Most readers are probably familiar with a scene from the iconic 1953 film The Wild One in which leading character and troublemaker Johnny (Marlon Brando) is asked what he’s rebelling against. “What have you got?” comes the shocking reply. That’s all I could think about during the moment in Action Comics #3 when a group of cops ransack Clark Kent’s apartment and get nothing but lip from the young reporter. Snottily wondering what he’s done wrong, he jabs “I crossed the street on a green light? I published some essential truth I shouldn’t have?”
Here Clark’s not just a rebel with a cause, he’s a rebel who employs the language of entitled, snark-driven Internet users. I wonder how many readers will identify with him. If you doubt that writer Grant Morrison’s turning Superman into a punk, can you doubt any further? Even poor, milquetoast Clark with his giant glasses and his oversized sweater has an attitude problem. At the risk of sounding like an old man, I wonder if he’d talk like that if his parents were still around.
Readers who’ve seen me question Morrison’s plan in my last two reviews have tried really hard to get me to accept this series as a more human rendition of the Man of Steel. And I see where you guys are coming from, I really do — the guy we know to be Superman has to start somewhere, right? He probably went through the same adolescent growing pains with a giant chip on his shoulder the way we all did. So in that way Action Comics makes sense.
However, in my opinion not enough people have asked whether we need to be seeing this process of growth. Maybe Morrison’s pulling back the curtains too much. Patton Oswalt has a fantastic joke about how the Star Wars prequels ruined the iconic and villainous Darth Vader by making him a whiny, purportedly sympathetic little kid. Vader stands on his own awesomely; with a trite backstory, he’s actually made less interesting. I can’t help but feel that’s a little bit of what’s happening here. By seeing that Superman is just like us (or just like us if we were awesome punks like Marlon Brando), we’re losing something super about him. Besides that, we’re covering story paths we’ve seen before. Morrison’s Metropolis is an awful lot like Gotham City — prostitutes here, openly corrupt businessmen there, a mistrusting, fickle public around every corner. No doubt Morrison wants to show Metropolis grow into the City of Tomorrow the way he wants Clark to grow into the Man of Tomorrow, but we’ve already got enough books with this kind of environment that I’m not sure what’s so special about Superman’s journey.
If we ignore everything I talked about above, Action #3 is pretty good. I like the way Morrison quickly checks off important aspects of Superman’s mythos — this issue includes appearances from three of his top villains, and they all connect quite nicely. I particularly really enjoy the twist in Superman’s origin that Braniac has something to do with the destruction of Krypton (utilized in The Animated Series and maybe elsewhere), so that was welcome. Lex Luthor, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen continue to come off as strong supporting characters, and I also love what Morrison’s doing with the new character of Clark’s landlady, Mrs. N. There’s also a pretty cool “Deep Throat”-style mystery set up regarding an anonymous tipster helping Clark bring down Glen Glenmorgan’s corrupt business empire through his newspaper articles. I have my own suspicions as to that tipster’s identity; how about you guys?
Artistically I think Rags Morales finds himself again here; after a slight dip in last month’s issue, his pencils for Action #3 are in fine form, possibly even better than those in the series’ debut. When Morales is on, he nails expressions and body language like nobody’s business, and here, he’s on. He also gets an art assist from Gene Ha in a seven-page opening sequence that revisits Krypton’s destruction. Though that segment might take you a couple read-throughs to piece together, it looks beautiful; as usual, Ha outdoes himself on sci-fi visuals.
I must admit I’ve been pretty puzzled by the general disquiet my Action reviews have elicited — it’s not like I’m being that harsh on the comic, I’m simply raising questions about its depiction of the most iconic comics character of all time. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with young Superman being a punk, but honestly, do you think it’s the most compelling way to tell this story? Do you think it’s necessary that we read about it? I could be off-base here, but if I want to see a young man rebel against authority, I’ve got plenty of other places to turn.
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