Action Comics #44

Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder's run on "Action Comics" has more often than not felt like a mixture of horror and character study, so I'm happy to see "Action Comics" #44 continues that trend. Tying into the overall "Truth" storyline, it's nice to see that Pak and Kuder have their own big saga moving apace at the same time here.

"Action Comics" #44 wraps up the first "Truth" tie-in, as Clark defends his old neighborhood against the ever-encroaching shadows. As with the Smallville storyline earlier in the year, Pak and Kuder play off body invasion horror tropes, with the shadows infecting people and erupting from their skin. While Wrath is temporary defeated, it's clear there be a lot more of Wrath in the near future, and there's an epilogue that positions her among several over villains to be unmasked (although one of them shows up at the end of "Batman/Superman" #24 this week, for those curious).

At the same time, though, the idea of these characters' humanity as their strongest power also pushes forward, most notably in Lee's fighting off and controlling the shadow that seeks to take her over. It's familiar but still handled in a solid manner here. That thread is even more evident in the larger story of Clark's old neighbors, as they all come together in order to protect their homes and each other. It's a story that is perfect for a Superman comic, since it's the Man of Steel who's always seen the best in humanity (and is the most human of us all despite being from an alien world). Clark's pride mixed with sorrow is the perfect reaction; losing his secret identity has put him apart from the rest of the human race, even as he's more proud of them than ever and yearns to have a home among them.

Kuder's art is slick as ever. The shadows flow and ooze around the page, and Tomeu Morey's colors have just the right level of fluidity to match Kuder's drawings. The fight scene that consumes a lot of this issue wouldn't have been half as interesting if it wasn't for the energy evident as characters and property are flung across the panels. Kuder's page layouts are strong too, able to mix in a lot of panels onto a single page to better make the action move from one image to the next. It's especially notable that one of the most dramatic pages in the comic is a splash of Clark walking down the street. He's not threatening; it's just him moving forward, but it's with such purpose that it's startling how much it jumps out at you. Kuder's one of my favorite artists working on superhero comics right now, and with good reason.

Howard Porter draws the epilogue (as well as a similar sequence at the end of "Batman/Superman" this month, so it's clearly meant to match) and he brings a lot of the slickness currently on display in "Justice League 3001" to the otherworldly sequence leading up to something big just around the corner. If Porter were to draw a Superman title down the line, this seems like as good a nod as any to his capabilities along those lines.

"Action Comics" #44 has taken the overall "Truth" idea and integrated it well into the book, able to tell stories like this and play off of the basic idea of Superman's outed identity while still touching on the themes that Pak and Kuder clearly enjoy exploring. All in all, another solid issue.

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