Review: Action Comics #902

Superman's last pre-relaunch adventure involves four or five Doomsdays and large falling objects.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Of all of the developments coming up with the DC relaunch (or "Flashboot" as some people call it), the thing that disappointed me the most was that Action Comics and Detective Comics are getting renumbered back to issue one for the first time, breaking a largely unbroken streak dating back to the '30s. For all intents and purposes, this is the last adventure of the Superman that most of us have grown up reading about.

But if Action Comics #902 is an indication of where the rest of the story is going to go, then Grant Morrison can't get here fast enough.

I don't know where Paul Cornell went wrong. His Lex Luthor story was so brilliant that I assumed he'd be just as good writing Superman. But "The Reign of the Doomsdays" is full of familiar Superman tropes like catching falling aircraft (or a space ship in this case) and even an overdose of Doomsday himself. In its own way, this comic is extremely hooky.

At the end of the last issue, a Doomsday-like creature calling himself the Doomslayer killed the Eradicator, who as you might recall was a sentient Kryptonian piece of machinery that was living a body genetically similar to Superman's. He was also a colossal jerk, but you wouldn't know it from the way that Superman and his comrades react.

It's perfectly reasonable for Superman to be outraged by the Eradicator's death, but to say he was an innocent man after killing dozens of people on Earth way back when? Or to have Steel call him "our brother"?! Are we talking about the same Eradicator? Cornell is going out of his way to show that the Superman family cared for this deadly machine in order to get some pathos out of his death. But it just doesn't ring true.

Superman's reaction to the Doomslayer is also kind of puzzling. He seems to be impressed that the Doomslayer can speak and feel remorse for killing the Eradicator, but the first time that Doomslayer voices that "regret" it almost reads sarcastic. Superman even uses the Doomslayer's intelligence as a justification for shielding the original Doomsday from him. I know that Superman is supposed to be the greatest of all superheroes, but this is pushing his "goodness" to unbelievable levels.

Over half of the issue is devoted to Superman, Steel, Superboy and Supergirl trying to keep the giant space ship housing the Doomsdays from crashing into Metropolis. All the while intercutting back to Lois Lane waiting for Superman to save her and the rest of the city down below. Is it odd that Cornell's robot duplicate for Lois had more apparent depth than the original model does in these scenes?
The art is also something of a mixed bag. The first twelve pages by Kenneth Rocafort are very nicely rendered. Rocafort has a style that reminds me of the late Michael Turner. The rest of the issue is competently drawn by Axel Gimenez, but it's nothing special. A scene in which Superboy, Supergirl and Steel attempt to stop a tsunami wave just doesn't have the visual punch that it should have. In the script that probably seemed like a great moment for the secondary characters to shine, but it didn't work on the page.

As for the Doomslayer himself, he does seem to be yet another iteration of Doomsday who is out to destroy his alternate selves. He looks oddly like Death's Head, yes? Cornell also has Doomslayer making his revised plans in several thought balloons on a single page. Essentially, he's monologuing to himself, which just increases the cheese factor.

I'd love to see Cornell recover from his missteps and pull off this story in the concluding chapters, but it doesn't seem likely at this point.