ACTIONS COMICS #1000 by DC Entertainment
ACTION COMICS #1000 is an absolutely fantastic homage to Superman's legacy. As a collaborative work between so many different writers and artists, the overall experience can be a bit all over the place, but it leads to one of the most definitive explorations of the way Superman has affected his readers over the years. For any fan of Superman or of the comic book industry he's influenced, this is an absolute must-read.
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Honoring Our Hero
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The time has finally arrived. ACTION COMICS #1000 hits shelves this week after months of teases and previews. And what a unique comic book experience this is! In honor of Superman‘s 80th anniversary, eleven different creative teams have individually tackled a short story that encapsulates the Man of Steel. This title alone carries the hard work of some of DC’s best talent, new and old. Superman has been in the public consciousness for eighty years, shaping our beliefs about the American Way and giving readers of all ages hope for tomorrow. More importantly, his creation shaped the entire superhero genre and the modern face of the comic book medium. Now, it’s our time to give the Man of Steel our thanks.

To cover such a landmark comic book, the formatting of this article will be a little different than usual. By that, I mean it will be fairly long. I want to explore the highs and lows of each individual story before tackling my overall opinion on the collected piece of art. I understand that many of you have busy lives, so if the length of this article daunts you at all, you can simply scroll to the bottom of the page to see my thoughts on the work as a whole. Also, there will be some spoilers ahead, but they will be kept to the absolute minimum.

“From the City That Has Everything” by Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, and Hi-Fi

ACTION COMICS #1000 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Starting off ACTION COMICS #1000 has to be a daunting task. The first story in any collection sets the pace for the others to come. In a very real way, “From the City That Has Everything” has to act as the heart of this landmark issue. Thankfully, it succeeds on every single level. Dan Jurgens knows how to write and draw a Superman tale, and this particular short has such a brilliant sense of balance. The events of the story, namely a Metropolis parade and ceremony meant to honor Superman, is juxtaposed with an intense space battle at the beginning. The story never loses that sense of tension from the opening pages, but it also allows itself to slow down just enough to honor the Man of Steel’s legacy.

“From the City That Has Everything” really shines in the way characters step up to honor this iconic superhero. The Metropolis police force, a former criminal, and Superman’s fellow heroes all get a chance to stand on the podium and celebrate the hero’s impact. There were moments throughout this story where I got literal chills from the things characters were saying. Jurgens perfectly encapsulates all of the best aspects of Superman’s character and honors them in this wonderful homage. More importantly, he does so in a story that has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Jurgens doesn’t sacrifice plot for the sake of emotion and, for that reason, I have a lot of respect for this story.

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“Never Ending Battle” by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Alejandro Sanchez

ACTION COMICS #1000 page 17. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Two stories into the collection, and we’ve already come to my favorite. “Never Ending Battle” is primarily a collection of art by the inimitable Patrick Gleason and Alejandro Sanchez. Both of these artists, alongside writer Peter J. Tomasi, were responsible for my true introduction to the SUPERMAN brand with their work on SUPERMAN: REBIRTH. The premise for “Never Ending Battle” is fairly simple. Vandal Savage pushes Superman outside of time to relive some of his most iconic moments. There are no panels, and the story doesn’t particularly follow any true arc. Rather, this story simply allows Gleason and Sanchez to stretch their artistic muscles and recreate Superman’s history in their own styles.

I could have lived happily if ACTION COMICS #1000 was only a collection of art prints like those seen in “Never Ending Battle.” Peter J. Tomasi wouldn’t even have to add his written word to the page. Yet, what he put in is so beautiful that it cannot be ignored. Tomasi doesn’t attempt to assert his writing presence on top of Gleason’s artwork. He doesn’t try to add any more story than he needs to. What makes “Never Ending Battle” so pristine is the way Tomasi plays with Superman’s reactions to these events. Throughout the story, Superman is monologuing about everything he has learned, which all leads back to the importance of his family, Lois and Jon. As a fan of the Rebirth title, this story perfectly summarizes everything that made me fall in love with the series from the start.

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“An Enemy Within” by Marv Wolfman, Curt Swan, Butch Guice, Kurt Schaffenberger, and Hi-Fi

ACTION COMICS #1000 Variant Cover by Michael Allred. Image Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The first story in ACTION COMICS #1000 not to feature the title character, “An Enemy Within” took a couple of reads for me to “get it.” All of the superheroics in this story happen off the page. Rather, we get to see the effects of those heroics first hand. Readers follow Police Captain Maggie Sawyer as she deals with a Brainiac mind-control epidemic. Interestingly, Marv Wolfman adapted this story from a Cindy Goff and Curt Swan arc from METROPOLIS S.C.U., giving this story a more time-honored feel.

I really appreciated “An Enemy Within” for the way it incorporated Superman’s perspective. The story is far more grounded than any other in this collection. Especially with the rise in school shootings, this particular story has a rather tense and realistic base. However, it also features the reoccurring presence of Superman’s thoughts. Even hundreds of miles away, the Man of Steel can hear the police doing their job, and it inspires him. It allows readers to witness, in a very real way, this character’s belief in the goodness of all people. It showcases the reasons why Superman has so much hope that things will work out, and it pays homage to the real heroes fighting everyday battles. For that reason, “An Enemy Within” holds a very special and heartfelt place in ACTION COMICS #1000.

“The Game” by Paul Levitz, Neal Adams, and Hi-Fi

ACTION COMICS #1000 Variant Cover by Steve Rude. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The first of two stories to focus on Superman’s relationship to Lex Luthor, “The Game” surprised me on my first reading. The focus doesn’t particularly fall on Superman. Rather, the story digs into the reasons Lex Luthor hates the Man of Steel. As someone who never quite understood Luthor’s motivations, this particular story added a lot to ACTION COMICS #1000. “The Game” also surprised me because of its content. The story follows a chess game between Luthor and Superman. This may seem like a boring turn of events, but I actually found it added a lot to the characterization. This slow-paced game allows these two characters to actively engage in dialogue, which doesn’t happen much in the comics. Pair this with Neal Adams magnificent pencils and inks, and you should have a winning experience.

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I did feel, though, that “The Game” suffers from one problem. The ending simply occurs too fast. Without giving too much away, Luthor goes full evil mastermind after the chess game, but Superman has a very quick and easy solution to the seemingly insurmountable problem. I understand where writer Paul Levitz is coming from. After all, this mirrors a lot of what tended to happen in the Silver Age books. In a massive bout of Deus Ex Machina, Superman would just happen to have the right object or power to get him out of a jam. This does feel like an homage, so I can forgive the “easy” ending. However, it just doesn’t sit quite right with me.

“The Car” by Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Olivier Coipel, and Alejandro Sanchez

ACTION COMICS #1000 Variant Cover by Michael Cho. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

“The Car” may just be one of the most interesting concepts in ACTION COMICS #1000. I struggled to choose between this story and “Never Ending Battle” as my favorite in the collection. “The Car” asks one very simple question: whatever happened to the driver from the cover of ACTION COMICS #1? In short, this story encapsulates everything that Superman stands for in only one section of dialogue. It showcases how deeply Superman feels for those he protects. Even in a discussion with a known criminal, he never belittles them. In fact, he drives the criminal toward a better life.

Superman has always represented hope for his readers. He stands for the pinnacle of human possibility and goodness. This story wouldn’t have worked from the Man of Steel’s perspective. It had to be from the criminal’s. That one-shot character acts as a proxy for every fan and long-time reader of the Man of Steel. He stands in for us while he looks up at the hero in the red underwear as he soars overhead. The hope he feels is the same we have felt for decades. “The Car” is a beautiful homage to the way Superman makes his readers feel.

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“The Fifth Season” by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, and Dave McCaig

ACTION COMICS #1000 Variant Cover by Jim Steranko. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

I feel like “The Fifth Season” accomplishes what “The Game” intended to do. It showcases the striking relationship between Superman and his archenemy, Lex Luthor, by taking a look at their history. I absolutely love this particular short. Sure, not a whole lot happens from start to finish. This is a very isolated event, but that simply allows Snyder to focus on the dialogue and the thought process between the two characters. It puts them on equal ground, and in a rare circumstance, they aren’t trying to fight each other. The story is deliberately slow, willing to go to great lengths to examine who these two characters are.

That slow, beautiful storytelling really surprised me. Snyder is typically more psychological and action-packed in his narratives, so this almost literary take on Superman made me look twice. However, Snyder pulls it off brilliantly. It definitely helps that Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig make the book look as beautiful as it sounds. They manage to turn this simple moment between two people into an almost cosmic event.

“Of Tomorrow” by Tom King, Clay Mann, and Jordie Bellaire

ACTION COMICS #1000 page 50. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

I have a lot of love in my heart for experimental storytelling in comics. As such, I have an obscene amount of respect for Tom King’s writing. While some people dislike his take on BATMAN: REBIRTH, I personally found it a beautiful examination of the Dark Knight’s damaged psyche. King manages to bring this brand of cerebral storytelling to ACTION COMICS #1000’s “Of Tomorrow.” Set billions of years in the future, Superman returns to an Earth in its final moments of life to visit his parent’s graves one last time. The story focuses so deeply on Superman’s love and deep-rooted respect for the Kents. From the first page of this story, we realize that the most important character in comics isn’t Superman. It’s the couple who took an orphaned boy from his spaceship and raised him as their own.

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“Of Tomorrow” is one of the most emotionally rich stories in this entire collection. It was never kitschy or over-the-top. It felt incredibly raw in a way I didn’t think a Superman story could be. By all accounts, the super-science introduced here, like the “Eternity Formula,” has so many unexplored implications that it should have bothered me. However, I understood that this was meant to be nothing more than a beautiful snapshot of Clark Kent’s love for his parents. “Of Tomorrow” encapsulates everything I enjoy about Tom King’s writing. Every moment in this five-page short story feels intensely emotional. Put that alongside the stunning environmental and atmospheric artwork by Clay Mann and Jordie Bellaire, and you have a tale worthy of ACTION COMICS #1000.

“Five Minutes” by Louise Simonson, Jerry Ordway, and Dave McCaig

ACTION COMICS #1000 Variant Cover by Josh Middleton. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Until I got to “Five Minutes,” I was surprised that no story in ACTION COMICS #1000 focused entirely on Superman’s dual life. His work at the Daily Planet was only mentioned once in the first story, despite the key role it’s played in Clark Kent’s daily life. “Five Minutes” manages to remedy that with a stunning look at the Man of Steel’s struggle to balance his work and heroic life. The story is surprisingly action-packed, as Superman gets called away from the office to save the day.

“Five Minutes” really is a pleasure to read. It feels nice just to see the hero out saving the day. Most of the stories in this collection attempt to examine some aspect of Superman’s character, which has definitely worked throughout ACTION COMICS #1000. However, this is a story that simply feels like a typical Superman narrative. There aren’t any internal dialogues about the goodness of human beings or the place of the Man of Steel in our world. It simply allows readers to see the hero at work in a story that looks and feels like it was ripped straight out of the ’90s. Artist Jerry Ordway is no stranger to drawing and inking Superman stories, and the way he portrays the Man of Steel here comes across as nothing short of iconic.

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“Actionland” by Paul Dini, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Kevin Nowlan, and Trish Mulvihill

ACTION COMICS #1000 page 59. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Like “The Game,” “Actionland” takes a lot of its major cues from Superman’s Silver Age stories. In fact, its main character isn’t even the Man of Steel, but the villain Mr. Mxyzptlk. This may seem like a strange approach, but it surprisingly works for this piece of ACTION COMICS #1000. Paul Dini takes readers through a brief history lesson of Superman’s earliest days, but from Mxyzptlk’s perspective. The story acts as a fun homage to some of Superman’s stranger stories. Also, it does a great job of characterizing Mxyzptlk and the fun he has fighting Superman. I especially thought that Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez’s pencils worked really well with this story. They have a very old-school look to them, which fits the Silver Age style storytelling.

However, I didn’t find “Actionland” to be as exciting or interesting as other stories in this collection. The story does focus in on how a particular villain views the Man of Steel. Superman, though, doesn’t actually make an appearance outside of flashbacks. I also found myself a bit confused by the plot flow. This may simply be a result of the short format. Still, I felt like the story bounced around a bit too much. It never really focuses on any one element of the Man of Steel until the very end, and by the time I got there, I wanted to move on to the next story. I may be the only reader who feels that way, but I still think that everything happened way too quickly.

“Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” by Brad Meltzer, John Cassaday, and Laura Martin

ACTION COMICS #1000 Variant Cover by Dan Jurgens. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

“Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” is probably the most narratively complex story within ACTION COMICS #1000. In reality, the story only takes place in the course of a couple seconds. That gives writer Brad Meltzer a lot of room to explore Superman’s psychology. In fact, this story shines because of this examination. The purpose of this story is to show Superman at his lowest point, on the brink of failure. Even he isn’t fast enough in certain situations. Superman needs help sometimes, and that’s a really interesting thing to see.

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We see Superman as this perfect entity with all of these superpowers. However, the coolest aspect of his character has nothing to do with superheroics. It has to do with the character’s humanity, the Clark Kent beneath the suit, more than anything else. More importantly, “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” examines Superman’s undying loyalty to the human race as well as the goodness he sees there. I also want to point out John Cassaday’s eye for design and visual effects. The slow-motion storytelling could feel a bit stale as certain images are repeated, but that never happened. While Cassaday isn’t necessarily my favorite character artist, his knowledge of visual storytelling comes across perfectly in this story.

“The Truth” by Brian Michael Bendis, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair

ACTION COMICS #1000 Variant Cover by Jim Lee. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

“The Truth” is the story that DC has hyped up for the last few months. The prelude to the MAN OF STEEL miniseries, this is the story that brought Brian Michael Bendis to DC from Marvel. Jim Lee posted live video feeds on his Youtube channel, giving readers a glimpse of the process of developing this story. This means that a lot rides on the success of this narrative. It has to feel like the start of something bigger, as it’s the only story in this collection that ties directly into future continuity. It also signals big changes to Superman mythos. Most importantly of all, though, this creative team has to sell the return of Superman’s iconic red briefs.

Thankfully, “The Truth” manages to deliver on almost all grounds. It’s a bit too high-paced to be a wholly cohesive story. Some of the plot points zoom by without much context. However, this story does exactly what it sets out to do. Every page made me more and more excited to read Bendis’ upcoming solo series. The action is incredibly tight, and it’s actually really nice to see Superman losing at the beginning of this story. In the course of a page, we understand the real stakes at work here. Also, it’s nice to see Supergirl, a member of the Super-Family that hasn’t been seen in the collection up to this point, getting her time to shine. Of the stories in ACTION COMICS #1000, “The Truth” has the most staying power, with the greatest opportunity to expand further.

ACTION COMICS #1000: The Overall Experience

As a collection of stories, ACTION COMICS #1000 is a bit all over the place. On the one hand, you have some heavily grounded takes on Superman from modern writers like Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns, and Tom King. On the other, several of these stories take influence from Superman’s Silver Age roots. The result is an extremely mixed bag. Some of these stories didn’t strike me as strongly as others. I personally didn’t take to the narrative of “Actionland” or “The Game,” but that doesn’t mean they weren’t good stories. Some readers may jump right on board with these more surreal and strange tales. In fact, I think ACTION COMICS #1000 may be the only comic in existence that truly earns the title “something for every reader.”

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The point I want every reader to come away with is that ACTION COMICS #1000 is an incredibly satisfying issue. Even in those stories that you might not necessarily enjoy, you can easily appreciate the themes that are brought up. This is a beautiful celebration of Superman’s long and historic legacy. It may not be a perfect experience, but it doesn’t need to be. Each and every story acts as a sort of love letter to the Man of Steel. Every creative team has honed in on the aspect of Superman that they most deeply connect with. To see so many artists and writers with such a singular goal, to honor this icon of pop culture, is one of the coolest and most heartfelt experiences in modern comics books.

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