Eighty pages isn’t really enough to commemorate 80 years and 1000 issues, but then, there’s really no precedent for celebrating such a milestone. Action Comics #1000, though, sure makes a valiant attempt — and mostly succeeds. Its 11 stories pay tribute to the Man of Steel, spanning from an extension of his first appearance right up into his next era. It’s Superman’s birthday celebration, with plenty of stories for his fans — but like any pile of gifts, some are preferred over others.
Dan Jurgens has arguably had as much impact on the character as anyone in the modern era, so it’s fitting that the issue leads off with his “From the City That Has Everything,” a celebratory observation of all that Superman has done for the people of the city that he calls home. Jurgens story gets a little hokey at times, but it’s an apt tribute to a character who’s not only come to mean a lot to the residents of Metropolis, but also his readers. It’s also a refreshing reminder of the respect held for him by his colleagues, captured in a bright and fun spread by Jurgens to conclude the issue’s introduction.
No less fitting is Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s “Never-Ending Battle,” which is not only a delightful ode to Superman’s 80 years of existence, but also to their own run on the Superman series, which is going to be missed. Tomasi makes the effort to establish a story mechanism for Superman’s time trip through his own history — wonderfully captured by Gleason — but it isn’t really necessary. The glimpses at significant moments from the Man of Steel’s past are not only meaningful, but just plain fun, reminding readers of decades of terrific stories.
A pair of shorter stories allow some notable past creators to join in the celebration, but sadly the actual results fall short. Marv Wolfman’s “An Enemy Within” reuses some art from the legendary Curt Swan, but the story is trite, and Butch Guice’s inks clash with Swan’s pencils. Paul Levitz’s “The Game” gives Neal Adams some time onstage, but feels dated. While Adams’ layouts are as grand as ever, his finishes appear as though they were completed on too tight of a deadline.
Subsequent short entries do much better. Richard Donner joins Geoff Johns and Olivier Coipel in the inspiring “The Car,” finally explaining just what happened after the events shown on the iconic cover of Action Comics #1. Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s “The Fifth Season” is a higher-thinking look at Superman and Lex Luthor’s relationship. And Tom King and Clay Mann’s “Of Tomorrow” is a touching look at the literal Man of Tomorrow’s memories of his long-departed Earth parents.
Veterans Louise Simonson and Jerry Ordway typify the Man of Steel’s miracles in “Five Minutes,” while providing a fun look at the conflict Superman creates in the life of Clark Kent. Paul Dini’s whimsical “Actionland” features the welcome return of José Luis Garcia-López to the pages of Superman, evocative of the pre-Crisis era for those who miss it. Brad Meltzer’s technical “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet,” though, is a labored look at the Man of Steel’s knack for saving the day, and is stiffly executed by the usually excellent John Cassaday.
Naturally, the issue caps off with the introduction to the incoming writer of both Action Comics and Superman, Brian Michael Bendis. “The Truth,” written by Bendis and illustrated by Jim Lee, puts readers in the middle of a battle with an unknown foe, climaxing with a surprising revelation going back to Superman’s beginnings. The story is a fair representation of what readers can likely expect in Bendis’ upcoming run. Lee’s art is clean and dynamic, as always, and Bendis delivers drama peppered with his usual irreverent scripting tics. Fans of Bendis have a lot to look forward to, but those enamored with the now-concluded Jurgens/Tomasi/Gleason era might take some time to win over.
Action Comics #1000 is a largely enjoyable party, although padded somewhat to allow room for some additional guests who don’t bring the same caliber of gifts. While a little bloated at eight bucks and 80 pages, Superman is looking a lot better than most of us do at 80 years old.