Greg Pak’s run on Action continues to be damn good Superman reading. With the announcement of the new Johns/Romita Jr series (and I suppose the last few issues of Unchained) it really does look like the Superman family of titles are getting good again, after a year or so of dross.
This issue continues the story of Superman and Lana’s adventures underground, and it does so with a big sense of fun and a keen eye for character. Plus there’s lemur-monsters. The story begins with Uruk, the ‘Beast Lord’ we met last issue reacting in horror at the terrifying creatures that Superman and Lana have accidentally unleashed, but in a cool subversion, those monsters aren’t at all terrifying, and are in fact the cute lemur-monsters I mentioned before. Clark and Lana try not to laugh, and instead turn their attentions to the weird glowing orbs that provide energy for this underground kingdom. Before long, the Queen from the end of #27 shows up and thanks them for freeing them, but interestingly, it is not Superman she thinks is responsible, but Lana. It seems that the subterranean society is a matriarchal one, and Queen Kokya thinks Lana is the Queen of the surface, and Superman just her slave or concubine. Lana is all to happy to go along with this, and she and Superman go to see more of the city. Pak’s handle on the relationship between Clark and Lana has been a big part of his run from the start, and that continues here, as Lana clearly relishes being seen as more important than her friend for once. Being childhood friends, Clark and Lana have a unique relationship, and it’s great to see that explored, like how Lana is annoyed at him for lying about killing Baka, because even though he keeps the truth from the rest of the world, he hasn’t ever with her.
Clark and Lana hear a strange scream, so they go and investigate, where they find one of the lemurs being drained somehow. This is apparently what powers the orbs, life-force. Superman flies in to try and stop it, but he himself is stopped by Ghost Soldier, who doesn’t want Superman to accidentally start a war between the underground and the surface, which is pretty likely. Ghost Soldier is also turning into quite an interesting character, we find out his name in this issue (Leonard Sawyer, and he’s apparently a Native American) and he eventually comes around to fighting alongside Superman and Lana against Queen Kokya and her stone robots.
Another big part of how well Pak writes Superman is that he just comes across as a good person, he’s open-minded, and willing to trust and befriend people and creatures like Baka previously and now Ghost Soldier. Superman should be a character that radiates goodness, not gloominess, and under Pak, he’s back to that. Of course, Superman’s trusting nature here does end up biting him in the ass, as after escaping to the surface, everything goes to hell. The cute lemur-monsters react badly to the sun, and grow into larger, giant monsters, which means Uruk was right in his fear at the start. Pak subverted his own subversion! Adding to Superman’s troubles is the fact that, as soon as he sees the lemurs transforming, Ghost Soldier turns on Superman and stabs him because his actions have led to a threat against humanity. Ghost Soldier really does feel like an interesting character, he’s neither good nor bad, he adjusts to whatever fits his mission to save the people. I guess that’s what a soldier is.
Aaron Kuder’s art is a big part of why this run is working so well, it’s big, brash and cartoonish and it fits a Superman who has a smile on his face, but it’s also not so cartoony as to make the threats and enemies seems ridiculous. And man, the cover to this issue is awesome, iconic stuff, I want it as a poster.