For most of the past year, Paul Cornell brought Action Comics back to relevance with a smart storyline that focused on Lex Luthor during his quest for God-like powers. Now, after almost a year away from the title, Superman is the main character again.
And the Man of Steel lands here with a resounding thud.
Last issue, I was impressed with the way that Cornell tied the Doomsday crossover into his Lex Luthor storyline by establishing that the entire thing was a trap set by Luthor to keep Superman and his closest allies away from him while he pursued his plans. But this issue is largely a boring chase sequence as Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, Steel and the Eradicator attempt to flee three Doomsday clones while hauling around the corpse of the original Doomsday.
There's even a ridiculous moment when Supergirl realizes that Superman has them carrying Doomsday's body because he was worried that the Doomsday clones would hurt it! I know that Superman is the ultimate good guy, but come on! Doomsday was dead more than once and that never stopped him for long. Even here the Super-team realizes that the original model is slowly coming back to life, while three Doomsdays hunt them down and a fourth remains lost in an infinite corridor… for now.
In order to show us how desperate Superman is, Cornell actually breaks out some thought balloons for Superman as he briefly contemplates trapping himself with the Doomsdays in order to prevent them from escaping to Earth. In fairness, there's not much of a difference between narrative captions and thought balloons. But I definitely prefer the captions. The thought balloons are actually more distracting on the page and they cover up more of the art than they need to.
This issue also introduces a new villain calling himself "The Doomslayer," who looks like a repackaged Doomsday to me. The Doomslayer's entrance to the story seemed like it was supposed to be an important and intimidating moment. But when I saw his design I just laughed. Of course The Doomslayer gets to end the issue doing something "evil" just so we know he's a force to be reckoned with. Yeah… sure.
Another moment of unintended hilarity comes when the Eradicator says "Guys, get out of here. I can delay him." I'm going to presume that most of you never read the Superman comics of the '90s, so I'll just explain that the first Eradicator had a more formal way of speaking and the second Eradicator personality was almost always angry. Neither one of them would have ever said "Guys" and it seemed like a lazy piece of writing that failed to give the Eradicator a distinct voice from Superman, who also uses that word throughout this issue. It kind of reminds me of the way I cringe every time Brian Michael Bendis has a character say " 'The hell?!"
Oh and remember last issue when a pointless backup story had Superman renouncing his American citizenship? Maybe DC will say it took place after this issue, because President Obama makes a televised appeal for Superman to save his country and the world. Though I was under the impression that Obama didn't exist in the DC Universe. Don't tell me that DCU Decisions lied to me!
Former Top Cow artist Kenneth Rocafort comes on board with this issue, at least for the majority of the pages. And his art is largely the saving grace of this issue, although Superman and his friends look a little too happy at times considering their situation. But Rocafort really shines at the beginning of this issue during the second page, where Superman takes out the Cyborg Superman in a surprisingly effective way. That was the one time in the entire issue that Superman seemed as powerful and competent as he should be.
Jesus Merino also contributes a few pages in this issue and his style is noticeably weaker than Rocafort's. I don't know that I would have been any happier with this issue if Rocafort had drawn the entire thing, but the Merino pages are really jarring in comparison. I presume that Merino is relatively early in his career, because his pages feel cluttered and there's a certain stiff ugliness to his characters. Frankly, I don't think that Merino is ready for a major book like Action Comics. He could be at some point, but he's not now.
It's possible that this issue was just a bump on the road and Cornell will be able to turn it around next issue. I certainly hope that's the case. I'd hate to see Action Comics slip back into mediocrity.