After suffering through months of torturous fill-ins and crossovers with books I don’t read, Action Comics finally gets a new, permanent creative team, and even though this is technically a crossover issue, it really has nothing at all to do with Zero Year, and instead, it’s a highly enjoyable comic, the best issue of this title since Morrison left and a good sign that Pak and Kuder understand the character and an exciting promise of what’s to come.
Given that this is a Zero Year tie-in, it takes place in the past, in the early days of Superman. So, he can’t fly, is a bit cocky and wears the t-shirt and jeans combo. It’s Morrison Action Supes basically, and given that I love that take on the character, it’s great to have it back. Pak actually uses the first page to introduce his take on Superman’s first girlfriend, Lana Lang, who, and correct me if I’m wrong about this, hasn’t really appeared much in the New 52, if at all. Lana leaves Smallville and Clark behind because she has ‘things to do’ in the world, and so does Clark. What he does is become Superman, and fight some White Supremacists. This opening action scene was a lot of fun, as it showcased what Superman was like at this time in his life, that he can only jump really high and not fly, and that he is not really the boy scout we know and love just yet, we see this when he actually laughs at one of the White Supremacists he’s beaten up. Now, before you run off and start crying about how DC have made Superman a jerk, it’s crucial to note that Pak is aware that he was acting like a jerk, and in the next scene, has Clark realise that he shouldn’t have done that. This is Superman before he really became Superman, and it’s cool to see Pak writing him in the process of maturing.
After Clark realises he shouldn’t be punching down, the Zero Year tie-in kicks in, as Clark hears that a Storm that is about to hit the East Coast, and since Gotham City has been left powerless by what The Riddler did in Batman #24, it’s in big trouble. Clark decides that he needs to do more with his powers than just beat people up, so he jumps onto the wing of a plane and heads out to see, in an attempt to stop the storm before it can hit Gotham. It turns out that Lana Lang’s travels have taken her to a Cargo Ship that is sailing just off the coast of Gotham and has been caught in the storm, and Pak does a very good job at using narration from both Lana and Superman to show how similar they are in their thought ant their attempts to either stop the storm or pilot the ship away from danger. Once again, Superman’s initial cockiness doesn’t work out, as he fails to stop the storm, but then, more urgent help is needed, and he manages to secretly save the ship, alongside Lana’s more conventional methods. I like Pak’s take on Lana Lang a lot, she seems like a real, tough southern gal, and her similarities to Clark and her general behaviour do a good job of showing, not telling how important the community of Smallville was in shaping Superman. I’m interested in seeing how much of a role she’ll play in this run.
In the end, Superman ends up on shore, having saved Lana and the rest of the ship, and whilst he’s disappointed that he wasn’t strong enough, he did his best, and I think learned a lesson. This was a very strong first issue for Pak, he’s shown in Batman/Superman that he knows how to write this character well, and that continued here, I liked his take on Lana and whilst we still haven’t really seen him write a present-day Superman, the back-up story, which showed Clark listening in to the problems of the city on his lunch-break and surreptitiously helping was a good start.
Aaron Kuder’s artwork was also fantastic, I liked his work when I first saw it on GL: New Guardians, and he’s already improved a lot here. His cartoonish style works for Superman, and he gives the action sequences a real sense of motion and impact. I particularly liked the page where Superman leaps up into the air and smashes a Nazi Robot, and how one of the panels was in the shape of the ‘S’ shield, very cool indeed. I also liked Scott McDaniel’s work on the back-up, he’s always solid in his own, idiosyncratic way. I hope this team can stick together for a nice long while, this title should be one of DC’s best, not a clearinghouse for bits and bobs, and this is a good start.