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Action Comics #50 Review: A (Literal) Mixed Bag

Action Comics #50 has many objectives to fulfill, both promotional and creative. It’s the final issue of writer Greg Pak and artist Aaron Kuder’s acclaimed two-year run on the title that saw Superman lose his powers, have his secret identity revealed as Clark Kent revealed to the world and tackle social issues, while at the same time being the seventh issue in the nine-part, three title spanning Savage Dawn storyline. On top of that, it’s being released two weeks before the heavily anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice film, and features a polybagged variant cover edition toed into that film.

The issue begins with Superman, powering himself with Kryptonite that’s also slowly killing him, attempting to rescue the captive Justice League from immortal villain Vandal Savage. As Savage’s forces overwhelm him, the Man of Steel begins doubting himself. However the arrival of Wonder Woman, Batman and Mr. Terrific, combined with the ground efforts of his allies Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, convince him to fight on.

Superman is able to free the League and momentarily defeat Savage, but seemingly gives his life doing so. As his body falls toward the Fortress of Solitude (which the villain had earlier stolen) it’s enveloped in light, and the Kryptonian technology within restores his powers to their full levels. Their return is just in the nick of time, as the issue’s end sets up the next massive threat the heroes will have to deal with during the crossover.

Pak and Kuder’s run on Action Comics has been a highlight of DC Comics’ line since 2013, and unfortunately this issue isn’t the climax it deserves. While Pak does his best to focus on everything the team has done on the title by using a Vandal Savage monologue to tie it all together, it’s all overshadowed by the fact that this issue is a middle chapter in a large crossover. For example, the moment where Superman regains his powers should be the ultimate dramatic climax to this run, however, it’s very quickly tossed aside to build up the threat for the next two chapters of Savage Dawn. On the same token, secondary characters like Lois and Jimmy, who’ve been integral to the book over the past two years, are present for glorified cameos.

Ruder does layouts for the whole story, however, the actual pencilling duties are split between himself and four other pencillers which leads to the book being somewhat disjointed artistically. The two page spread of Superman regaining his powers is a highlight though.

Action Comics #50 isn’t a terrible comic book by any means. It works well enough as a part of the larger Savage Dawn storyline. However, as the ending to one of the most celebrated Superman runs in recent memory, it definitely feels like a missed opportunity.

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