The Review 52: Action Comics 1
I’m not sure if I have made this clear or not, but I fucking hated the old Superman. He was a self-righteous asshole who should have been shanked with a piece kryptonite a long time ago. But now, Grant Morrison had to go and make the object of my comic hatred into a pretty badass character who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Damn you, Morrison and your writing.
In case you didn’t catch this in that opening paragraph, this is an entirely different Superman than the one you have come to know and love and who I’ve come to know and despise with every fiber of my nerd being. This is made readily apparent in the first couple of pages, when Superman swoops in on a crime… gathering… thing and fucks their shit up faster than multiple speeding tall buildings. This Supes has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to crime and will push your head through the nearest brick wall if you so much as make a motion for an old lady’s purse. The best way I can describe him is a cross between Batman and Spider-Man. He has the menace to make criminals shake in their booties at the mere mention of his name. In fact, many people believed that he was just a myth. At least that what I can infer from the mentions of his exploits from before this issue. But when the cops corner him, he starts cracking wise and then just makes a run for it, much like the Webhead.
As I stipulated back when DC was releasing spoilers for this shit, there does seem to be a bit of Smallville influence going on here. Like the costume. It’s just a bright blue shirt, some jeans and work boots. Not exactly the most super of costumes, but at least it’s practical. This may be par for the course, but I have never read a Superman comic in my life so what the fuck do I know? The Smallville influence can also be extended to his powers. He is the not the indestructible Man of Steel. If he is hit hard enough he will bleed. That’s another thing I like about this issue. Superman kinda gets the crap beat out of him. He has super speed and strength still, but he cannot fly yet. I really hope they let him fly soon, though, and not just wait until the last issue where he learns in the climactic battle against an old dude with a gravelly voice.
Another thing that Morrison changed about Superman is when he left the farm (I think). Clark Kent is in his late teens to early 20’s, living in a kinda crappy neighborhood and making ends meet with a job at a Metropolis newspaper. It doesn’t say whether or not it is an actual paper or a college one. But we do know that it isn’t the one Lois Lane works at. She doesn’t even remember Clark when Jimmy brings him up.
Lois seems pretty much unchanged from what I understand of her character. She is headstrong and will not give up a story. When Clark calls Jimmy and tells him to stay off of the trains, Lois says “Screw that” and makes her way further from any possible exit and towards a man who she knows very well could be armed.
Jimmy… well, he’s Jimmy, I guess.
Now this wouldn’t be a Superman comic without an appearance by everyone’s favorite cue ball, Lex Luthor. Lex is consulting with a military outfit, run by Lois’ dad, to try to catch the elusive Superman. And he is just as unscrupulous this time around, using a building that is being torn down with people still inside and bullet train full of civilians to try to catch Superman. At one point, he delivers a speech about how introducing an alien species into an ecosystem has almost always led to that ecosystem being devastated to try to justify his actions to Lane.
Rags Morales’ art is really great in this issue. It does this really cool thing of showing a lot of duality in Superman’s face. When he is face to face with his first batch of criminals, Superman’s face is mostly hidden by shadows except for his smile and glowing red eyes. It looks really sinister in a way that would make the Dark Knight proud. But then when he gets on the ground and is trying to make nice with the cops, his demeanor has completely changed. He has his head cocked to the side and a little smirk on his face, making him look really different from the person we saw just a couple of panels previously. The rest of the people and environments look really great, too, except for Luthor. He looks a little weird. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is just something off about him to me.
Grant Morrison did the impossible by making a Superman that I actually like. Instead of being an asshole by trying to make you more like him, Morrison makes him an asshole by just making him an asshole. He is stronger and faster than almost anyone and he knows it. Morales’ art really brings across the fact that this is a different character. A much more violent character who intimidates by showing people what he can do. And what he can do is hang you from the ceiling using your own gun as a hook. This series is going to have a lot going on, with the ending being what it is and with a kinda foreboding panel early on that suggests that things will get a lot harder for Superman before he gets more of his powers and things get much easier.
Final Score: 5/5