This review is based off a volume that collects Action Comics #957-962.
There are many reasons why Action Comics is one of my favorite titles that DC currently publishes – and Path of Doom illustrates them all beautifully. Not only does it include Superman and all the essential supporting characters – Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Lex Luthor, for starters – but it also features some of the most compelling mysteries of the young Rebirth era, a quality many may not be aware of and something that will be touched on shortly.
But really, it should come as no surprise that this series is a fine read. I mean, if Dan Jurgens was born to write for any character, it’s certainly Big Blue. Having crafted tales chronicling the Man of Tomorrow’s adventures for the past few decades, you would think he’d run out of ideas by now, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Seeing as how Jurgens opted to stick to writing, lest he destroy his hands attempting to make the deadlines that come with a twice-monthly shipping schedule, he’s joined by an impressive cadre of artists. Personally, I love the efforts put forth by Patrick Zircher and Tyler Kirkham, as they’re incredibly textured and detailed. And, in case you’re wondering, I also enjoyed Stephen Segovia’s contributions as well, although I couldn’t help but notice that his renditions of Superman and Lex kind of looked a bit younger than they should have in some panels. On the positive side, nobody’s style here is too drastic of a departure from their colleagues’, so the transitions aren’t jarring in a visual sense.
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As I intimated earlier, there’s a boatload of intrigue to be found in this book: Mr. Oz, whom I and many others theorize to be Watchmen’s Ozymandias, making moves from the shadows; a mysterious “Clark Kent” who isn’t superpowered, confounding the major players and readers alike; and a Lex Luthor who has assumed the mantle of the recently deceased New 52 Superman, forcing the pre-Flashpoint version to step into the daylight.
Speaking of which, that leads to a most interesting dynamic: Seeing Superman and Lex Luthor forced to work side by side in order to thwart the abominable threat that is Doomsday. Although both must endure some awkward, heated conversations, it’s we the readers who win, even if their arguments do prove circular as time goes on.
Make no mistake, just because I thoroughly dig this series doesn’t mean it’s without its faults. A criticism that can be aimed at the fight with Doomsday is that it goes on for too long. I remember when I was originally reading this arc as the issues were being individually released, I kept thinking to myself, “They’re still fighting Doomsday” with each passing installment. But to its credit, Path of Doom does come across better in a contained trade paperback. Still, the seemingly never-ending fisticuffs overstay their welcome more than a bit, even if Wonder Woman does eventually get involved.
If you’re hoping to see Clark’s family life, I will say you do get that here, but not in the way you would over in Superman. Whereas that title is more domestic and bucolic, Action Comics is more about Metropolis. So, while Lois and Jon are still core characters in this tale, don’t count on seeing Jon’s journey to becoming Superboy being chronicled; that’s Peter J. Tomasi’s job. In other words, this is more of a broad story as opposed to being intimate or overly introspective – but don’t confuse that with thinking there’s no heart, because it’s there in spades.
Something that really surprised me when it came to Wonder Woman’s involvement here that there wasn’t as much emotion on her end as there was more so selfless heroism. Knowing that she was romantically linked to New 52 Superman could’ve allowed Jurgens to really flex his writing muscles by showing her reaction to having to work with her former beau’s doppelganger, but she pretty much took it in stride. I’m well aware this was touched on in other titles such as Trinity, but a few breathers from what amounted to be non-stop action from start to finish would have been appreciated.
Through and through, Superman – Action Comics Vol. 1: Path of Doom feels like reading an extended episode of Superman: The Animated Series. Like I said, it has the characters you want to see and is filled to the brim with, well, action. Rest assured that the closing pages meet their goal and will have you returning for a second helping when the next volume hits bookstores.
Path of Doom encapsulates what makes the current run of Action Comics so great: It's the characters you love wrapped up in highly intriguing mysteries, with grandiose action scenes realized by world class artists.