Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Review: Action Comics #1

Every once in a while, I finish a comic and am filled with a surge of happiness. It's that feeling that's kept me reading comics for so many years, and that gets me through event fatigue and ill-advised storylines. I love comics, always, but sometimes I need to be reminded of how magic they can be when an issue hits all the right buttons, from plot and promise to visual storytelling and character. Action Comics #1 is one of those comics.

"In Morrison we trust" is essentially my motto, and my expectations for this book were high. But at the same time, I was concerned. I'm a huge fan of Superman- big blue boyscout, aw-shucks farmboy Superman- and I was afraid of losing that Superman forever. After reading this issue, all my fears melted away.

This issue is filled with moments that longtime fans will point to and cry out "That's not my Superman!". He's cocky and reckless. He uses Batman-esque interrogation techniques. And here's the thing: those fans are right. He's not their Superman, and he's not the character that so many post-crisis fans have grown to love. Not yet.

What makes Superman such an inspiration is that he chooses to be who he is. He has incredible power, but he makes the choice to be good, to work to help people. The roots of that Superman are all here in this issue, but he's not there yet. He's young, he's learning, and he'll have to grow and change to become the Superman that so many of us admire so much. And to me, that makes Superman even more inspirational. In my day to day life, I often try to be a little more like Superman. I can't fly or even leap tall buildings in a single bound, but I can do my best to emulate his kindness and his love for other people. Seeing him make that same effort makes being Superman feel attainable me, and hopefully it'll do the same for many other readers, new and old.

Much like Morrison originally described it, the issue starts at a breakneck pace and never really lets up. The story moves like the Superman blur we see on the very first page, and is filled with details that are easy to miss in a single read-through. This is something I've always loved about Morrison comics, as it gives me a reason to re-read the issue almost immediately, but if you're not a fan of that style, you may find that that aspect of the comic offputting.

Superman's idealism in this issue is almost painfully relatable to me. If I somehow wound up with near demi-god powers, my first instincts would absolutely be to help people in what might not necessarily be the wisest ways, from forcing tycoons to admit their corrupt ways to throwing wifebeaters into bodies of water. I can't wait to see him in action as a crusader for the little people, and can't wait to see him grow into a crusader for the entire world.

Superman has this sense of playfulness throughout most of the issue, and it makes me joyful in a way I can't accurately describe. He seems so unburdened by his powers, seeing only their possibilities and never their problems. I want to be incredible, benevolent Superman, but I want to be this Superman too.

Rags Morales' visual storytelling skills are showcased on every page of the issue, and when you look at his work it's easy to imagine what it might be like to have Superman's now toned down powers. He keeps up with Morrison at every turn and transitions from scene to scene seamlessly.

Those of you who were concerned by the cover of Action Comics #3 will be relieved to see that the people Metropolis still love and appreciate Superman. This is the feeling that was missing in the recent Superman storyline Grounded, and it's great to have that back. But not everyone in the City of Tomorrow appreciates Superman, nor should they.

I just really loved this line.

Superman's laundry line transition into Clark Kent may not be iconic in the way jumping into a phonebooth is, but it's visually interesting and keeps the story flowing smoothly. It also makes me appreciate the simplicity of the t-shirt and jeans get-up. It may have just arrived, but I'm really going to miss it when it's gone.

I wasn't expecting to see Lois and Jimmy in this issue, but I'm thrilled that I did. Morrison writes them both wonderfully, from Lois' playful dialogue and love of a good story to Jimmy's obvious adoration of Clark. I realize that this feeling is mostly based on Morales' art, but I'm sort of getting the sense that they're the Ron and Hermione to Clark's Harry.

The Kryptonian who lived.

What I was struck with, especially during this scene, is that I felt more like I was watching the issue than reading it. Both the story's pacing and artwork are so fluid, and have this kinetic energy that makes the pages feel as though they're animated. That made certain moments of the issue all the more brutal and intense, and I had goosebumps by the final page.

Anyone who's read All-Star Superman knows that Morrison writes a great Luthor, and he continued the trend in this issue. What makes Luthor so great is that he isn't just evil for the sake of being evil, he's not some disgruntled guy who lost his job at the vat factory. He truly believes that he is doing what is best for the people of Earth, and there is truth in everything he says. Lex may be ruthless, and he may lack any kind of empathy, but he's incredibly intelligent and incredibly logical. That he makes so much sense makes him a much more powerful villain.

I especially loved that, in spite of all the story crammed into this issue, there were still seeds laid for stories yet to come. I can't be the only one who thought of Braniac as soon as I saw this panel.

This is the rare comic that I would recommend everyone give a chance to. Not everyone is going to love it like I did, and some people won't even like it, but I think it's an important comic, and not just because it's Action Comics #1. Superman is a cultural icon, and I really believe that this issue is going to shape the way that future generations perceive the character. He's a character that people who've never touched a comic in their lives feel they have an understanding of, and the work Morrison is doing here has both the power to challenge those notions and to cast them in a different light.

It's going to be a long wait until next month, readers. Until then, remember that it's not about where you were born, or what powers you have, or what you wear on your chest. It's about what you do. It's about action.

By Marceline with 6 comments


Great read. I think everything done in this was actually a pretty neat idea and I'm glad to see it all seems to have worked

I really hope all this carries through to George Perez's Superman and Justice League. I know both comics feature an older and more experienced Superman, but there's just so much going on here that I want to see more of.

I'm really excited to see how Morrison uses Steel here, and to see how he writes him in this universe. I really liked him in JLA.

I never really read Supes as much as I should have but you sold me on this one.

A comic store visit is on the schedule for after dinner now. :)

Oh man, I'm so glad! It's a really great comic, you're in for a treat. Now I'm just worried the store will be sold out!

Let me know what you think when you read it.

I love the young and cocky Superman! I've been, for the past ~2-3 years, very anti-cape in my comics. Action Comics, de-facto, changed my opinion.

Awesome write-up... I don't know what else to say than: Keep 'em coming!

That's awesome to here! There really is something about this issue that feels very different from cape comics as a whole. It's hard to describe. Glad others are enjoying it as much as I did.

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