Review: Mongul Rules In ‘Action Comics’ #1038
by Tony Thornley
In three issues, Action Comics’ Warworld Saga has subverted expectations. Now we see what the path might be moving forward, but it’s very different than what most would expect for the Man of Steel.
The next chapter of Superman’s greatest battle is much darker and much quieter than he thought. It’s a fascinating step forward from Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Miguel Mendonca, Adriano Lucas, and Dave Sharpe.
Superman and the Authority are beaten. Broken. Lightray is dead. Enchantress is missing. Their mission has failed before it even started. Now Superman and his allies have to work from the lowest they could possibly be to save Warworld from its despotic ruler.
Johnson could have told a similar story without the previous two issues. He could have written the Authority starting from the bottom and working their way up. That story wouldn’t have had the same impact as what Johnson has done so far. Sure, it could have been good, but I don’t think it would have been nearly as good as what it’s shaping up to be.
This isn’t just a story about a group of superheroes liberating an enslaved world. This is Superman helping a people find hope through defeat. This is about Clark Kent discovering his flaws, and being humbled through his hubris. This is about characters like Midnighter and Manchester Black discovering what Superman truly is capable of. The first two issues of this arc were about pulling the rug from under our feet, while establishing that Mongul was not the character we thought, or expected him to be. This issue shows us, the readers, and Superman that he needs to find another way.
It’s all the better for that.
Mendonca’s work is much stronger in this issue. His figures were stiff and slightly awkward last issue, but in this one he has a better sense of motion. His layouts are a bit more dynamic, but he also excels at the quiet moments. The scene of OMAC and Steel getting their chains, and Superman meeting the Phaloseans are both very strong, character driven moments thanks to how he depicts them.
Lucas’ colors make Warworld feel alien and oppressive. His use of reds in particular sets the landscape apart from Earth. Sharpe’s letters are great. He uses some interesting balloons and fonts for Mongul and his minions, but he also uses sound effects to enhance the art and imply a soundscape around Mendonca’s work, especially in the aforementioned OMAC and Steel scene.
This story could have been very different, and I’m glad it’s not. It’ll be fascinating to see where it goes from here. Regardless of the destination though, it’s clear it will be a hell of a journey.
Action Comics #1038 is available now from DC Comics.
The Warworld Saga continues in an unexpected way. This story isn’t at all what it could have been, and may have been twenty years ago. This is a modern epic in the making and I’m excited to see what’s next each month.