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Keeping up with Superman’s backstory in its entirety is a lot harder than it sounds. Through retcons, reboots, and the general insanity of superhero comics, big blue has seen a lot over the years. But in DC’s current Rebirth line, now in its second year, we have a relatively familiar incarnation of the classic hero. The short version is: New 52 Superman dies, but the hero we know from pre-Flashpoint DC continuity somehow gets into New 52 (now Rebirth) universe.
Complicated, right? That’s why it’s best just to focus on the stories and events at hand, which is exactly what longtime Superman writer Dan Jurgens does in Action Comics #982. With pencils from Jack Herbert and Jose Luis, inks by Herbert and Ray McCarthy, and colors by Hi-Fi, this feels like a throwback Superman tale from the 90’s before he died the first time around.
And with good cause. Bent on revenge as always, General Zod, Cyborg Superman, the Eradicator, Mongul, Metallo, and Blanque join forces to destroy Superman and, naturally, conquer Earth. With such a powerhouse team of evil against him, can a weathered Superman stand a chance? Let’s dig deeper into the nuts and bolts of Jurgens’ revival to find out.
This issue of Action Comics hits all the familiar beats of a classic Jurgens Superman story. As the story opens, we see the assembled villains bicker over their next move. Similarly, the ever wholesome Superman confers with his now wife Lois Lane and their son Jonathan about how to stay safe and stop their plans. The risks are compounded by his recent blinding while escaping “The Black Vault” where Zod and the others were captives.
It’s a welcome return to form for the character, and the added family dynamic gives him more depth than the typical “truth, justice, and the American way” motif. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some cringe worthy moments. A particularly hacky “kneel before Zod!” as the villains pile on Superman is the most blatant offense.
Yet the most overused plot device occurs early on in the bickering villain segment. Metallo accurately points out that they can easily take out big blue as they are, but there’s always one more piece of the master plan before they can achieve that ultimate goal. But why? Why is it necessary for Superman to be alive in order for them to ransack the Fortress of Solitude?
The easy answer is, because it’s a superhero comic. Yet I can’t help but wonder that if Superman himself can grow as a character, why can’t the challenges he faces?
The art for this issue is also quite reminiscent of 90’s Superman, but that’s no surprise given this is that exact character come to our era. The result is a welcome and nicely drawn story that uses each panel and splash page to hit important story beats and convey bombastic action.
The highlight, unsurprisingly, is the latter. Even a blind Superman can hold his own against this team of heavy hitters, and his entrance to the fray as they assault the fortress is a great moment. The menace of our villains is also an art high point, with the imposing figures and sinister sneers well defined both in close up and smaller panel shots.
In the end, the battle looks grim for Supes, but thanks to a timely intervention from some allies with similar fashion sense, he’ll likely live to fight another day. Fly down to Downtown Comics to get in on the action and see for yourself!