Greg Pak channels his experience writing about another character with rage issues (from that other company) to bring us the latest chapter in the Doomed story line.
This issue actually slows things down a bit, in the sense that we don’t get others heroes or the military trying to take Superman (or “Superdoom”) down. Rather, this is more of a character study, and while much of that characterization is focused on Superman, we also still get to see some nice moments with Lana Lang, as well as with yet another character dealing with her rage, guest star Supergirl.
In the Superman moments, this issue really explores the concepts of what it means to be the Man of Steel and what kind of person he really is deep down. Over the course of the Doomed story line, we’ve seen Clark struggle to keep the Doomsday virus in check even while slipping little by little into serious fits of uncontrollable rage. This issue is no different on that front, but Superman’s struggle is even more pronounced here as we can see him trying to draw on the core of his self-identity to keep the Doomsday virus from consuming him. These scenes use Supergirl, who in current continuity is dealing with her own anger issues, as a highlight to Superman’s struggle, with her showing faith in her cousin to do the right thing by presenting him with a situation that requires the true nature of Superman to come forward.
These scenes are delivered with some really nice art by Aaron Kuder in his very welcome return to the book. In particular, we get a fantastic looking page with Superdoom flying through space smashing some asteroids, and the entire scene looks incredible. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m really not a fan of the “look” of Doomsday and the cross-pollinated Superman/Doomsday hybrid has never looked particularly cool to me, but Kuder really does a great job here making the character look good. The composition and details of the scene are really well thought out, with little touches like certain parts being blurred out as an indication of the speed with which Superman is punching the asteroids. The whole thing is of course colored very atmospherically by Wil Quintana to really help this page to stand out.
One of Greg Pak’s main contributions to Action Comics has been his characterization of Lana Lang into a pseudo action-heroine with a lot of spunk and outward confidence, and she’s in full form here, teaming up with Steel to fly into space to discover the source of the comas infecting the residents of Smallville. The Lana scenes are pure comics joy to read, and a reminder that one need not possess super powers or high-tech gadgets to be a true hero. Her interactions with Steel provide a sense of fun and humor as a nice counter-balance to the somewhat grim plot line about Superman losing himself to the Doomsday virus.
Kuder’s illustrations for these scenes are great as well, particularly his design of Steel’s spaceship, which has a sort of 1980s quality to it that is somewhat reminiscent of Nite Owl’s Owlship, Archie, from the Watchmen (which in turn was the inspiration for the Bug ship of the Ted Kord version of the Blue Beetle). Steel looks great here as well, still fully encased in a metallic layer that he sealed himself in after his battle with Doomsday a few issues ago. However, Lana’s facial expressions in these scenes just look a little off from normal. There’s nothing particularly wrong with them – if anything, I’d say they’re just a bit more masculine than Kuder’s usual work on the character.
As mentioned before, Greg Pak’s work on the Doomed story line has been one of the highlights of this cross-book event. With this issue, we get to see that Doomed is about more than just smashing things, being mad, and other heroes trying to take down Superman. Instead, with this issue Pak explores what lies at the core of Superman’s personality and how, even when it seems that he just can’t win, he’s going to keep fighting. Combined with Kuder’s fantastic art, this is all-around a good issue individually and a great one within the context of the Doomed story arc.