ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #11
Writers: Geoff Johns & Richard Donner
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
When I first heard the rumblings about a new Superman movie way back in the early 2000s I was elated. The fact that the movie was not going to be a reboot, but rather a continuation of the second Superman movie, sent my mind spinning on all of the cool new things the digital age would bring to the movie while still holding reverence for the brilliance of the first two films. Then the film came out.
While I didn’t hate “Superman Returns”, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why Singer and crew made the story such a convoluted mess. Why did Superman leave for five years? Krypton blew up, that’s a staple of the Superman mythos. What the hell was he looking for, a Kryptonian hanging out on a chunk of planet like “The Little Prince”? Lois and Clark have a child with super powers? I guess Supersemen is still potent despite Superman being stripped of all powers when he makes sweet, sweet, super love. I understand James Marsden has been dubbed the whipping post of movie relationships, but was Richard truly necessary?
I invoke “Superman Returns” in this review because ACTION ANNUAL 11 is everything that movie should have been and more. Epic storytelling combined with grand scope imagery that not only jumps off the page, it bitch slaps you and calls you Sally. Quite frankly, if the rumors of a new Superman movie are true and Warner Brothers doesn’t leverage this creative team, they would be making a mistake comparable to “Superman III: The Fall of Richard Pryor”.
Being a story guy at heart, I don’t generally lead off reviews by focusing on the art. I know my flaws; I am closer to autistic than artistic, and the closest I ever came to studying art theory was when I slept with an art major in college for a week. Even still, while I know nothing about what makes for good art, I know what I like and what moves me. Kubert is not only a comic artist; he is a master, based solely on this issue. I wish I had the resources and the energy to frame every panel of this book to hang in my man-cave.
Right from the cover, Kubert doesn’t waste an ounce of real estate in this conclusion to the Last Son saga started in ACTION proper. I don’t know if it was an editorial or art decision to have the front cover minutia (e.g. The DC logo, price, creative team) written in Kryptonian when you hold the book upside down, but it was damn clever, and made me spend more time with a cover than I have in years. This is also the first time where I have seen an annual format used to its full potential. Generally these are just bloated tomes of regular format; however, more pages do not always equate to a better book. Kubert uses all of the space afforded him with sweeping panels that cross pages and stir the imagination. Every two page splash embodies the horror of what would happen to a city if it was ruled by those that viewed humanity as gnats. Pay close attention to the two page spread towards the end of the book you need to flip horizontally, it would be monumental to see this shot on the big screen.
Characterization: We’ve known for a long time that Johns and Donner get the characters in the Superman mythos. Donner is of course the master of Superman tales for thirty plus years and I have yet to find the chink in Johns’ storytelling armor when it pertains to Supes. But with this one book, both gentlemen brought every ounce of reverence and creativity penned up inside of them.
Lex Luthor can be one of the most complex villains in comicdom. Too often, though, writers take the easy way out and portray him as a man bent on destroying Superman because he is more powerful or simply because he gets in the way of Lex’s schemes for financial gain (i.e. “Superman Returns”). Bullshit. At his heart Lex is a humanist and to a certain extent a xenophobe. He hates Superman for the same reason the Romans hated Jesus. Superman is an upset to the status quo of humanity being at the top of the food chain. Superman also stops us from relying on our own wherewithal. We don’t need to excel as a species because we could never be as great as the Blue Boy Scout, so why should we even try? Every panel oozes Lex’s disdain for the Kryptonian invasion force and the fact that he needs to partner with Superman (and other rogues) to topple Zod’s army. Yet he unflinchingly goes there to save humanity. Likewise, I loved Superman’s bravado towards the fact that Lex’s weapons might stop Zod, but it will be a cold day in the Fortress of Solitude before they would ever stop him.
Lex is also best when portrayed as a victim of circumstance. Despite the fact it was his ideas and resources that ultimately allowed Superman to topple the Crips of the Phantom Zone, credit instead is given to Chris Kent. This was an amazing twist, which actually makes you empathize with the bald bastard for a brief moment.
I’ve gushed about Johns’ writing in review after review, but this book was truly something special even for Johns’ immense talent. I can only guess that Kubert and Donner bring out the best in the man. I would love to see someone do an interview with these three greats on how they fed one another’s creative juices and if there is anything more in store for the future. Buy it, read it, bag it. This is a book that will remain indelibly burned into the cerebellum of any comic fan that is lucky enough to read it.