Best Shots Reviews: THE FLASH #20, ACTION COMICS #977

Action Comics #977
Credit: DC Comics

The Best Shots team is back with a double dose of DC Comics from last week's haul. Here's a look at Action Comics #977 from Jovial Justin Partridge to kick things off.

Credit: DC Comics

Action Comics #977
Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Ian Churchill and Hi-Fi
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Action Comics, for a while now, has been the punchy little brother to the more lyrical main Superman title. While the pair recently intersected for the fun and compelling “Superman Reborn” crossover, I had hoped after it was done that the sister title would pick up a bit of the core title’s knack for pathos, taking a more meditative approach to the event’s aftermath.

Thankfully, Dan Jurgens, Ian Churchill, and colorist Hi-Fi have summarily granted my request with Action Comics #977. Providing a strong emotional tether to Clark’s new reality, writer Dan Jurgens takes Superman through a “This is Your Life” walking tour of his origins as he attempts to shake off the cowebs of Mxyzptlyk's magical assault and subsequent continuity reshuffling. Penciler Ian Churchill fills the pages out nicely with more rounded and fleshy looking pencils than we are used to seeing in the title, but its a take that pays out nicely for this story’s more heartfelt tone. Colorist Hi-Fi, using the emotive base of Churchill’s pencils, coats the story with glossy, toned colors that consistently highlight the tones at play throughout this issue. Though it doesn’t exactly live up up to its iconic moniker this month Action Comics #977 is still a solid first outing in Superman’s "New World."

Clark Kent is in a funk, and after battling a pan-dimensional imp for the fate of your family and your very history, who could blame him? This is our starting line thanks to Dan Jurgens, as he introduces us to the first installment of “The New World,” the latest arc for Action Comics. Now that Clark has been restored to his proper place that the Daily Planet and his family now able to move freely around Metropolis, he should be over the moon, right? But he still can’t shake the encounter and turns to the Fortress of Solitude in order to get his bearings.

Jurgens then uses the wondrously-convenient-for-the-plot technology of the Fortress to transplant Superman into recreations of his past in order to make his memories feel real again. As far as plots go, that’s a pretty Superman Thing To Do, but more than that, it allows Jurgens to capture some of the emotion and introspection that the core title has employed over the months. Jurgens does so by literally walking Superman through the harrowing destruction of Krypton and his heartfelt rescue by a kindly Kansas couple. More interesting is that Clark is now experiencing these events through the eyes of a father and Jurgens brings that out in the script in small, subtle ways, much to its benefit. And while all this emotional steak is being served up to the reader’s Jurgens adds the right amount of sizzle in the form of a B-plot starring an unknown entity gathering rogues like Metallo and Blanque for what is sure to be the latest incarnation of the “We Hate Superman” club. Action Comics #977 may not be a blockbuster, but it is another solid entry for the line’s often overlooked offering.

Though the plot downshifts from the usual titular action, artist Ian Churchill and colorist Hi-Fi still make a meal out of #977. Churchill may not get a lot of fight scenes or chase sequences, but he more than makes up for that by delivering detailed and well staged scenes in some of the most important places to Clark; the Daily Planet bullpen, the Fortress, Krypton, and, Smallville. Churchill’s Superman cuts an impressive figure, but is still softened and vulnerable as he witnesses the sacrifice of his parents in a lavish recreation of the crumbling Krypton and the warmth and resolve of his adoptive parents as he makes landfall in the healthy fields of Kansas.

Churchill and Hi-Fi even provide a healthy bit of dread into the swirling tones surrounding this issue. As a being seemingly made of arcane code recruits some of Clark’s deadliest villains, Churchill stages the foes as lurking threats bathed in the intimidating color scheme of their nefarious gimmick. Action Comics #977 may not have a titanic struggle at its center, but Ian Churchill and Hi-Fi stylishly portend one looming in Superman’s future.

With its emotional hook and high production values Action Comics #977 doesn’t shake the planet, but its aim is true when it comes to heartfelt superhero storytelling. Dan Jurgens, Ian Churchill, and Hi-Fi use the momentum from the recent Superman crossover and capitalize on it well, showing that Action is just as equipped for the kind of character-focused storytelling Superman has been enjoying since “Rebirth”. Action Comics isn’t essential reading just yet, but #977 shows that it has the potential to be.

Credit: DC Comics

The Flash #20
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Neil Googe and Ivan Plascencia
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

The majority Joshua Williamson’s “Rebirth” run of The Flash has, to date, been focusing on the fallout of the "Speed Force Storm" and the trials and tribulations of the Rogues. The Flash #20 doesn’t break from this pattern, picking up a thread that is left hanging from the former, but it does give Williamson a chance to spend a little bit more time with one of the supporting players.

Iris West is on the trail of someone who has been exhuming the bodies of victims of Godspeed’s rampage and the Speed Force Storm. Her investigations lead her to S.T.A.R. Labs, where there is naturally a much bigger story at play. While the narrative functions purely as a one-shot within the confines of this issue, the book invariably sets up some key players for a future arc. So while the issue isn’t inconsequential, it’s hard to completely shake the feeling that Williamson is serving up some lighthearted filler as a sidebar to several main events.

This issue of The Flash is particularly Barry-light, with his omnipresent narration replaced entirely by Iris’ investigative voice. This is especially apt given that Barry’s recent revelations to Wally about his identity come with the corresponding truth that regardless of Barry’s good intentions, he has been lying to the woman he is currently dating. It’s a welcome change of perspective, and certainly not without precedent, it manages to merely remind us that Iris is an investigative crime reporter.

While the story is careful to point out that Iris is two steps ahead of the Central City Police Department and the Flash alike, the ultimately resolution to the story does not fold out entirely without the Fastest Man Alive. It’s great to see the retro cover tease, one that hints at Iris’ betrayal, pay-off as a cool action moment for the character, as well as a few seeds of doubt about Barry’s secrets.

Googe and Plascencia’s art doesn’t have to be as "fast" as the rest of the series, given the pace is primarily at a human speed, but their work is nevertheless fluid and dynamic. Strangely enough, it’s the handful of sequences with the Flash that look static in comparison to the rest of the book, including Iris in a Black Hole uniform and wielding a powerful weapon. The rest of the art follows the look-and-feel of a police/investigative procedural, right down to the lighting on the denouement.

The Flash #20 is very much a fill-in issue in many respects, adhering to the formula of following a secondary character for ad adventure where all’s well that (mostly) ends well. Yet with a reveal of new foe on the horizon, even if it disappointingly indicates another speedster villain, Williamson has put some new pieces on the board. However, it is all merely a chance to pause for breath before next issue’s Batman tie-in and what is sure to be the most talked-about crossover of the year in "The Button."

Twitter activity