Thanks to twice-monthly scheduling, this week DC Comics released the second post Rebirth issue of its oldest title: Action Comics. Issue #958 (thanks to a return to pre-New 52 numbering) from writer Dan Jurgens and artist Patrick Zircher of the series continues the story that began last issue. The end of that issue saw Superman (the pre-New 52 version) having to put aside his differences with Lex Luthor (who currently wields superpowers and Kryptonain armor) to battle Doomsday while someone who looks remarkably like the recently deceased New 52 version of Clark Kent arches from the sidelines.
Action Comics #958 wastes no time in bringing us into the action; kicking off right in the middle of a battle between Superman and Doomsday while the former’s narration sets the scene for anyone who missed the previous issue. As the two brutally brawl across Metroplis, the scene shifts to Superman’s wife Lois Lane and son Jonathan watching it play out on television, with Lois hiding from their son that she’s worried that Doomsday will be able to kill Superman as he was previously able to in their timeline. Back in Metropolis, the man who claims to be Clark Kent observes from afar, denying to Jimmy that he could help in anyway.
As the fight wars on, Superman notices that this version of Doomsday is using strategy much more complex than the version he was used to. In fact, Doomsday nearly prevails before “SuperLex” saves the Man of Steel. From there, Luthor and Superman begin working together. The book concludes with four plot-points hanging over readers that I won’t directly spoil except to say that one involves Luthor’s fate, one involves the Kents’ son’s powers emerging, one involves the New 52 Clark and one the mysterious Mr. Oz who’s been watching everything we’ve seen from afar.
I found Action Comics #958 to be an improvement on the issue the preceded it. It still doesn’t read similar to other Rebirth titles, as it relies heavily on knowledge of recent pre-Rebirth Superman stories, but Jurgens makes this issue much easier to grasp for new readers through Superman’s narration. It’s not bogged down in exposition by any means, but it gives Anouilh information that someone who hasn’t read an issue of Action Comics could pick it up and easily follow what’s going on.
The plot is also helped by the fact that a majority of the comic is a fight between Superman and Doomsday, territory that Jurgens (author of the legendary Superman #75 where Doomsday kills Superman) knows quite well. He expertly scripts the scene to be somewhat reminiscent of that fight, while at the same time introducing new elements. The elevated train sequence specifically read like something that would happen in a modern-day super-hero movie.
Of the “mysteries” that are left hanging at the end of the issue, the one revolving around the man watching everything that’s happening interests me the most. The character, Mr. Oz, has appeared in Superman books for some time but it was his appearance in DC Universe Rebirth #1 led to speculation that he’s actually Watchmen character Ozymandias and that he was a key to the mystery of Rebirth. His appearances in this these two issues of Action Comics have only reinforced that theory as far as I’m concerned and I look forward to seeing where Jurgens goes with the story.
The other mysteries didn’t interest me as much, since we know from solicits that Luthor won’t die and that Jonathan Kent will become Superboy. As far as New 52 Clark goes, I’m not sure what to think yet. I was in favor of the character’s death, as I felt the classic version of the character was more appropriate for the post-Rebirth universe (especially thanks to the big reveal in DC Universe Rebirth #1) and so far Jurgens has given me little reason to change my mind. I am willing to give the plot more time before I pass total judgement on it though.
I enjoyed Zircher’s art in this issue much more than I did last time, where I found it solid but not quite memorable. Perhaps due to the fight heavy-nature of the script the pencils here packed more of a punch, no pun intended. The aforementioned train scene was my favorite art in the book, but really all of it was solid.
Action Comics #958 is an improvement over the previous issue thanks to a more coherent, new reader friendly narrative and stronger artwork. Also, one of the major mysteries set-up in the book definitely has me intrigued and I’ll absolutely come back to see what happens next month.