General Sam Lane had a brief and tumultuous first meeting with his grandson, Jon. Now they get the opportunity to meet under more normal circumstances. While this should be a time of great joy, especially since Sam was almost executed due to a botched mission overseas, there’s still a lot of tension between him and his daughter, Lois. Meanwhile, Superman tries to make amends with Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman.
This storyline with Sam Lane has been building in the background over the most recent arc so it’s coming to a head in Action Comics #999. I was critical of it then because it felt out of place and awkward. There’s still no good reason Lois can come up with to explain why she brought her ten year old son into a war zone. No one mentions that here. Instead, they get into familiar arguments over the good that Superman does.
This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t a conversation we’ve heard time and time again. Usually it’s Lex Luthor who is explaining how we can’t trust the Man of Steel because he’s not from here and he’s too powerful. The counter-argument to this comes down to the faith people have in Superman and their belief that he would never take over the world and rule it as a tyrannical dictator. Nevermind that the Injustice franchise shows just that over two video games and several comic series.
Clark arrives by the end to put things in perspective. This is ultimately about family and they can’t let something like politics or super heroics get in the way of that. This should be a loving and happy moment as Sam gets to meet and spend time with his grandson. We get that by the end of the issue. Although we get that moment of love, the characters appear somewhat stiff and awkward, like none of them know what to do with their arms or how to act like people.
This family drama is a little dry, so it is fortunate that it’s interspersed with scenes of Superman trying to find a solution to the Cyborg Superman problem. When we last saw Hank Henshaw, he was trapped in the Phantom Zone. After fighting with General Zod in the near future and realizing the horrific effects the Phantom Zone can have on someone’s mind, he decides that imprisonment there is cruel and unusual. That is the only place that can really hold a being as powerful as Henshaw, so Superman heads out into space looking for answers.
This culminates in a short-lived battle between the two as Superman tries to reason with the cyborg. The fight adds some action to this issue, although it’s far from the usual epic flare that we’re used to with this series. Artist Will Conrad does a fine job bringing this to life, particularly with the cold, soulless eyes of Henshaw. The character appears like a twisted, future version of the Man of Steel.
Clark’s new prison for Henshaw is somewhat bittersweet. Cyborg Superman is still trapped, but now he has something to help him pass his days into eternity. He can feel human again, which is something he’s definitely missed over the years. This is a nice way to move the character around and get him out of the Phantom Zone, perhaps to be used in a future storyline.
This isn’t the end of writer Dan Jurgens‘ run on Action Comics. That will come soon with a special one-shot. As a penultimate chapter, this is lackluster and missing some of the fun and excitement that has come to define the title. It’s an awkward way to wrap up a few loose plot threads before Brian Michael Bendis picks up the reins in the next issue.