52apolooza presents two different looks at Action Comics #1. How did the book score? Check to find out!
Welcome to 52apolooza, the Outhouse feature focusing on DC's September Relaunch. All of DC's 52 titles will be reviewed by our pool of reviewers to point out the best and worst that DC's new comic book line has to offer.
Today, let's take a look at Action Comics #1, one of DC's flagship titles, written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Rags Morales.
Grab Bag Reviewer: James Moore
When I was in my late teens and really seeing and comprehending the world for the first time and feeling like the whole thing was corrupt and unfair, I just wanted to change it all into a better world. While those kinds of feeling inevitability evolve, if not fade as the complexities, realities and compromises of life set it, I kind of wish I could give that kid a copy of the new Action Comics. This debut issue of relaunched book shows a Superman unlike one we've seen in most of our lifetimes, at the dawn of both his career and of superhumanity.
What writer Grant Morrison, always one of comics most interesting writers, has given us here is Superman as a Very Angry Young Man. This is a punk rock Superman diving into the world and leaving change in his wake. This is Superman that forces reconsideration of moral and even physical laws by his very presence. This a Superman for the poor and pissed off. One who takes down corrupt businessmen, neo-Nazi's and wife-beaters. This is a Superman whose chosen villains are a system of business, government, and crime that have systematically restricted justice in his city. It's exactly the right Superman for a Great Recession-era America.
It's a testament to Morrison's thoughtfulness as a writer that this take on the character deviates so sharply from his chill, serene and wise interpretation in All-Star Superman with equal skill. This anti-establishment take on a character could easily have been either shrill or clunky in the hands of a less talented or less counter-culture oriented writer.
In addition to such a thrilling take of its lead in costume, Action Comics is bursting with clever setups and ideas. It has a Clark Kent that balances scruffy charm with a driven idealism. It's a Clark who capably handles the other side of Superman's Never-Ending Battle and will hopefully be an interesting element of future stories. There's a good take on Lois and Jimmy (and an amusing "signal watch" gag). It has a well-honed take on Lex Luthor as a cunning manipulator using the entire city as a trap and using Superman's humanitarian instincts against him. Morrison also really captures the feeling of encountering an unknowable force, portraying this Superman as constantly in motion and surprising every one around him with his very presence. It's a dense but never confusing chunk of comics.
While perhaps not the most innovative of artists, Rags Morales executes the story with dynamic energy and clear storytelling. His Superman has a nice balance of righteous anger and boyish excitement. Morales even imbues the incidental cast with very individualistic personalities. Morales also pulls off a sense of urgency and movement as Superman goes from event to event. He also pulls off one of the best action sequences I've seen in a Superman comic in ages with the right sense of grit and wonder.
By returning Superman to his roots, Morrison and Morales have rediscovered how potent and how vital the Man of Steel can be. Which does bring us into the unfortunate elephant in the room: Siegal and Shuster. It's unfortunate that Morrison (who I should add is a writer I've long held in high esteeem) has made some less than sensitive remarks about Superman's creators' ongoing struggle for recognition for essentially making DC obscene quantities of money over decades and seeing a pittance in return. These comments are especially unfortunate given how much inspiration the new Action Comics draws from Siegel and Shuster.This review and my grade reflect the artistic merits of the work itself, and not the moral component. So feel free to deduct as many points or skip this book depending on your personal feelings on the matter. Judged on its own, this an excellent debut and one well worth reading.