By Dan Jurgens, Patrick Zircher, Tyler Kirkham, Stephen Segovia, Art Thibert, Tomeu Morey, Ulises Arreola and Arif Prianto
Superman, Action Comics Vol.1: Path of Doom collects issues #957-962, but make no mistake this is a new beginning and the perfect jumping on point for new readers. Under the Rebirth banner, Action Comics gets a strong update worthy of the title. And what better way to get to know Superman all over again than through an expert on the topic.
Industry legend, Dan Jurgens, is arguably one of the most famous Superman writers in DC Comics’ history. Not only was he a longterm writer for the character, but he handled some of the mot epic moments in the Superman legacy including the groundbreaking run, The Death of Superman. Jurgens is an artist, so he writes that way, giving his illustrators more than enough to work with, and plenty of really big moments. “Path of Doom” is a full on spectacle, complete with gigantic fight scenes and enormous circumstances that keep Superman punching from page to page. This is an incredibly violent comic book, but its in the context of a Superman story so there’s more to it than that. Jurgens takes a unique approach with the character while staying true to the essence of Superman. The irony is Jurgens is living up to a standard he helped set through all of his previous contributions to the beloved hero.
Pulling out all the stops right from the outset, Dan Jurgens and company reintroduce the villain Doomsday, but it’s not just the slugfest you may expect it to be. Oh, the fight that lasts several issues, but it’s the pauses in the battle that bring the story home for readers, and possibly what’s most unique about the story. Superman’s personal commitments are more involved than usual, which creates a sort of gravity to the situation that wasn’t there before. Action Comics is a title that has always worked best as a Superman comic instead of a Clark Kent / Superman comic. So its fitting that, within a few pages, the Man of Steel has suited up and is off fighting the good fight for the people of Metropolis. The story, while interesting and well written, is more important because of how it’s told rather than the premise. It is more remarkable to craft the perfect Superman comic than it is to come up with a storyline that’s meant to impress us more than the initial concept of an indestructible man who can fly already does. Dan Jurgens knows exactly what to do with Superman and with Action Comics alike and it’s clear he enjoys doing it. He provides a beginning, middle and ending here, but not without opening dozens of potential paths for the story to branch out on.
The quality of this book is off the charts, which is due to the magnitude of the various artists involved in this first volume. Illustrators Patrick Zircher, Tyler Kirkham, Stephen Segovia and Art Thibert rise to the challenge and make “Path of Doom” feel like the Superman comic you’ve always wanted. Pages feel powerful in their design and you can almost feel the impact of the showdown between Superman and his opponents. Wonder Woman makes a lengthy appearance, and Lex Luthor once again proves more formidable than the average human. It would be too easy to rely on the iconic presence Superman has when juxtaposed with everyday environments and fortunately these artists don’t take the easy way out. The book is written and drawn for maximum effect, and fans of Superman wouldn’t have it any other way.
Part of the fun with this comic is in the way it is thoughtfully rendered by colorists Tomeu Morey, Ulises Arreola and Arif Prianto. Their palettes create a harmonious balance between emotional drama and sheer action, but also between realism and the more fantastic elements. The brightness of Superman’s costume is on point, creating a paradoxical effect between him and almost everything else. Dynamic lighting with digital effects combined with a skillful, painterly style makes this book feel rich in value. Yes, the artwork is dense and there is a considerable amount of detail, but it would admittedly be that much less exciting without the colors.
Is it possible to read so many comic books that we begin to take for granted the things we used to admire most about them? Maybe, but with a book like this first volume of Action Comics you suddenly can’t help but notice all of the fine tuned nuance. Whether it’s the story, the art or the combination of both, this book practically forces you to pay attention and disregard nothing. Thanks to Dan Jurgens and his collaborators, “Path of Doom” makes it so that readers can now experience the best of both worlds with a classic approach to the present day take on Superman.