A good zombie story is about far more than just monsters wanting to eat your brain. That’s the case in “Action Comics” #36, where Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder use the aftermath of the recent “Doomed” storyline to bring Lana Lang, John Henry Irons, Superman and zombies to Smallville. What, at first, looks like a simple monster invasion, though, becomes much more.
“Action Comics” has at its best differentiated itself from the other “Superman” titles when it takes a cue from its actual title. Pak’s followed that idea, with his stories on “Action Comics” involving big monsters and creatures of some sort. Pak hasn’t kept them mindless slugfests, though. So in this issue, for example, we have zombies. It’s less about the walking dead advancing on the innocent, though, and more about Lana coming to grips with the death of her parents even as she’s back in her hometown. Pak always does a great job of getting into the heads of his characters, and this issue is no exception to that rule.
At the same time, there’s still action in “Action Comics.” Superman’s attempts to get through the barrier separating Smallville from the rest of the world have a good level of effort to them, and Pak’s using Superman’s allies in an appropriate manner makes the book feel like it has its own little community. That’s a good thing; a strong supporting cast for “Action Comics” that’s been built up means that you have more of a stake in the game as a reader because you care not only about the title character but everyone around him.
It doesn’t hurt that Kuder’s art is beautiful as ever. When Lana’s dead parents show up, just look at the contrast between their rotting corpses and Lana’s still-living face. The sunken cheeks and dead eyes on her parents make them more than just an effective coloring job on the part of Wil Quintana; they come across as the genuine walking dead. Lana’s face in comparison is smooth and pristine, with a look of shock and fear freezing it into position as she’s approached. It’s a great reaction shot even as it sets the stage for what’s going on here; if you were given this page in a vacuum you could instantly understand on a basic level what’s happening without needing anything up until this point. And when Superman punches through the barrier and comes into the battle, he’s someone who’s just rippling with strength while not looking ludicrously pumped up. He’s solid and imposing, and it’s a good look for the character. (Also, I never thought I’d be saying this, but based on how Kuder draws him I’d love to see Superman keep the beard.)
“Action Comics” #36 is a good comic, and it also serves as a good jumping on point. Pak and Kuder’s run on the title over the last year has been strong, and with the disruptions for an overly long crossover at a close, it’s nice to see the duo back to what they’ve done best here: creating a strong Superman title. If you haven’t seen what they’ve done with the character, this is as good a time as any to rectify the situation.