WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Action Comics #1000, which is available now.
How do you you pay tribute to 80 years of the Man of Steel in 15 pages? Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have found an ingenious way in their Action Comics #1000 story. The outgoing Superman creative team has pitted the hero against the immortal Vandal Savage in a romp across the Multiverse.
The set-up is minimal. On the way home from his nightly patrol, Superman is whisked away by Savage. The Man of Steel finds himself in the villains’s underground layer, where the immortal reveals his clever plan.
Savage has weaponized Hypertime. He has trapped Superman in a never-ending loop of yesterdays that will never cross the villain’s own path. By taking him outside history, Vandal has neutralized the Man of Steel.
This scheme is a contrivance that lets Tomasi and Gleason pay tribute to 80 years of Superman adventures. The Man of Steel experiences these stories as both a protagonist and spectator. After all, these pages do not necessarily reflect Superman’s personal history within the current DC Universe. These are the stories readers and viewers have come to know and love over the years.
“Never-Ending Battle” shows Superman finding a path back home across the Multiverse. As he fights his way to the present, he jumps into various unfamiliar versions of himself. There are some similarities to Ed Brubaker’s Out of Time Captain America arc, but the storytelling here is extremely condensed.
Transported into the body of his 1940s self, Superman is exhilarated. He relishes the lack of power, and the pure simplicity of saving men, women and children in need. He thrills to the chatter of tommy guns. Fighting in World War II, he is seduced by the simple morality of good and evil.
Superman immediately recognizes that pining for a simpler time is a distraction. The Golden Age is little more than a trap. Battling across a multitude of past realities, he finds strength to claw his way back to the present.
His voiceover is far too dramatic. It recalls the weary trope of a hero’s inner monologue providing a play-by-play of the action. Tomasi’s script plays with the cliché, and uses it to set up a last-page laugh at Superman’s expense.
The highlight here is the art. Patrick Gleason and colorist Alejandro Sanchez prove themselves to be artistic chameleons. Aided by letterer Tom Napolitano, the duo employs a range of artistic styles and color palettes over the story’s 15 single-panel pages.
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