“Since I bumped into Clark again, I’ve fought a lot of monsters. But I’ve also started to learn that a monster isn’t always what it appears to be”
–Lana Lang on monsters.
This is one of several strong statements in this book. Superman’s ideals appear here – they sound clear and authentic. Not naive. Superman stories risk the hero appearing weak and sentimental. That’s not what is shown off here. Action Comics #29 offers:
- Strong artwork of Superman in flight
- Good perspective choices in the artwork
- A fantasy story with themes of deeper identity, and conservation.
- Characters handling childhood disappointments.
- Collected into a graphic novel, the comic would make an impressive Superman story.
This post contains character spoilers and a plot summary for Action Comics #29
Superman soars across the ocean, and summons a blizzard with his breath. Perspective is expertly manipulated.
The artwork of tall and distant scenes, where the tiny red and blue figure of Superman flies across the ocean, or lifts a gigantic block of granite through the air, manipulate perspective expertly.
Sky blue energy crackles across the opening pages. The blue and white blizzard Superman summons on his breath transforms the background from green to white. The transition flows. Vibrant colour helps build an environment for the story.
There’s also a key artwork of Superman demolishing military combat drones. Possibly bringing up a link to the film Man of Steel.
Under attack from the Ghost Soldier, Lana Lang and Superman defend misunderstood monsters, and stave off an airstrike.
Superman and Lana Lang rescue a group of primate-like creatures from the underground land of Subterranea. The creatures evolve into monsters under the sun’s rays, however. Before Superman can act, a man named Ghost Soldier destroys them. Superman was going to save all the monsters and humans alike, until the Ghost Soldier attacked.
In an attempt to stop Ghost Soldier, Superman unleashes a blizzard with his freeze breath. He apolgises for the damage he causes: A tropical jungle becomes a frozen field with billowing snow drifts in seconds.
Ghost Soldiers has an edge over Superman. He might have a super-indestructible body, but the man of steel is still made of particles of elements like carbon. Phasing is the power to pass the particles of one object through another.
Through phasing, Ghost Soldier avoids Superman’s ground-breaking punches, and forces a knife into his body, injuring him. Not so invulnerable, apparently.
However difficult the problem appears – with ghost soldiers attacking, and several painful goodbyes – Superman pours all his energy into the defense of life and living creatures. He protects Lana and her team, safeguards his new friend named Baka, and stops an air strike – Ghost Soldier summons back-up from the sky. He’s not working alone.
Themes of Deeper identity are described – a monster is not what it appears to be. Nor is a hero. Conservation themes are introduced. Superman handles childhood disappointments.
Lana comments early in the comic book that what might look like a monster isn’t what it appears to be. This introduces a theme about appearances – the story deals with what’s underneath personas people express in day to day life.
A theme of deeper identity features.
Characters consistently discover depth beneath surfaces in this comic book.
Moments of the story also touch on environment conservation themes: Superman apolgises for freezing part of a rainforest. He saves tracks of it from burning up in an air strike. This is just one example.
It’s in Superman’s farewell to the young Prince Baka that the strongest moments from the story emerge.
An interesting parallel is brought up. Lana knows Superman as Clark Kent from Smallville. They grew up together. She notices that when Superman feels heavy hearted, and hits his lowest point, after witnessing the destruction and wrath around him, his back stiffens just as it would when he was younger. Superman notices that young Baka’s back stiffens in a similar way when he shifts from his giant beast form into his true shape: A young child with cat-like fur, ears, and tail.
Prince Baka has to leave his adventures with Superman and go home disappointed. Superman relieves childhood loss of his own. Lana watches all these events. A witness.
Why associate Superman with disapointment and loss? Particularly childhood loss? Is it because Superman cannot live up to the heavy expectations he places on himself?
Superman has the power to save everyone. He struggles to achieve this goal. It appears to be a clash between ideals and reality.
This Superman comic book is not a cynical tale, however.
He keeps Baka safe. He keeps Lana safe. He stopped an air-strike flattening five miles of rainforest. What’s written and illustrated here is a Superman comic book about reaching for the best outcome.
Popular Culture References:
Phasing abilities feature prominently in this comic. The power to slip through solid objects appears in X-men and Avengers comics: Kitty Pride and The Vision have this ability. Martian Manhunter from the Justice League of America can also phase.
Action Comics #29 is published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Greg Pak (W.) Aaron Kuder and Jed Dougherty (A.) Wil Quintana (C.) Dezi Sienty (L.) Cover artwork by Aaron Kuder and Wil Quintana.