Action Comics #25 is an Insightful Look at Superman’s Younger Days

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Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Aaron Kuder, Scott McDaniel (backup)
Colors: Arif Prianto, Dan Brown (backup)
Publisher: DC Comics

Superman has taken quite the beating in the New 52. Multiple creative teams, titles, and crossovers have tried to capture his character for a new generation of fans, but none have completely succeeded. Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics had a promising start with a younger Superman, but his run soon became quite incomprehensible. Tony Daniel’s run was sadly truncated, and the less said about Scott Lobdell the better. However, Greg Pak did a good job contrasting the young, impetuous New 52 Superman with the wiser and more powerful Earth 2 Superman in his opening arc of Batman/Superman and brings some of those elements to Action Comics #25. The story is set in Clark Kent’s early years as a crime fighter before he had the name Superman and happens at the same time as the Riddler caused Gotham City blackout in the Batman “Zero Year” arc. In the comic, Pak succeeds in his characterization of the cocky, young Clark Kent through his caption boxes and dialogue while Aaron Kuder’s art is very powerful and highlights Clark’s strengths and weaknesses. Pak also gives Lana Lang agency and an interesting subplot, but her dialogue is weak and her motivations are underdeveloped.

From his opening page, Greg Pak captures the voice of the insecure and impetuous Clark Kent. When he hurries to the bus stop to say goodbye to his best friend Lana Lang, he is sad that she is leaving and doesn’t understand why he has to keep his powers a secret. This scene highlights Clark’s sloppiness which is on display throughout the entire issue. For example, he almost beats a cult of extradimensional being worshipers to death because they are wearing body armor and don’t like “undocumented immigrants”. The main plot of the story follows his attempt to prevent a hurricane from affecting Gotham, and the fear he feels when he faces this storm. Pak’s Clark Kent is vulnerable, and he mainly uses caption boxes instead of dialogue to focus on Clark’s  thoughts and reactions to the horrific events around him. Even though Superman’s origin and early career have been depicted many times, Greg Pak puts a new spin on the old story and focuses on his thoughts and emotions as well as his feats of strength.

Even though Clark Kent flounders around a lot in Action Comics #25, Aaron Kuder captures his epic and not so epic moments through his art. He takes the title Action Comics literally and immediately shows Clark picking up a car in a striking homage to Action Comics #1 that pops out from the page. Colorist Arif Prianto uses a primary colors when show Clark is in Smallville or succeeding in his mission, but predominantly utilizes darker colors to show Clark’s inability to fix all the problems around him and the effects of the hurricane on both him and the people around him. There is even a page that simulates a hurricane with Clark at the eye of the storm and the storm and boat wreckage all around him. Aaron Kuder succeeds in showing both Clark Kent’s power and vulnerability, and he adds little touches like Clark swimming with humpback whales and sharks to hint at his future potential.

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Despite superior art and characterization, Action Comics #25 has a few weaknesses. Greg Pak writes Lana Lang as a strong female character who is not a damsel in distress and has her own life and career. However, he slips when it comes to her dialogue, but is self-aware enough to lampshade this when she says, “I’m out of cliches.” Her motivation for being outside Gotham during a Category Five storm is barely touched on. Does she want to be a hero, or is she just there for her job? A few small problems aside, Action Comics #25 is a solid start for Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder’s run on the title and is one of the best young Superman stories in the New 52.

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