Break from the Bat: Action Comics #1000 review

We’re really, really excited about this one.

Action Comics has reached issue 1000.  That is insane.

DC Comics have been preparing for this for quite a while now, releasing teasers, variant covers, and sneak previews.  We here at Batman News have been just as excited for it, doing a little personal writing of our own to prep for the biggest comic event of the century.

So the time has finally come, as some of the biggest names in comics have joined together for this milestone of an issue.

I’m so glad that I can tell you that it is great.  Front to back, this issue is incredible, without a single bad story to be found.  There isn’t even a mediocre or even a “pretty good” story here, as everyone is writing and drawing at the highest level.  Action Comics #1000 is, simply put, a masterwork from beginning to end.

Elena, Josh, and I have decided to cover each of the 11 stories in turn, spreading out the analysis among the three of us.  There are contributions from the likes of current Action Comics and Superman writers Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, and Patrick Gleason to stories from legends such as Marv Wolfman, Louise Simonson, and Curt Swan, as well as the very first DC story from newly-exclusive Brian Michael Bendis.  Dive in to find out what we think of this landmark issue that is packed with great stories and great talent.

Considering he’s been writing Action Comics for the past two years, it only seems fitting that Dan Jurgens gets to kick off the thousandth issue celebration.  Pulling double-duty on the script and pencils, the longtime Superman scribe delivers a story that celebrates the inspiration Superman provides to everyone he encounters.

And I mean everyone.

It’s a charming story, as everyone is so earnest in their appreciation of the Man of Steel and he’s clearly uncomfortable with the adulation.  He appreciates it, of course, but rather than basking in praise he’d prefer to be out and about saving people and stopping alien invasions and what have you.

There’s one person who can make him stop and listen, though, and that’s Lois (and remember, it’s her 80th too, so this is as much her celebration as it is Clark’s).  Despite Clark’s humble nature, she makes him stay to hear what the people have to say.  The likes of Maggie Sawyer (I love that Jurgens acknowledges that the MSCU is more than capable of handling most criminals, but they’re glad for Superman’s help when it’s needed) and Perry White have speeches prepared, as well as Metropolis’ Mayor Barnes, a fire chief, and a former criminal.  All have crossed paths with Superman, some during better circumstances than others, yet all have come out better people because of him.  It all culminates in the realization that Superman inspires even his fellow heroes, who are more than willing to do the job while Clark has a day to relax.  Wonderfully written, gorgeously illustrated, and all around inspiring, “From the City That Has Everything” is the perfect way to open the issue. –Jay Yaws

This is the second story in this issue, and I can already tell that I’m in for an afternoon of “the feels.” When the immortal Vandal Savage finds a way to stop Superman, he doesn’t hesitate to act. From here, we embark on a journey as Superman visits different moments in physical history and publication history. Each page features a scene that not only reimagines the many ways Superman has pulled through as a hero, but also how he has changed, and more importantly, stayed the same over the past eighty years! In every sense, this story from Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason is a reflection of the gift that Superman has been to us – each of us – for decades… And man do I wish they could’ve taken this concept and turned it into a full story-arc! Gleason’s art is what really makes this story stand out though. There’s so much care and attention to detail, and you can feel the absolute joy he had creating these pages – an emotion that comes through in the narrative itself. If you’re a long-time fan of Superman, then “Never Ending Battle” will hit a number of emotional, yet inspirational, notes… And if I’m being honest, these inspirational beats couldn’t come at a better time! –Josh McDonald

If the previous two stories were about Superman inspiring others, “An Enemy Within” is about how humans inspire him.  It’s a more somber tale than most of the other stories in the book, given that it deals with some heavier themes and situations: while Superman is in Japan assisting with a crisis, a Metropolis school principal has taken his students hostage.  Sawyer and the MSCU are at the scene to try and diffuse the situation, but when it turns out that Brainiac is involved in the matter it may be more than even they can handle.

Legendary writer Marv Wolfman keeps the tension high without letting the story get too dark, and the late Curt Swan’s art is used in tandem with Butch Guice’s inks and Hi-Fi’s colors.  While Superman narrates the story, he doesn’t actually appear until the final page, but it’s well worth it.  Put on full display in a classically Swan composition, that final inspirational shot is one of the best splash pages in the whole book.  Not bad for a guy who thinks he’s more inspired by us than we are by him. –JY

Everything about “The Game” screams “classic Superman”… But then again, what do you expect with two legends like Paul Levitz and Neal Adams crafting this story? If you’ve got a soft spot for light-hearted, slightly hokey stories that seems to run from the 60’s through the 80’s then you love this chapter. This story pits Superman against his greatest foe, Lex Luthor… In a chess match. I think I can say with certainty that we all know who will win this chess match, unless Luthor has anything up his sleeve. Say, for instance, a trap with kryptonite chains? “The Game” is a brief, yet pleasant, story that is family friendly! In other words, don’t be a Superman hog… Share this story with the kiddos! –JM

Geoff Johns and Richard Donner pen as simple a story as they come–and one that will resonate with Superfans everywhere, as it tells the “what happened next” in relation to Action Comics no. 1, when Butch runs dead on into Superman and gets hung on a telephone pole for his troubles. In this tale, Butch manages to free himself, collect his trashed vehicle, and bring it into the garage, where he has a whopper of a tale to tell about the guy in the red underwear. The story plays heavily on our nostalgia, but in a truly genuine way. When Superman shows up shortly after to mete out final “justice” to Butch, he does just what you would hope Superman would do (no, not break Butch’s neck): he offers hope to a life needs it in a world where we could very much stand to have more big blue boy scouts. Oliver Coipel’s soft, 30s-inspired art and Alejandro Sanchez’s muted (almost sepia-infused) palette make this 5-pager a standout even among many other great stories! –Elena Carrillo

It’s no secret that Scott Snyder enjoys exploring the science of things, so it should also come as no surprise that for his contribution to Action Comics #1000, he’d write a story that features Lex Luthor. In fact, I’d go so far to say that this is more of a Lex story than a Superman story! What I love about “The Fifth Season,” is the juxtaposition that Snyder conveys between these two men. There are many things that separate Lex and Clark, but there are also many commonalities between the two. As much as they oppose and detest one another, they can’t help but find common ground. There’s a great moment that flashes back to each of these men’s boyhood, and it only draws the two closer together. This story feels special, and it makes me wish Snyder were including Lex in his Justice League run! Add in Albuquerque’s ability to capture the coy nature of this conversation, and you’ve got a near-perfect story! –JM

Tom King takes us far into the future–to a time when planet Earth has been abandoned as the sun has been consuming it to the point of obliteration. Superman returns one last time to pay his respects to Ma and Pa Kent. It’s a lovely little homage to the rural Kansas upbringing of Clark Kent, and the simple values he learned from the loving pair that adopted him all those years ago. There’s a nice visual bit with a shard of crystal, and some sweet indicators of what Superman’s life is like in the far-flung future, and although this is a goodbye, it’s more sweet than bittersweet. Artist Clay Mann makes the most of a crumbling fiery atmosphere and the contrast of Superman’s strength against it; highlighting for the fragility of physical things, but also the immortality of memory and storytelling. Props to Jordie Bellaire too, for doing a a great deal with so limited an array of fiery colors. –EC

This story is just fun.  Legendary writer Louise Simonson teams with equally legendary illustrator Jerry  Ordway to tell a nice, concise little story that showcases Superman’s determination.  I really appreciated the fact that it starts on a scene with Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and Clark Kent, so there’s some really fun secret identity juggling in here.  With Clark approaching a deadline, Perry is breathing down his neck to get his piece turned in within five minutes or he goes to print without him.

Naturally, Clark overhears some crises going on throughout Metropolis.  Clark Kent needs to finish his work, but right now it’s a job for Superman.

Ordway’s classic style works great in this context (I love Jimmy’s rounded, bulbous nose), showing Superman stopping trains, muggers, and crashing satellites.  It doesn’t pack quite the emotional punch of, say, Tom King’s story, and it doesn’t delve into the psyches and relationships between the characters like Scott Snyder’s.  Instead, it’s just a compact, well-paced adventure, and that’s exactly what it needed to be.

Oh, and Bibbo’s in it.  That guy rules. –JY

Of all the stories contained here, this is the one that stuck out to me the most.  There are other stories that may have moved me more, and still others that just felt more “like Superman,” but “Actionland!” here is a pretty good metaphor for some common misconceptions about the Man of Steel.

Written by the always great Paul Dini, the story seems at first like it’s a journey through a Superman-themed park in the far off future.  Here, visitors can ride on a replica of the spaceship that brought baby Kal-El to Earth as the ride takes them through important events in Superman’s life.  We see him save Metropolis from an endless parade of disasters, team up with the world’s greatest heroes, and fight some of its most notorious villains.  Based on the visual merits of José Luis García-López’s pencils alone, it’s all just stunning to look at.

But then the story went somewhere I wasn’t expecting, and I really appreciated that.

See, one of the common complaints about Superman is that he’s boring.  There isn’t much you can do with him.  He’s indestructible and a “boy scout,” which cause a lack of suspense and make him hokey, respectively.

None of this is true, of course, and this story proves it.  Superman is just as versatile a character as anyone else, especially in the hands of skilled storytellers.  By taking his own story in unique and interesting directions, Paul Dini proves that you can do the same with Superman, even after 80 years and thousands of issues.  All you need is a great creative team and a good story. –JY

I got a major case of the feels with this one! Seriously, I read this story and got goosies, as well as the slightest tinge of tears in my eyes! “Faster Than A Speeding Bullet” sums up exactly what Superman needs to be in this story – faster than a speeding bullet. A man is holding a woman hostage, and Superman is racing to literally beat the bullet before it kills her. If you’re familiar with Meltzer’s writing, then you know he leans heavily on realism, and his scripts carry a certain weight to them without being too dark or gritty. Here, he balances that weight with hope and humor textured in at appropriate places (in this case, an incredible Batman joke). Accompanying Meltzer is the brilliant John Cassaday, who captures the range of emotions of his characters perfectly! “Faster Than A Speeding Bullet” is one of the standouts in a collection of great stories. If you’re looking for comics that inspire you to be better, then look no further. In fact, keep this story readily available because you’ll most likely want to read it again and again! –JM

Brian Michael Bendis brings us Rogol Zaar! And he’s one angry menace to Metropolis, knocking Supes for a loop long enough for others to carry on about his red underwear (seems to be a theme here?). Also we’ve got cameos from Supergirl and Maggie Sawyer, and, perhaps more important: this is the story that’s going to lead in to the next issue of Man of Steel. It’s a great introduction for that series as it ends on a pretty serious cliffhanger, but some might also dislike that, especially since it’s the last story in the book and therefore might leave a bit of a tang in your mouth. Seriously consider reading this one first so that you know what you’re getting into, then go back and just enjoy the others as ramp-up. Jim Lee and Scott Williams are a great team artwise for this piece; Rogol Zaar looks a bit like Etrigan after a bender, so I think they might have done something a little more original design-wise there, but otherwise the city mayhem looks amazing. Superman looks great in spite of taking a beating in this one, but I’ll admit, despite some clunky early dialogue from Bendis, I’m intrigued enough that I might pick up the next book. –EC

BONUS: There are something like a million thousand (because that’s more appropriate) different variant covers from the best artists in the industry.  Here is just a tiny sampling of some of my personal favorites.


[caption id="attachment_58134" align="alignnone" width="1031"] Michael Allred[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_58133" align="alignnone" width="1050"] Steve Rude[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_58135" align="alignnone" width="1566"] Dan Jurgens and Kevin Nowlan[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_58157" align="alignnone" width="800"] Jock[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_58155" align="alignnone" width="536"] Gabriele Dell’Otto[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_58156" align="alignnone" width="810"] Nicola Scott and Annette Kwok[/caption]

Recommended if:

  • You love comics.  Period.
  • You love Superman.
  • Come on, you’re buying this.
  • And the red trunks are back without any sort of explanation whatsoever, and I’m fine with that.

Overall: Action Comics #1000 would be worth buying for its historical merits alone.  As the thousandth shipped issue of one of the longest running comic series of all time, just owning this piece of history would almost be worth the cover price in itself.  The fact that it is filled to the brim with excellent stories and wonderful art just makes it that much better.  Truly, there isn’t a single bad story here, or even any that are “just okay.”  Every story has merit, and even if it’s almost unashamedly celebratory and reverent, it’s all masterfully constructed celebration and reverence.  No joke, Action Comics #1000 will likely go down as one of the best single issues of the year.

SCORE: 10/10