Action Comics #1050
Now that Superman has returned to Earth, things should be back to normal day-to-day living, but with Lex Luthor returning to Metropolis, you can be sure that things won’t be as simple as that. The real question is, what is Lex up to, and how does it involve Manchester Black? We’re on the edge of a new day dawning at DC, so get ready for a major shift in the status quo in Super-corner starting now.
In 2001, DC Published “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?” The story debuted The Elite, a pastiche of the Authority, one of Wildstorm Comics’ best-known super teams. It also served as a criticism of the then-current trend of hyperviolence in comics – the same trend criticized in another DC classic, Kingdom Come.
The leader of the Elite was Manchester Black, a British psychic with a bad attitude. Perhaps creators Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke thought of Black as a one-off character, perhaps not; regardless, he has continued to show up from time to time in the 20+ years since. He even had a turn on the Supergirl television show. Most recently (and kind of hilariously), Black was recruited into Superman’s new version of the group he had been designed to parody, The Authority. With his new teammates, Black joined Superman in a quest to liberate Warworld.
If you’ve ever wondered why someone like Black would do this… well, as it turns out he was a plant. Sent by Lex Luthor, Black was to keep track of and report on Superman’s activities… but now, after a prolonged time fighting by Superman’s side, Black has taken a long cold sip of the Kool-Aid and as a result tried to cut ties with Luthor in last month’s Action Comics #1049. The result is… well, I’m not giving that away, but in the end, Black’s beverage sipping may not have mattered all that much. Luthor being Luthor has schemes on top of his schemes, and it seems unlikely that Black’s time with Luthor was ever intended to end well for him.
Of course, Black isn’t the only one affected. Luthor has larger plans in mind, and those plans are set to change the status quo in the Superman family for the foreseeable future.
As the final issue of the current Action Comics format – and the final issue before the next publishing initiative, “Dawn of DC” – Issue 1050 introduces and bridges the present and future. With three different writers – Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Tom Taylor, and Josh Williamson – and three corresponding artists – Mike Perkins, Clayton Henry, and Nick Dragotta – we are given several plot threads to follow. Each thread introduces a story to be continued in one of the three present or upcoming Superman titles – Superman, Adventures of Superman: Jon Kent, and of course Action Comics itself.
The outcome of Luthor’s plan, which I also won’t give away, is a key part of the characters’ future. Appropriately, we spend a good deal of time in this issue focused on Luthor, his motivations, and his relationship with Superman. That relationship has gone largely unexplored in the past few years, despite being one of the fundamental building blocks of the Superman mythos. That being the case, it’s been great seeing Luthor up and running again in the past few months and I hope to see a good deal more of it going forward – which it seems I will, in the new Superman title.
The other major storyline that has been building for the Clark Kent Superman is the return of Metallo, a subplot that comes to fruition at the end of this issue with a major alteration to that classic Superman foe. I’ve never been especially invested in Metallo, but I am really interested to see how his character deals with his situation – both being controlled by Luthor and a more fundamental change made to his physical self.
Finally, the Adventures of Superman: Jon Kent thread debuts the start of a new storyline –set to take advantage of the recent restoration of the infinite Earths by way of a multiversal mystery.
Now, when I first looked this issue over, I was a bit concerned that having three separate writers and artists writing and drawing the same characters in the same 40-ish pages would result in a bit of whiplash.
Where the writing is concerned, that worry was entirely unfounded. The art changes, however, are a bit more difficult to swallow. This isn’t a question of quality, it’s just that the artists in question have such disparate styles that I did feel a little thrown off going from one sequence to the next – particularly since they switch in mid-scene from time to time. I know complaining about multiple artists on one book is a bit of a cliché at this point, and I do understand why it happens but sometimes I wish that DC could try to choose more compatible styles or a less jarring distribution of pages.
That aside, the issue itself is great, with all three individual stories set up wonderfully. With three titles upcoming, each with its own intriguing opening plot, any fan should be able to find a way to keep up with the Superfamily. That’s why it’s an exciting time to be a Superman fan.
Despite the distracting changes in art style, Action Comics #1050 is full of interesting plot twists and character turns. While tying up the straggler threads from the past year or so of Action Comics, it also provides intriguing setups for the next phase in Superman’s ongoing story.
Action Comics #1050: The Dawning of a New Age
- Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 8/108/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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