Ricky Church reviews Action Comics #1000…
This is it. The big one. In 1938 the world was introduced to Superman in the pages of Action Comics #1 by two young writers and artists from Cleveland, Ohio named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Flashforward 80 years later and Superman has somehow remained so popular in the public consciousness that he has reached the milestone achievement of Action Comics #1000.
Just think about that: 1000. One thousand issues of Superman battling the likes of Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Metallo and other villains while keeping his identity of reporter Clark Kent a secret and saving the planet time and time again. Its an incredible number of issues to reach and DC has celebrated Superman’s legacy by bringing together a number writers and artists from Superman’s past and present to tell several stories in an ad-free 80-page issue dedicated to the Man of Steel’s greatness.
Action Comics #1000 is chalk full of emotion in several of its stories. Many of them focus on Superman’s innate ability to inspire hope in others and what he means to the people of Earth. That theme is the basic crux of Dan Jurgens’ opening tale, ‘From The City That Has Everything’, acting as a bit of an epilogue to his latest run Action Comics. As Metropolis celebrates Superman and everything he’s done for them, hearing from people who Superman has saved in more ways than one, its a reminder of what he stands for. Jurgens does the artwork himself and makes the emotion from each character quite clear.
From there, we also get a bit of a coda to Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s own run on Superman as he recounts his latest battle with Vandal Savage. This is a fun little story that focuses on another great aspect of Superman’s character: his unbreakable determination and will as he never gives up the fight to protect the world and get home to his family. The deconstruction of this characteristic, as well as taking us through the much of Superman’s history in beautiful splash pages, makes their story one of the best in the bunch.
After that, we get several stories that appear as one-off tales outside of the normal continuity. ‘An Enemy Within’ is by the legendary Marv Wolfman with recovered Curt Swan art which doesn’t actually feature Superman in any physical form until the final page, but focuses on his faith in humanity and ordinary people to help save the day. ‘The Game’ comes from Paul Levitz and Neil Adams which sees Superman trying to play a game of chess with Lex Luthor, in more ways than just the actual board itself, while ‘The Car’, written by Geoff Johns and the great Richard Donner (director of Superman: The Movie) with art by Oliver Coipel, takes us back all the way to Action Comics #1 in the aftermath of the iconic moment from that issue’s cover, combining the more rough aspects of that character with the compassion he’s become known for.
Out of all his enemies, Lex Luthor stands as one of Superman’s most famous and deadliest. Scott Snyder and his American Vampire collaborator Rafael Albuquerque tell a short story in ‘The Fifth Season’ that focuses on the relationship these two enemies share and the differences in how they view each other and the world. Snyder captures Luthor’s arrogance and makes a good story, though its ending is somewhat abrupt. Tom King and Clay Mann’s ‘Of Tomorrow’ is a deceptive tale about Superman at the end of all things in the solar system, packing quite a bit of emotion in just a few pages with Mann’s visuals and King’s narration for Superman.
‘Five Minutes’, from Louise Simonson and Jerry Ordway, takes a look at how much Clark Kent and Superman get up to in just five minutes. Seeing Superman race from crisis to crisis while Clark Kent has to finish a deadline is pretty entertaining. Paul Dini and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez craft one of the most outstanding stories in the issue, another deceptive tale that seems to focus on Superman’s legacy long after he’s passed but what is really just a look at another memorable villain from his rogues gallery. ‘Faster Than A Speeding Bullet’, meanwhile, shifts back into Superman’s status as a figure of hope and inspiration, but also someone who unfortunately can’t be there for everyone try as hard as he might. His determination to save people is put to the test by Brad Meltzer and John Cassaday in a surprising and emotional outcome.
One of the big draws to the celebratory issue, however, is the look to Superman’s future. The fact DC has gained former Marvel superstar Brian Michael Bendis to headline both Action Comics and Superman come July has gotten fans all kinds of excited. ‘The Truth’, featuring art from DC’s other superstar artist Jim Lee, is a prologue of sorts that looks at what Superman will be going up against in the upcoming Man of Steel miniseries as well as the other two Superman titles. Bendis’ narrative is a nice balance between the humour he’s known for and the drama of the story as Superman and Supergirl face an enemy with a mysterious connection to Krypton’s past. It’s a little more humourous than I expected, but features a couple funny asides on the return of the red trunks and how some Metropolis citizens see him. Bendis does capture Superman’s spirit pretty well and leaves an intriguing cliffhanger for his Superman tale.
All in all, Action Comics #1000 is a celebration of all things Superman. Each writer brings something unique in their story, focusing on different aspects of the Man of Steel’s character and lore while the art from each artist is outstanding, capturing the emotion and delivering some great, memorable visuals. This isn’t just a book for Superman fans, but one that explains to any non-fans or those curious about Superman why he’s remained such an iconic character for eight decades. He’s the grandfather of superheroes, yet he still remains as relevant today, if not more so, than he did in 1938. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and pick up Action Comics #1000.