Best Shots Review: ACTION COMICS #1000 'Feel-Good Jam-Band' Collection (8/10)

Action Comics #1000
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: Jim Lee (DC Comics)

Action Comics #1000
Written by Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, Marv Wolfman, Paul Levitz, Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Louise Simonson, Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer and Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Dan Jurgens, Pat Gleason, Curt Swan, Neal Adams, Olivier Coipel, Rafael Albuquerque, Clay Mann, Jerry Ordway, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, John Cassaday, Jim Lee, Norm Rapmund, Butch Guice, Kurt Schaffenberger, Kevin Nowlan, Scott Williams, Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, Dave McCaig, Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Laura Martin and Alex Sinclair
Lettering by Rob Leigh, Nick Napolitano, Dave Sharpe, John Workman, Carlos M. Mangual, Josh Reed, Chris Eliopoulos and Cory Petit
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Credit: DC Entertainment

Eighty years. Forty-two creators. Eleven celebratory stories.

Happy 1,000th issue, Action Comics - because DC Comics is certainly pulling out the stops to celebrate eight decades of the Man of Steel. Bringing together nearly a dozen teams of A-list creators from Superman's classic and modern eras, Action Comics #1000 is a feel-good jam-band anthology with so many different flavors that readers will be hard-pressed not to find something they'll enjoy.

Credit: DC Entertainment

For many people, this review won't sway them one way or the other to pick up Action #1,000 - as the first American comic legitimately to hit quadruple digits, this is an honest-to-goodness event, and it's difficult not to get swept up in this oversized book's celebratory vibes. In particular, the book's first two stories seem to encapsulate that spirit the most - perennial Superman writer/artist Dan Jurgens teams up with inker Norm Rapmund to tell a story of Metropolis giving thanks to their resident superhero, while Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason take a more metatextual route by putting Superman through his every era and iteration thanks to Vandal Savage weaponizing Hypertime itself. Pound for pound, Tomasi and Gleason's story might be the best of the bunch, giving Gleason full splash pages to strut his stuff, while Tomasi gives nods to the more down-to-earth stories of the 1930s, all the way to classic stories like Dark Knight Returns and Kingdom Come.

Yet Action Comics #1000 also brings surprises to the table, particularly Marv Wolfman rehabbing an unpublished story with art by the legendary Curt Swan, recontextualizing four lost art pages into a story about Maggie Sawyer and the Metropolis Police Department. While Wolfman's story doesn't quite click with its Brainiac-focused conceit, another surprise comes in the form of Louise Simonson and Jerry Ordway's story of Clark Kent juggling Daily Planet deadlines while juggling last-minute saves as the Man of Steel. In particular, colorist Dave McCaig deserves a shoutout for bringing new vigor to Ordway's style, with some choice rendering bringing Ordway's style somewhere in the vein of Patrick Zircher. (McCaig also does sterling work on a story by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, a quieter story about Superman and Lex Luthor's shared past in Smallville that taps into some Silver Age nuttiness to deliver a surprisingly human story.)

Credit: Clay Mann/Jordie Bellaire/John Workman (DC Comics)

But those who are looking for a more modern take on Superman's exploits will also find a lot to love here. Geoff Johns teams up with his mentor, Superman: The Motion Picture director Richard Donner, and superstar artist Olivier Coipel for one of the most breathtaking-looking stories in the entire book, as we see exactly what happened to that ill-fated jalopy that Superman slammed into a rock all the way back in Action Comics #1. Meanwhile, Brad Meltzer makes great use of John Cassaday's blockbuster style in another story that tests the limits of Superman's physics-breaking skills.

And while Tom King winds up being one of the only writers in the book to not have tackled Superman in his own title, he and Clay Mann deliver readers a truly showstopping short story featuring Superman's last words at the end of the world. Besides King, some of these stories suffer from an abruptness in their endings, but more often than not, the concepts are solid enough - and come at a rapid enough pace - that it's easy to forgive a shaky landing. That said, there are a few writers whose absences feel conspicuous - particularly a lack of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, considering their work on All-Star Superman is seen by many as the definitive Superman story.

Credit: Jerry Ordway (DC Comics)

Of course, the question on everyone's mind is likely what will be in the Man of Steel's future, as we get our first taste of Brian Michael Bendis at DC Comics. Teaming up with Jim Lee, Bendis certainly starts his tenure off with a bang, as we watch Superman get his cape handed to him by an alien with an axe to grind against Kryptonians - to Bendis's credit, he focuses a lot on the action here, giving Lee a chance to really flex his muscles, but those expecting any real change in Bendis's voice as he steers this new franchise is deluding themselves. There is one new wrinkle that Bendis introduces towards the end of his story that feels a little off - readers of J. Michael Straczynski's Earth One series will know what I'm talking about - and while the cliffhanger of the story can't help but feel a little cheap, you can only hope that Bendis brings this tighter, more focused writing to his new company.

In a lot of ways, Action Comics #1000 feels like a bulletproof comic book, one whose strengths outweigh its flaws, and one whose structure seems impervious to diminished momentum. Due to the anthology nature of its short stories, the art on this book ultimately provides most of Action Comics #1000's heavy lifting, and in that regard, there really are no runts of this particular litter - and even while some of the writers buckle a bit under a reduced page count, this is the rare comic book that you're not here for the ending. This is less of a story and more of a celebration of Superman through the eyes of some of comics' most prolific writers and artists, and DC is banking - correctly - that fans will want to celebrate alongside them. It's hard not to get caught up in that infectious spirit with Action Comics #1,000, a book designed to pay tribute for the original DC superhero.

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