Comic Book Review: Action Comics #863

The Revolution has been quite disappointed with this current story arc. This has been a surprisingly slow and dull read. Action Comics #863 is the finale to this lumbering story arc. I honestly do not have high expectations for this issue. I have a feeling that this story arc will end in an anti-climactic fashion. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Action Comics #863.

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

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with the UP armada on their way to Earth to destroy the Earth for their xenophobic actions. We cut to Superman and Earth Man brawling in space outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Earth Man says that Superman is dead. That Earth Man has all the powers of the Legion and that all Superman has that is saving him right now is his Legion flight ring.

Earth Man grabs Superman and streaks toward Earth claiming that he is going to fly Superman back to his Legion headquarters and splatter him across the ground. Earth Man then crushes Superman’s Legion flight ring. (Of course, because just crushing Superman’s head right now would be too fast and make way too much sense. A much more time consuming and convoluted death in order to allow the Legion a chance to save Superman is clearly the path Earth Man should take.)

We cut to Colossal Boy freeing Yera. Then Colossal Boy and Brainiac 5 release Sun Boy from the machine he was hooked up to. Unfortunately, Sun Boy is still unconscious and therefore the sun is still red. The sun will only turn yellow when Sun Boy wakes up. (Huh? Even though he is no longer connected to the machine? Ooookay.) So, Brainy says that Yera has to kiss Sun Boy. That Sun Boy always lights up whenever a pretty girl gets near him. That this is the fastest way that Brainiac 5 can think to get Sun Boy to regain his consciousness. (Really? Seriously? This is what Johns is going to go with? I know that Dirk has always been portrayed as a ladies’ man, but c’mon. This is just too cheesy.)

Brainy then says to Yera that Sun Boy prefers brunettes. (That’s my boy. Dark haired ladies rule.) Yera transforms into a hot brunette and gives Sun Boy a big kiss. And magically, just like Sleeping Beauty, Sun Boy wakes up. The sun then immediately turns yellow once again.

We see an unconscious Superman streaking toward the Legion headquarters. We see some Science Police loading a bunch of aliens onto a prison transport. Suddenly, Superman stops in mid air about a foot before he was about to go splat onto the ground. Superman wakes up. Superman then rips open the door on the prison transport and tells the aliens to get out. An SP officer shoots at Superman exclaiming that Superman was for human rights. Superman blocks the shot and replies that he is for everyone and that the police officer should know that.

Earth Man then arrives on the scene. Superman tells the SP officer to clear the area and to be nice to each other. (And that is all it takes to get people from different species to get along with each other.) Superman begins brawling with Earth Man. Earth Man exclaims that he doesn’t care if Superman has his powers back. That Earth Man is still stronger because he has the powers of all the Legionnaires.

Earth Man asks what Superman has to beat him. Superman replies that he has the real deal. Suddenly, we see the Legion of Super Heroes appear behind Superman. (All right, that was a pretty cool double page splash shot.)

The Legionnaires and Superman start brawling with Earth Man. Earth Man whines about how the Legion kicked dirt in his face and now he is returning the favor. That Earth Man takes down all of the Legionnaires. Earth Man continues to whine that he needs this more than Superman. That Superman was never rejected. That Superman was never an outsider.

Superman then drops Earth Man with just one punch. (Yeah, that is pretty much why I never liked it when Superboy was a part of the Legion.) Superman says that Earth Man doesn’t know him. Superman exclaims that he has been an outsider every day of his life.

We cut to the UP armada that is outside the Earth’s atmosphere and ready to attack. Suddenly, Superman and the rest of the Legion appear before the armada and stand between the UP armada and Earth. Superman tells the commanding officer of the UP armada to go home. That there will be no war today.

We zip forward 24 hours later. The Legionnaires talk about how they have a lot of work to do ahead of them. Brainy mentions that the members of the JLA have already been shipped off to Takron-Galtos and that the Legion of Substitute Heroes has claimed the JLA satellite as their new headquarters. The Legionnaires vow to track down all their members and rebuild the Legion.

Superman tells the Legionnaires that no matter what the crisis is for them to please contact him should they need his help. Brainiac 5 agrees to do so. Brainy says that they will return Superman back to his time, but that they won’t forget him this time.

We flashback to the founders of the Legion: Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl retuning Clark back home to a field outside Smallville. Clark gushes about how much fun he had on his adventure with the Legion. Clark asks if he will see the Legionnaires again. Lighting Lad tells Clark to meet them back here tomorrow after school. Lightning Lad then blasts an “L” into the tree next to them.

The three founders then zip back into the time stream. Clark touches the “L” burnt into the tree and says “Cool.” We then slide back to the present with Superman standing next to the tree. Superman touches the “L” that is still brunt into the side of the tree and watches the sun set. End of story.

We then get a two page preview of the Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds mini-series coming out in August of 2008. We see Superman-Prime leading the Legion of Super Villains into battle with Superman and the Legion of Super Heroes. (*sigh* Why do I foresee many deaths as well as numerous limbless Legionnaires by the end of this mini-series?) End of issue.

The Good: Action Comics #863 was a resolutely average ending to what was quite a disappointing story arc. Having said that, there were still several enjoyable scenes in this issue. I absolutely adored the double page splash shot where the Legion appears behind Superman as Superman exclaims that he has the real deal to help him take down Earth Man and his stolen powers. That was a pretty damn cool moment.

I liked the point that Johns makes during the scene where Superman listens to Earth Man bitch and moan about being rejected and about being an outsider. Superman’s matter of fact retort that he has always been an outsiders was perfect. This scene re-enforces the fact that Clark grew up feeling like a complete outsider.

Clark was unable to play sports with other kids or just act like a normal child. Clark always had to be careful and keep his powers under wraps. This feeling of childhood loneliness is a powerful and influential part of Clark’s youth. This also serves to give Clark a bit more depth and texture to his otherwise rather bland and vanilla personality.

The scene where Clark talks about being an outsider his entire life melds beautifully with the final scene in this issue. I loved the final scene. It was sweet and touching. It was cool how Johns used this scene to impress upon the reader just how extremely important the Legion was to a young teen-age Clark. That Clark’s time with the Legion helped him to feel not so alone and that he actually belonged. The Legion’s future gave Clark a place where he could have friends who he could completely be himself around.

Seeing Superman standing there at the same spot where he stood as a boy and rubbing the “L” on the tree only helped to re-enforce how much the Legion means to him. Again, the JLA members are Superman’s teammates. The Legion is Superman’s family. There is a totally different connection and bond that Superman has with the Legionnaires compared to what he has with his fellow JLA’ers.

We get plenty of great artwork by Frank and Sibal. My only slight complaint is that Saturn Girl looks just hideous. She appears to have just escaped from a prison camp.

I’m not going to comment on the two page preview of the Legion of Three Worlds mini-series right now. And I am going to wait for several reasons. First, I don’t want to blurt out my initial gut reaction and come across as nastily hammering Johns. Second, I want to really examine what DC is trying to do and really think through both the pros and cons of this mini-series before I render an opinion.

However, I will say that without a doubt, Perez cranks out some gorgeous artwork. If nothing else, even if the story is absolutely putrid, at least we will get a beautiful looking mini-series.

The Bad: Action Comics #863 was an anti-climactic and dull ending to what was a truly unsatisfactory story arc. The pacing on this story arc was simply brutal. This was such a plodding story arc that wandered around with little purpose. And since Johns wastes five issues re-treading the same ground over and over he has to absolutely race through the conclusion in this issue. Johns resolves this sluggish story arc in such a hasty, cursory and slapdash fashion.

Johns’ dialogue felt so uninspired and generic. It really seemed like Johns just mailed in this issue all together. Much of this issue is rather corny as we get a real Silver Age vibe with some of the dialogue and not in a good way. Also, there continues to be little to no character work on any of the Legionnaires. Johns displayed little interest or passion in the Legion and this story arc reflected that. Johns certainly has no feel at all for any of the characters and personalities of the various Legionnaires. And this lends to Johns writing a rather generic and dull version of the Legion.

The lifeless dialogue and lack of character work are two continual problems that dogged this story arc from the beginning. And because of these two chronic weaknesses, John completely failed to generate any chemistry between the various Legionnaires. Johns can’t even create much chemistry between Superman and the Legionnaires and that was pretty much one of the biggest reasons for this story arc. The interaction between Superman and the Legionnaires is forced and mechanical. Even the ending when Superman says his goodbyes to the Legion, the entire scene seems so detached and passionless as well as extremely hurried.

The fact is that the story itself in this story arc was particularly weak and shallow. The entire premise and purpose of this story arc was goofy and a bit lame. Earth Man and his fellow rejects go to some truly laughable and simply unbelievable lengths just because the Legion rejected them during their tryouts for membership. Earth Man is also quite possibly one of the most unoriginal, uninteresting and pathetically shallow villains that I have ever been forced to read. And a story arc usually rises and falls with the quality of the villain that the heroes have to go up against. And this story arc definitely falls due to the weakness of Earth Man as a viable and intriguing villain.

I certainly disliked having to suffer through watching the entire Legion getting jobbed out to Earth Man just so Superman could drop him with one punch. One punch. That was such a lame scene. I am glad that DC has integrated the Legion back into Superman’s history. However, I really don’t want to see the two in action together that much. Less is more in this case. The Legion has come a long way and I do not have any desire to see them relegated to second class status once again.

My biggest complaint when Superboy and later Supergirl were a part of the Legion is that they simply made the rest of the Legionnaires irrelevant. And that isn’t because the Legion doesn’t have heavy hitters every bit as powerful as Superboy and Supergirl. The Legion certainly has several characters that can hold their own against either Kryptonian. It is because writers just can’t help themselves from devaluing the Legion whenever someone with a red “S” on their chest is around.

Overall: Action Comics #863 was an anti-climactic and sloppy finish to what was a disappointing and sluggish story arc. Obviously, Johns was writing this story arc with a trade paperback in mind. This will enable to DC to cash in on a trade of this story arc just prior to the Legion of Three Worlds mini-series that is due out in August.

I probably wouldn’t recommend this issue, or this story arc in trade format, to anyone other than die-hard Legion of Super Heroes fans and long-time Superman fans. If you are interested in reading about the Legion and experiencing the characters how they should be written then check out Jim Shooter’s work on Legion of Super Heroes.


  1. All I have to say about this story arch was wow! Not at the story, but the art work. I loved the art! This is probably the most Superman has looked like Christopher Reeve. He also looks more like Superman from the movies or TV shows as he is not bulked up looking like a WWE wrestler, body builder, or steroid junkie like some comics. He looked real, and like I said earlier Reeve.

  2. i have to disagree with you rokk. i thought this issue would appeal to a legion fan like yourself. i will be honest with you this is the first time i’ve ever read these legion characters or seen their characters outside of televison, so this being my first true legion sory may be coloring my opinion.

    i liked the story alot i think it did go two issues to long. but i am a big fan of the plot. superman going into a future that has tarnished his legacy and has imprisoned his friends. i think johns did some good character work on this book with the villains and the subs and polar boy in particualr. the ending did feel a little crammed but the final fight between earthman and supes is simple abcs of superhero comics. of course earthman doesn’t just crush his skill, he is a villain with an ego and he wants to totally dominate his opponent and talk smack before he kills him or he might look to imprison supes so he can leech of his power.

    i liked this whole arch. i do think it’ll read alot better in the trade in one sitting,

    also was it just me or did it feel like they skimped a little on the art in this issue?

  3. Hey, as a girl, that has to be one of the hunkiest looking Superman ever drawn.

  4. Rokk, I’m at two minds about it.

    I think you’re right that, yes, Earth Man was no match for Supes, in fact, I saw the “Sun-boy will set the sun right” solution from miles beyond (optionally, with the subs around, Color Kid could have changed the sun’s light, LOL). You’re also right that the story is far too decompressed and could have eaually been told in less issues. Also, Earth Man is such a weakie!

    And yet…

    …Man, I loved to see back the old time Legion I dig! I gotta admit that, if the story will not be among the topping masterworks of comics, with splash pages like the one in which Supes points at the Legionnaire behind, or the scene where Kal reminisces about how the Legion made his teen times happy… Well, those go straight to the heart.

    So, not a !00% satisfying comic, but I’m getting the trade when it comes… For sentimental reasons, as teh old song says ;D

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