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.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more