In interview with Lois Lane, Superman reveals he made a terrible mistake. Killing the monster Doomsday has left him infected, unwell, and toxic. This decision has cost Superman his health, and his trustworthiness.
Action Comics #32 offers:
- An insight into Superman‘s capacity as a symbol of hope and optimism after he decides to step over his values, and kill the monster Doomsday
- artwork that captures isolation, and slowly adds new details to Superman‘s infection across each page, which shows time passing
- Arrogance themes
Symptoms of the Doomsday infection worsen over time: the comic artwork captures time passing by adding more detail across the panels. Light and shade are used carefully in this comic book’s artwork
The comic opens with a great moment for the artwork. Superman’s pained facial expression. A forest burns down to ash. Superman turns pale. Themes of infection play out across the length of the comic: the art depicts Superman‘s worsening symptoms as the comic moves forward in time.
Superman sitting hunched and alone on a mountain top is a striking image. His read cape is blown askew by the wind. All around him is shadows. It’s one of a few, strategic ways light and shadows are used to show off Superman’s downfall through the artwork. The other moment is his meeting with Steel, Dr. John Henry Irons. Sunlight flows into the panel from the top right as the two shake hands.
Doomsday infected Superman moments after the monster died, once and for all. This has dramatic consequence, which affects how other characters trust Superman.
Superman‘s symptoms started moments after he attacked and killed a key villain, Doomsday. Doomsday stands up as a physical wall to Superman’s seemingly limitless strength. Doomsday pushes a dread into Superman’s ordinarily optimistic outlook, which makes the monster a strong psychological wall also.
This comic tells the story of Superman’s attempt to break down that wall with excessive force. Superman admits he made a mistake killing Doomsday. His arrogant action has caused Superman to become the monster he tried to destroy.
Superman is a trustworthy and optimistic symbol, and his downfall has several character consequences:
- Lois Lane publicly declares Superman untrustworthy.
- Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Wonder Woman, and Lana Lang all declare their support for Superman.
- Sam Lang, now Senator Lang, assembles a small carnival of monster to attack the man of steel. He turns the crisis of a toxic Superman into an opportunity to clear away his past mistakes
- Steel has a lengthy exchange with Superman, and lets him know that he has a plan to contain the toxic field.
- Lex Luthor joins in on the Superman support party: He adds his own insights to Steel’s plans. Luthor admits despising Superman. He tries to help regardless.
It’s in these exchanges that Superman’s downfall becomes more clear.
Superman ignores advice, and launches himself into a battle to save John Corben. This raises a question about his capacity to help when he is infected, and brings out a theme of arrogance.
Superman should take his friends advice: seclude himself, and accept their help in containing his toxicity. Instead, he launches himself against Senator Lane’s carnival of monster villains. He’s in no condition to fight. He still tries to save the tortured character Sergeant John Corben. This is arrogance.
The question raised here: where is the line drawn between being helpful, or endangering other people when one is in no condition to help others?
Superman acted arrogantly. Especially when he has claimed in the past to never kill living things. His faulty decision making appears again when he ignores all advice and tries to fight his way back to being a hero. The infection takes hold in the final moments of the issue. The “S” shield Superman wears fractures, and breaks apart. A darker symbol to close the comic.
Action Comics #32 is published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Greg Pak (W.) Scott Kolins (A.) Wil Quintana (C.) Carlos M. Mangual (L.) Cover artwork by Aaron Kuder and Wil Quintana.