By: Sholly Fisch (story), Pascal Alixe & Vicente Cifuentes (art), Pete Pantazis (colors)

The Story: If Superman’s not going to use his powers, mind if I use it?

The Review: I wasn’t exactly thrilled to discover, shortly after giving up the glacial Futures End, that the entire DCU would be signing onto that nonsense in September. Not only does this expose all the titles to the same flash-forward confusion as its progenitor, it also doesn’t have the same value as previous September gimmicks like Villains Month or #0 issues. If anything, jumping these series five years into an uncertain future discourages new readers rather than attract them.

Imagine having only a minimal familiarity with the DCU, opening this issue, and seeing Superman out-of-costume, sporting a lumberjack’s beard, and planting crops in a barren piece of land in the African desert. There’s a possibility you’d intrigued enough to see what happens, but I suspect that most people would put the issue down, shaking their heads, and wondering what the hell is going on or when the next Marvel movie will come out.

Besides, it doesn’t quite make sense to entice people to a title by shunting the usual creative team for some mediocre unknowns. In the case of Action Comics, instead of enjoying the critically acclaimed work of Greg Pak, we get a one-off by Fisch, best known for his sappy, forgettable back-ups during the series’ early days. That addiction to sentimentality hasn’t abated any, it seems, with such inspiring lines as, “Somehow, by helping others realize their potential, my own increased as well.”

And no, it’s not Clark who says that, but rather an unknown, unnamed entity who doesn’t even know its own origins and nature. It speculates it could be a leftover from an encounter with Mxyzptlk or, even more confusingly, a stopgap for a world without Superman. I call it an artificial device for Fisch to force out the story he wants to tell, existing only long enough to remind us what an inspirational figure Superman is and ceasing to exist afterwards.

In the meantime, the entity draws in three other new characters as the focus of the issue: a suicidal young woman, an unrepentant gambler, and a young boy living with family violence. Fisch doesn’t bother exploring any of their backgrounds much; he leaves them with only the barest development, especially the lady, who remains nameless throughout the issue.* Without those necessary details, her depression seems self-indulgent rather than pitiable (“It’s not that I want to die. But living is just too hard.”) and Donny, the gambler, isn’t worth the glossy paper he’s drawn on.

Only the boy Jamie ekes out a little complexity, though not much of it. Rather than leave it as a sweet tale about a kid using his newfound (albeit temporary) power to defend his mom against an alcoholic batterer, Fisch turns the focus on the mother, questioning whether she can reciprocate her son’s protection once his power fades. As someone whose work exposes him to this kind of grimness every day, I can appreciate the tension between the fed-up child and immature mother, especially in an issue that has little else to offer.

New readers won’t just be missing out on Pak’s usually elegant scripts, but on Aaron Kuder’s bombastic, unabashedly superheroic art as well. I don’t know which art style belongs to which guest artist on this issue, but I can tell you that one is scratchy, gritty, occasionally difficult to sift through, while the other is a cleaner, more commonplace look. Neither stands out in your imagination; it’s just the lower end of DC’s house art shoved in without any thought as to its fit with the story.

Conclusion: An odd, simplistic little fable that doesn’t really take advantage of the five-year jump, nor will it stand out to anyone reading for the first time.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Though you’d be forgiven for mistaking her as the new Donna Troy, with her wearing a shirt with gold stars emblazoned on her waist and collar.

Grade

Conclusion

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