Superman: Back in Action is a lot of fun, and has some interesting qualities as a Superman story; we'll get to those in a minute. But what's also interesting are the back-up reprints of some classic Superman team-ups, and moreso, writer Kurt Busiek's note that DC faced a dilemma when they got ready to collect the "Back in Action" story because it was only three issues long. There's no real news here--we know that DC's looking to collect most everything they put out these days, and that most stories are written with a trade collection in mind--but it's pretty unique to hear a writer admit it! This might be a bigger deal if Back in Action weren't so good--it is, and good enough to warrent the near-$4.99-per issue price tag if you don't count the DC Comics Presents reprints--but I'd say overall this "collect a short storyline with a couple of old issues" solution likely has a very short shelf-life. I do like the reprint collections, like Green Arrow/Black Canary: For Better or For Worse, but not the Back in Action solution.
That said, Kurt Busiek continues to write a distinctly appealing Superman. Gone are the angsty aspects of the character, without making Superman seem simple--he still worries about the world having moved on without him after One Year Later, but without the whininess that's followed the character of late. Superman's leadership is on display here--likely on purpose--and the way he leads a team of second-tier heroes to victory goes to the root of what makes Superman great. Busiek creates a new villain here, the Auctioneer, who is ostentatious without being silly; even Lois, though she only plays a small role in this storyline, is supporting without seeming stand-offish nor submissive. Busiek's found a great balance here, and Pete Woods' adds just the right combination of art that's realistic with a hint of superheroic animation.
Back in Action is almost a DCU storyline, with appearances by Firestorm, the Teen Titans, Nightwing, Aquaman, Robin's the Veteran, members of the Power Company, and more. Busiek makes the team that aligns with Superman almost seem like a junior Justice League, and they're a joy to watch. Skyrocket and Aquaman, of course, are Busiek's own creations, and being on an Aquaman kick as is, I especially liked the interaction between Superman and Aquaman. Firestorm plays a good role here too, as does Live Wire--that Busiek shows a willingness to play with creations from other Superman runs portends good things for the future.
I'm very eager now to see how Busiek's writing holds up in a major Superman story, like Camelot Falls; I liked Back in Action and I'm eager for more.
[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Captain Atom: Armageddon's action and romance beats the super-short Back in Action, but if Camelot Falls is this good, Captain Atom better watch out!]
Thanks for reading!