Review – Action Comics #1,000: The Mega-Milestone Issue

Reading Time: 9 minutes
Action Comics 1,000 variant cover
Dan Jurgens and Kevin Nolan’s variant cover Image via DC Comics

Action Comics #1000 – Dan Jurgens, Writer/Artist; Peter J. Tomasi, Marv Wolfman, Paul Levitz, Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Louise Simonson, Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer, Brian Michael Bendis, Writers; Patrick Gleason, Curt Swan, Neal Adams, Oliver Coipel, Rafael Albuquerque, Clay Mann, Jerry Ordway, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, John Cassaday, Jim Lee, Artists; Norm Rapmund, Butch Guice, Kurt Schaffenberger, Kevin Nowlan, Scott Williams, Inkers; Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, Dave McCaig, Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Laura Martin, Alex Sinclair, Colorists

Ratings:

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: I Wanted Perfection

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

Ray: After a massive press roll-out and the assembly of a truly spectacular creative lineup, it’s finally here – a once-in-a-lifetime anniversary issue, Action Comics #1,000.

Well, technically twice in a lifetime – there’s Detective Comics #1,000 coming in less than a year. However, it’s only fitting that Superman come first, and this issue is overall a fitting tribute to his eighty-year legacy.

Corrina: Superman got here first. He was the trailblazer, it’s only proper we ended up here. However, as I looked over the creative credits, I realized the definitive superhero (literally, he created and defined the genre) has not had all the voices of America behind him. Look how few women and creators of color are in those credits. It’s been eighty years of Superman and we still have a long way to go for “truth, justice, and the American Way” to be for everyone. May the credits eighty years from now reflect a different reality.

Ray: The issue kicks off with a Dan Jurgens lead story written and drawn by the man who’s maybe helmed more issues of Superman than any other, and it’s a perfect salute to the type of Superman comics he’s best at – especially if you remember his classic run. The issue focuses on Superman Day, a holiday in Metropolis where people who have benefited from Superman’s presence attend to tell their story. Featuring civilians, rescue workers, and even criminals who have been saved by Superman, it’s a powerful story that has a great role for Lois and the Justice League as they try to ensure his day goes off perfectly (although Deathstroke in the crowd was…odd). As someone who grew up in the heyday of Jurgens’ run, this is my Superman.

Corrina: It’s a good tribute to Superman, showing what he means to the other heroes. But I hoped for a story that would showcase Superman himself, rather than him being a passive participant. I haven’t been reading Captain America but I picked up Captain America #700 on a whim. Cap’s anniversary tale is one I could give to new readers and say “This is Captain America and why he’s awesome.” While Jurgens tribute is a nice story, it didn’t rise to that level for me. It also reminded me of a classic Gotham tale, in which one of the supers takes over for the night so the Gotham vigilantes can have some rest. However, it did contain Jurgens’ art, which I’ve been sorely missing from Superman stories.

Action Comics 1,000 Steve Rude variant cover
Steve Rude variant cover. Image via DC Comics

Ray: The second story is helmed by Tomasi and Gleason, the regular Superman creative team, and it’s a visual feast. Narrated by Superman as he explains his day to Jon and Lois, it begins with a fight with Vandal Savage that results in him being catapulted back throughout his entire history. That means that the only way for Superman to get back is to relive his entire history. Although Gleason draws this entire story, he changes his style up significantly through the fifteen splash pages as he takes Superman from the Golden Age, to the Silver Age, to battles with iconic modern enemies, to the far, grim future, and back home to his family. It may be a bit of a slight story, feeling more like a gallery than a comic at times, but it is gorgeous to read.

Corrina: This one hit more of my “why Superman is a great hero” need, especially with Gleason’s incredible art and his ability to showcase Superman through the ages.

Action Comics 1,000 Michael Allred variant
Mike Allred variant cover, image via DC Comics

Ray: “An Enemy Within” is a story dug up from the Superman archives, featuring original art by the late, legendary Curt Swan and put together into a story by Marv Wolfman. Superman is actually not a major presence in this story, narrating but not present physically until the last page. Instead, Maggie Sawyer takes the lead as she tries to keep a deranged school principal who has taken hostages – due to Brainiac’s influence. It’s a good spotlight for Captain Sawyer, but otherwise, the dialogue doesn’t make this story stand out and it feels a bit rushed for its five pages. Great to see Swan art again, though.

Corrina: An anniversary issue of this magnitude absolutely demanded some Curt Swan art. While Ray feels Jurgens’ Superman is his, for me, Curt Swan’s Superman is the one I picture when I close my eyes. (You never forget your first Superman artist.) I’m glad to see some Superman supporting characters being used as well. I wondered if DC would spotlight any of many characters who’ve been featured in this title, especially Superman Family members. I’ve preferred perhaps more Lois and definitely more Kara, but I’ll take this one which shows how well Superman works with Metropolis’s Finest.

Action Comics 1000 variant cover Michael Cho
Michael Cho variant cover. Image via DC Comics

Ray: The weakest story in the volume is Paul Levitz and Neal Adams’ “The Game”. It doesn’t have a bad concept on its own – Superman and Luthor meeting yearly to play a game – but it suffers from an almost cartoonishly evil Luthor. He and Superman meet to play a game of chess, and Luthor immediately springs a trap to try to kill him with Kryptonite. That’s basically the whole story. Although Levitz is the writer here, the dialogue feels more like Adams’…unique stylings as of late. The complex Superman/Luthor rivalry gets better treatment later in the issue.

Corrina: A good concept but not as well executed as it could have been.

Action Comics 1,000 Dave Gibbons variant
Dave Gibbons variant cover. Image via DC Comics

Ray: “The Car”, by the Johns/Donner writing team and Oliver Coipel on art, is one of the most clever stories in the issue, taking off from the iconic image of Superman smashing a car with a petty criminal within. The story focuses on Butch, that low-level goon who survived a confrontation with Superman, even if his car didn’t. Superman looks him up, and rather than take him to prison, gives him a reason to turn over a new leaf. The story nicely shows Superman’s compassion for the disadvantaged and has a great golden-age vibe throughout.

Corrina: I’ve been hard on Johns’ writing in many of my reviews but here he does something wonderful and fitting, which is a neat follow-up to the original Superman story in Action Comics. Donner’s art gives it a perfect Golden Age vibe and contributes to the overall tone and feel of the story.

Action Comics 1,000 Joshua Middleton variant
Joshua Middleton variant cover. Image via DC Comics

Ray: Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque of American Vampire fame turn their focus on the rivalry between Superman and Luthor with a story set at the Smallville planetarium. I’ve never been a fan of the take that has Superman and Luthor growing up together, but Snyder makes it work by restoring Luthor’s troubled, poverty-filled childhood and showing how he found an escape in the Planetarium – which was also where his start of darkness began. As always, Superman has sympathy for the devil, and Snyder’s dialogue is note-perfect.

Corrina: Lex absolutely needed a good story in this issue, as he’s been so important to the Superman mythos, and this one is certainly it.

Action Comics 1,000 variant cover by Lee Bermejo
Lee Bermejo variant cover. Image via DC Comics

Ray: The most talked-about story in this volume is Tom King and Clay Mann’s “Of Tomorrow”, a one-man showpiece set in the deep future as Superman visits a ruined Earth in its final death throes, billions of years in the future, to say goodbye to both his adopted planet and his adopted parents. With stunning art and powerful dialogue, it also gives us a fascinating glimpse of an alternate world I’d love to see more of. A world where immortality has been achieved, and Lois and Jon have joined Superman as immortals? Sounds amazing, but it’s probably best it stays as this one simple, perfect story.

Corrina: Absolutely, this should stay as its own unique story, rather than become a jumping off point for longer tales. It reminded me of Kurt Busiek’s best work on Astro City, a hero reflecting on their life and moving forward. It’s my favorite in this issue.

Ray: By contrast, “Five Minutes”, by the old-school team of Louise Simonson and Jerry Ordway, is a testament to how much talented creators can do with even the simplest concepts. Blending Superman’s heroics with Clark’s reporting in a clever short, Clark is battling to get a story finished before Perry’s deadline, but crises that need Superman’s attention keep getting in the way. With cameos from old-school Superman supporting cast like Bibbo Bibbowski, this story – like the opening one – is a perfect tribute to 90s Superman.

Corrina: So good to see Simonson and Ordway have a tale together and. bonus, it’s set at the Daily Planet! I’ve much missed Simonson’s presence among Superman creators. I should note that she’s the only female writer to have a long-term run on Superman, though Gail Simone had a short run in the early part of the century.

Action Comics 1,000 Jim Steranko variant
Jim Steranko variant cover. Image via DC Comics

Ray: “Actionland,” by Paul Dini and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, is the most surreal tale of the issue, taking place at a fictional Superman-themed amusement part that takes guests on one ride after another, introducing them to Superman’s life story from his escape from Krypton onward. It follows his adventures, before eventually showing his end in battle against…the creator of the park, Mr. Mxyzptlk. The entire thing is Mxy’s strange tribute to his archnemesis and best friend, but he can’t seem to finish it. Dini always had the best handle on Mxy, and it’s great to see the imp one more time through his eyes.

Corrina: Didn’t expect to see Mxyzptlk this issue but, hey, this works, especially since the reader is presented with a skewed view of our Man of Steel by his most powerful foe. (He alters reality by magic, people!)

Ray: Brad Meltzer and John Cassaday have probably the quickest read in the issue, a story titled “Faster than a Speeding Bullet”. It chronicles a tense hostage situation with a violent habitual criminal and an innocent woman, with Superman being just a fraction of a second behind where he needs to be. However, the intervention of the people on the ground can make all the difference. This is really a story about super-speed more than anything, which makes it almost feel like a Flash story, but it’s amazing how much tension can be wrung out of a few seconds.

Corrina: Cassaday’s art is amazing, especially his close-ups on the bullet and the hostage situation, and the intercutting of panels is effective. I would love to see more of Cassaday’s Superman someday.

Ray: And then we come to the final story, and probably the most anticipated – Brian Michael Bendis’ debut on the character with Jim Lee, in “The Truth”. This almost feels like a commercial more than anything, with Bendis plunking us down right in the middle of the events of Man of Steel, as Superman and Supergirl go up against the evil Rogol Zaar, an alien conqueror with a blood grudge against Kryptonians who claims to have had a hand in Krypton’s destruction. With the fast pace and action-packed story, it’s hard to get a full feel for Bendis’ Superman, but there’s some good dialogue touches that hint at his take on Superman and Metropolis. I’m on board for the new direction, and I think all in all this epic tribute issue to DC’s most iconic hero came off incredibly well. Let’s see how they top this for the Dark Knight Detective.

Corrina: This definitely felt like a commercial for Bendis’s upcoming run and I’m sure it was meant to wet the appetite for what’s going to happen next. I remain…cautious…about it. There’s nothing terrible and the action sequences are terrific, though I’m not thrilled we have yet another evil Kryptonian as a villain, but there’s nothing that made me sit up and think “I cannot wait for this.”

Overall, I suppose my idea of the anniversary issue differed from what DC intended, which is not their fault. I wanted more of the supporting cast, as the Superman Family is such an integral part of his mythos. There was little of Smallville in here, either. But, mostly, the issue suffered from not having a definitive Superman story as part of it. The King/Mann and Johns/Donner stories were lovely but they’re a slice of life, not a full story, more like dessert than a main course.

I know, that’s a tall order, expecting a brilliant, definitive story that will become an instant classic, but, hey, this was Action Comics #1,000 after all.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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