Saturday, September 10, 2011

Action Comics #1 or "A working class superhero is something to be"

Grant Morrison is the reason I read comics in the 21st Century. I hadn't picked up a funny book in 12 or so years, and then I discovered his Batman. Everything about his take on the character was what I wanted in a comic book. His was not the "Dark Knight" Batman that we'd been given for what seemed like forever. No, this was a Batman that was colorful, that had room for Bat-Mite, the Bat-Radia and all the weird, colorful aspects from the character's past. When Dick Grayson eventually adopted the mantle we had a more human, less angst filled Batman. A Batman, who, for me, was far more engaging and enjoyable than Bruce ever was. But...this review isn't about Batman, and I appear to have already gotten lost on a tangent in the first paragraph of my first review. Sorry. Time to reset.

Ok.

This is a piece about Superman, someone who Morrison has written the hell out of in the past. All-Star Superman is perhaps the finest work ever done with the character. No matter how many thousand Secret Origins they give him, none will ever match the simple elegance of what Morrison and Quitely did in 4 frames on the opening page. His work in Superman Beyond and Final Crisis was nothing less than a deconstruction and examination of both Superman and storytelling itself. It's Morrison at his metaphysical best. So I was just a little bit excited when DC announced that he would be the writer on the relaunch of Action Comics. The New 52 is not a concept I've been particularly big on. Honestly, I find it to be simultaneously a gross cash grab for new fans and an insult to the loyal readers who have been giving them money all along. That being said, the thought of Morrison doing a run on a Superman title was almost enough to make me forget the distaste I had for the whole shebang.

Then Morrison explained what his book was going to be, and I got a little worried. A "socialist Superman"? If it went well it could be a refreshing take on the most iconic and established of characters, if it didn't, it would come off as corny and contrived. As of one issue, it's all the former and none of the latter. With a different character and in the hands of a lesser writer this might not work. Superman has always seen the potential in humanity, and Morrison understands this. The world is filled with young idealists, but what if one of them was the most powerful man on the planet? This is not the white bread, benign figure that Superman has traditionally been, this a young, angry Superman who wants to change the world for the better. He's more Che Guevara than Richie Cunningham.

Morrison takes this concept and lays it on thick. Superman is in full Golden Age "screw you" mode here. The book begins with Supes intimidating corporate fat cat (and Donald Sutherland lookalike) Mr. Glenmorgan into admitting he "...used cheap labor...(with) no safety standards", later Luthor and the Army lure him into battle by demolishing a lower class apartment building with the tenants still in it. The whole thing is so straightforward (and unconfusing), that I almost couldn't believe Morrison penned it. The Supermen of the Multiverse this isn't. In the climax of the issue Supes must save a runaway subway train (described by Luthor as " the world's biggest bullet"). Essentially, he has to be both faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. Very cute, Grant.

Rags Morales is an artist I've been impressed with since first encountering his work on "Identity Crisis". His art is pretty much exactly how I want my superhero comic book's to look: not overly stylized, with clean lines and a great sense of movement. In this era of the 4 dollar comic, it's rare for me to read a multi-page, dialogue free action sequence and not feel somehow like I'm being ripped off. Morales' work here, in the aforementioned train sequence, is the exception. He draws the action with such flow and energy, that it takes on an almost animated quality. I'm elated that we're getting a monthly dose of his stuff.

As an intro into Superman's world this issue hit's all the necessary notes. It's established that: Superman fights for the little guy, "the Man" (aka rich dude's, the police and government) doesn't like this, General Lane and the Army have contracted Lex Luthor to help capture Superman, Clark and Lois work for rival papers, and also Clark and Jimmy Olsen are best friends. Is it odd that it's that last part that excites me the most? I pray to Jack Kirby's spirit that we get some insane Jimmy Olsen adventures, or that we get a revamped, Morrison penned "Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen" ongoing. We need to see Don Rickles' return to the DC Universe. Make it happen Didio, it's what the kids want!

By JoshD with No comments

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