Action Comics #1053 is a cybernetic horror show as Metallo launches a fierce counterattack on Superman and his Super family.
Steve Beach’s cover sets the tone perfectly and gives off 70’s horror movie poster energy. It’s no coincidence that the cyborg people look like zombies with their glowing eyes and torn flesh revealing their bones – in this case servos. Beach also has a really defined way of handling Superman’s face and his costume and colors always seem to pop, especially here. The red sun-like overtone indicates an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness. Beach’s covers are always a joy to look at with their near photo realism.
Nathan Szerdy gives us a stunning Powergirl variant in every sense of the word. It would be no surprise if Szerdy used a Loreal model as a reference because not only does he illustrate the likeness but also all the fine cosmetic detail like the lashes, eyes, and brows. Photorealism combines with a laminated pop art texture for one of the most defined and unique illustrations of Powergirl we’ve had in recent years.
Eleonora Carlini celebrates International Women’s Day with a variant paying tribute to the greatest woman of the Superman family to ever live, Ma Kent. She gets her own suit the rest of the family has been wearing since Action Comics’ revamp. Everything is to love about this variant – how stylized, wholesome, and just plain cute it is. The inclusion of characters like Natalie and Kenan, who aren’t related to Superman and his family by blood is a great touch that shows just how super of a mother Martha Kent has been. The background horizon color combination is also really unique. Artists seldom use purple in the skies.
Lee Weeks’ variant keeps in the theme of horror with a reference to the Lois and Clark story in the issue from Dan Jurgens and himself. It also kind of looks like it could be a scary movie poster with young Jon and Krypto in the foreground surrounded by literal pitch black. The only thing that can be seen other than them is the maw and eye of the new villain Doombreaker, coming right out of the Death of Superman Anniversary Special pages. Weeks had brought us some pretty significant Superman covers from the Rebirth era. This one, even after so long, still fits in the collection.
Action Comics #1053 throws the reader right into it as Metallo goes on offence and his newly created squad, or family, of cyborgs made from criminal underlings. His first target – Henry Irons, but Superman and the rest of the new Super Family are there on the scene ready to help Steel. It’s a firefight with green and red lasers flying in every which direction and the threat to the Super Family is REAL.
Metallo is anything but precise and surgical when it comes to how he turned these people into machines. Metal parts are just crudely added while actual limbs are left clumsily removed. Action Comics can only get so gory, but you can get away with anything with robot parts. Still, they’re all just as powerful as Metallo on his own with their Kryptonite power sources. The worst part is that he can keep making them. John Corben continues to be the right choice as the villain that would reinvigorate the Action Comics line. The Super Family also continues to be a great dynamic with Connor rushing to save Kara who he sees as his real cousin and Kenan learning that everyone gets saved when you’re a member of the family.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson, with letters by Dave Sharpe, gets gritty in this issue to complement the visuals and tone by giving the rogues all the golden lines and time in the panels. Even when he’s behind bars Luthor still feels powerful and still taunts Superman like he knows something he doesn’t. Metallo, as always, is suffering in his own way and we are clued in more on that as well. Towards the end, Jon Kent plays older brother to the Osul in a way that just screams he’s his father’s son, just as the family begins to face another situation.
Rafa Sandoval just had to have watched movies like Terminator for aesthetic inspiration on this issue and combined it with a small hint of zombies. Human skulls and sunken faces with no noses always make things more death-like and spooky because they come from a place of biological reality. Superman and the superfamily leaping into action together has yet to get old. The opening panels with Steel also feel cinematic or like a moment out of Superman & Lois. Colors are done by Matt Herms and it may be just me, but the orange prison outfit seems to go with Luthor as much as his green and purple battle armor. The explosions here also look like they were painted directly on the page with their textures.
The Lois and Clark story featuring the return of Doombreaker and young Jon Kent going on an adventure above the planet by Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks with colors and letters by Elizabeth Breitweiser and Rob Leigh respectively continues.
Power Girl also continues her revival towards the upcoming special issue in Leah Williams and Marguerite Sauvage’s story with letters by Becca Carey. Both of these stories feel as if they are in their penultimate entries.
Action Comics #1053 reminds us why we keep coming back for more Superman vs. Metallo and tries to spook us while doing so. The villains really shine here as Clark and his family slowly find themselves being pushed up against a wall. The trials of the Super Family will only grow from here.
Star Rating: ★★★★☆/★★★★★