Action Comics 2022 Annual #1 Revisits Superman and Mongul’s Childhoods

If the current Action Comics run proves anything, it’s that Mongul’s propensity for ruthless violence reaffirms him as one of the greatest threats Superman has ever faced. A stone-cold tyrant, Mongul comes from a world where power is everything and compassion is seen as a weakness, while in Superman’s world, his humanity is his greatest asset. The brutal fistfight in the blood-soaked battle pits of Warworld is as much an ideological battle as it is a physical one. Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Si Spurrier with artwork from Dale Eaglesham and Ian Churchill, alongside colorist Lee Loughridge and letterer Dave Sharpe, DC’s Action Comics 2022 Annual #1 delves deep into the past to illuminate the reality of the present.

Action Comics 2022 Annual #1 depicts two different childhoods and two very different mothers. The story begins with a kids’ soccer game in Smallville. A young Clark Kent takes the ball and rolls it into the net, but his classmate, Caleb, accuses him of cheating. He did, in fact, cheat, which makes Martha sit down and have a talk with her son about humility and the importance of leading by example. Meanwhile, on the hostile planet of Warworld, Mongul fights in a trial, a culling to weed out the weak. His compassion for him leads to his mother calling him weak. She grows frustrated at her son’s lack of guile and takes matters into her own hands to teach Mongul the harsh reality of being a Warzoon.

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Action Comics 2022 Annual #1 makes a compelling case for nature versus nurture, demonstrating how the machinations of the world and the adults involved impact the review of children as they grow up. The book splits into two opposing narratives and follows two young boys worlds apart. Clark Kent has powers beyond imagination, yet he misuses them in every instance, whereas Mongul is more humane with a strong sense of morality. The turning point comes when each mother teaches her are a valuable lesson that radically transforms their respective futures.

Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson gives Clark his mother’s inner resilience and penchant for finding happiness in small things. And Si Spurrier explores the ways in which Mongul’s mother’s indomitable spirit and propensity for violence shaped the iconic villain. The intertwining storylines give weight to the history of both characters as they change the lives of the people around them, for better and for worse.

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Like the story itself, the two different art styles in Action Comics 2022 Annual #1 highlights the differences between Superman and Mongul’s upbringings. Veteran comic book artist Dale Eaglesham brings the sleepy town of Smallville to life and populates it with a host of characters. His clean contours and bold inking of him give credence to the emotional lives of each character as Johnson’s tale plays with the readers’ heartstrings. Eaglesham’s crisp, clean art contrasts wildly with Ian Churchill’s violent, energetic work. He recreates the humongous, rusted war machines in the expansive arid geography of Mongul’s home and makes it look effortless with colorist Lee Loughridge tagging along for the ride, dousing the panels in a range of vibrant shades.

Action Comics 2022 Annual #1 depicts a heartwarming journey of a hero and a story of vengeance and anger in an oversized issue that takes the reader through a whirlwind of emotions. The juxtaposition of the two mothers’ different teaching styles allows their sons to grow up as ideal leaders in their respective worlds and gives the issue an enthralling spread of panels. Action Comics 2022 Annual #1 provides a backstory to Superman and Mongul’s agendas as the ultimate final battle looms close.

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