Comic Book Review: Action Comics #858

Action Comics #858 debuts the new art team of Gary Frank and Jon Sibal. Personally, I love these guys. Their art on Squadron Supreme was the only thing that made that title worth purchasing. Hopefully, with Frank and Sibal on board instead of Adam Kubert this title will be able to keep its monthly shipping schedule. The cover alone of this issue gets me all pumped up. Check out that Legion bling that Superman is sporting on his ring finger.

Johns is finally going to address all the various plotlines that he teased the reader with over on the Lightning Saga story arc during the JLA/JSA crossover. We are going to investigate why the Legion stopped visiting Clark and why the future is not safe for Clark. Action Comics #858 should be a phenomenal read. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Gary Frank
Inks: Jon Sibal

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin in the year 3008, with a planet about to go ka-bloom just like Krypton did a long time ago. A husband and wife race to save their infant son. The father says that a long time ago, Earth accepted Superman as an infant and made him into the greatest hero the universe has ever known. That Earth is their only hope. They place the infant boy into a small space ship and launch him off for Earth. Their planet then explodes.

We see the infant’s ship land in Smallville, Kansas. The infant boy is found by an elderly couple named Juun and Mara. Mara exclaims that it is an alien child and asks Juun what they should do. Juun replies that they should do what all law-abiding citizens would do: kill it.

We cut to the present day and see a bumbling Clark Kent yelling for several people to hold the elevator for him. The people in the elevator are all going to a party and Clark wasn’t invited. The elevator closes before Clark can get to it. Jimmy then walks over and invites Clark to go grab a soda with him.

Perry White then barges onto the scene and yells at Jimmy for the poor quality of the photos that Jimmy took of General Zod. Perry then orders Jimmy to go get him some coffee. Perry then tells Clark that he needs to get his shit together. That Jimmy is Clark’s only friend and he is just a kid. That Clark needs to make more friends and needs to learn to reach out to people.

Clark then hears cries of help and uses his telescopic vision to spot a giant robot form of Brainiac walking around Metropolis. Clark then makes up some flimsy excuse to get away from Perry.

We cut to Superman attacking Brainiac. Suddenly, a video screen appears and it is Brainiac 5. Brainy tells Superman that he shaped his time driver to look like Brainiac in order to get Superman’s attention quickly.

Brainy says that his teammates have said that bringing Superman into their future would be too dangerous for him. However, Brainiac 5 has run thousands of calculations and they cannot deal with this new Darkness without Superman’s help. Brainiac 5 then zaps Superman with a memory charge.

We flashback to Clark as a young teen-ager getting picked on by the other kids in school. That Clark has no friends and avoids contact with any student. Clark walks home by himself. He then sees a bird and jumps into the air and flies alongside the bird.

Suddenly, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl appear on the scene. They tell Clark that one day he will be a great hero and that the world will accept him for who he really is. Cosmic Boy then presents Clark with a Legion flight ring and asks him to be an honorary member. The Legionnaires then say that they have to leave since they have already risked a lot just coming to the past.

Clark then asks the Legionnaires to take him with them to their future. Cosmic Boy is persuaded by Lightning Lad to go ahead and break another rule and bring Clark to the future with them. That Clark had many adventures with the Legion of Super Heroes.

We cut back to the present with Brainiac 5 apologizing for the memory charge but that Brainiac 5 had to make sure that he traveled to the proper vibrational plane. Superman tells Brainy that he remembers all of his adventures with the Legion. And that after the first Crisis, that he never saw the Legion again. And when the seven Legionnaires just recently returned, they wouldn’t talk to Superman.

Brainiac 5 says that their mission proved unsuccessful and that his experiment tapping into the Speed Force is going to take more time. Brainiac 5 then tells Superman to get in the time sphere and come to the future. That there is a Legion flight ring inside the sphere and once Superman puts the ring on then the time sphere will be activated.

Brainy mentions that their problems began with a fictitious discover in the arctic by…suddenly a large boom cuts off Brainy’s transmission as Superman travels into the future in the sphere.

Superman arrives at the year 3008. The Legion headquarters is in ruins. Suddenly, the Science Police appear on the scene and tell Superman to put his hands in the air. Colossal Boy then busts onto the scene and takes out the Science Police officers. Colossal Boy is shocked to see Superman. Wildfire and Dawnstar then appear on the scene.

Superman tells them that Brainiac 5 sent a time sphere for Superman and told him that the Legion needed his help. Dawny responds that Brainiac 5 has been missing for over six months. That he disappeared a few weeks after their trip to Superman’s time during the Lightning Saga.

Wildfire comments that they have to get Superman back to his own time period immediately. Suddenly, more Science Police crash the scene and blast the time sphere to bits. The Science Police comment that Superman with the Legion is a blasphemy. The SP then state that they need the Justice League for backup.

During the fight, a laser blasts through Superman’s hand. Superman is shocked that his powers don’t work. Dawnstar comments that it is too dangerous for Kal-El here. What they have done to Superman’s symbol. How they hide behind it. Dawnstar tells Superman to activate his Legion flight ring. The Legionnaires then make a grand escape and fly out of the Legion headquarters. Dawnstar comments that Earth’s sun is now red. Superman is stunned. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Action Comics #858 was an excellent read. Johns turns in a nicely crafted story that moves at a pleasant pace. This issue is the set-up issue to this new story arc, so Johns kicks off this story at a measure pace. Johns is a master of long and complex story arcs and has an excellent sense of timing. Johns starts the issue with a jarring scene that smacks the reader in the face and grabs their attention. Then Johns eases off the accelerator and begins to construct a solid foundation this new story arc and then suddenly cranks up the intensity by nailing the reader with a huge hook ending.

Johns crafts plenty of his usual strong dialogue. I dig how Johns writes Clark Kent. It is very old school. I like Clark a bumbling dork whose only friend at the Daily Planet is Jimmy Olsen. Clark’s experiences as a kid in school and currently at the Daily Planet make him seem more human and relatable to the reader.

Johns certainly grabbed my attention quickly with the shocking opening to this issue. Evidently, the Legion’s time period is much different than it used to be. The 31st Century used to be a place where all different types of alien species had learned to live together pretty well. Earth certainly was not a xenophobic place.

Evidently, things have gotten much darker in the Legion’s era if an elderly couple would gun down an infant just because he is an alien. I’m curious to learn more about just what has happened to the Legion’s time period to make people react so coldly.

Johns does an impressive job seamlessly building off of the Lightning Saga story arc in the JLA/JSA crossover. Johns also makes sure that he makes Superman’s connection to the Legion of Super Heroes relatively new reader friendly. It has been 21 years since the original Crisis that ripped the Legion’s history to shreds by permanently deleting the Legion from Superman’s history. 1986 is a long time ago, and I’m sure the majority of current readers are not familiar at all with the history that Superman used to have with the Legion of Super Heroes.

Johns keeps this fact in mind when writing Action Comics #858. Johns employees a wonderfully crafted flashback scene in order to re-tell how the founders of the Legion first met with a young Clark Kent. Johns also has Superman quickly sum up his experiences with the Legion and the last time that he ever had contact with his fellow Legionnaires.

The flashback scene put a huge smile on my face. It was incredible to see the founders of the Legion in all their Silver Age glory meeting with a young Clark Kent. Finally, Superman is back where he belongs. Superman belongs as an integral part of the Legion’s history. Superman is the inspiration for the formation of the greatest teen super group in the history of the DCU.

I have never been a huge fan of the big red S, but I always felt that removing him from the history of the Legion of Super Heroes was a huge mistake that would only cause irreparable harm to the Legion. And it certainly did.

Johns really captured the sense of belonging and friendship that being a member of the Legion gave to Clark when he was young and feeling so alone and out of place. Clark could finally be himself with his fellow Legionnaires. Johns does a neat job evoking feelings of Superman’s childhood that we get over in the Smallville TV show combined with Superman’s childhood from the pre-Crisis era.

Superman may be most clearly associated with the JLA by the vast majority of comic book readers, but not to me. The Justice League of America is Superman’s team and the other JLA’ers are his teammates and comrades in arms. The Legion is something totally different. The Legion is Superman’s family and the Legionnaires are Superman’s brothers and sisters.

Johns teases the reader with several cryptic statements from Brainiac 5 about the problems plaguing the Legion’s era. Brainiac 5 mentions the “new Darkness.” That has to be a reference to arguably the greatest Legion story ever in the Great Darkness Saga which dealt with the Legion battling Darkseid. Given the fact that Darkseid is all over Countdown and appears to play a large role in the Final Crisis, it wouldn’t surprise me if this new Darkness isn’t connected to Darkseid in some form.

Johns also teases the reader with Brainy talking about how it all began with a fictitious discovery in the arctic just before his transmission cuts out. We then learn that Brainiac 5 has been missing for the past six months. That he disappeared shortly after the Lightning Saga story arc. Johns is doing a good job building an interesting mystery concerning what is going on in the Legion’s era as well as just what in the world Brainiac is up to and where has he gone. Johns makes sure to plant numerous questions in the reader’s mind with Action Comics #848.

The scene with Superman in the Legion’s era was pretty cool. Clearly, things are not going well on Earth for the Legion. The future looks pretty damn dark. The Legion’s headquarters lies in ruins. The Legion is on the run from the Science Police. And according to Dawnstar “they” have perverted Superman’s symbol and that “they” are hiding behind it. Once again, Johns contains to throw more and more questions at the reader getting us hooked on this story arc so we want to come back to find out more.

I’m definitely curious to learn more about who “they” are. The Legion has fallen on some seriously tough times and I can’t wait to learn more about this terrible situation that is plaguing their time period.

I also thought it was pretty cool that Johns has one of the SP officers mention calling the JLA in for support against the Legion. Having the JLA exist in the future is a huge twist on Legion lore. Before now, the Legion has always been the only group of super heroes on Earth during their time period. The JLA never has existed in the Legion’s time period.

Since the future version JLA is evidently in cahoots with the SP, they certainly appear to be a more sinister group in the Legion’s time period than they are in our present era. I’m pretty excited to see what Johns has in store for us with this version of the JLA.

After firing plenty of mysteries at the reader, Johns then ends Action Comics #848 by dropping a huge bomb on the reader. The Earth’s sun in the Legion’s era is now red. That was pretty damn cool. I wasn’t expecting to see that shocking ending.

Johns does such an excellent job reeling the reader into this story arc. There are so many surprises and mysteries that the reader cannot wait to come back for the next issue of this story arc. Johns definitely knows how to craft a finely detailed and intricate story arc. This story arc should be a seriously wild ride.

I am still wondering just where this version of the Legion fits in with the version of the Legion over on Supergirl and the Legion of Super Heroes comic book. DC has said that each version of the Legion is going to exist on the various parallel Earths. And Johns has hinted that the Legion in this story arc is the Pre-Crisis Legion.

Now, my question is which version of the Legion is New Earth’s Legion? Johns makes a point of having Brainiac 5 perform a memory charge on Superman to make sure that he didn’t travel to an alternate Earth by mistake. Brainiac 5’s memory charge confirms that he is on the right Earth with the proper Superman. That would lead me to believe that the Pre-Crisis Legion is New Earth’s Legion while the Legion over on Supergirl and the Legion of Super Heroes is a Legion from a parallel Earth.

I totally dig Frank and Sibal’s artwork. Frank and Sibal make a great team and crank out a nice looking issue. And best of all, Frank and Sibal can keep a monthly schedule. And at this point, with all the delays that are plaguing so many titles due to lazy artists, I’m all for just about any artist who can keep a monthly schedule regardless of their style of art.

The Bad: I know that in order to make this story arc interesting, that something dramatic and dark has to happen to the Legion’s time period in order to build up drama and have Superman arrive in the future to help save the day. But, I really am getting tired of every version of the Legion’s time period having to turn into a dark and dystopian future.

The TMK Legion fit took the Levitz Legion and twisted it into a gloomy future. The DnA Legion took the Post-Zero hour Legion and made it into a gloomy future. Waid pulled off the three-boot and gave us once again another gloomy future. Maybe I’m in the complete minority, but I always saw the Legion as something that was generally bright and optimistic. That isn’t to say that there aren’t dark moments and the 31st century certainly isn’t a utopia. However, the Legion’s era always had that feeling of optimism that the future would be better than the present.

Overall: Action Comics #858 was a wonderful read. Now, I will openly admit my obvious bias. The Revolution is an unabashed Legion loyalist. The Legion has been and always will be my absolutely favorite title. Period. Even trying to look past my natural affinity for anything connected to the Pre-Crisis Legion, I still think that this story arc will appeal to fans that aren’t familiar with the Legion.

Johns is making this story arc new ready friendly and the Pre-Crisis Legion has so many cool characters and such a colorful history that many readers unfamiliar with the Legion should be intrigued by them and will probably enjoy learning more about the Pre-Crisis Legion. I certainly recommend giving Action Comics a try unless you are just completely averse to the Legion or stories that are thick with the rich history of the DCU.

2 Comments

  1. Editor’s Note: I didn’t actually read this, just the online previews, but the previews contain the scenes I’m discussing, so within that context I know what I’m talking about.

    I really don’t like Johns bringing back cartoonish oaf Clark; it’s massively regressing the character. I much prefer Clark as a very skilled and admired journalist, with a low-key demeanour (because, really, if the idea is not to draw attention to yourself, acting like a sitcom character is a bad idea). I belong to the “Clark is the real person” faction, and I don’t think he’d want to go through life making himself look like a fool.

  2. I found Frank’s art to be the worst he’s done. He’s previous work was far superior, but it might be the inker / colourist’s fault here.

    Only complaint storywise that I have is the red sun. Unless they make up some random comic book or villain explanation for it, that’s just plain wrong.

    Our sun isn’t due to turn red for another 5 billion years. Billion. Not the 1000 between now and 3008. On top of that, a red sun would expand in volume a 1000 fold or more and engulf the inner planets. If by some gravitational fluke Earth’s orbit expanded along with the expanding red sun, the planet would be burnt out husk unable to support basic life.

    Yes, I’m an astronomy nut and I know this is comics, but god damn it, I can handle a flying alien powered by yellow sunlight, but not a red sun earth in a 1000 years.

    Aside from the whole sun thing, the issue was pretty good and I’m not a Legion fan. Just never got into it due the constant retcons. They’ve got like 5 origins / retcons and they keep bouncing back and forth and taking something from each relaunch that I just never bothered getting in on it.

    For instance, how does this issue sync up with the Supergirl and the Legion book that’s currently running and has no mention of this crossover or event?

    I’ll probably stick around for another go round, but not sure if this storyline is for me.

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