With the closing out of this latest story arc, Greg Pak proves once again that he just gets Superman. Many writers have a tough time wrapping their head around the nigh-invulnerable character with a suite of god-like powers and they don’t really know what to do with him other than just create a bigger stronger version for Superman to try to punch into oblivion. Others go the exact opposite direction and decide to focus on the superior of intellect of Superman’s foes who use their brain power to defeat the Son of Krypton. Both types of stories have been created, both good and bad, over the decades.
Pak’s and Kuder’s most recent arc in Action Comics dispensed with all that and instead used a creepy, supernatural backdrop to really explore what makes Superman the best of the best and delivers a very satisfying emotional issue that doesn’t rely on Superman strength, flight, heat vision, or even intellectual trickery. This issue is all about hope and what Superman means to his friends, to other heroes, and to the world in general. Pak doesn’t pile it on too thickly and the story is by no means sappy, nor is it manipulative. Superman just acts like we instinctively know that he would act, and yet at the same time it helps us to see something new about the character, and these scenes all combine to affirm the best qualities of Superman.
Aaron Kuder’s has been the perfect match for Pak’s stories in Action and their creative team is one of the finest in comics. During their partnership on Action so far, Kuder has excelled at action scenes, crazy alien landscapes, underground cities, and tons of different creature designs. In this issue, though, the focus is on emotion and Kuder delivers in spades with excellent facial expressions, body language, and panel layouts that convey the emotional underpinnings of Pak’s script. Kuder is joined this issue by Scott Kolins who illustrates the flashback scenes. Previous issues of the series have featured a variety of different artists on flashbacks, with styles that are sometimes very different from Kuder (such as Jae Lee on issue #38). Kolins’ style is also a bit different Kuder’s, but the transition is not jarring and in fact, I like having a different style to help set the flashback scenes in a more dreamlike context. All throughout, Wil Quintana’s colors help to tie everything together.
I’ve enjoyed all of Pak’s and Kuder’s work on Action since they took over the title – they are the reason that I started reading any Superman-related New 52 books at all, and this most recent arc is an excellent example of their work.