Comic Vine Review


Action Comics #23.1 - Born in Flames Review


Villain's Month invades Action Comics as we learn the origin of the enigmatic Cyborg Superman.


The Good

Setting aside the fact that this is a Supergirl villain with Supergirl's creative team somewhat inexplicably flying the flag of a Superman title, this book is a fascinating, meaty look at one of my favorite pre-New 52 villains who seems to have gotten the better end of the re-imagining equation. The new character design is a great deal more unique (as much as I loved the old one, it really was just "what if we took the Terminator poster and slapped it on Superman's face?), as well as having a much more modern sensibility.

Michael Alan Nelson's reveal of Zor-El as Cyborg Superman was a truly jaw-dropping moment at the end of the last issue of Supergirl, but it also made a lot of sense from a storyline perspective and had plenty of potential to have a great follow-up. That is definitely cashed in as we see Zor-El's sibling rivalry with Jor-El inspire him to try and save Krypton, or at least Argo where he and his family live, in his own way. There's a great bit of projection when Zor-El accuses his brother of being unable to overcome his ego and abandon his spaceship program when, in fact, his own ego is clearly the more fragile. Nelson really does a great job of making the reader both pity and hate the second-rate scientist. While we see this losing battle, we cut back and forth to Brainiac finding the ruins of Argo and saving Zor-El, only to excise his memories, as well as a great deal of his organic matter, and make him the abominable creation we know him as. He then sets him loose on the galaxy to find other beings worthy of being upgraded to perfection.

Mike Hawthorne is on pencils and inks with Daniel Brown supplying the colors, and the two of them do incredible work. This issue joins several others across the superhero genre in crossing over heavily into sci-fi, and the art is a big part of what makes that work. The colors are very distinct and use a wide, deep palette to show the myriad of strange, alien locations that Cyborg Supes journeys across. The linework is incredibly distinct and clear and the level of detail on every panel makes me hope that this isn't a onetime team-up by this writer/artists team.

The Bad

As much as I love Cyborg Superman's new look, there's no good reason given for why he looks almost exactly like Kal-El. His hair is even given a completely unexplained dye-job (Zor-El is blonde, but at some point during his upgrade his hair apparently turns black) and his skull structure seems needlessly altered to more resemble Superman. The issue's story is a fascinating one, but it doesn't explain a lot of Cyborg's motivations in Supergirl (his being on the world he's found on, why his sole driving desire apparently went from the pursuit of "perfect" beings to recovering his own memories and form). This may be explained in future issues, but it seems like something of an elephant in the room at the moment.

The Verdict

Plot quibbles that extend beyond the pages of this particular issue certainly can't keep it from being an extremely entertaining and eye-opening read. Brainiac is definitely becoming one of the bigger behind-the-scenes power players in the New 52 and this issue certainly feeds into that narrative. Nelson does one helluva job making Cyborg Superman into a compelling, somewhat tragic figure, and I actually like that he doesn't lean into the "tortured villain" trope too heavily. Zor-El was a jerk BEFORE his transformation, he's now just a more driven, powerful jerk even if he DID have the best of intentions. I may have some objections to how Villain's Month is being handled, but that can easily be put aside as this issue stands fantastically on its own.

20 Comments Refresh
Posted by broo1232

Looking forward to this one

Posted by Lamenoire

As much as I love Cyborg Superman's new look, there's no good reason given for why he looks almost exactly like Kal-El. His hair is even given a completely unexplained dye-job (Zor-El is blonde, but at some point during his upgrade his hair apparently turns black) and his skull structure seems needlessly altered to more resemble Superman

Brainiac commanded his Robot to alter Zor-El DNA and RNA sequence to emulate Jor-El

Edited by tessmercer51

Brainiac wanted him to look like his smarter brother Jor-el. And since kal-el is jor-el's son then that is why he looks like kal-el. Jeez, did you even read the issue.

Posted by darknightspideyfanboy

@lamenoire: same i thought they did explain why he look like kal-el or better yet jor-el

Posted by Barkley

his hair is dark because his dna was made to look like jor-el's.....braniac called him the greatest kryptonian....

Edited by saoakden

I really want to read this. Cyborg Superman is one of my favorite Superman villains and it be interesting to see how he interacts with Superman and Supergirl in future issues. This Cyborg Superman has a more personal connection to the Super characters and I'm interested to see how that plays out in future stories.

Edited by Reactor

This was brutal and incredible. It may be premature, but I think Zor-El is even more interesting than Henry. Loved this issue.

Posted by noj

Dang Im glad you liked the issue but the first 3 posts pretty much destroy your main negative against the book lol. I can see why you probably overlooked it though. If you were specifically looking for a mention of why he looks like Superman the mention that he was made to look more like Jor El probably just flew over your head since it wasnt what you were expecting. It happens to the best of us haha.

I was thinking of picking this up but since my comic shop only gave the 3D covers to people who were subbed to the series I decided against getting the normal cover.

Posted by inferiorego

Awesome issue. However, the fanboy in me just can't let go that this isn't Hank Henshaw. I'll get over it.

Edited by timelord

I enjoyed this book it will be interesting to see how Kara reacts in Supergirl #24 the bad thing is I have to wait two months :(

Posted by Undeadpool

@tessmercer51: @lamenoire: @barkley: It's not that I didn't notice, it's that I don't get WHY. He just wanted his appearance altered, but since most of his head is mechanized, all it REALLY does is change his hair color and upper facial bone's purely cosmetic and for a being like Brainiac that makes NO sense.

Awesome issue. However, the fanboy in me just can't let go that this isn't Hank Henshaw. I'll get over it.

It WAS an amazing twist to make one of Superman's most vicious villains turn out to be a throwaway one-off character.

Posted by JamDamage


so far I feel like I got duped. I bought waaaay to many books this week, and pretty much all of the one shots for the villains have sucked donkey dick. BIG DONKEY DICK, but HEY! DC did it's job. They got my money. Since the next issues are about other villians, I'll be buying a lot more then I'm used again. This issue I thought was pretty damn cool tho. Good idea. Nice premise, and with Cyborg running around saying he's "Perfect" it was kind of cool that when I read about Bizzaro the "imperfection" trait was there. I wonder if DC was going for that considering the 2 Supe books, and them being clones of sorts of Superman. What ever. Bizzaro sucked, so if you haven't bought that issue yet, then don't waist your money on it. It's garbage. I have a couple more one shots to yet to go, and hopefully there will be another good one, but so far, this one has been a diamond in the rough. Forever Evil number 1 was good. That'll say, and the X-Men books were great, but DC pissed me off again. Just like it did with the crappy number ones when all those New 52 books came out.

Posted by JamDamage

I was surprised that with how the reviewers at Comicvine love to give out 5 stars, that this issue didn't receive one. I just don't get how they grade their reviews, but it sucks.

Posted by spacemanspiff85

The weird thing to me with this version of Cyborg Superman is that he really isn't a cyborg or Superman at all anymore. :P I guess DC doesn't plan to use him as a villain anymore, unless he somehow reverts to the cyborg in Supergirl, which kind of seems likely to me now that I think about it. Even if he doesn't, I think there is still a Hank Henshaw in the New 52, so I guess I can be hopeful that he'll be back.

Edited by Angelo2113

@lamenoire: Yeah, it was pretty much well explained why he looks similar to Kal-El. Maybe the reviewer read it too quickly or forgot.

Posted by theTimeStreamer

it is official: brainiac hates blondes.

Edited by Agent_Prince

Totally misleading release by DC. I don't read Supergirl, so had little knowledge of what was going off in this book. However, it is as well written issue, but should have been a Supergirl 23.1.

Edited by sinestro_GL

No Henshaw?



Posted by The_Titan_Lord

The issue was good.

Posted by Provehito

Fantastic issue. Everything was so enjoyable, including his hunt for a "perfect" being.