Action Comics #2

Action Comics #2

B-

Man, I don’t know about this book.

Last month’s debut issue of Action Comics gave me some pause, but I had confidence that Grant Morrison could deliver a fantastic new origin story for the world’s first (and arguably best) superhero. One month later, some of that confidence has started to slip awhile. While Action Comics #2 is a perfectly competent, even exciting, comic book, it actually compounds my problems with issue #1 as far as accepting that its lead character will indeed grow up to be the Superman we all know and love.

Here’s what I like about Action Comics #2: it gives us a nice chance to test a young Clark Kent’s powers and limitations. Using the twisted Lex Luthor as a surrogate, we as readers are privy to all sorts of nasty experimentation being conducted on the Kryptonian’s body. How much poison can he resist? How about electricity? Can we wear him down enough to take a sample of blood? Can we cut his hair or puncture holes in his cape? These are really common-sense questions that I think would appeal to any readers who happen to be totally new to the concept of Superman, if those readers do indeed exist. That makes it a strong conceit for any second issue; it’s a nice way to give us some exposition without the book feeling clunky (as I felt this week’s Swamp Thing #2 did).

I also think a lot of the supporting character work here is strong. I didn’t have a chance to mention in my review of Action #1 that I love the inclusion of Lex Luthor so early in the game. That gives us a chance to get to know Superman’s ultimate arch-nemesis right out of the gate, and man does Morrison know how to write Lex. He channels the disdain and haughtiness so essential to the character better than almost any other writer I can think of (though perhaps he’s tied with Paul Cornell). Lois Lane has also come off pretty well in this series so far, and this issue lets us glimpse a few more characters that’ll become important to Superman’s future, John Corben (Metallo) and a “Dr. Irons,” who’s got to be Steel, right?

But that’s about where my praise ends. On the negative side, I didn’t care for the art in this issue, which has already taken on a fill-in artist (Brent Anderson of Astro City fame) to help — isn’t it a little early in the run for that? I couldn’t really make out whose pages were whose, but in general I felt the art here, especially characters’ faces, was a little rushed, which is unfortunate since I thought regular penciller Rags Morales improved pretty significantly for Action #1 over past work like Identity Crisis. More than once in this issue, I found myself wishing Morrison had gotten to work with Gary Frank instead; can you imagine what that would have looked like?

I’d also like to call out these greedy jerks at DC who decided to make this a $3.99 comic but not include any extra story. Instead, after 20 pages of comic we’ve got eight pages of “making of” commentary from Morrison, Morales and Gene Ha (who apparently did some designs for the book). It’s interesting and insightful, yeah, but not worth the extra buck. Save it for the trade, guys.

I have more serious misgivings about the way Superman acts in this issue once he breaks out of Lex’s science experiment. No, he doesn’t kill anybody, but he threatens to, literally telling Lex Luthor that he’ll break his neck. Think about that for a second. If an all-powerful alien being grabbed you by the throat and told you he was going to break your neck, don’t you think you’d be justified in holding a lifelong grudge? I certainly would. By giving Luthor a legitimate reason to hate and fear Superman, hasn’t Grant Morrison irrevocably changed the Lex/Superman dynamic? It seems to me that Lex’s selfish, short-sighted and pompous villainy can only really work if he’s totally wrong about Superman’s motivations (something Action Comics #900 excellently explored). But in this issue, doesn’t Superman prove him right?

I don’t know. The truth is, I’m going to buy this run of Action Comics as long as it lasts, because Grant Morrison is my favorite author and Superman one of my favorite fictional characters. But I can’t help but feel like this series should be a lot better. I mentioned last month that clearly we’re going to see Superman grow into the character we know him to be over the course of Morrison’s run, but issue #2 makes it seems like he’s regressed, and it creates sympathy for his greatest villain in a way that I’m not sure can be undone. While the revelation of the last page has me genuinely interested, nothing about this book really feels like I’m reading Superman yet, and I think that’s a problem.

tags: action comics, brent anderson, grant morrison, rags morales

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=678019951 Andrew Stamm

    I kinda feel like you’re reading too much into only two issues… Grant Morrison certainly understands what Superman is about and I trust that he has a good roadmap to deliver the character we’ve seen in these two issues to that place. And besides, isn’t it more interesting to see a dynamic character? I’d rather watch a character understand why it’s important to gain and hold the ideals of the Superman we’re used to rather than see him jump out of the gate fully righteous.

  • Anonymous

    Reading too much, Andrew? I believe I supplied ample textual evidence for my arguments. :) I mean, seriously, I agree about the “growing into righteousness” thing but I don’t think this book can ever totally recover from Superman THREATENING TO BREAK LEX’S NECK. Like I said in my review, I feel like that totally justifies Lex hating Superman forever and ever, which totally alters their iconic relationship. 

    I think this book is aimed at people who didn’t think Superman was all that interesting before. I thought he was great the way he was. 

  • Thomas Foss

    Let’s turn it around: this guy doesn’t think you’re human or worthy of basic human rights, endangered a train full of people–not to mention a city–to capture you, and has been torturing you for hours (at least) in an attempt to dissect you: wouldn’t you be justified in breaking his neck?

    The fact that Superman doesn’t kill Luthor shows amazing restraint, as far as I’m concerned, and the only casualties of his entire escape are some rifles. That he’s angry, that he shows Luthor just how powerless he really is, doesn’t validate Luthor’s position; it refutes it. Despite not being “human,” Superman displays a very human response to his treatment (righteous anger, which has been a defining characteristic of this version of the character–and the Golden Age version), and still treats everyone more humanely than they treated him.

    He’s rough around the edges, using some of the intimidation-style tactics that we’ve come to associate with Batman, but he still takes the highest of moral high grounds, and even shares a little levity with “Miss Lane” at the end of it.

    Luthor’s single-mindedness and personality mean that he’ll probably spin this into the lifelong grudge against Superman–if he hasn’t already (for all we know, this Lex still spent time in Smallville)–but it’s not justified. Superman humiliated him and showed that, for all his intellect, he’s still impotent in comparison to this strange visitor from another planet, while also being far more human than Luthor was. That–Luthor being humiliated by Superman–has been a part of their “first encounter” for a long time, from the Byrne era where Superman managed to get millionaire mogul Lex to spend a night in jail, to the Silver Age where Superboy was somewhat at fault for Lex’s baldness.

    Far from altering their relationship, this fits entirely in-line with it, and if you’re not finding Superman in this story…well, I don’t know what to say. I guess there’s always the other Superman title.

  • Anonymous

    You’re right in that Superman’s response to his capture is very human, but he needs to be better than human – he needs to inspire us. Now, if you want to say that his threat was just a bluff to humiliate Luthor, I guess that makes it okay, but he sure seems pissed off enough to not be bluffing, and anyway there’s a gigantic difference between making someone spend the night in jail and killing them, unless you’re George W Bush. 

    And the only book where I’ve really felt Superman come through is Swamp Thing #1. 

  • Thomas Foss

    I don’t think Superman needs to be better than human from the beginning of his career. A lot of why Superman is so inspiring, at least per Morrison’s work (All-Star and the Superman 2000 pitch) is because of his perspective. He sees and hears and experiences so much that is so far above everyone else that he can’t help but see a bigger picture. After all, that’s kind of the climax of All-Star, that Lex Luthor finally sees things the way Superman does, and is inspired as well.

    But this Superman doesn’t yet have that perspective. His powers haven’t developed that far yet, and so it’s not surprising that his world and his battles are smaller.

    As far as bluffing…if he wasn’t, wouldn’t he have snapped Luthor’s neck? It’s not like he was incapable. Why not fry them all to begin with? This is a Superman who’s not above scaring people to take them down a peg of two–see Glenmorgan in issue 1 (or the lobbyist he goes after in the original Action #1)–but he’s clearly above killing.

    And there’s a big difference between killing someone and lifting them up by the neck to drop them on their ass.

  • Anonymous

    My take on that scene is that he threatened to snap Luthor’s neck in a fit of rage, then thought the better of it. That’s why I didn’t see it as a bluff… I saw it as an outburst that he quickly came down from. 

  • Netforceequalsma

    I don’t think he had any intention of snapping his neck.  I think he had every intention of making Luthor think that he had the intention of snapping his neck.  This Superman has an advantage that later Superman doesn’t in that everyone knows that Superman isn’t going to hurt them.  This new Superman doesn’t yet see himself as an inspiration … he sees himself as solving problems with his hands, not his symbol.

  • Anonymous

    Well, if you guys are right and I misread the scene, that goes a long way towards making me feel better about the comic… and you’ve both got good points. So I will choose to view it your way and re-read the issue with that in mind. Thanks! :)

  • Latest Nothings
  • site design: haystack needle design    privacy policy©2011 nerdynothings.com     RSS