Review – Superman: Action Comics Annual 2022 #1 – Lessons Learned

Comic Books DC This Week
Action Comics Annual 2022 #1 cover, via DC Comics.

Superman: Action Comics Annual 2022 #1 – Phillip Kennedy Johnson/Si Spurrier, Writers; Dale Eaglesham, Ian Churchill, Artists; Lee Loughridge, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Ray: Phillip Kennedy Johnson has been writing one of the best Superman runs in years in the main book, and he doubles down on that with this issue as he delivers a stand-alone issue that might be an all-time classic. It’s divided into two stories, with the first focusing on a young Clark Kent as he deals with a particularly obnoxious bully in elementary school. The boy, Caleb, engages in harassment of other kids, and that tempts Clark to show him up in soccer by using his powers. I’m glad to see Martha get to play a key role here – it’s usually Jonathan who shares the life lessons – but when Caleb strikes back, Clark finds out a shocking secret of his mother’s that’s a major new chapter added to the Smallville years.

At the beginning. Via DC Comics.

At the same time, we learn the origin of the current Mongul. One of many sons of the previous Mongul, he was forced to engage in gladiator matches with his half-brothers for the favor of their mad father – and when he briefly showed mercy, he and his mother were exiled to the wastelands and forced to survive on their own in a world where just about everything is trying to kill them. It’s a great look at the twisted worldview of Warworld, and how kindness and decency can be twisted into a weakness into the wrong hands. And while Martha tried to instill compassion and kindness into Clark, Mongul’s mother did her best to make sure to beat every last bit of them out of him.

While this story is two stories in one, they fit together seamlessly. The reveal that Martha battled breast cancer adds some interesting new layers to Clark’s childhood, and the sequence of events involving Clark’s rivalry with Caleb are brilliantly done. Likewise, the young Mongul’s relationship with his mother is horrifying and reaches a tragic conclusion, with the last line of this segment being a legitimate gut punch. The issue is largely about how one little decision can change the path of a life, and both of these stories take that lesson in opposite directions. This feels destined to go on the short list of great one-issue Superman stories that perfectly sum up what makes the character great.

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

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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