Action Comics kicked off the new direction for the Superman franchise in January. With Action Comics #1051 that the Superman Family will be working together as a united family. This is a big change compared to what the Superman franchise has been known as a bunch of individual heroes that are only connected by the Superman ‘S’ symbol. Now with this new direction Action Comics has also seen a big change as it is now an anthology series. Let’s see how Action Comics #1052 follows up on what the previous issue established.
Writers: Phillip Kennedy Johnson (House Of Metallo); Dan Jurgens (Home Again); Leah Williams (Head Like A Whole)
Artists: Rafa Sandoval (House Of Metallo); Lee Weeks (Home Again); Marguerite Sauvage (Head Like A Whole)
Colorists: Matt Herms (House Of Metallo); Elizabeth Breitweiser (Home Again)
Letterers: Dave Sharp (House Of Metallo); Rob Leigh (Home Again); Becca Carey (Head Like A Whole)
With Steel’s help, Superman (Clark Kent) defeats Metallo by freezing him with his cold breath and leaving him up in space.
After the fight, the media propagate the Blue Earth group conspiracy theory the Warworld refugees are responsible for the attack since no one saw Metallo except the Superman Family.
At the Kent apartment while talking about what happened Osul-Ra and Otho-Ra mention Metallo sounds like an “Unmade,” an old legend of alchemists and necromancers reanimating corpses with technology.
Up in space Metallo breaks out of the ice and is contacted by his sister (Tracy Corben). Tracy reveals Superman has had her moved to a secret supervillain prison.
This motivates Metallo to head back to and immediately kidnap members of Blue Earth that tried to attack him. Metallo then starts turning the people he kidnapped into his personal army of Unmade. End of the main story.
The idea of an anthology series is one with a ton of unlimited potential to tell all sorts of stories. Tapping into that potential is what makes the concept so great. Unfortunately, that is something that the new direction for Action Comics quickly fumbles on. Rather than presenting us with three distinct stories that provide a wide variety of experiences Action Comics #1051 presents three stories that are largely the same of characters just standing around and talking.
On their own, the developments for each of the three stories in Action Comics #1051 do show progression. The problem is none of those developments are particularly exciting. There are no distinct differences other than we have two Kent Family stories and a Power Girl and Supergirl team-up. That is not enough to showcase why the Superman Family as a whole is a group you are invested in.
The biggest problem all three stories run into is that there is a sense that the editors for each story didn’t work together on this issue. Because if they did one key thing they should have communicated with the three creative teams is to tell a variety of stories. And not just a variety in characters used but also the direction of the story they are taking.
That variety is not in any of these stories. While there is certainly an attempt with Leah Williams and Marguerite Sauvage’s story that is more on the visual side than the actual story. The only actual distinct moment we get in Action Comics #1051 is the quick Superman vs Metallo fight. After that, this entire issue is just talking about what is going to happen next.
This all just misses the point of an anthology series. With this direction Action Comics had a chance to show how there can be so many different types of stories told about the Superman Family. Whether it’s the general superhero Superman stories or one-shot with Conner Kent and Kong Kenan on a buddy cop cosmic adventure. Having variety in lead characters and direction would in turn create three distinct stories that stand together as a strong package.
The only thing that does work when hitting what an anthology series should present is the artwork by Rafa Sandoval, Lee Weeks, and Marguerite Sauvage. Each artist provides a visually distinct experience so there is at least a visual tone set for each story. They each stand out in their own ways with Sandoval having a more classic superhero vibe while Weeks had a dark sci-fi look to the flashback story and Sauvage gave a vibrant style that made scenes and characters pop off the screen.
In terms of foundation setting the main story at least does continue to establish more of what Superman’s world is like. The continuation of how Warworld has impacted what the Superman Family are trying to do with their new direction is solid. It presents the Superman Family with a problem that can’t be solved by them punching harder. Focusing more on the actual actions they are taking rather than just Clark talking to his family about what they should do would improve the story dramatically.
The scene with Clark explaining to Osul-Ra and Otho-Ra why Clark Kent is who he is while Superman is the actual mask was well done. The explanation was simple and didn’t overstay its welcome. It gets into the difference between Superman and other DCU superheroes.
Though for those two good points, the main story still struggles when it comes to juggling the large cast. Outside of Clark, Osul-Ra, and Otho-Ra, no other Superman Family member is given anything to do. They are just simply there with very little agency. The only one that gets some sense of character work was Conner Kent but that was just to remind the reader he was easily defeated by Metallo in the previous issue. If Phillip Kennedy Johnson truly wants to make this feel like a Superman Family story then he needs to start utilizing the other characters not named Clark Kent.
With how the main Superman Family story did not end up working the Jurgens flashback story faired no better. There is just nothing about this flashback story that grabs your attention. The entire time it just feels like an attempt to capture what worked about Jon Kent being a kid raised by Clark and Lois. But that ship has sailed by now. I would’ve much rather seen another member of the Superman Family not named Clark, Lois, or Jon get this story focus.
Then when it comes to Williams’ continued Power Girl story there was an attempt to make it different by exploring the relationship between Karen Starr and Kara Zor-El but it just didn’t work. By this point, we already had two stories that were heavy on dialogue and another one just wasn’t what you were looking for. And the way Williams chose to explore what it means for two versions of Kara to exist in the same DC Universe came across as very surface-level. There is a genuinely deep story to tell there but that is never tapped into. This is only made worse by how empty of a world Kara’s mental world was that had to be rushed through because of the page limit for the story.
The way the three stories we get in Action Comics #1052 come together to form one comic book is simply dull. It’s a shame because an anthology series spotlighting the Superman Family has unlimited potential. Action Comics #1052 simply strikes out on tapping into that potential.
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10