Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Action Comics #1 Reviewed

A couple of weeks ago, on the blog Has Boobs, Reads Comics, Jill Pantozzi posted a fan produced "commercial" for the DC Comics relaunch that featured a distressed fanboy ranting about the upcoming changes to DC history, continuity and characters.  It ended with this assurance, "It's going to be okay, Guys.  And remember, no matter what else happens...Grant Morrison will be writing Action Comics and that's going to kick ass."
Action Comics #1 is very good, though I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that it kicks ass.  Not yet anyway, though the potential for future ass kickage is definitely there.  Grant is rearing back his leg and winding up to kick some ass you could say, if you really felt like stretching that metaphor to the breaking point. 
Taking place as it does in the early days of Superman's heroic career, "Superman Vs. The City of Tomorrow"lacks the epic scope and mythic grandeur of  Morrison's earlier work on All-Star Superman.  Instead we get a more down to earth, and, dare I say it, "realistic" take on super heroics, at least in as much as those terms can be said to apply to a man who can catch bullets in his hand. 
Back in '86, on the occasion of the last major reboot of the Man of Steel, John Byrne made a lot of noise about his version of Superman being, as he wrote in his introduction to The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, "...closer to the Superman of Siegal and Shuster than he had been for decades," but he never quite delivered on that boast, at least to the degree that Morrison does.   True to his word, Morrison presents the reader with a character who is more similar than not to the one who debuted in the first Action #1 over 70 years ago.  Coming on the scene as a champion of the innocent, the oppressed and the common man, he is less super-hero than super powered vigilante.  Though he's not quite as super powerful as he will someday become, and is still getting around by taking giant leaps rather than actually flying.  As Clark Kent, meanwhile, he works, as he did back in the 1938 original, for editor George Taylor at the Metropolis Daily Star, a rival of the Daily Planet, where Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen work.
While Superman has for many decades been portrayed as the "establishment" super-hero, here he finds himself in conflict with the police, while the military, represented here by General Sam Lane, father of Lois, fear him enough to hire Lex Luthor to deliver the strange being to them. 
The conception of Luthor as corrupt business mogul, rather than the bent on world domination run of the mill mad scientist that he debuted as back in the forties, is the one major change made by Byrne and company back in the 80's that seems to have resonated enough with fans and creators to have stuck around in this latest update of the legend.  He certainly makes a fitting opponent for Morrison's vision of Superman as man of the people.
By the way, although I haven't mentioned them, there are pictures in this book.  They're by Rags Morales and they're quite good. 
With the new Action #1, the revised saga of the Man of Tomorrow is off to a great start, with the promise of even better to come and I  plan to stick around for awhile. I hope that Morrison's exploration of Superman's early years isn't going to be confined to just this initial storyline, but that he takes the time to show us Kal-El developing into the legendary, nearly god like figure portrayed in All-Star Superman.


  1. Looks like Morrison definately did his homework. For the record, I'm with you, Ray, on the series taking it's time to propel "more powerful than a locmotive" to a god in blue spandex. Maybe this more 1940's version of the Man of Tomorrow shows the readers that Morrison is interested in doing something different than he did with All-Star Superman.

    After watching that New 52 fan-made advertisement, I was cringing. It hurts for it is true! I need to call my girlfriend and thank her profusely for tollerating me when I go into fanboy rage mode like this poor bastard in the commercial did. Ungh.

    I'm beginning to wonder if this "New 52" wasn't just an extorsionist scheme cooked up by Geoff Johns in order to get anyone who cares about anything DC comics has ever put out to read Flashpoint. Can't you hear him cackling like Doctor Sivana: "You MUST read my book Flashpoint, or you'll be confused about the continuity here at DC comics forever! Hahahahaha!"

    Christ, I'm getting jaded. I have a woman I need to call. Later, brother.

  2. If you're interested, I found this: a blog by John Ostrander about this very comic.