Action Comics #838
Title: Up, Up and Away — part four
Writers: Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek
Artist: Pete Woods
By Joe Sergi
14 June 2006 — This month, I'm going to start where I usually end: with the cover. And what a cover it is. Clark Kent, more powerful than a locomotive, stops a train. The cover, like the story, takes what has come before and makes it fun again. Superman is Clark Kent and Clark Kent is Superman. This theme is continued throughout the book, and is vividly told by this single, eye-catching image.
The story opens with an explanation (via flashback) of why Clark lost his powers. After being examined by the female Dr. Light, Mr. Terrific and the Ray, it is determined that, because of the events of Infinite Crisis, Clark, who gets his powers from the yellow sun (kind of like a big battery), is now resisting the absorption of solar radiation. This is a great scene because it shows the importance of Superman as a character in the DC Universe. In previous issues we saw how other heroes — such as Supergirl, Hawkgirl and Green Lantern — came to his aid when he called. In this scene, we see the scientist heroes of the DC Universe come together to help him with medical problems.
From there, Johns and Busiek continue their expert storytelling and characterization: Perry White and Jimmy Olson are spot on, and there's even a reference to long absent regular cast members Lucy Lane and Ron Troupe. But most importantly, we get to see that magic of Lois and Clark's relationship. In one scene, Clark takes Lois to a monster truck rally at the aptly named Shuster Sports Arena. She cheers (one is ironically named "Big Blue") while he reads Jennifer Government, a book by Max Barry in which American corporations takeover the world. Seeing his boredom, Lois shoes him away to spare him further misery. This loving response is so much better than the recent characterizations of Lois, who, in the same situation, would have whined that Clark did not love her — or even lose her temper.
We're also privy to a glimpse at what Luthor has been working on. He and Toyman use the Kryptonite Man to focus the kryptonite into the sunstone control unit. The purpose of this is to, apparently, gain access to a spacecraft that landed in West Texas in 1938. I look forward to seeing what this ship represents and how Luthor will use it.
But this is a book about Superman, and the plot progresses to bring him back. There are hints that his powers are returning: Clark doesn't feel the cold, is able to move faster than normal and has a general feeling of uneasiness — as if something were going to happen. Despite this, Clark Kent is still the real hero of the book. He outsmarts Intergang using a good bluff and a poker face. In fact, it is his activity against Intergang that brings us to the main action; unhappy with Clark's work in exposing a corrupt congressman, Intergang hires Radion and Neutron to destroy him. The fact that the authors chose to use established characters such as Radion (last seen being defeated by the Cir-El Supergirl in "The Futuresmiths" storyline) and Neutron (last seen working for Manchester Black in "The Ending Battle" storyline), and even Intergang, rather than creating their own characters — as other, less continuity-friendly writers would have — shows their respect for the rich history of Action Comics.
But I digress. Radion and Neutron attack Clark on his walk home from the arena. In character, Clark immediately calls for help. Unfortunately, Clark's signal watch and cell phone do not work. Ever the hero, Clark attempts to lead them away from the public. However, before he can reach a tunnel where he can hide, Radion knocks Clark onto the tracks and into the path of an oncoming train. The train slams into Clark but he is not harmed. It is then that Clark notices his handprint on the front of the train. His powers have returned. The book ends where the cover began: Clark Kent is more powerful than a locomotive.
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