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The Trinity, Lois Lane, and Superflare converge on Salinas, California and create a present crisis for the pre-Flashpoint Superman! Plus, young Jon Kent shares his secrets for making delicious pancakes–for dinner! All of this, and a little bit more, awaits you in Action Comics #52!

It’s starting again.

Last week’s Batman/Superman #32 saw Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman track Superflare (if you don’t know who that is yet, have a look at my review from last week–or read this arc from the beginning, starting with last month’s Superman #51) to China, scuffle (yes, I’m still scuffling) with The Great Ten, confront Dr. Omen, and kickstart Gene Yang’s next book. This week, the Trinity continue on the trail of Clark’s bizarre energy-phantom, culminating in a confrontation on the farm of one Clark White, who bears an awfully strong resemblance to someone we’ve seen before

Identity Crisis on Infinite Earths

“The Final Days of Superman” began as a touching look at Superman facing his impending death. Maybe if it had stayed that way, I would be criticizing it as an unnecessary reimagining of All-Star Superman, but I think Tomasi’s promising start could have blossomed into its own relevance if handled correctly. As anyone who’s been keeping up with this arc knows, it’s taken a bit of a different shape. I’m a little more at peace with the change this week, after being jarred by the previous installment, but I also feel like we’re still getting mixed messages: Tomasi seems to be unwilling to let go of the (apparent) original premise, even as he launches us further into an action-packed (and fairly well-executed) setup for the soon-to-be-realized Rebirth status-quo.

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So I guess my biggest complaint this time around is that the story is a bit confused: it has the tender moments between Clark and his friends that have been the standard of the arc thus far, but they are compartmentalized, ceding prominence to the conflict. I get that the conflict had to come to the fore at some point; but Superflare (and perhaps pre-Flashpoint Clark–we’ll see) is not just in the spotlight for a season–he increasingly seems like what this whole thing is actually about.

A bright idea

When I set my confusion aside, there’s actually a pretty exciting story. We’re gradually learning more about Superflare each issue, but there’s also plenty we don’t know. How did he come to be? Was he created by someone else using Clark’s energy (Dr. Omen’s initial appearance last month suggests this is a possibility), or did the expenditure of energy in his use of the solar flare power somehow create this unstable copy by fusing with a normal human? None of these questions are answered by the end of Action Comics #52, but we do get a better look at his personality–some elements he holds in common with the real deal and others on which he diverges. All-in-all, he’s an interesting character. Tomasi slips momentarily, making Superflare drop an overt reference to the multiple personalities that we saw early in the arc, but other than that, I think the fleshing out (is that even possible for an energy-being?) of this mysterious threat comes off quite well.

Pre-Flashpoint Clark has a really strong showing, too. I haven’t been reading Superman: Lois and Clark, so I don’t have any recent point of reference, but even in a fairly short space, Tomasi establishes this Clark as a strong character. Knowing who he is–and what he’ll be doing once Rebirth hits next month–certainly helps build excitement, but I think it’s the little things, like making dinner with his son or running from the conflict to get Lois and Jon out of danger, that make his short appearance here a success.  Of course, amazing spreads like this one by Dale Eaglesham don’t hurt, either:

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Not in love with the “you dare threaten the sanctity of my home” line, though…

Sometimes awesome, sometimes something else

That’s probably what I would consider the best of the artwork in the book. The rest of it isn’t bad, but both Eaton and Eaglesham (the credits list Eaglesham first, but I’m fairly certain his first appearance is a few pages in, when Superflare talks with Lois) are fairly inconsistent in facial work, and it is at times distracting. Tomeu Morey’s colors, on the other hand, are excellent throughout. I’m particularly impressed by his ability to keep Superflare interesting–I could easily see his panels looking too much the same, but Morey takes advantage of the layouts and creates some nice contrast that keeps things looking fresh.

A few random notes:

  • The first few pages are a bit reminiscent of last week’s Batman/Superman #32, and that struck me as a bit odd. I also feel like the whole Superfriends bit last week was a lot more charming than this week’s episode of Clark and Diana Fly and Hold Hands. There’s also some out-of-place dialogue about saying goodbye to folks, when the mission at hand is tracking down and stopping Superflare.
  • Eaglesham has this awesome set of panels (below). I love the storytelling here–no need for Rob Leigh to overlay a verbal indication of a heartbeat.
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  • I’m as excited about Rebirth as the next guy, but there were several two-page ads for it in this book that I found very disruptive. It’s one thing if Twix is offering you a ridiculous amount of money to put Nick Lachey on the chin of your pages, but this one seems like they could have said no.
  • We return to twenty story pages this week, after a brief increase to twenty-two. I’m hoping twenty isn’t the new standard once Rebirth starts. That will make $2.99 line-wide price seem like a bit less of a deal.
  • I preordered the Ben Oliver variant from my local shop, and it was worth it. To all of the commenters with whom I recently discussed John Romita, Jr., you guys were completely right, and the standard cover for Action Comics #52 is proof. The one I bought is much better (and probably the only “New 52 #1” tribute covers that I actually like):
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Recommended if…

  • You want to see what happens next. I think I said this last week. And the week before. And the week before. And the week before.
  • You want to learn more about Superflare, but in a small dose that doesn’t lay him bare and make him uninteresting.
  • You want to see pre-Flashpoint Superman meet post-Flashpoint Superman, or you want to see pre-Flashpoint Superman and post-Flashpoint Superman meet Superflare Prime in a California farming community.

Overall

I’m not as in-love with “Final Days” as I was initially, but I don’t dislike it, either. Tomasi’s characterizations of the Clarks and Bruce are still excellent, even if I don’t get as much of it all as I want. Eaton and Eaglesham may have some consistency issues, but there wasn’t much time to dwell on that during my initial read, as their layouts and storytelling capabilities do a fine job of conveying the tension and action that Tomasi is aiming for. In the end, I suspect this arc will turn out to be a two-month springboard into Rebirth, but if so, it’s been an enjoyable one. It may not be quite what was initially solicited, or even what it seemed to be in its early chapters, but this arc is a fun, exciting experience thus far, and Action Comics #52 is a capable installment.

SCORE: 7/10