“Action Comics” is back to its old numbering in issue #957, and — following last week’s “Superman: Rebirth” #1 — so is the pre-“Flashpoint” Superman. However, even as Dan Jurgens and Patrick Zircher move forward with Superman’s new setup, the title feels like it’s spending too much time looking backwards.
A lot of the elements in “Action Comics” #957 feel like they could have been plucked out of earlier comics. While Lex Luthor’s been running around in his armor for quite a while now, his stance here brings to mind the Paul Cornell and Pete Woods storyline from “Action Comics” #890-899 a few years ago; Superman shaving with a fragment of his old ship and dashing off to try and stop Lex’s lies also comes right out of Superman’s old playbook.
Additionally, the surprise appearances of two other characters move the title backwards rather than forward. There’s also a surprise villain on the last page; though this character has appeared in New 52 continuity, it’s back into its original appearance and presumably power structure. Jurgens is associated with this villain enough that he’s as good a person as any to engineer this return, but — in a book where everything is becoming what it used to be — it feels like a little too much. Similarly, the surprise new member of the Daily Planet staff is as much a reversion as having Captain Maggie Sawyer back running the Metropolis Police Special Crimes Unit; it’s all things we’ve seen before and none of this feels new. If anything, Jurgens’ message appears to be, “You liked this old setup much more, and that’s what we’re giving you.” There is one notable exception to all of this, and that’s the continuation of Lois and Clark having a super-powered son, Jon Kent. It’s a shame Lois and Jon are barely in this issue, though; they’re the most interesting part of the story and they appear in a scant three pages.
In some ways, Zircher’s art almost seems to call back to Superman’s earlier days, but — in this case — it’s in a good way. Zircher’s art reminds me more and more of Neal Adams’ work these days, with just a touch of Tommy Lee Edwards. There’s something about the thick hair and expressive faces that reminds me of Adams’ style, but — at the same time — Zircher shows a lot more control over his art. It’s tighter, and the clean nature of the lines is where the Edwards similarities come into play. Zircher beautifully merges the two artists’ sensibilities into something distinctly his own; take, for instance, Jimmy staring up at Super-Lex Luthor among a sea of faces and you can see it all come together. Tomeu Morey’s colors complete the picture, with gentle shades that never looking garish or out of place. They accentuate what Zircher’s doing here without drawing away from it.
Ultimately, Zircher’s art is the big winner of “Action Comics” #957. It’s a handsome look for the title, and I’ll be glad to see more of it before long. Jurgens’ story needs to find some new ground to cover, though, even amidst a back-to-basics setup. On the bright side, now that “Action Comics” is on a twice-a-month publishing schedule, he has the opportunity to advance the writing at a much faster pace. Once some more issues are released, “Action Comics” may very well turn into a properly intriguing comic, but — at least for now — the best part of this new structure (Superman’s family) is the least present element, and that’s a shame.