Review – Action Comics #981 (DC Comics)

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Jack Herbert
Colours: Hi-Fi
Inks: Jack Herbert
Letters: Rob Leigh
Release Date: 14th June 2017

With General Zod free and a temporary truce in place between Superman’s greatest foes, things were looking fairly bad for Clark as he stumbled into the black vault and was assaulted by visions of dead loved ones. And, to make matters worse, six of the strongest super villains that have ever lived now pursue the key to ending the life of the Man of Steel while he is utterly helpless to stop them.

Dan Jurgens is really in his element here, giving Clark the beating of his life both physically and mentally.  For the first time in a long time there seems to be some genuine danger here, and it all comes down to the formidable cast that has been assembled. We get to see a little of Clark’s psychosis and fear during the course of this latest issue and it is refreshing to have him put in a position he can’t simply punch his way out of. Often we see writers having to rely on Kryptonite or magic as a way to slow Superman down but this issue something a little different has been deployed and I commend Mr Jurgens for not taking the easy way out this time around.

Jack Herbert is on pencils and inks this month, drawing us up a storm of nightmarish illusions alongside some hard-hitting battles. As much as Superman is super-fast, it’s the connection at the end of his punches that we can practically feel as he crashes into his foes. This issue we see a slightly unsteady Clark all too often ending up on the business end of Zod’s fists and I have to admit I actually kind of enjoyed it. It is not often that we see Superman in any kind of physical pain and yet this issue his movements and facial expressions reveal those very feelings.

Hi-Fi brings us a very traditional colour scheme for this story that feels like a throwback to some of old 90s issues, reminding us that some things never go out of style. Many of the battle sequences take place under a pale moonlit sky which only serves to highlight the Kryptonian eye lasers blasting from one place to another. Explosions and impacts light up the surrounding area to dramatic effect, really adding a weight to the proceedings.

It is extremely hard to fault this issue.  I mean, we have a hero coming up against insurmountable odds, some heavy-hitting combat and, for the first time in a long time, a tangible threat to the DCU’s strongest hero. The issue also very discreetly connects to a story the Suicide Squad ran a little while ago and it was nice to see Jurgens connect the tales as an optional extra rather than forcing the reader to already be ‘clued up’ on that book too.

Though not ideal for a new reader there is enough explanation and some exposition here – thanks to Cyborg Superman – to ensure that most readers will pick up exactly what is going on. A thoroughly compelling read this week which I have no trouble recommending to new and existing readers alike.

Rating: 5/5.

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The writer of this piece was: Dave MacPhail
John Tweets from @ShinKagato

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