April 1938. That’s when Superman, arguably the world’s greatest superhero, appeared on the map with ‘Action Comics’ #1. Since then, the universe of superhero comics has exploded a thousand fold. Now the end to an era is upon us. With issue #904, ‘Action Comics’ is DC’s longest running series and one of the longest running comic books in the history of the medium. In three weeks, that will all be changed with the first renumbering of the series in its lengthy history. DC Comics’ ‘New 52’ will launch a new ‘Action Comics’ #1 with a newly reimagined universe for their flagship hero.
[Warning: some spoilers below]
This final issue of the original run, like most of the other DC comics out this month, is a farewell of sorts to the universe that fans have come to know. It neatly wraps up the story of the Superman team against the Doomslayer and his small band of Doomsdays. I haven’t been a fan of the Doomslayer story and the finale does nothing to change that opinion. It is an action packed climax with the revelation of how and why the Doomslayer is so intelligent and the ultimate fate of the Eradicator Doomsday. More importantly, it takes the final few pages to show Superman coming to terms with what he really finds essential in his life. As he did in the final issue of ‘Superman’ #714, Superman realizes how important he is both as a symbol to others and a man in his own right.
I found the finale here more poignant since it closes on Clark Kent spending time with his wife, Lois Lane, and having a night out. Over dinner, Lois explains to Clark how she feels about the importance of Superman. She tells Clark that being from Krypton didn’t make him Superman, but rather being raised by Martha and Jonathan Kent made him into the hero that he’s become. That comment has always stood true in my mind but it’s going to be tested next month with Grant Morrison’s version of the Man of Steel in ‘Action Comics’ #1. Morrison’s story begins with Kal-El/Clark coming to grips with his godlike powers without the aid of his adopted Earth parents who have died.
Despite all the action and a story that I wasn’t too invested in, this issue left me feeling rather down. I’ve read Superman for as long as I can remember. I’ve watched him deal with the death of Supergirl during ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’. I’ve watched as the non-comic world stood and mourned when he died and was resurrected during the ‘Death of Superman’ arc. (Yes. I even wore the black armband that was included in ‘Superman’ #75.) And, more importantly, I’ve seen Kal-el mature as a character along with the great family of characters that surround him. Lois Lane, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and the rest of the Superman cast have been one of the best families that an alien superhero could have wished for. The fact that DC has taken the gamble to change all that is amazing but has left me feeling nervous.
I hope my trepidation is put to rest when ‘Action Comics’ #1, which is being billed by DC as the cornerstone to their new universe, is released on September 7th. Stay tuned to ScienceFiction.com for my reviews and thoughts on the new status quo on the new DCU and Superman in particular.
ACTION COMICS #904
Written by PAUL CORNELL
Art and Cover by KENNETH ROCAFORT