In Review: Action Comics #23.1
The cover: This is a snazzy image of the Cyborg Superman screaming at the reader, as the Man of Steel cannot break from his bonds. The details in the Cyborg’s hand are awesome. I also like the green computer board background; a simple idea rendered perfectly. Nicely done by Aaron Kuder with Daniel Brown. Overall grade: A
The story: I haven’t read any of this New 52′s villain’s appearances. I was a fan of the original character, so I decided to check this out. This was a definite home run of a story. “Born in Flames” by Michael Alan Nelson traces the fall of Zor-El and the rise of the Cyborg expertly, going between past and present to weave a wonderfully tragic tale. One survivor clings to life after the destruction of Krypton. The delirious man raves, “…help is coming…help is coming…Brainiac will come…” Oh, Zor-El, you should be careful what you wish for. For a secondary character, Nelson makes this Kryptonian a fully fleshed out character, who spars with his brother, a rivalry that effects his marriage and the raising of his daughter. In the present, the Cyborg is on a continual search for perfection that is equal to his own, much like Nomad in the original Star Trek’s “The Changeling.” It was great to watch this illogical machine look for perfection. The final words of this amalgamation of a character shows that the man may not be too separated from the machine. Wonderful! Overall grade: A+
The art: Very impressive work by artist Mike Hawthorne, who employs two distinct styles for each part of this story. On Krypton, before its destruction, Hawthorne uses a thin line in every aspect of the artwork. This makes the characters look streamlined and classical, if you will, emphasizing this time in the planet’s history where perfection rules. This style, especially in close-ups, reminded me of the work of Kevin O’Neill, an artist whose works I relish. In the present, after the fall, the Cyborg and those he encounters take in a fleshy, more life-like appearance. Those characters are alive, whereas Krypton seems stagnate in its golden age. As the Cyborg slowly escalates his investigation of a planet’s inhabitants, the violence grows in scope, and the art grows in details due to all the debris. But Hawthorne doesn’t lose his hold on the reality of the characters. This was an outstanding work and I’d follow this artist to any book he’s on. Overall grade: A+
The colors: Also exceptional is Daniel Brown’s contributions to this book. I love the inhuman green given to Brainiac’s dialogue balloons. A fantastic way to set him apart from other characters. As with the art, two distinct color schemes are in play with each story. Krypton’s past is a range of many colors, yet dulled, reinforcing this world is dying. In the present the palate was vibrant, expressing its life and energy in the now, even if it is under terrible circumstances. My favorite page was 13 because it’s the only time Krypton is bright–Kara appears, and she is to be the light of Argo in the future. Overall grade: A+
The letters: Carlos M. Mangual completes the perfection of this issue. Brainiac’s wonderfully warped dialogue, italicized words in the dialogue to allow me to better “hear” characters’ emphasis, scene setting, and some terrific sound effects when the Cyborg’s search goes into overdrive. Overall grade: A+
The final line: This is the book all other Villains Take Over titles must equal. Exceptional in every way, making one wish this take over would last forever. Highest possible recommendation! Overall grade: A+
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years. He’s since moved to a high school where he’s taught 9th grade and currently teaches 10th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.