidence to keep going rather than just living in secret due to some insecurity issues.
All of this works in well with the presentation of the new Mongul, who is the son of the previous Mongul we all know, establishing himself as a major threat. This is really our first look at how this Mongul differs from his father, as he shows a complete obsession with maintain power with how he does not care that all his sons were killed. That act along with hearing out the mysterious scavenger’s proposition of further accessing the power Warworld holds sets things in motion for Mongul to be positioned as powerful of a threat as his father once was.
Making Mongul and Warworld’s plotline even more intriguing is how Johnson is using it to bring even more Kryptonians into play. The two unknown Kryptonians that appeared at the end of Action Comics #1030 are wild cards to introduce. Even without dialogue the two Kryptonians come across as major characters because of how Superman reacts when he hears them talk in a dead Kryptonian language and sees them for the first time. That is a strong hook ending that makes you want to come back to see what these characters are all about.
Daniel Sampere does a great job bringing Johnson’s story in Action Comics #1030 to life. Sampere excels at the action throughout this comic book. He does a particularly good job in showing how Superman is less powerful than he normally is. This gets over the greater story of how much concern there is with what will happen with Superman, and by extension Superboy and Lois Lane because of these problems.
The Bad: The Midnighter back-up story is just not something I connect with. Both from a story and art perspective the story just does not work for me. The Midnighter comes across as a very bland character that lacks depth. It doesn’t help that Midnighter comes across as a random character to get a back-up story in a Superman comic. One of the strengths that the back-ups in Batman and Wonder Woman have is that they directly tie into the franchise with recognizable characters. Midnighter is not that type of character with Superman. This type of back-up story would work better if it was a story about Connor Kent, Kara Zor-El, Krypto, or even Zod.
Overall: When it comes to the main story Action Comics #1030 drives home the current status quo of Superman and Superboy in a compelling way. The problems with Superman’s powers comes across as a major turning point for the franchise. Bringing in Damian Wayne for Jonathan Kent’s side of the story further strengthened the narrative that this issue is driving forward with. This is a comic book Superman fans should all be picking up.
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