Last week, DC cranked out its newest batch of annual comics including issues for Swamp Thing, Justice League Dark, and Batgirl. Of course, the comic I knew I couldn’t miss was Action Comics Annual #1 starring Superman, the Kryptonite Man, and the Atomic Skull. For this issue, normal series writer Grant Morrison took and break and Sholly Fisch, who has written a number of decent backups for Action Comics this year, took over writing duties while Max Landis, another big fan of Superman, provided the back up story. It’s time to see how this annual held up compared to the other great issues of the current run on Action Comics!
Our main story focused on the origin of the Kryptonite Man: a man who volunteers for an experiment to make him a weapon capable of crushing the Man of Steel. Where does his grudge come from? He was an abusive husband, and Superman stopped him from beating his wife and took her to a shelter where she’d be safe. A confrontation between the two is inevitable, and Supes, weakened by Kryptonite, cannot take on this enemy alone. What tactics will be necessary to stop an enemy who literally drains Superman’s vast array of powers?
I’ll admit that in the past I’ve found Sholly Fisch’s writing bland, so I had low expectations for his work here. I’m happy to say that this comic was well-written and entertaining. The idea of a villain who seeks revenge on Superman for “ruining his marriage” is an interesting twist, as usually most foes have some larger agenda and reason for their hatred. I liked the inclusion of Steel, and hope we’ll see more of him moving forward. The pacing was superb, giving a full story without ever feeling rushed or weighed down. Perhaps all Fisch needed was a full-length story to show his true skill as a writer.
Cully Hammer, also a notable member of the Action Comics backup story team, crafted the art for this annual. His style is good, though not groundbreaking. The character designs stay true to pre-established New 52 conventions, and the fight scenes are fairly cool (especially once Steel shows up). That said, the art isn’t anything special, and didn’t leave a lasting impression. The coloring work was good as well, giving kryptonite the eerie green glow its known for. It’s hard to fault the art, I just expected more detailed images for this issue.
The backup story written by Max Landis and drawn by Ryan Sook was entertaining as well. The story is told entirely with images as it explains the origin of the Atomic Skull. The art here is great, better than the main story in my opinion. The panels are intricately layed out, showing how Landis applied his skills as a film director to putting together notes for these comic pages. This tale itself looks cool and is interesting…but there’s not really much here. I think this was a good introduction to the Atomic Skull, but I still would’ve liked to see more of this character. If it were up to me, I’d have suggested doubling the page count for the backup to perhaps show how the Atomic Skull ineracts with the rest of the DCU after his origin.
Action Comics Annual #1 is, overall, worth picking up. The art and writing for the main story are both good, while the backup story is, if nothing else, intriguing and entertaining. This comic is a stand-alone story which makes it easy to dive in even if you haven’t touched Action Comics, yet it still retains enough connections to that series to inform that title’s direction. Superman fans shouldn’t miss this issue!
-entertaining story introducing kryptonite and the Kryptonite Man
-creative villain motivation
-unique format for the backup story
-amazing art in the backup story
-art for the main story isn’t amazing
-backup story feels disconnected from the DCU
Brett Simon is a twenty-three year old comic enthusiast. He’s praying next year we get to see the fabled Demon Knights Annual he so desperately desires.
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