Action Comics #49

Under the stewardship of Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder, “Action Comics” has reveled in being the Superman title that presented big, bold, crazy ideas. It makes sense, then, that — following on from last week’s gamble to heal Superman using Kryptonite — Pak, Kuder, Ardian Syaf, Jonathan Glapion, Scott Hanna and Sandra Hope go in a rather different direction than expected.

While the story doesn’t quite veer into the realm strangeness like Red Kryptonite, Pak and Kuder’s route here is unpredictable, as the Kryptonite interacts with Superman’s mutated cells in ways that no one thought it would. Superman’s new powers are familiar yet different at the same time, and Pak and Kuder keep the readers on unfamiliar footing as we see just how his abilities have warped under the Kryptonite radiation.

The part that really works here, though, is how Superman doesn’t stop and bemoan his fate after he discovers the Kryptonite is actually killing the good cells rather than the mutated ones. Instead of taking this as a time to grieve or fret, Superman treats it as a ticking clock and roars off with more drive than ever. The writers of the Superman family of titles have taken advantage of Superman’s reduced powers to bring home the character’s heroism, and this is a good example of that. Similarly, the picked-upon kid who gains powers seems like a great opportunity for a new hero at first, though we ultimately get someone who becomes a villain by seizing the opportunity for vengeance and payback. The lesson of “not everyone with powers would become a hero” is shown here with sobering consequences.

Syaf pencils off of Kuder’s layouts, and the end result is stronger than last week’s “Superman” #48. Kuder’s layouts are easy to follow, and Syaf’s figures are nicely formed. The newly juiced-up Superman comes across as powerful, as does the latest child of Vandal Savage (the latter in a deliberately over-the-top form). Superman and Wonder Woman in particular look great as they fly up into the sky, with Syaf and Kuder providing a good sense of motion.

I’m sad to see Pak (and possibly Kuder, although that hasn’t been confirmed) is off “Action Comics” after #50; the book has been a joy to read ever since his arrival two years ago, and it would have been nice to see them tackle a repowered Superman once “Savage Dawn” wraps up. Even here, though, it’s nice to be reminded what good hands the title’s been in since their arrival.

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