Tuesday, July 2, 2013

New 52 Review: Action Comics

NEW 52 Review: Action Comics, volume 1: Superman and the Men of Steel, collecting issues 1-8. By Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, and Andy Kubert.

Lots of comic book properties get rebooted or reimagined, but when Superman gets rebooted or reimagined (whether on film or in the comics), it is big news. The question is always how much of the accumulated Superman mythology is necessary for the character to be recognizable as Superman?  Krypton? Red briefs? In love with Lois Lane? Newspaper reporter? Smallville's influence?
The New 52 relaunch of Superman, written by Grant Morrison, holds on to much of the past, while moving the Man of Steel into the 21st Century. There are many nods to earlier eras of Superman, including Superman's Golden Age priority of fighting corruption and bringing justice to the poor and unfortunate. Silver-age science fiction is also included in these stories, as there are flashbacks to Krypton, as well as a later appearance by the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Lex Luthor is the primary antagonist in these first issues, although there are strong hints that Mr. Mzyzptlk may be involved. This is the bald, scientific-genius version of Luthor, and he is working with the military to investigate and control the alien invader -- Superman. We quickly learn that Luthor has been in contact with an alien race orbiting Earth, and he has been promised that Earth will be saved from their destructive wrath if the planet turns over Superman. Things do not go as Luthor had planned, and the "Collector of Worlds" (not named Brainiac) pulls Metropolis out of the ground, miniaturizes it, and places it in a bottle, along with many other worlds. Superman is then put in the position of choosing which worlds to save, and decide exactly how important Earth and his Earthling acquaintances are.
There are some typical Morrison-isms in these stories, but as a single volume, the story is easy to follow. From what I understand his penchant for time-hopping and non-sequential narrative become more common in the second volume of stories. I will certainly pick up volume 2 of Action Comics, and finish Morrison's run on the title.

This collection also includes four backup stories that appeared in these issues, all written by Sholly Fisch, with art by Brad Walker and Chriscross. The first two of these, featuring Steel were good enough, but the last two, about Clark's life in Smallville, were terrific. The details that Fisch gives to the relationship between Ma and Pa, and their struggles with infertility before a miracle landed on their farm. This seems to be a modernizing of the tale that has no sense of abandoning the original themes of the origin.

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