Action Comics #23.1: Cyborg Superman #1 (and the New Cyborg Superman is?)
By Andy Frisk
September 28, 2013 - 19:04
Writer(s): Michael Alan Nelson
Penciller(s): Mike Hawthorne
Colourist(s): Daniel Brown
Letterer(s): Carlos M. Mangual
As revealed (spoiler alert) in the pages of Action Comics 23.1, Cyborg Superman's origin has been re-written to reveal that he is now Zor-El, Supergirl's father. Zor-El survived the destruction of Krypton and was upgraded into an "elite" Kryptonian by Brianiac. Now, he's more man than machine, can't remember who he was, and is evil to the core (in a Nazi/master race-like bigoted type of way). Oh, and his hair went from blonde to black during the "upgrade" as well. Some might see this as a neat little twist of a development, but what it is really is a blatant attempt by DC Comics to have its Superman cake and eat it too.
The original Cyborg Superman was a by product of the Death and Return of Superman story that put Superman's titles back on the sales charts in the early 1990s and defined the character for the Post Crisis generation. Cyborg Superman was originally one of the four Reign of the Superman characters who were supposed to be Superman somehow reborn. The character was forever tied to that monumental storyline, and ended up being a popular Superman villain over the years around which some really great stories were told. With The New 52 reboot, Cyborg Superman's existence (as well as Superboy, Steel-who had a decent attempt at a reboot at the hands of Grant Morrison in Action Comics Vol. 2-and Doomsday's) were wiped out. Oops. These were some really interesting and viable characters who, wait for it, actually helped Superman's books' sales...and now they couldn't be used.
The Zor-El/Cyborg Superman made his New 52 debut over in the pages of Supergirl recently. Pages of a comic book that I quit reading a while ago. He gets his big origin story in Action Comics #23.1 though. This issue, despite the horrific editorial gymnastics that were pulled off to bring Cyborg Superman "back," is not a poorly written or drawn issue of Action Comics at all. Michael Alan Nelson and Mike Hawthorne do a great job plotting and visualizing the story here. In fact, it really would be an interesting introduction to a new Superman villain, if it wasn't such an obvious attempt attempt to recapture some modicum of the the great storytelling that used to a regular part of Superman's monthly titles. Brainiac's personification is chilling, and the whole tone of the issue fits in quite well with the (once again poor editorial decision) to make the Superman titles very, very, very dark and, in many ways...depressing. Something that Superman titles shouldn't be. I have no problem with them being realistic, deep, and thought provoking (like Death and Return of Superman and New Krypton were), but they shouldn't be depressing.
Oh well. I'm learning to live without my monthly (most of the time weekly) installments of Superman stories to enjoy. There are a few Superman titles out there that are worth reading (namely Scott Snyder's Superman Unchained and Greg Pak's Batman/Superman), but the days of my eager anticipation for the next issues of Superman, Action Comics, Supergirl, and Superboy have sadly passed, at least for as long as The New 52 Superman exists in his current form.
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