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Look, up in the sky: Graeme celebrates 850 glorious years.

Graeme McMillan

It’s the start of another week – The start of the longest week in the world if you’re me (but that kind of griping should really be saved for the middle of the week, I’m sure). So let’s begin with a nice, refreshing dip into the anniversary pool, shall we?

ACTION COMICS #850: A story so big that it took three writers to tell it! Somehow, having not paid too much attention to the credits of this before I read it – I was happy enough to see Renato Guedes on artwork again; he’s slowly becoming one of my favorite artists working in superhero books these days, and his Supergirl concept art that’s been floating around the internet recently has made me excited about the idea that there may be a Supergirl comic out there soon for people who aren’t fans of Michael Turner and/or stick figure big-eyed blondes – the fact that this was written by Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza and Geoff Johns seemed wrong, somehow; it doesn’t read in an incredibly patchwork manner (despite the patchwork, flashback-nature of the story – There’s a unity of purpose and tone here), or as if three different writers were involved. Nonetheless, there’s a temptation to look at various scenes and look for fingerprints (“That part where Superman talks about being visited by the Legion of Super-Heroes, and the current-Legion – Waid’s version – say that they’ve never visited Superman? That’s got to be Geoff Johns.” And so on), and in writing that, I’m suddenly reminded of 52, and the way that this issue is reminiscent of that series, both in terms of groupwriting and continuity injokiness. This is somewhat smoother than that weekly juggernaut, though, in that the writing still manages to have an individual voice that evaded 52, and that there’s – somewhat obviously – a clearer throughline and clarity of purpose on a single issue than 52 weekly ones.

Anyway, getting back to the comic itself instead of digressing aimlessly: This is a surprisingly effective anniversary issue, acting as both an introduction to Superman and Supergirl to new readers (if there are any? Not that this issue doesn’t deserve them, but I’m just wondering whether the 850th issue of anything would be something potential new readers would pick up. Hey, DC? You should make this your Free Comic Book Day book next year) and, maybe more interestingly, an introduction to longstanding readers to the post-Infinite Crisis history of Superman – There’s a lot of backstory clarification here, which has become more welcome than may have been expected in the last year or so of not only the Superman titles, but also the current Justice League/Justice Society crossover. Most importantly, though, it still reads well – it’s very much a continuity fix and clip show, sure, but there’s fun and value in and of itself.

It’s an old-fashioned anniversary issue, in many ways; it doesn’t kill off any major characters or go for the big change in the status quo, but instead celebrates the past and reminds you why you liked the characters in the first place. It hits the main points of who everyone is and why they do what they do, and sets up all the relationships between everyone, and does it all with some very good art (and also very good coloring). Overall, then, a wonderfully enjoyable Very Good issue that won’t change the world, but doesn’t feel the need to, anyway.

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