Ricky Church reviews Superman – Action Comics: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3…
With Superman – Action Comics: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3 comes the end of Dan Jurgens’ run on the title in the lead-up to Action Comics #1000 and Brian Michael Bendis’ stewardship of the title. Jurgens concludes his run by focusing on Superman and his family, asking the Man of Steel some difficult questions as his faith in humanity is put to the test. With its character examination and great artwork, the book is a nice send off for Jurgens that puts a cap on one of the best Action Comics stories in several years.
The first half of the book contains Superman: The Oz Effect, in which Superman comes face-to-face with one of the mysterious beings who has secretly been pulling the strings behind the lives of his family and other superheroes. It’s a good story that places Superman in a tough spot as he is confronted with the choice of staying true to his ideals or embracing a more Kryptonian heritage as Mr. Oz tries to convince him humanity is undeserving of his loyalty and faith. While it’s not an entirely new argument that is presented, Jurgens does come at it from an interesting perspective given the identity of Mr. Oz. He does make Oz a complicated villain for Superman to go up against because of his philosophy and connection to Superman’s past. The only downside to this story in the book is that for anyone who already owns The Oz Effect Deluxe Edition, they’re essentially double dipping for the same story in the same deluxe format. It’s not entirely bad since readers are still getting all of Jurgens’ story in one book. Anyone who doesn’t own The Oz Effect will be pleased to get this and the follow-up story together, but those who already own it might feel like its not worth it.
The second half of the book contains Booster Shot, a fun and entertaining team-up between Superman and the time-travelling and self-promoting Booster Gold. Picking up shortly after the events of Oz Effect, Superman travels back in time to the moments before Krypton’s destruction to ascertain the truth behind Oz’s claims, but gets trapped in a myriad of shattered time dimensions and the far future which Booster Gold has to save him from. Most of the story comes from Booster’s perspective which adds a welcome freshness to the narrative after following Superman and Lois for so long. Jurgens has a good take on Booster, from his glory-hounding ways to looking at Booster’s deeper compassion and heroic qualities, showing there’s more to him than even Superman was aware of. Booster also adds a nice amount of humour to the story that balances Superman’s dour mood and some of the book’s darker moments.
Superman still remains a big focus of the story of course, but its nice to see Jurgens utilize Booster as much as he can while not pushing Superman to the sidelines. He gets plenty of emotional moments throughout the book as he discovers some hard truths about the past and future and is forced to watch very painful moments. The one criticism, however, is that Superman’s motivation is often stated repetitively as he tells Booster or Skeets numerous times he just wanted to go back to see one thing, not to change anything. It gets a little old after he says it so many times. Otherwise, his characterization of Superman is pretty on point in both stories, but most especially in the final chapter which exemplifies Superman’s faith in rehabilitating people and relationships. His decision to never use the Phantom Zone again, both for its morally grey use and the effect is has on its occupants, makes him release one of his most dangerous enemies in the hopes of changing him for the better. The Phantom Zone has always been a bit of a crutch by various writers trap really powerful villains without death, but this move away from it is both refreshing and a good development for Superman.
While Lois and Jon don’t have quite as much to do in The Oz Effect, that’s quite the opposite in Booster Shot, at least for Lois’ part. She discovers her father, General Sam Lane and a known detractor of the Man of Steel, is being held captive in a foreign country after a covert op gone wrong. Disavowed and left to die by the US government, Lois takes it upon herself to save her father as Jon follows without her knowledge. Its nice to see a story where Lois takes charge and acts independently from Superman and she shows she can very much hold her own in a hostile environment. Whether its utilizing the network of contacts she’s built up or taking on a couple gunmen on her own. Jurgens depicts Lois as a very effective woman in her own right. It also offers the chance to explore the rocky relationship between Lois and her father, a character who hasn’t appeared in the comics for quite a few years now. Jurgens’ take on General Lane is a little less aggressive than other interpretations, but he’s no less hard on Superman and Lois’ belief in him than before. Superman’s choice to help heal the divide between Lois and her father and allowing Sam time with his grandson is both a mature one character wise and intriguing story wise, opening a few doors into how the family will move forward together.
Also included is the Action Comics Annual #1, a collection of stories revolving around Superman and his supporting characters. They’re largely told out of the main story Jurgens has been telling, instead being one-off tales that don’t have any huge impact overall. The main draw of this story is the focus on Lex Luthor and his slow descent back to villainy, as we’ve seen in the pages of Justice League Vol. 1: The Totality. It shows the intense hatred Lex, or at least a potential version of him, has for Superman and how that hate continues to affect him when he has the means and resources to do anything else with his life and for the world. The only other thing that could have been included is Jurgens’ story from Action Comics #1000, making it a fully complete conclusion to his run.
The artwork throughout the book is pretty great. From Viktor Bogdanovic, Brett Booth, Will Conrad and Jurgens himself on pencils, each artist does some stellar work. They place a lot of emotion behind the character’s facial expressions and body language, an aspect which helps sell the turmoil Superman is in during parts of Booster Shot. It would have been better to entirely ditch Booster Gold’s narration just so readers could take in the art of Superman’s pain more than relying on some exposition to help save the day. Not only is the art well drawn, it is very vibrant looking thanks to the colours from Hi-Fi, Mike Spencer, Romulo Fajardo Jr. and Francis Manapul. None of the differing styles clash against each other, making the art from the whole team pretty smooth all round.
Superman – Action Comics: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3 is a fine conclusion to Jurgens’ run on the title. Its focus on Superman and his family is nicely done with some deep emotions behind it. While some readers might find it unfortunate to double dip with The Oz Effect, its still pretty worth it as the two main stories blend pretty well together. The artwork from the team is fantastic and a worthy send-off for Jurgens and company. Its a good book to have that ends one of the best runs in Action Comics in a long time.