Time continues to get thrown around as two mighty titans battle it our for the life or death of Superman. When Grant Morrison gets his hands on a character, he can’t let go, and with this series, it seems to be quite literal.
I do love the time warping concept
The backup story will break your heart
The art shines on every panel
This story arc will never end
One needs a plethora of footnotes to navigate the panels
ACTION COMICS #17
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Brad Walker, Rags Morales
Inkers: Andrew Hennessy, Mark Propst, Cam Smith
Colorists: Gabe Elterb, Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Action Comics: The evil imp Vyndktvx has escaped the 5th Dimension, found his way to Earth, and for decades has plotted and planned ways to eliminate Superman. For sixteen issues, writer Grant Morrison has thrown all manner of bad guy and bad situation at our hero. And in grand Grant Morrison fashion has twisted the timeline around to the point where past and future collide, and the fate of the entire universe is in the hands of a jumbled story that needs footnotes to understand in what order everything takes place.
YOU KNOW WHAT? JUST GO WITH IT
As Mr. Morrison began to spin his tale of the New 52 Superman, it became clear very early on that elements of the story were being told out of order. It wasn’t until much later that how much out of order the story was came to the forefront, and now with this the penultimate issue, time is so in flux that one has a tough time keeping story progression straight. This issue continues the battle between Superman and Superdoom, a cyborg/demon Superman from an alternate dimension. I did get a kick out of reading how Superdoom came about, and how his powers amplify the more people think about him. Beyond that, this issue is just a jumble of panels and frames that when read in the right frame of mind, does make sense. Of course in order to get to that state, you need to have a very intimate knowledge of every panel, and every page from the past sixteen issues. Frankly, i don’t have the time to muck about with those shenanigans, but I do remember enough to have a rough idea of what goes where.
This kind of story telling isn’t new to DC, Mr. Morrison, or Superman. Mr. Morrison did it before in All-Star Superman. Many may also remember Final Crisis, and how disjointed time got toward the end, which resulted in DC having to spin off a couple of other books just to explain the wackiness that Mr. Morrison was serving up. From a very broad perspective, I get where Mr. Morrison is coming from – our concept of time is just that, a concept – there are many beliefs systems that talk about energy flowing forward and backward through time like the ripples in a pond. I once tried to explain to another member of the Major Spoilers staff that the bad things one does in the future could be rippling backwards in time thus interfering with that person’s current Karmic state. As expected, the explanation went over like a lead balloon, and I think that is what is happening in the closing issues of this book. EIther the reader gets it, or the reader gives up in disgust, and walks away. I’ve mentioned before that the monthly release of the book may be what is hindering the enjoyment of this series for many people, but the collected trade will make much more sense, and will later be hailed as a great piece of writing.
What does irk me the most about this issue is that it isn’t the final issue in Grant Morrison’s run. Way back in 2012, Mr. Morrison stated that issue #16 was going to be his final issue. When issue #16 arrived, everyone got to the last page and discovered that we would have to buy issue #17 in order to get the final chapter. Now that issue #17 is here, we once again discover we have one more issue to go before we reach the end. To make matters worse, the backup story (which is heartwarming and wonderful) eludes to events that happen in issue #18, which will once again leave people scratching their heads. To be honest, I don’t think we’ll see the end of this story in the next issue. I have a feeling Mr. Morrison and DC Comics are once again messing around with the idea that time and the promise of the end is a idea that can never be reached…
YOU KNOW WHAT? ART
When I see an issue that has an army of artists, inkers, and colorists on it, I begin to worry. I’ve read books where nearly every other page jumps back and forth between artists, and muddles the visual enjoyment of the issue. However, because time is jumping around so much, editorial made the smart move of assigning art teams to specific moments in time. Rags Morales’s art is beautiful during the flashbacks, and the harder inking style during the battle with Superdoom to give that feeling that the end is nigh. The change in art style ends up being quite subtle because there is so much action and jumping around throughout the issue.
BOTTOM LINE: YOU KNOW WHAT? BUY IT
Look, this issue is not a jumping on point. If you haven’t been on the Grant Morrison/Action Comics ride from the beginning, none of this is going to make sense. However, there is an interesting story that is being told here, and the time shifts are important. As we reach the end, all of these random bits begin to make more sense, and hopefully it will all come together in the end… if there is an end… The process of spinning this tory is well done, and the art that looks at past events from different perspectives is fabulous. Action Comics #17 is worth picking up for those that made the commitment back at issue #1, but because the “final issue” continues to be pushed, I’m only giving this issue 3.5 out of 5 Stars.