Review – Superman: Action Comics #1038 – The Rise of a Rebel

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Superman: Action Comics #1038 variant cover, via DC Comics

Superman: Action Comics #1038 – Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Shawn Aldridge, Writers; Miguel Mendonca, Adriana Melo, Artists; Adriano Lucas, Hi-Fi, Colorists

Ray – 9.5/10

Ray: How far can you push Superman? That seems to be at the core of this epic story by Phillip Kennedy Johnson. As the iconic hero heads into Warworld with the backup of his new Authority team, he quickly finds himself outmanned and outgunned with his powers failing. Last issue saw an incredibly brutal beatdown of the team as most of them were beaten and captured, one member was killed, and Superman himself was brutalized and humiliated in front of the millions of slaves he sought to save. With his life in Mongul’s hands, he’s given a horrible choice—surrender and serve Mongul to spare the lives of his team, or let them all take their fate in Warworld as it comes. And as usual, Superman never says quit.

The defeated. Via DC Comics.

That’s the interesting part about the Warworld Saga. Superman is unambiguously the hero here—but he may not necessarily be right. He’s sacrificing not just himself but his team for people who don’t even know them, and at least one member of his team seems to think he’s insane. But when we see him talk to the enslaved in the cell they now share, it’s impossible not to be inspired by him. In some ways, this actually feels more like a Black Label book—from the isolated nature of the story, to the older Superman, to the sheer level of brutal violence that gets dealt out. But it never feels gratuitous—it feels like the opening act to a story that might just define Superman for this current era, if he’s lucky enough to escape it alive.

I wasn’t sure about the Martian Manhunter story by Aldridge and Melo last issue, but it finds its footing this issue. J’onn goes up against a new version of the Human Flame who isn’t what he appears to be, and that pulls him deeper into the conspiracy involving a missing girl and a strange cult. The fight scenes are fun, but the story is never better than when J’onn is talking to a haunted father about his missing daughter. It doesn’t have the ambition of the past J’onn solo story, but it’s a great old-school take on the shape-shifting detective.

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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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