Fast. Inspiring. Relevant.
Those were the first three words that popped in my head after I finished reading this week’s Action Comics issue 42. I’ve enjoyed the current story arc for DC’s Superman titles, “Truth”, and he’s been the best of the standard tier of heroes post-Convergence. While I’ve often been on the fence about Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder’s work on Action, if mainly for their unconventional approach to the Man of Steel, their issue 41 (which we’ve covered here) was an outstanding read and easily one of the better Superman stories within DC’s New 52 landscape. This week sees the release of issue 42, “Hard Truth Part Two”, and it is the DC Comic you pick up.
Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder have set up a drastically different take on the Clark Kent/Superman mythos. While the outing of Clark Kent happened within Gene Luen Yang’s run (and is unfolding within the pages of the monthly Superman title), Pak and Kuder’s Action takes place in a time shortly after that. The non-linear approach is nowhere near as jumbled as past issues have been (see any number of early Action and Superman titles for that) and is a rather great story. The second part to “Hard Truth” features a neighborhood on the brink of social injustice. Kentville, the renamed neighborhood where Clark Kent lived while being Superman, has rallied behind their hometown hero in the days since the world has turned against him. It’s nearly almost like Jesus returning to Nazareth, in a sense, and the biblical parallels don’t stop there, yet are never forced on anyone not wishing for a religious connection. In the last issue, a Metropolis SWAT team began converging on the neighborhood and it was almost certain that a social volcano was about to erupt. Just imagine, peaceful denizens celebrating, morally bankrupt officials holding positions of power; you just know something bad will happen.
The SWAT team announces that Kentville has minutes to disperse as they are “an unlawful assembly.” Lee Lambert, the African-American character introduced in issue 41 and the first to bear the same L.L. initials since Lana and Lois, becomes the voice for the group. She’s with the fire brigade and we already know she’s one of the strongest characters within the pages of Superman. Arguably, Lee Lambert is everything we wish Lois Lane was in comics now. While she attempts to reason with the power mad officers of law, we see Superman fight off a “thirty-foot long shadow monster” across town. His battle is one of the most excitingly written and powerfully drawn of sequences; it seems just as muscular as the Oil Rig scene from Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. However, Pak and Kuder’s Lee Lambert has grown into one of the most interesting and well written of characters that the battle seems to only serve as a way of taking Clark away from the social battle in his own neighborhood. It drives up tension as we see Lee valiantly plead that “These folks are peaceful! No one’s here to fight!” to an almost pointless degree. This looks like a job for Superman.
Greg Pak has created such an interesting issue and one that should easily become one of the more iconic and classic of issues. If the golden, silver, and bronze age of comic books are only relevant in the sense of what certain comics mean to generations, than Action Comics issue 41 will one day be part of the golden age era of comics generations from now. I would not be shocked if I were to see in the future this issue being lauded as an important statement on our time, our world, and a Superman for all seasons. The Kentville peace rally turned street battle, with all respect to world history and those that have lived it, seems jarringly reminiscent of the peace rallies and marches in the 60’s and 70’s. The SWAT officers turn on the neighborhood, despite them staying calm and not engaging in a violent way, and begin to fire upon the residents with tear gas. Aaron Kuder nails the fear, worry, and desperation on all the Kentville residents faces and Pak’s “God help us” line perfectly accentuates the nightmarish scenario unfolding.
Superman finally arrives, despite being “so damn tired.” He “can barely lift the chains,” he “can’t clap my hands and make it all blow away,” he “can’t fight for them.” Clark Kent, still recovering from his last solar flare which has reduced his powers to that of the early Siegel and Shuster days of Action, calls in his chips. He reminds the world why he’s Superman and reminds the officers of times he’s helped them and asks the main officer in charge not to turn on the peaceful residents. He brings Kentville hope and Kuder delivers a spectacular splash page of good, old-fashioned optimism.
“I’m tired of even hearing words like “Brainiac” and “Zod” and “Doomsday.” That’s what the lead officer, Binghamton, tells Clark. In many ways, he has a point. He goes on to say that he’s essentially tired of those like Superman who bring trouble into the world and “of your word meaning more than ours when we’re the ones who actually bleed for this town.” Binghamton reveals his ultimately sadistic plan to “beat the hell out of” Superman and “roll over every moron” on the street.
The strength of Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder’s Action Comics issue 42 is that it’s a story that deals with a culturally relevant issue and can stand on its own legs despite being a small part of a much larger story. Action 42 could easily be picked up and enjoyed by just about anyone looking for a smartly written story and/or a well-told Superman comic. There is such a brilliant commentary on social injustice, violence, hope, and heroics being made within this issue and I strongly urge everyone heading to their local comic shop to pick up this issue. Also, Lee Lambert is easily growing into one of the more important of characters within the DC You initiative to diversify their titles. She isn’t a stereotype, she’s a fully formed character and one that works for people of any background. I love her and cannot wait to see more of her. As I mentioned before, she’s everything that Lois Lane should be. Kudos to Pak and Kuder on successfully introducing a new character.
Action Comics issue 42 gets five stars and is available now.
ACTION COMICS #42
Written by GREG PAK
Art and cover by AARON KUDER
TEEN TITANS GO! Variant cover by DAN HIPP
On sale JULY 1 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will arrive in stores with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
The Superman epic you never expected – “TRUTH” continues! Who will stand by Clark Kent?