ACTION COMICS #1000 / Writers: Dan Jurgen, Peter J. Tomasi, Marv Wolfman, Paul Levitz, Neal Adams, Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Louise Simonson, Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer, Brian Michael Bendis / Artists: Dan Jurgen, Patrick Gleason, Curt Swan, Oliver Coipel, Rafael Albuquerque, Clay Mann, Jerry Ordway, José Luis García-López, John Cassaday, Jim Lee / Inkers: Norm Rapmund, Butch Guice, Kurt Schaffenberger, Kevin Nowlan, Scott Williams / Letterers: Rob Leigh, Tom Napolitano, Dave Sharpe, Nick Napolitano, John Workman, Carlos M. Mangual, Josh Reed, Chris Euopoulos, Cory Petit / Colorists: Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, Dave McCaig, Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Laura Martin, Alex Sinclair / Publisher: DC Comics / April 18th, 2018
“It’s a tremendous honor to be writing a character who exudes hope at a time when people really, really need it.” – Brian Michael Bendis
To say Action Comics #1000 is a milestone is really an understatement. After all, milestones are a dime a dozen in the world of comic books. Most of the comics we read today feature heroes and villains that have been around since the 40s and 50s. We’ve hit so many 200th or 500th milestones in the past few years that it’s hard to keep track. For many, these are the characters we have grown up with. Sure, we’ve had a handful of characters that have stuck out on their own and managed to amass followings in the past couple of decades, but for the most part we stick with what we know.
Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America, The Flash, Iron Man…. Love them or loathe them, these mainstays are the reason comic books are ingrained in the public consciousness. No matter if you’re in your 90s or your teens, you know who these characters are. Without them, those fresh new takes on the superhero genre wouldn’t have a chance to flourish. Comics have only managed to survive for so long by constantly integrating the old with the new. The history of these characters and the impact they’ve had are what allows the genre to move forward, to allow new properties to build on the foundations they created.
That foundation is what Action Comics #1000 primarily seeks to celebrate, but make no mistake, this is not simply a rehashing of Superman’s legacy. The 90-page special is instead an introspective look at what has allowed Superman to stand the test of time, as well as a reminder to readers that Clark Kent’s motivations and ideals are just as important now as they were in Action Comics #1, way back in 1938. His costume might change, he might face different enemies every month, he might even add some new members to his family…but Superman himself will never change.
To some, that constant might seem stale and boring. After all, once you’ve read one Superman comic you could say you’ve read them all. But to the writers and artists of Action Comics #1000 this couldn’t be further from the truth. Almost every story within is a love letter to Superman for the influence he has had on the writers and the characters that he shares the DC universe with, and in each and every one of them Superman remains the same. No matter the writer, no matter how the artists draws him, Clark Kent is still that stubborn boy scout who refuses to change in the face of evil.
“I don’t know about you but I could certainly use Superman right now. I could use some of that hope he brings with him.” – Brian Michael Bendis
Take for instance the fifth story in the issue, and most likely my favorite, “The Car” written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner. First and foremost, the art by Oliver Coipel is the best in the entire collection. Coipel manages to exude a skill for mimicking the art style featured in the original Action Comics #1, but updates it in a modern way that still manages to respect its source material. It’s clean, it’s intricate—there’s really no faulting it. The story itself is a backstory I never knew I wanted; the tale of what happened after Superman smashed that green 1937 DeSoto on that improbably large rock, in the original “Superman” story in Action Comics #1. To say anything else would spoil it, but I was genuinely touched by what Johns and Donner managed to deliver in so short a page-length.
Another of my favorites was Tom King’s “Of Tomorrow,” with art by Clay Mann. The artwork is very paired back considering Mann’s microscopically detailed portfolio, mostly focused in the background with very little focus on Superman himself. What little we do see of Superman is usually eclipsed or silhouetted, but I did get a distinct feeling Mann modeled the face on Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of Superman. Given the eternal nature of the story, it seems very fitting that he would use Reeve as inspiration. King, much like Johns and Donner, does a great job of fitting a lot into a small space. I’d be lying if I said this one didn’t make me feel a little emotional too.
There are a few honourable mentions I should point out too, like the rather relaxed and fun “Five Minutes”, written by Louise Simonson. It’s a rather basic story and it’s quite light on the sentimentality, but it’s an easy read with some sweet dialogue. It was also nice to see the artwork was by Superman veteran Jerry Ordway, who most of you will remember from Crisis on Infinite Earths.
I also enjoyed “The Game” by Paul Levitz and Neal Adams, who was, fittingly, one of the creator-rights advocates who secured a pension for both Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The art by the Hi-Fi Color collective was a little hit and miss in places, but the story itself is a nice answer to that age-old question; who would win at chess, Lex Luthor or Superman?
Otherwise, honestly? I would simply suggest you just read the issue yourself. That might sound a little lazy coming from a reviewer, as there are several more stories featured within that I’ve yet to even mention. However most of the enjoyment that can be had from reading this issue is the random nature of the stories contained within. To read a synopsis or a rating for every single one would only ruin the fun. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Brad Meltzer’s and John Cassaday’s “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet,” or Marv Wolfman’s and Curt Swan’s “An Enemy Within”—quite the opposite in fact. I just think you come across them naturally in the issue, as the writers intended.
As is the nature of a collection such as this, there will no doubt be at least one story that won’t tickle your fancy, but I’ll be damned if there isn’t at least one that will tug on your heartstrings. It’s a lovely collection of talent, both artistically and creatively, and I wouldn’t say I hated a single story collected within. I can confidently say that there were several I loved however, and that it was a fitting tribute to the Man of Steel’s legacy.
What I will say though, is that the final entry in the issue does fill me with hope for Superman’s future. The sneak preview into Brian Michael Bendis’ six-issue run on Man of Steel, and the proceeding interview, really drives home the feeling that Bendis was the right man for the job. Even out of context, the writing and the dialogue shines. I’m excited to see what’s in store for Superman, and, by the looks of things, so is Bendis.
Verdict: 4.5 Historic Milestones out of 5