Action Comics #31

Greg Pak's run on "Action Comics" has been a breath of fresh air in what has been a New 52 crowded with glum and angsty superhero tales. His take on Clark Kent and Superman has been one of lighthearded care and belief in peoples' ability to live up to their greatest potential. Unfortunately, though, this is comics in 2014, which means that eventually every book is going to cross over, thus interrupting whatever longer narrative may be taking place in the book. "Doomed" comes to "Action Comics" #31 and the results are average but far below the quality of the tales that Pak has been delivering up to this point.

Superman has disposed of Doomsday in the first part of this tale, leaving the residents of Smallville and the Justice League to clean up the aftermath. It seems that this Doomsday was a weaponized virus intended to infect Kal-El, turning him in to a Doomsday-like creature himself. We get a bit of Lana Lang who, under Pak's pen, has become the best supporting character in the Superman books in decades. She's likable, confident, adventurous -- and maybe yes I have a crush on the high school girlfriend of a fictional superhero. These were the most enjoyable moments of the book for me. Pak's dialogue is always crisp and fun with her and the interactions she has with Lois, and her opinions of Wonder Woman, are a treat. And if you're in the mood for a sexy dip in a metal pool with John Henry Irons then Pak has your ticket to ride here as well.

The existing themes of this run -- power, and it's use for and against those without it -- are emphasized here to make Clark nervous about his own mental state. The hallucinations of violence are jarring for a Superman not directed by Zack Snyder, and when he actually unleashes on some helicopter hunters it leaves him shaken. The ending was unclear for me -- is the Clark we see on the last page Doomsday in disguise, or is this the same Clark we've been following, with Doomsday's influence seeping in more and more? If it's the former, this is a new surprise. If it's the latter, the inconsistency of art makes this too unclear -- we have a clean cut Clark with no damage right after a page where Superman is at the Fortress of Solitude, unkempt and displaying physical symptoms of Doomsday fever. I recommend cowbell.

The art is all really solid but it's unfortunate that Aaron Kuder needs pinch hitters once again. Rafa Sandoval and Cameron Stewart are both great artists in their own right but Kuder's style has settled in so nicely with this run that shifting away from it is a disappointment. It seems, though, that the reason for needing fill-ins are all positive life events so I can't be too salty about it. But come back soon Aaron!

Pak is lifting the original superhero to great heights once again and while this issue is a bit of a letdown, I'm confident this is just a bump in the road. The storytelling team on "Action Comics" is very talented and still find a way to make this crossover chapter fit in with the types of stories they have been telling. I'm looking forward to their chance to return to their own agenda after "Doomed" concludes.

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