Spinner Rack: Superheroes — Action, Grayson, and X-Factor
Action Comics: Futures End #1
written by Sholly Fisch
art by Pascal Alixe and Vicente Cifuentes
DC Comics, $2.99
I normally read Sholly Fisch’s stories in the kids’ books, because I find “proper” DC too dark and grim, but I’m glad I randomly tried this stand-alone one-shot. Action Comics: Futures End #1 uses an ancient (in fandom terms) concept to show us what Superman really means to people.
If the phrase “sand Superman” doesn’t mean anything to you, you aren’t alone. It was how Denny O’Neil and Curt Swan “introduced the Bronze Age-era Superman“, back in 1971’s Superman #233 (at 15 cents for the issue!). The sand creature sapped Superman’s power (making him more reasonable to write about, for the “more realistic” storytelling style aimed for) at the same time all Kryptonite was converted to iron and Clark Kent moved from newspapers to TV.
Imagine my surprise to see, in this issue, a Superman-like being made of sand helping others. In five years, as required by the Futures End tag, the new 52 Clark Kent will have given up his Superman career to work at farming the desert. It seems hopeless, yet he has to try. Meanwhile, there are still people who need Superman’s help: a suicidal woman, an abused child, a wannabe criminal.
This isn’t a new idea, but Fisch gives it a clever twist — each of the victims sees how one of Superman’s powers could help them, but how they are limited without the others. Clark learns how he’s an inspiration to others, a role bigger than his own worries. And it’s a pleasure to see a Superman story that actually talks about hope and sacrifice and kindness to others.
Grayson: Futures End #1
written by Tom King
co-plotted by Tim Seeley
art by Stephen Mooney
DC Comics, $2.99
It’s a gimmick, but an effective one, and best of all, you don’t need to know or care about the Futures End crossover to appreciate it.
The entire issue is told backwards. Each page jumps the reader back to the previous significant event, so you won’t be sure what’s going on until after your first read through. I then promptly read it again, backwards.
As required by the tie-in, Grayson: Futures End #1 opens five years in the future, showing us where Dick Grayson winds up. Before that, he and Helena, another version of the Huntress, are lovers and heroes of the reunited Eurasia, recognized by their leader, the former KGBeast. They’ve teamed up to fight parademons, and although there’s no space to explore the concept in detail, there is at least a nod to the question of what happens after the big bad enemy is gone. There’s also a theme of looking at how far we’re willing to go for those we love.
The whole issue, because so much happens in such limited space, reads like Cliff’s Notes to a graphic novel, but it’s a nice change from the usual. Also does a nice job of tying everything together and coming full circle in the end.
All-New X-Factor #13
written by Peter David
art by Pop Mhan
Marvel Comics, $3.99 US
After finishing a satisfactory superhero story arc, I get nervous checking in on the next issue, since you never know what might have changed. It’s true, All-New X-Factor #13 has a different artist, but it works, in keeping with the style of the previous.
More importantly, the characters are consistent, even as we learn new things about them this issue. (Well, maybe some of these relationships aren’t new to long-time Marvel readers, but for me, who never followed this cast closely before, they read as significant revelations.) Lorna’s loyal to keeping the troublesome Quicksilver, her brother, on the team, even as he’s getting to better know his daughter, Luna.
David knows how to write believable kids (having raised some himself), which comes through in the interactions between Luna and her father and her new friend Georgia (from the previous storyline). He’s also great with humor, often stemming from the overly literal, which is proudly on display as Warlock tries to ask fellow robot Danger out. Woo, that does not go well, but it’s hugely fun to watch.
The main physical conflict here comes when one of the Inhumans comes to retrieve Luna, since she left without telling her mother, one of their group. Watching a custody discussion play out among superhumans is odd but entertaining, particularly when it’s set at Colonial Williamsburg. Of course punching each other comes before the actual sharing of facts and decisions, although the resolution is satisfactory on both levels.