Action Comics #1051 is here and is a great jump on point for what’s to come with this new era of The Superman Family. Action returns to a more anthology stylised format with this issue giving us three stories by three different creative teams.
Several noteworthy things happen this issue: new suit designs for everyone excluding Clark and Conner Kent, Keenan Kong has a more interactive role within the El family, a return to the time of young Jon Kent, Power Girl donning the El crest as part of her new look, and the first all female creative team telling a story in Action Comics. The cover art is just as noteworthy so let’s take a look at those first.
Dan Mora’s standard cover has the new suit designs for The House of El front and center. It’s a great assemble shot and Mora clearly captures each of their personalities. This is definitely an exciting new beginning for the Superman franchise and this cover acts as a hopeful welcome for what’s in store.
Steve Beach showcases the reflective nature of Metallo’s skull on his variant. Superman is seen mirrored on Metallo’s forehead as the Terminator-esque visage glares in anticipation. The expert use of color, lighting, and shading give such a realistic feel to the image, you almost expect to see your own reflection when looking at it. Which could be why this cover also gets a foil variant as well.
The variant be Jorge Fornes is a different take on Metallo. Partially disassembled and hooked up to wires akin to when we’re first reintroduced to him a few issues ago. The pixelated sections add a classic, retro comic feel to the piece while still delivering a haunting and lonely mood to one of Superman’s deadlier villains.
Jack Herbert and Alex Guimaraes do an amazing variant of Superman saving people from some sort of fiery falling debris. Their use of blurred lines from the explosions give an interesting sense of motion. Coupled with the stillness of the Christopher Reeve stylised Superman, a slow-motion nature takes ahold of the cover. It’s truly impressive to take a completely still image and give it such an affect. Their tribute to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster on one of the buildings is also a nice detail.
Sergio Davila, Jordi Tarragona, and Luis Guerrero’s variant brings Power Girl into the spotlight. A fun depiction of PG trying to hitch a ride after battling some demonic looking brutes. Having a battle torn outfit, wearing sunglasses, and leaning on the unconscious pile of baddies, Karen exudes a cool, unphased demeanor with her “Anywhere But Here” sign. The metaphoric scene of vanquishing your demons and being ready for wherever the road may lead fits perfectly with Power Girl’s story in this issue.
The House of El gets the movie poster treatment with the variant by Rafa Sandoval and Matt Herms. It’s another great assemble cover featuring everyone’s new designs and teasing Jon’s new power set as well. Having Osul-Ra pointing at us also gives a welcoming feel to what we’re about to read.
David Nakayama’s variant is an elegant action pose of Power Girl. Using a white background accentuates the primary colors of PG’s traditional outfit for a cover that really pops. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see this particular image made into a collectable statue sometime in the future.
Lee Weeks and Brad Anderson round out the variants with a throwback to young Jon learning to fly on the Kent farm. The imagery is reminiscent of the similar sequence in “Superman Returns” and conveys the same feelings of wonder and amazement. Having the Kent homestead so far in the background alludes to the idea of Jon leaping into a much bigger world as well.
The leading story, entitled “Speeding Bullets” Part 1, is drawn by Rafa Sandoval and colored by Matt Herms. With the entire El family present, these two do an excellent job capturing everyone’s differences. There’s something a bit more lighthearted in their art style that just puts a smile on your face.
Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and lettered by Dave Sharpe, “Speeding Bullets” continues Metallo’s reintroduction from the previous “Kal-El Returns” story arc. His new body has some interesting perks that definitely raises his threat level. A new anti-alien movement called Blue Earth is also introduced that’s most likely in response to having Warworld in orbit for a little while.
Overall this is an introductory tale that lets us breathe in the “new” of things before really getting messy. We’re treated to some great downtime scenes of everyone hanging out in Lois & Clark’s apartment that has the sense of a big family get-together. We also learn the fate of Clark’s gladiator attire in a bit of comedic awkwardness. All of this is a calm before the storm as PKJ wastes little time having Metallo reveal his motives in an explosive way. Metallo has been an underrated villain for some time now and I can’t wait to see how Phillip Kennedy Johnson puts him against the House of El.
The second story’s art is by Lee Weeks and colourist Elizabeth Breitweiser. Taking us from the bright city lights of Metropolis to the small west coast farm in California, the deeper tones of color give off a warm and comfortable feeling. “Home Again” Part 1 is written by Dan Jurgens and lettered by Rob Leigh. Picking up after his Doombreaker tale in the Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Special, Jurgens returns us to a time of a young Jon Kent. The Kents decide to relocate to their farm for a while in order to regroup and relax a bit after the Doombreaker encounter. Things never slow down for long as both the shard that created Doombreaker and the person that became the creature both go missing. If that wasn’t enough, Jon stumbles upon a mysterious new visitor in the middle of the night. It’s fair to say Jurgens is far from done with his flashback tale and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.
Marguerite Sauvage handles both art and colours in the third and final installment of Action #1051. Her technique is unique and striking. There’s a softness to her colors that maintains an attention to detail. The brightness of her pallet even manages to make Omen’s mostly black outfit seem less ominous. By simply changing tones she expertly takes us back and forth between two realities with ease.
Written by Leah Williams and lettered by Becca Carey, “Head Like A Whole” Part 1 picks up directly from Power Girl’s story in Lazarus Planet: Assault on Krypton. Having developed a psychic power from the Lazarus storms, Power Girl is now being trained by Omen in how to use them. Deciding to try and use them to help people navigate mental illness, their first client ends up being Beast Boy. Turns out Gar has been stuck in one beast form since the end of Dark Crisis and Karen’s new powers may be the answer to helping him with his trauma. It’s been a long time since Power Girl’s been more than just a physical powerhouse and it’s refreshing to witness.
Though we’re treated to three different stories in Action Comics #1051, they all seem to have the central theme of family at their core. It really does feel like a whole new direction for the Superman Family takes flight in this issue and here’s hoping it has a lasting effect on all the characters involved.