“Action Comics” #23.1 by Michael Alan Nelson and Mike Hawthorne is one of the initial offerings in DC Comics’ “Villains Month” event. This issue features the origin and initial adventures of The New 52 incarnation of Cyborg Superman, although it’s a story that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the events of “Forever Evil” #1 that supposedly leads into all of DC’s titles this month, which isn’t really a problem in and of itself, but the story certainly is.
The new identity of this reimagined character is clever and logical enough, but the rest of the tale self-destructs into nothing, just like Krypton itself. Nelson hurriedly grafts Robocop’s origin onto Cyborg Superman within the span of the first few pages, and then completely and conveniently ignores any potential and far more interesting ramifications that might come from it.
Instead of fleshing out the character — pun definitely intended — Nelson turns RoboSuperman into a dull and soulless robot that’s completely flat and fulfills no other purpose other than to serve as Brianiac’s bloodhound. Once established, the character does nothing but fly around the galaxy looking for beings deserving of “perfection,” “supremacy” and other superlatives bandied about repeatedly for Brianiac’s personal collection. It’s a single-minded plot that’s about as exciting as watching someone else’s scavenger hunt.
It’s hard to believe that this is supposed to be a serious take on the character; anyone who recalls and enjoyed Dan Jurgens’ far more complex and decidedly more villainous original version will find this one nothing short of laughable. The other characters in the issue are just as derivative and one-dimensional; Zor-El seems to think he’s Reed Richards on a deadline, toiling tirelessly to save the world while oblivious to his wife and daughter. Allura is the stereotypical, nagging wife who doesn’t believe in him and all but says she had wished she had married his brother; talk about ignored interesting possibilities.
Hawthorne artistically saves things somewhat; his Cyborg Superman, complete with oversized cybernetic arm and claw, looks pretty menacing and is nicely detailed. Argo City, both pre- and post-destruction, are also pleasingly rendered, and enhanced by Daniel Brown’s colors, often drawing flat colors of differing shades that work just as well as gradual transitions. An Argo City sunset is pretty in its simplicity, and its ruins look appropriately desolate.
Aaron Kuder and Brown wrap the issue in a catchy cover that’s actually enhanced by the lenticular effect on the more expensive 3-D edition of the issue. So while it looks good inside and out, it’s nonetheless a disappointing issue that doesn’t really try all that hard to improve on a character that didn’t really need any tweaking in the first place.