Action Comics #41 Review

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Action Comics #41 represents a “new” direction for DC and this title. Gone is the New 52 banner. Nope. This is all a part of the new DCYOU! Based on the sneak peeks that we have already seen the DCYOU seems more of a new slogan slapped on the same mediocre product. We do get a new look for Superman. Gone is the classic outfit and in is an all new “How Much You Lift, Bro” Superman. Will this issue of Action Comics #41 herald in an exciting new age for DCYOU? Or is this more of the same pedestrian New 52 fare that we have been fed for the past several years? Let’s find out!

Story: Greg Pak and Aaron Cuder
Script: Greg Pak
Art: Aaron Cuder
Colors: Tomeu Morey & Hi-Fi

Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Clark stumbling down a rural road in Alaska. He is all beat up. He is shirtless (natch.) and he has lost many of his super powers. He can’t fly, he isn’t invulnerable, he has no super hearing, no heat vision and his strength is greatly reduced. (Well, this should be exciting. It’s Superman…without any of his super powers. Awesome.) Clark curses several times (Ah, still the same old New 52 that we know and love. Cursing is so edgy. The kids will think Superman is so kewl.)

Clark arrives at a small town and enters a convenience store and buys a t-shirt and a burrito. Clark thinks how it has been a crazy couple of weeks. (We get an editor’s note to see Superman #41…which doesn’t come out for another 3 weeks. Uh, okay. Thanks.) Clark leaves the store and gobbles down the burrito. Food has never tasted so good before. (Yeah, actually having to eat to survive will do that to a person.) A kid in the store looks shocked because he recognizes Clark as Superman.

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Clark approaches a big fat dude who has a motorcycle for sale. Clark asks how much for the bike. The fat dude says $800. A smaller skinny guy yells at the fat guy that he is asking too much. That Clark doesn’t have any money based on the fact that he looks like a drifter. Clark pulls out a wad of cash from his socks. Clark buys the bike for $800. The skinny guy yells that the fat guy sold the bike for too little. He should have asked for $2,000. (This is riveting. Really.)

Clark gets on the bike and drives over to a motel to get some sleep. The other locals then come out of the convenience store and tell the fat guy and the skinny guy that the dude who just bought the motorcycle is Superman. The fat guy then yells out to Clark who is across the street outside of the motel. The fat guy says he wants $2,000 for the bike. That Clark was trying to rip him off.  The fat guy says that Superman has lost his powers and is no longer tough. The skinny guy tells the fat guy not to blow it. The fat guy punches the skinny guy and tells him to shut up.

The fat guys and two other locals then attack Clark. Clark then beats them all up.Clark then thinks “That felt good.” (Yeah! Superman is no milk toast boring classic good guy! He’s a badass who drives a motorcycle and like to kick ass! New 52– I mean, DCYOU, baby!!) One of the kids watching says to Clark “You really are Superman, aren’t you?” Clark responds “Hell yeah” as he rides off on his motorcycle. (BAD. ASS. BRO.)

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We see Superman riding across America (Hey, at least Superman isn’t walking across America! I think we can all agree that we have gotten enough of that already.) and sampling the various delicious foods along the way. (Seeing being a lame human isn’t so bad after all. I think we need a buddy team-up comic with Guy Fieri and Clark Kent. The Food Bro Show.) Superman rolls into Metropolis. There he is greeted by Five-0. The commanding officer yells that Clark is under arrest. The officer is contacted by his superiors and they tell the officer to let Clark into the city. Clark rides past the police and thinks how the officer might be a jerk but Clark has placed many officers in the line of danger during his time as Superman. Clark thinks that if he is still Superman then he has to find out a way to make it right.

Superman rolls his motorbike up into his old ‘hood and sees everyone outside having a huge party with large banners saying “We Stand With You Superman.” Jimmy appears on the scene and says “Welcome to Kentsville.” Evidently, the government is trying to get a court order to have everyone in Clark’s neighborhood tested for “alien cooties.” Jimmy says that once Clark’s neighbors realized that he was Superman they all were excited and decided to support Superman despite what the government says.

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The neighborhood kids all rush Superman. He picks multiple kids up in the air with them hanging off his arms. (It is a huge fiesta!) Then a black female firefighter appears on the scene and throws cold water on the party vibe. She introduces herself as Lee Lambert (Because all women in Clark’s life must have the initials L.L.) Lee says that she grew up in this neighborhood and that there are dozens of people on this city block who are hiding in their apartments and scared to death of Clark and whatever he might do.

Suddenly, Lee gets an emergency call that they have a situation and the cops are not responding. Lee runs off and Clark decides this is a job for Superman. So…he just runs off in his jeans and t-shirt and proceeds to leap from rooftop to rooftop on his way to the source of the fire. (Eh, not quite as impressive.)

Superman arrives at the docks and we see a giant demon thing creating fire and causing havoc. Superman wraps his fists with the torn remnants of his cloak…because…well, I don’t know why. Stop asking questions! Clark things “Hard to breathe. But, I’ve got my cape on. Sure it’s in tatters…wrapped around my knuckles. But if they came for me I am to deliver.” (I…don’t even know what to say with some of this dialogue.) Superman then punches the demon in the face.

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We cut to the mean police officer from when Clark entered Metropolis. We learn that the mean police officer is named Officer Binghamton. Binghamton contacts his superior “Dawn Command.” Binghamton says that Superman is a little stronger than they thought. Dawn Command replies that Superman is still weaker than he has ever been. Binghamton asks if Superman can handle the shadow by himself. Dawn Command says “Probably not.” Dawn Command tells Binghamton to mobilize the troops.

Dawn Command tells Binghamton to mobilize the troops. We then see Binghamton rolling his police team complete with riot gear and military assault vehicles toward “Clarksville.” (Oh, how very topical.) Binghamton yells “We’ve got a block to burn.”

The Good: All right, I have to follow The Revolution’s Rule of Positivity. So, what did I enjoy about Action Comics #41? Well, the artwork was solid. It definitely was not anything great, but it was serviceable and did the job. Cuder’s artwork was unsteady from panel to panel. Some panels looked fantastic and dynamic. Others looks stiff and average at best. But, all in all, artwork was absolutely not the problem with Action Comics #41.

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The Bad: Action Comics #41 was just poorly conceived, plotted and scripted. From start to finish. First, let’s address the new editorial mandated direction for Action Comics. DC’s editorial decisions have been horrid ever since the New 52 began. DC’s editors appear to manage their titles with little planning and a lack of internal logic. I found it odd that DC’s editors would roll out Action Comics #41 and then tell the reader at the beginning of the issue that in order to understand what is going on with Superman here in Action Comics #41 they need to read Superman #41 that comes out in three weeks. What kind of ass backward planning is that? DC should have rolled out Superman #41 first so the reader does not begin Action Comics #41 confused and wondering what in the hell has happened with Clark.

The “new” direction for Superman as this “How Much You Life, Bro” version is less than impressive. Do not be misled. There is nothing “new” or “unique” or “original” to be found anywhere in the pages of Action Comics #41. We have the well-worn and driven thoroughly into the ground comic book trope of the super hero being depowered. Superman has not lost all of his powers completely but he has certainly been significantly depowered. This is such an uncreative gimmick in super hero comics that I have little interest in this “new” direction. When a writer rolls out the depowered gimmick to serve as the spine for a “new” direction it is a sign that the writer has hit the bottom of their creative well for the character.

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The narration in this issue was schizophrenic and poorly written. The narration in the first half of the story reads like bad Frank Miller. It is comically gritty noir styled narration. Superman chews through the narration in a bitter fashion dropping curse words left and right. However, once Superman arrives in Metropolis the narration does a complete 180 and becomes much more light-hearted, cheesy and a bit campy. Superman suddenly sounds like a caricature of a classic old school good guy super hero.

The narration’s tonal shift is so striking and jarring that it pulls the reader out of the story. While I did not find any of the narration to be particularly well written Pak should have at least kept the narration’s tone consistent for the entire issue. I have no idea if Superman is going to be a classic good guy or if he is going to be a darker and grittier more “modern” character. This is a critical failing for an issue that is debuting an “all new” direction for a title. The writer’s job is to clearly convey to the reader what type of hero and story that they will be getting if they hop aboard this “new”direction for the title.

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The dialogue was poorly written. It reads as if Pak just fired it off in a rush to meet a deadline. It is definitely not up to par with Pak’s usually well crafted dialogue. Make no mistake, I normally love Pak’s writing and his dialogue is usually spot on. However, in Action Comics #41, the dialogue veers from generic to downright cheesy to the point that it is groan inducing. A good example of this is Officer Binghamton’s dialogue that reads like it is straight out of an 80’s action movie. It is so ham-fisted that the reader laughs at Binghamton and views him as a comical character rather than a serious and legitimate threat. I do not believe that Pak’s goal was for the reader to view Binghamton as a joke character.

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The character work was lacking. None of the characters have much of a well-defined personality. The characters dutifully move through the panels without any life of their own. There is zero chemistry between any of the characters. This is also unusual for a Pak penned issue. Pak is known for generating some brilliant chemistry between characters in this stories.

The entire story, in general, feels lifeless as if the creative team is on autopilot. We have a tired old plot device in the hero being depowered. We get a generic demon villain as the immediate threat with the laughably stereotypical bad cop as the long-term threat and the generic shadowy government organization in Dawn Command as the overall threat. All of these bland ingredients add up to create an unpalatable bowl of gruel.

Overall: Action Comics #41 was a weak start to this “new” direction for this franchise. I was not impressed with the unoriginal plot foundation for this new direction for Superman. Editorially driven plots rarely excited me. However, I wanted to like this issue because I am a fan of Pak’s writing. Unfortunately, the product that was delivered with Action Comics #41 was of low quality. I cannot recommend that people spend their hard-earned money on this issue.