In this week's Action Comics, Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods teamed up to write a fun, action-packed, character-rich, amusing and gripping story...and it wasn't even the best Superman comic of the week!! What a week for Superman fans (please note that I am in an alternate universe where only two Superman titles came out this week)!! Action Comics was very good, and All Star Superman was excellent! I think, if you were counting by your fingers, you would need more than your two hands to count how many years it has been since Superman had TWO comics this good out the same week. All Star Superman is not a surprise, it's that Action Comics is in the mix is what is so impressive.
Action Comics is the sort of comic that we thought we would get post Infinite Crisis, bright and fun. Pete Woods' art (ably colored by Brad Anderson) is bold and expressive, but never to the point where it brings down the fun feel of the comic. Then again, with a comic having a cover like this Dave Gibbons one, I don't know how it could be anything BUT fun!
The plot of the comic is that this super-powered alien, The Auctioneer, has shown up on Earth, looking to auction off some of the wacky stuff we have on Earth. He is especially interested in all these colorful super-people we have on the planet, so he captures a whole bunch of them and places them in cages together. After escaping and finding themselves powerless, Superman is forced to work with the random super-powered folks who were in his cage, in an attempt to stop the Auctioneer's mad plan. Busiek and Nicieza are no strangers to using obscure characters, and they shine here, with their use of Aquaman (from Busiek's Aquaman), Skyrocket (from Busiek's Power Company), The Veteran (from Bill Willingham's Robin), Live Wire (from the Superman cartoon mostly, but most recently, Gail Simone's Action Comics) and Blue Jay (from the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League - making his first real appearance in oh, about 14 years - one cool point to anyone who can correct me and find me a real (as in, where he actually says something) appearance by Blue Jay in the past decade). What's a real joy about the use of these characters, is that you're not sitting there waiting for Blue Jay to be decapitated, or for Skyrocket to lose an arm or for the Veteran to have his brains blown out. This is the REAL fun part about having so many characters to work with - actually WORKING with them, rather than having colorful cannon fodder.
Meanwhile, the writers manage to achieve a decent enough continuity point - since it has been a year since Superman vanished, can the people of the world really trust that this IS the real Superman? It's not like there haven't been phonies before. So a goal of Superman in this story (and the best part is that he doesn't even really know it IS a goal, because he doesn't know what people are thinking exactly outside) is to prove to the world that he IS, in fact, Superman (speaking of continuity points - we learn in this issue that there are THREE Kryptonians on Earth. This is a nice nod by Busiek and Nicieza to the upcoming Johns/Donner run, which will involve a third Kryptonian on Earth. I am always impressed when writers help out other writers like that).
While Superman and his ragtag group of heroes try to stop the Auctioneer, Nightwing and Firestorm team-up (totally out there combo, which is clearly the point) and try to stop the Auctioneer, as well. Busiek and Nicieza write a great Nightwing here. I especially like how they not so subtly point out that while they're all heroes, Superman and Nightwing are the heads of the class, in their ability to get things done.
The issue ends on one of the better cliffhangers you'll see, full of drama and pathos.
While this issue was fairly wacky (I mean, come on - The Auctioneer?!?), it never veers too much into outright silliness, which was well done on Busiek and Nicieza's part.
A fun comic, with humor, drama and nice art? What could be better than that?
Well, All Star Superman could be (and is), but that's no knock on Action Comics! It's just that All Star Superman #5 is practically a flawless comic book.
In this issue, Clark Kent interviews Lex Luthor in prison. Meanwhile, the Parasite is in the same prison, so when he gets near Clark, he gets a super-charge, which leads to a chaotic riot, which Clark has to help quell without revealing his powers.
It's just a brilliantly simple, yet effective comc book.
Remember last issue, how some folks took a bit of issue with how the producers didn't notice that Jimmy still looked like a monster? Most issues of All Star Superman has SOME little bit that some folks have mentioned was not all that great, but I cannot find a flaw in this issue, so I eagerly await hearing if someone else can find one. I guess I could ask why did Luthor wipe his eyebrow off on the top of page 17, but since it enabled us to have the amazing end bit with Luthor painting the new eyebrow in the form on an evil expression, I won't quibble!
It's weird talking about the issue, because often, we want to mention what we thought was good about a comic. Well, I pretty much thought everything was good - so that gets kinda boring.
Frank Quitely's art? Awesome.
Frank Quitely's attention to detail, in particular? Awesome.
Luthor and Clark's exchanges? Excellent.
Clark's use of cover super powers? Top notch.
The bit with the baboon dressed as Superman? Over the top gold.
Clark's look at the end of the comic? Priceless.
Simply saying whether it was good or not does not seem to be enough for a book like All Star Superman. I think it is so good that we should just try to look deeper into it. For instance, between the two novels Luthor mentions in the comic, which novel protagonist do you think Luthor fancies himself as more? Stephen Daedalus or Sydney Carton? I think he sees himself as both, but which one MORE? Probably Carton, as Luthor does not mind going to the electric chair, knowing that he's killed Superman - "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known" would certainly seem to apply to Luthor in this comic.
Anyhow, to make a long story short (too late) - this week was a great one for fans of Superman, as they got one really good comic and one great comic. Enjoy them, folks!