Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Mike Perkins
Color Artist: Lee Loughridge
Cover Artist: Steve Beach
Publisher: DC Comics
Superman has returned to Earth – and he brought company. A whole planet’s worth of them from Warworld, and this has people of Earth antsy, to say the least. Not only that, but members of the New Gods are also aware of the two Phaelosian children he brought from Warworld, notably the boy who with an ancient Old God’s power in him. While Superman’s dealing with this, old foes plot in the shadows as Lex Luthor is up to his old tricks again. See where things go in Action Comics #1049.
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So, this story arc has been a weird one for this reviewer. It’s obvious that Phillip Kennedy Johnson is trying to steer things in the story into a particular direction, but some of the pieces aren’t exactly lining up well. The thing about this comic and the story arc is that it’s possible for it to make sense in the next few issues if they’re executed well.
Things start off like they did in previous issues, with a focus on Metallo as he’s holed up in Stryker’s Island Penitentiary. The story arc started with Metallo all but an immobile cyborg who could barely talk, let alone move his body. It was as if he was literally tearing himself apart and the only thing keeping him going was visits from his younger sister. But then Superman came back to Earth, and Lex Luthor wasn’t far behind in visiting his old acquaintance Metallo.
The comic continues to show the progression of Metallo, as readers can see in the preview images, as he has mobility again and is looking better than before. Though that’s not much of an achievement since he was wreak and now Luthor’s got him back to working form again. But when it comes to Lex Luthor, it’s never that simple or straightforward, as Metallo knows full well. The dynamic and back forth between Metallo and Luthor is top knotch work from Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Mike Perkins’ art also helps visually express the emotional aspects of Metallo when he’s dismissive, frustrated or furious considering his face can’t emote but his body can.
The other thing to note in this comic is how Phillip Kennedy Johnson continues to lean more into the supervillain direction with Lex Luthor. This is evident with his entire direction and manipulation of getting Metallo to work for him. As displayed in the preview images, we Luthor manipulate Corben through his sister, maneuvering things off-panel so that he holds her fate in his hands allowing him to control Metallo and get him back into action. We also see this again when he manipulates and exploits Manchester Black for his own uses. The irony is that despite this back-peddling of Luthor’s lengthy character development in the last decade, it was still enjoyable to see this villainous side of Luthor in action again. Especially the way he handles Manchester Black.
Sadly, the weakest part of this comic is the Superman portion. The entire fight between Superman against Orion, Kalibak, and Desaad should be something cool and fun to see unfold but it’s very dull and the reason behind it is one of those very old superhero comic book cliches that creators, despite complaining about them more loudly than fans, keep using. The old misunderstanding cliche, and what’s worse is that the resolution was not only predictable but uninteresting. It felt like Johnson was just indulging in this as either mere setup for another story arc or just because he wanted to do it. Then there’s his resolution with the people of Warworld and its nice, nothing to brag home about.
Action Comics #1049 continues the plot lines with the New Gods and Metallo returning. While you’d think the New Gods story with Superman would be the most interesting, it ends up being underwhelming. The comic does have a resolution with Superman and the people of Warworld that really highlight’s his inspiring nature. Meanwhile, the writing and art for the Metallo portions of the comic are the best and hold the most intrigue for the series going forward.