Written by Greg Pak
Drawn by Scott Kolins and Vincente Cifuentes
Colored by Wil Quintana
Published by DC Comics
I haven’t been following most of the mainstream DC Comics titles, including Action Comics, since the Nu52 era began. I started picking up the regular Superman series earlier this year, starting with #33 mainly because of my interest in the work of new artist John Romita Jr. My enjoyment of the first arc (so far) inspired me to check out the separate Superman Unchained title. But I still wasn’t reading Action Comics, until I read this recent interview with writer Greg Pak:
And I thought some of things he was planning sounded interesting to me. The idea of doing a horror story with Superman, that’s something you don’t see very often, if ever. I mean, Superman’s faced vampires, ghosts, and other types of monsters before, but I don’t know if there’s a been real true horror story, where the goal is to scare the readers, with Superman. So I was intrigued by this “Horrorville” story Pak is working on. I only know Greg Pak’s work from the first four issues of Storm, which I did mostly enjoy even if I ultimately decided not to continue that series. But I’m a bigger fan of Superman than I am of Storm, so Pak is already starting off with a step-up in my eyes.
The Horrorville arc doesn’t officially begin here, this is following up the aftermath of a previous major story called DOOMED, but it leads into Horrorville, so I figured I’d get this to begin it. I didn’t read DOOMED but, to Pak’s credit, it’s not completely necessary to have read that in order to understand the events of this issue. All that’s needed to know is that the story involved some kind of attack by Superman’s enemies Brianiac and Doomsday during which Superman was temporarily transformed into a Doomsday-like being and mind-controlled to be evil, there was lots of destruction and it all ended deep in outer space. This story begins 2 months after Superman defeated the bad guys and for that whole time he’s been flying non-stop directly back to Earth. Now he’s finally arrived and he’s grown a bad-ass beard.
So the rest of the issue is Superman trying to catch up on the events that have taken place on Earth in his absence. He first meets up with Supergirl who takes him to the Fortress of Solitude where they survey the damage done to it and Superman basically reboots the computer system to repair it. We learn that during the Doomed story over 13,000 people were killed, which makes Superman feel guilty for nowt being able to save them all. He also worries that the public may blame him for all the destruction and therefor is reluctant to appear in public as Superman. As Clark Kent he he takes a bus to Smallville, which was a heavily affected during the previous arc, apparently the entire population of the town had been placed in a coma for three months. But as Clark rides his bike around the town he sees that things appears to be back to normal. Until he runs into Lana and she tells him that her parents are dead, two of the victims of the attack. And even though she doesn’t come right out and say it, Clark senses that she does blame him for it. She also introduces him to John Henry Irons and says they’re dating now. Irons mentions helping Superman during the conflict, but it’s not clear if he’s “Steel” in this continuity yet.
Back in Metropolis Clark writes a blog about how the world doesn’t need Superman (that sounds familiar…) – oh, that’s right, Clark Kent is a blogger now – but then he’s visited by Lois Lane who read his blog and disagrees with it so she writes a counter-article in the Daily Planet writing for the need of Superman, which raises Clark’s spirits. But instead it ends back in Smallville where Lana is visiting her parent’s graves when suddenly…
Okay I won’t spoil the ending, even though I’m going to be jumping right to the following issue next. But it’s a good one. I liked this issue, there is not much action, it is primarily focused on characterization, there’s a lot of “talking heads”, but it kept my interest the whole time. We really got some insight into Superman/Clark’s psyche, and differing opinions of about his impact on the human race was well done. Bruce Wayne makes a brief appearance in this issue, too, and it’s written in such a way that it feels natural, he has a reason to be in this issue, it’s not just cheap cameo of Batman squeezed in for publicity. I’d say, based on this single issue, that Greg Pak has a pretty darn good handle on these characters. And like I said, you can read it without having read the major story that happened before it, which is not an easy accomplishment, but Pak pulls it off and without using the easy route of a bunch of flashbacks. But I’m sure that if you did read the Doomed arc, this would have been a fitting closing story for it.The art team of Kolins and Cifuentes also do a fine job here, there isn’t much action to portray but they do get to illustrate several unique locations, outer space, Smallville, Metropolis, and the North Pole, and do it all well.
So far, so good.