Best Shots review: Action Comics #1029 is an ominous but hopeful Superman story

Action Comics #1029
(Image credit: Phil Hester/Eric Gapstur/Hi-Fi/Dave Sharpe (DC))

Following the events of Superman #29, Action Comics #1029 follows the father-son duo of Clark and Jonathan Kent as they continue their recurring fight against interdimensional aliens. Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Phil Hester add some wrinkles to a plot that is seemingly all doom and gloom. And a backup story by Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, and Michael Avon Oeming adds some grit to the book without dirtying the main story.

Action Comics #1029 credits

Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad
Art by Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur, Hi-Fi, and Michael Avon Oeming & Taki Soma
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10 

The issue opens as Superman and his son, Jonathan Kent, fly into battle against the same aliens they have been facing off against. The issue opens ominously, with kryptonite colored captions beginning, "This is the day. The day that comes for every kid. The day they see their heroes fall." 

Phil Hester's dynamic poses and framing help sell the gravitas of the moment, with the issue beginning with a single splash page followed by a double-page spread, each with Superman and Superboy giving the aliens a walloping. 

(Image credit: Phil Hester/Eric Gapstur/Hi-Fi/Dave Sharpe (DC))

Hi-Fi keeps the iconic colors of Superman's costume bright and bold, adding to the mythic feel. Even in the void of space, Hester's poses show off the power of the superheroes.

Inker Eric Gapstur emphasizes this with the way he inks. Jonathan's more modern suit is inked with feathery thin lines, but Superman's more traditional outfit shows off his body more, and Gapstur uses thick defining lines around Superman's muscle bellies, giving him this image of herculean strength that heightens the tension as the issue moves closer and closer to his presumed end.

It's this view of Superman as an invulnerable paragon that is being challenged, both in Jonathan's eyes, and the reader's. Phillip Kennedy Johnson's script focuses on showing Jonathan's concern for his father, and his own reckoning with the fact that his dad isn't indestructible. Much has been written about superheroes as father figures, and power fantasies, and even though sitcom dads tend to be oafish, the 'American way' that Superman represents features the father as the ultimate authority of the household, dad as god. But that dynamic doesn't last forever, and so it's nice to see that depicted with the ultimate superhero.

The backup story is a drastic shift in tone from the main issue, and centers on Lucas Trent (aka Midnighter). Colorist Taki Soma and artist Michael Avon Oeming use a mixture of blacks and purples to illustrate this night-time world, and the use of black borders around the page and letterer Dave Sharpe's black backgrounds for captions means that shift in story is impossible to miss. This is a good thing, as the story that co-writers Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad tell with Oeming has a decidedly darker feel to it, and one that makes sense for the character. The violence is bloody, but not so gory that it feels inappropriate as a backup for a Superman book. 

There's a nice man vs. machine narrative established here, exemplified by a page in which Midnighter is on the receiving end of a monologue by an invasive A.I. Oeming staggers the panels along the page, with each panel depicting an increasingly frustrated Midnighter, while the background between the panels is an extreme close-up of a computer chip, colored by Soma with a blue that flows down the page like a river, keeping the reader's eye moving.

Action Comics #1029 continues to tell the story about the shifting dynamics between father and son. Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Phil Hester keep the plot simple and brisk, to allow the focus on the lead characters and Jonathan's emotional journey, while still providing a healthy amount of action. The backup story feels like another comic altogether, which should satisfy readers looking to get a wider range of tone in their superhero books. Michael Avon Oeming and Taki Soma make the visual transition a stark one, signaling the story change in a way that even younger readers will recognize. In that way, Action Comics #1029 straddles the line between two audiences in a way that echoes Jonathan's ongoing journey from boy to man.

Action Comics #1029 is available now digitally as well as in print. For the best digital comics experience, check out our list of the best digital comics readers for Android and iOS devices.

Robert Reed
Freelance Writer

Robert is a Los Angeles-based comics journalist and writer (formerly Omaha, Nebraska). He currently writes for Newsarama and Adventures in Poor Taste.