Action Comics #1031
Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Superman), Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad (Midnighter)
Art: Daniel Sampere (Superman), Michael Avon Oeming (Midnighter)
Colours: Adriano Lucas (Superman), Taki Soma (Midnighter)
Letters: Dave Sharpe (Superman & Midnighter)
This issue greets us with a fantastic cover by Mikel Janin, showing Superman fairly bursting from the page. It’s a promise of what’s to come inside, and this dynamic scene encapsulates all the excitement from the opening moments of ‘Warworld Rising, Part Two’.
We join Superman and Superboy as they battle to save a refugee ship, beleaguered by a swarm of Warzoon ships intent on bringing it down. The whole scene is full of classic Superman moments and sets up a good deal of intrigue among the action. From there, we travel first to The Fortress of Solitude, then on to Atlantis, meeting other iconic DC characters along the way. Here Superman is almost in detective mode, as he tries to unravel the riddle of the ship’s occupants and their pursuers.
It’s gripping stuff, revealing our nemesis first via brief mentions of his name, then later through displays of fanatical devotion from his followers. The closing moments of this chapter foreshadow some dark days for Superman and his companions.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s writing is superb throughout this issue. Through skilful use of dialogue and pacing, he entices us with enigmas and builds emotional tension throughout, rewarding us with a genuinely enjoyable read. We are left wanting to know what happens next, in that way that only a good comic can. His writing is presented through some great lettering from Dave Sharpe, with clear cues for emphasis and unusual speech patterns.
Meanwhile, Daniel Sampere has taken Johnson’s words and created incredibly cinematic pages with them, using everything from full page splashes to smaller, intimate panels which at times give us a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ feel. Indeed, we are privy to the musing of god-like beings, and Sampere’s art conveys their stature perfectly. To flow from a massive action set piece to a more cerebral sequence so effortlessly is no mean feat. On each page, the art is enhanced by awesome colours from Adriano Lucas. He uses clever palette changes to ease us into set changes and draw us further into the world on the page.
As if all that weren’t enough, we are then treated to a continuation of a Midnighter story in ‘The Passenger, Part Three’. The theme of mystery continues here, even giving us some curious references to Warworld. Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad manage to work a whole lot of story into their comparatively short page count, with bone-crunching action, intrigue and even an emotional exchange between lovers working their way into the mix. It’s immediately engaging, even without knowledge of prior events and this is a huge testament to the writers’ skill. The Midnighter is a character shrouded in mystery and is presented here in a dynamic way.
The writing is supported by bold and exciting art from Michael Avon Oeming. He uses some great layouts here, always appropriate to the moment (and there are a great variety). Once Taki Soma has applied her wonderful colours to the page, we have a very atmospheric experience to enjoy. And again, we are left wanting more.
This issue of Action Comics is full of things to show people what comics can do. The creators really play to the strengths of the medium and seem to enjoy their characters and settings. They have also created something which is inclusive and (aside from moments of violence) is suitable for all ages. If you want big, cinematic action paired with intimacy, intrigue and suspense, then this is the issue to jump in on. I for one can’t wait to see what the next issue brings!
Review by Andy Flood, 16/6/21