By: Isaac Daniel Frisbie
What can one say about Action Comics #1? Well you could say it was bad. You could say it was meaningless tripe. These would of course be lies of epic proportions so I’ll fill y’all in. It was amazing! I’ll get to the review in a few, though.
The story begins with Superman finding a crime lord (don’t know much about him yet), that goes by the moniker Glenmorgan (sounds like a Scottish whiskey to me). He holds him high above the balcony edge (he yelle, “Somebody! Save Me!” Smallville, much?), threatening his life when cops burst in (they are clearly on Glenmorgan’s payroll), guns ablazin’ and pointed at Supes. Superman takes Glenmorgan for a ride down and he forces a confession out of him. The cops then meet them on the ground. Superman points out that the main detective (Blake) has an ulcer “fit to burst”. He then whizzes off to a building whose residents have refused to leave, despite the fact that a wrecking ball is about to smash the place down (Not sure if the building was scheduled for demolition or what). He gets them to move long enough to get nailed by the wrecking ball. A tank shoots some sort of webbing that shocks Superman which kind of ticks him off. He uses the wrecking ball as a bat and the tank as batting practice. The people he saved crowd the tank, stopping them from going any further.
All the while, Lex Luthor is talking to General Same Lane about how Superman is conveniently doing what he is expecting him to do, alluding to a deal made with General Lane that he was hired to capture Superman. Superman jumps back to his apartment where he quickly changes and is met at the top of his building as he starts to walk downstairs by his landlord, Mrs. Nyxly. She notices his bruises but he brushes her off by saying that a story he’s written has become a target, but it’s nothing he can’t handle. He then calls his story in to his newspaper (he contacts Jimmy Olsen instead). Jimmy is on a train with Lois Lane and Lois finds out who Jimmy is talking to, (in this new continuity Jimmy is pals with Clark despite him not working at the Planet. Yes, I said “pals”.) Lois scoffs at this. Not sure if she’s jealous of his work since he works for a rival newspaper or is truly indifferent. She’s more focused on the fact that she is about to confront one of Glenmorgan’s ex enforcer. Clark is apparently aware of something that is to happen on that train and he can’t stop them because the train has already started it’s run. He rushes to the train to stop it because it isn’t stopping at all.
The story shifts back to Luthor who explains that certain species, when introduced to a new area, become invasive and change the entire ecosystem that they are introduced to. He believes that Superman is an invasive species that will destroy humanity. He explains that he figured since regular bullets and tank bullets did not work on him, why not a 200mph bullet train? Next we see Superman pinned against a wall by the train he tried stopping so it wouldn’t cause damage. Luthor declares to General Lane that he has done what was asked of him, Superman has been captured.
I’m not sure where to start with my review of this. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve read a comic twice. Once read, I tend to not go back. There are a few exceptions, but none have I gone back in the same day to read again. That’s how much I loved this. I could spend all night talking about what I loved but I’ll stick to some of my favorite things that aren’t bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. First, thank you Grant Morrison! This issue felt like Superman has shaken off the dust of the past sixty to seventy years, where he has become this godlike creature that we cannot begin to empathize with. Superman is what he started out as in the original Action Comics in 1938, a crusader for the people. He fights corrupt politicians and businessmen. He fights for those that cannot fight for themselves that have no voice. Superman has typically fought villains that were otherworldly (which is great, but not when that’s all they do) in recent years. He constantly battled a threat that was far beyond the scope of Metropolis, the city he represents. DC spent so much time with these guys that his earthbound foes seemed poorly written and developed. This starts us off on the right foot with him fighting not only corrupt businessmen, but corrupt government officials. He will do what is right regardless of the written law. I like that. This may not appeal to some Superman fans, *ahem**cough*basementdwellers*coughcough* but it’s a nice change in direction. Realistically, if Superman took the legal route every time he would never get anything done in today’s society. It’s a Superman that feels real in the world right now. It’s almost a vigilante/Batman stance without all the brooding of Batman. In this issue he is a champion for the oppressed who will stand for wha is right, regardless of man’s laws. He sees things very simply. There are moral laws and there are civil laws. Superman sees things very clearly through his moral eyes. No one is willing to do what is morally right, so he feels he needs to do so himself.
He’s also much more vulnerable. Byrne had it right when he made Clark/Superman more earthbound, because it’s hard to relate to the guy that can wipe out a planet if he is ticked off enough. Morrison follows this thought but still keeps to recent continuity so he isn’t completely powered down. he gets hurt, and this is a good thing. The only thing on his body that he wears that is not vulnerable is his cape. This adds credence to the idea that he needs armor. Not that he himself isn’t the Man of Steel, his clothes are not. It removes any idea that he can exude a protective aura past his clothing. Unless of course the clothing is all Kryptonian, but the aura thing has been used before and is a strange argument if you ask me.
Lex Luthor is interesting. He’s a creepy sociopath. He wants Superman dead and doesn’t hide it at all. Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen? There’s not much I can say at this point because it is typical Lois getting herself into trouble to get her story. And Jimmy is sadly tagging along. Not much character development for them so I can’t say much more. The scene at the end was shocking and made me want to go into the future (in a DeLorean of course) to read future issues.
The artwork is really strong, but not spectacular like Jim Lee or Steve McNiven. Rags Morales conveys emotion really well, pulling you into the scene and does as good a job as any to bring you into Morrison’s world. The artwork blends the business man of the Byrne era with the mad scientist of the silver age. Great work by Morales on Luthor, I’m loving it. I wish I could keep writing and I commend you for making it this far in my monologue. I loved this issue and wanted to give it the treatment it deserves. If you skipped to this part then shame on you! Morrison has been given free rein at this point to create a Superman we can love (in a non Superman 2 kind of way). A Superman that we can cheer for. A Superman we can relate to. An All Star Superman. Thank you Grant, for bringing back the world’s greatest superhero.
Overall Grade: 9.5 out of 10