Review: Superman: Action Comics Vol. 4: The New World (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

November 8, 2017

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 4: The New World is about the best Dan Jurgens's Rebirth run has been so far. Notable here is Jurgens laying out Superman's new post-Superman Reborn combined post-Crisis/New 52 origin and history. But moreover from there Jurgens spins a villain team-up story that is quite gripping, and as lukewarm as I've been on some of Rebirth's "everything is old is new again" moments, Jurgens's return to some of his trademark bad guys had me cheering. Everything does not make sense, and I wonder at this decision to soft reboot Superman aside from the rest of the DC Universe, but Reborn has given Action Comics a jolt of energy and I'm eager to see where Jurgens goes with this.

[Review contains spoilers]

Jurgens presents Superman's new origin in "The New World," two issues illustrated by Ian Churchill (which I'd still argue ought have been in the Superman Reborn collection). Superman's beginnings, at least, hew pretty close to Geoff Johns's Superman: Secret Origin; I'm partial among other things to John Byrne's Krypton and his Metallo (vs. Johns's version, or the truly hideous new Metallo design we get in this book), but probably the most recent, Johns-written origin was the most likely bet for what would stick. Jurgens connects from there to his own era, surprisingly but wonderfully preserving "Exile," "Day of the Krypton Man," "Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite" -- even charitably the "Electric Blue" Superman era.

Given now Jon Kent's blending into the Rebirth era without need of Convergence, it's interesting that Jurgens works to preserve Superman's time in hiding (ostensibly when the New 52 Superman had been active), but then again, that makes Jurgens's own Lois and Clark miniseries not completely irrelevant. The New 52 era gets the shortest shrift in Jurgens's new origin, but Jurgens includes at least Ulysses and also Scott Lobdell's Oracle; which is a curious choice -- that particular Oracle never did all that much, though his inclusion suggests at least partial continuity for events where Oracle was present like the H'el stories.

For all the hoopla over the return of the post-Crisis Superman, I can't help but feel we've just lost him again. He's not gone-gone -- a good portion of his history remains -- but indeed this is not the same character. (The New 52 Superman is really gone, having never lived nor died.) I started to consider whether this wasn't just really that the post-Crisis Superman moved forward in time -- it's not "not him" just because there's some parts of the story never technically published, since a variety of things including his time in the Convergence bottle were also story "gaps" -- except another striking change is that Jurgens and DC have written out Superboy Kon-El from Reign of the Supermen on through. In that regard, this can never be the history of the post-Crisis Superman with just some new stuff tacked on.

I will be curious to see how this all unfolds in the coming months. Jurgens seems to have built a mystery around the deaths of the elder Kents, which I can only hope might end with their resurrection. At the same time, this kind of ambiguous "we'll tell you that story some time" kind of origin is destructive -- this is what left us without a clear history for Wonder Woman for 5-10 years after Infinite Crisis -- and I hope Jurgens intends to fill in the details sooner than later. We'll have to see how both Superwoman and the Chinese New Super-Man works in the absence of the New 52 Superman's death. Also Superman says very nonchalantly here that Cyborg Hank Henshaw has "regressed" to his Cyborg form; there's an astounding amount to unpack there as far as Henshaw having only been human again because in the New 52 he was never the Cyborg in the first place, plus Supergirl acknowledging having fought the New 52 Cyborg, her own father, with no recognition of the discrepancy. It would be a disservice for Jurgens to just gloss over all of this permanently. And as much work as Jurgens has done on teaming the post-Crisis Superman and the New 52 Lex Luthor, I'm interested to see what their relationship looks like now.

All of that said, as slow as I've been to get excited about "event comics" that end with one panel showing half a centimeter of Dr. Manhattan's leg, when Jurgens has Henshaw rip off his human face to reveal the cyborg underneath, and then makes Mongul kiss his hand a la Reign of the Supermen, that got me right in the nostalgia. And Jurgens devotes three whole pages to Lois and Clark renting a new apartment and looking at the Metropolis skyline that -- I'm just going to keep saying it -- reminded me very much of the character work Jurgens and company used to do in the Triangle Titles. There's an ease that pervades the second half of this (nicely long) book -- the six-part "Revenge" storyline -- as Jurgens slips into the new/old continuity, and that suggests to me Action Comics is on a better path now.

Though I thought the "Revenge" storyline read well overall, what fits and starts there are regard the artists. Patrick Zircher continues with aplomb on this title, and Jack Herbert is a find, resembling Kerry Gammill's work on the Super-titles decades ago. However, while I find Victor Bogdanovic's work tonally right for New Super-Man, his cartoony style is a misfit with Zircher and Herbert. It breaks the flow of the story when they slot him in, not to mention Bogdanovic drawing an off-model Eradicator that doesn't match the issues before and after.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Superman: Action Comics Vol. 4: The New World

A final enjoyable thing about Superman: Action Comics Vol. 4: The New World is that Dan Jurgens combines here elements of both Action and Peter Tomasi's Superman runs, using the Eradicator and setting the story in the site of Tomasi's Superman/Eradicator battle, the lunar Bat-cave. This demonstrates coming out of Superman Reborn a greater connection between the two books than they've had before, and I hope Tomasi's book does the same. The kind of continuous flow of the Triangle Titles is probably too much to expect, but it's nice to see the two titles staying in sync at least a little after Reborn. Jurgens kicks off this newest new era well.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Superman: Action Comics Vol. 4: The New World
Author Rating
4.5 (out of 5)

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