Action Comics is one of the longest running superhero comics. That’s why DC decided to relaunch the series with a new number one this month in the hopes that the allure of a first issue will attract new readers. Matthew and Stephen took some time today to run down to their local stores (or in Stephen’s case – his comiXology account) to pick up copies for this review.
ACTION COMICS #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Rags Morales
Inker: Rick Bryant
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Patrick Brossen
Cover: Rags Morales and Brad Anderson
Variant Cover: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously in Action Comics: Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! It’s Superman! Strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman! Who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who disguesed as Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!
STEPHEN: FIrst of all… He’s faster than a speeding bullet, He’s able to LEAP tall buildings in a single bound… This series kicks off with an early look at Superman’s days in Metropolis. Yes, we get the references to Smallville, so there is something that happened before, but there are some unique twists to this mythos. He’s not all powerful, though we do learn he is getting stronger every day. He has heat vision and X-ray vision, and his body can stop a bullet, be it from a gun or a tank. But at this point in the story, Superman does not fly. And for someone who had something to say about that a while ago, I like it.
MATTHEW: Don’t gloat, Stephen. Don’t be “That Guy.”
STEPHEN: Oh, I’ll be that guy… to the point that I even liked the Somebody Save Me! moment at the beginning of the issue, as the music swelled and we all heard the Smallville theme song loud and clear… wait. That was just me, wasn’t it?
MATTHEW: Couldn’t even begin to tell you, as I’ve never watched a full episode of that series (though I did do a breakdown of the greatest episodes a while ago.) I have to say, though, that the parallels to Smallville rather bothered me, especially given that Smallville is now off the air, from the perspective of corporate synergy and “modernizing” our characters. Morrison does deliver on his promise of a new, young, brash Superman learning the ropes of superheroics.
STEPHEN: There are some other nice twists that Morrison threw into this issue – namely that Clark Kent doesn’t work for The Daily Planet, but instead at a rival newspaper – something Lois Lane points out to Clark’s bestest friend for the last six months, Jimmy Olson. Of course there are some things that never change. General Sam Lane and Lex Luthor are against the “Superman” from the beginning and are working closely to try and capture the man with powers and abilities far beyond those of normal man.
MATTHEW: We also get a throwback to the first Action Comics #1, as Clark busts in on a notorious criminal and basically tortures/frightens him into confessing his various sins. It’s also cute to see Morrison work in all the bits of Superman ephemera, as he demonstrates in the issue that he IS faster than a speeding bullet, and able to leap the tallest buildings in a single bound. But that whole bit about “more powerful” than a locomotive doesn’t end so well for young Master Kent in this issue…
STEPHEN: We’ve seen the train stopping gimmick a hundred times before, and it has become quite a trope, but I like what Morrison is doing here. He’s essentially taken a lot of key moments that are engrained in the general public’s mind about who and what Superman is, dumped it in a pot, swirled it around, and added his own seasoning. If there is one thing that I don’t like is that the Luthor/military connection seems a bit forced, and the Glen Glenmorgan bit is the McGuffin that moves the story forward… or at least that is what we are lead to believe right now.
MATTHEW: I didn’t find the Luthor/Lane connection to be quite so problematic, as they’ve shown similar thought processes in the past (each has attempted to wipe the scourge of aliens off the planet) and each has a reason to be part of this story, given Lane’s offspring. I have to say that I also like the way Lex refers to ‘The Superman” as “It” throughout the issue, setting him apart as both arrogant and xenophobic, and setting up some pretty unpleasant violence near the end…
STEPHEN: Yeah, did you notice Superman said “GD?”. When it comes to the fight scenes, there is a lot of brutality in the action, but there are also quieter moments when the art settles, and we can take in all the detail of the surroundings. Did you notice the W.E. graphitti on the wall? Is Rags Morales trying to tell us the inspiration for this art direction is Will Eisner? If so, he’s on the right track. I mean, the guy did kick First Wave off with a bang… too bad it didn’t continue that way, but…
MATTHEW: Rags has always been one of my fave-raves, going all the way back to his resurrection of Black Condor in the early 90’s, and he does really good work in terms of facial expression and human body language, delivering content MILES beyond many of the hot artists of the month. He can put more personality in one panel than certain folk can entire ISSUES. Still, I have to say that my biggest reservation comes in terms of what Clark wears into battle this issue…
STEPHEN: Since this is Superman’s first outing as a hero for the common man, I really don’t mind the street clothes acting as costume here. I half expect a number of entries to this year’s Major Spoilers Costume Contest to be a pair of work jeans, lineman shoes, and a red picnic blanket. One of the takes I like on Superman is he isn’t the smartest hero out there. He’s the strongest and he does have an above average intelligence, but he’s no Batman. This outfit may look “dumb” to many, and I’ve seen one person already call it the “Li’l Abner Look”, but it harkens back to his known roots as a farm boy from Kansas. I say that only because we don’t know yet if he is aware of his Kryptonian heritage. The only other person who could really pull off this look and make it work is Billy Batson, which is the vibe I got while reading this issue, even though Captain Marvel has an outfit that looks nothing like this.
MATTHEW: Y’know, I wouldn’t have a problem with it if it weren’t seemingly an extension of the whole “Midwesterners are barefoot drooling slack-jawed inbred grit-eating morons” prejudice that strangely still crops up in the 21st century. I haven’t seen a pair of boots like that since the mid-70’s, myself, and the recurring “L’il Abner” jokes aren’t without merit. Still, since this comic book is supposed to be set in the “past” of the new DCU, I can certainly allow them a certain amount of artistic license, and it’s at least an iconic image. Maybe it’s not up to the snuff of Joe Shuster’s early works, but it’s better than many of the alternatives.
STEPHEN: At this point, all i can say is, “Well played Mr. Morrison. Well played.” Those who have been reading this site long enough know that I have a hate/love/hate/hate relationship with Morrison’s take on the DC Universe (and Batman in particular), but I think my ire has settled down to the point where I will openly read what Morrison is serving up to see if it is to my liking. This time, I’m liking what I’m reading. Yes, this isn’t what came before. No, there’s no real tie to past continuity. AND THAT’S THE FREAKIN’ POINT! Superman got a big reboot during the Byrne run, and I think/hope were are seeing the same thing done here. I liked this issue a lot. Action Comics #1 earns an impressive 4.5 out of 5 Stars from me.
MATTHEW: I am a little less enamored of this book than you, but even I can see the positives here. There’s a clear intent to modernize everything we love about Superman without clear-cutting everything, and I kind of like the return to Superman’s sarcastic roots (“Try another needle, doc!”) and the mistakes being made by young Clark Kent here. I’m not sure where the Luthor/Superman relationship stands vis a vis Smallville and such, but I can’t help but enjoy the fact that they’ve managed to reinsert a version of Superboy into the mythos in a way that’s fun and interesting. It’s not plowing a lot of new ground (unlike Clark’s boots and pants, which have clearly seen a field or two) but Action Comics #1 is good enough to keep my interest, and earns 3 out of 5 stars overall.
There you go, Dear Reader, a look at the relaunch Action Comics.
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