on August 12, 2012
DC Comics is home to some of the world's most iconic characters. Superman and Batman, Green Lantern and the Flash--these heroes hold almost universal appeal, and have both entertained and inspired people for generations. But that's also the problem; burdened by decades of convoluted continuity, these characters have grown stale in the eyes of many fans. Hence "The New 52," a massive reboot of the entire DC universe. Every character has been revamped with updated origins, tweaked personalities, and given a modern edge in the hopes of finding, and retaining, an enthusiastic audience.
Standing prominently in this reboot is the legendary Superman himself. Knowing a redrafting of Superman's story would require the utmost care, DC enlisted Grant Morrison, the genius behind the incomparable All-Star Superman series, for the task. Action Comics Volume 1: Superman and the Men of Steel collects the first eight issues of Morrison's highly anticipated work, melding the straightforward tale of Superman's early heroics with the author's patented blend of esoteric concepts and high-minded idealism.
And it opens nicely, with a Superman, looking like a kid out of college in his simple t-shirt and blue jeans combo, forcing a confession out of a corrupt business guru. Readers will soon find this Superman a bit more wry, brash, and capricious than his earlier portrayals, with a temperament that can go from light to dark in an instant. And the story initially has fun with this, pitting Superman against both the police and military until he faces bad boy Luthor for the first time.
For better or worse, however, the tale quickly takes a turn for the surreal as a certain notorious alien AI arrives to destroy earth and take Metropolis hostage. Predictably, even Morrison's deft writing skills are unable to make this turn of events seem completely believable, and thus the story loses a little of its real-world credibility that made the opening act so compelling.
In addition to the main tale, a shorter story intertwining Superman's destiny with the Legion of Super-Heroes is included, and it's good if nothing extraordinary. Several shorter pieces involving everyone from Jon and Martha Kent to John Irons pad out the volume, and they are interesting but not essential reads.
The book's art work is inconsistent, with generally decent pencil work done by Rags Morales that, unfortunately, sometimes dips into sloppy mediocrity depending on the panel. Andy Kubert provides strong pencils for the Legion story, and several guest artists contribute their own unique styles to the other narratives. A more unified style would have been appreciated, but what's here is serviceable enough.
Action Comics Vol. 1 doesn't reach the heights of Morrison's best Superman work--again, All-Star Superman--but it does lay a strong foundation for what should be some great stories to come. Here's hoping Morrison delivers a story truly worthy of the Man of Tomorrow in the next volume.
on December 10, 2015
I'm not typically a reader of comic books. But Grant Morrison could almost persuade me to become one.
I came home from knee surgery to find myself bored, drugged, and distracted. Somehow, I ended up with a copy of Morrison's treatment of Superman in this renumbering of the Action Comics line (as a comics novice, I have almost no idea what that means, but it sounds good, and it was in the summary on Goodreads...). Superman has always been my favorite super hero, from the time I would, as a five-year old, stuff the edges of a red blanket in my shirt and zoom around the house channeling Christopher Reeve's version, fighting off the villainous Lex Luther and making the world safe. He's a man who is unequivocally good, typifying the Platonic ideal of the word, and yet is conflicted as the last of his race, alone on Earth, motivated by pure, unselfish intentions instead of desires for fame, glory, or wealth.
Yes, that can seem a bit superficial alongside more nuanced characters like Bruce Wayne/Batman, in the DC universe, or perhaps Tony Stark/Iron Man, in the Marvel. And yet, it's the need for an ideal that appeals to me. Yes, he's practically invulnerable, can fly, shoots lasers from his eyes (or heat rays?), has ultrasonic hearing and x-ray vision...but for kryptonite (and I never can figure out how every villain manages to get their hands on any of the stuff, given how far Krypton is from Earth, but whatever), he's practically a god--which is a big part of the critique Lex Luther, played by Kevin Spacey, levies at him in Superman Returns, and that looks to be a part of the upcoming Superman v. Batman film starring James Cavill and Ben Affleck. That's morally problematic, in a world where God is invisible and man must rely on faith to find deity. Instead comes this interloper, this god-like...super man, who we happen to call Superman, even against his better wishes...
So, there's a case to be made that Superman is more complex than on first glance. It doesn't hurt that a major part of his ethos is a moral strength as powerful as his physical prowess. All super powers aside, Clark Kent--Kal-El--is every bit as good a person as he is powerful. It's this moral simplicity, and the greater challenge of avoiding the corruption of ultimate power, that makes Superman resonate with me. He is a good person with great power in a corrupt world. How will he respond?
All this is a really long way to get to Grant Morrison's Superman - Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52), which I much enjoyed, in my loopy, drugged up state. Heck, I think I caught myself crying--and I totally blame the drugs, again.
But seriously, it was fun trip back to visit my younger self, to find someone capturing the essence of who Superman was when I was young, before the world became more gray. Here was a young Clark Kent, just arrived in Metropolis, still wearing t-shirts and Levis as he zips around the city helping the helpless and fighting the perps. It's a different America that he portrays than what we often see in the pages of the newspaper today, but one that still exists, if we look for it and become a part of it.
I look forward to reading the others in the series, hoping that Grant, and his fellow writers, can keep up the quality work.
on January 22, 2014
I couldn't wait to get this comic as soon as I heard the New 52 was coming out, and I wasn't wrong this comic was awesome, would highly recommend to anyone who wanted to start reading comics with a good starting point.
on January 1, 2014
I enjoyed reading this reboot on Superman. The stories in this text take place five years before the story in the Superman Comic #1. One thing I like about these stories is that Grant Morrison starts with Superman in action. There is no long story explaining how Superman came to earth. He will leave that for later in the back-up stories written by Jolly Fisch. Morrison pays tribute to the original Action Comics where Superman fights for the underdog. Seeing Superman carry Mr. Glenmorgan by his foot in the skies of Metropolis reminds us of a corrupt lobbyist, Alex Grier, who is carried in similar manner by an angry man of steel at the end of ACs 1 and the beginning of AC 2. In addition to this, the story arc involving Braniac, the collector of worlds, and his kidnapping of Metropolis in a small bottle, are borrowed from Action Comics 242, an issue way back from 1958. However, Morrison doesn't copy and paste, but he delivers his own doses of modern (or should I say post-modernist) outlook of how the duel between Braniac and Superman should have happened. The story also includes a rebellion of robots instigated by Braniac with the indirect help from Lex Luthor (who else?). This part of the story no doubt pays homage to the classic Sci-Fi film Metropolis, which is about robots taking over the world.
Having said this, the new Superman wears a t-shirt with the S crest on it and denim jeans. He jumps (like in the early version), he lives in an apartment with lower income residents, and his landlady is Mrs. Nixly. He also works with the Daily Star as Clark Kent. Superman is also mistrusted by law enforcement officials and the army, represented by none other than General Lane, Lois Lane's father. Jimmy Olsen is a good friend of Clark, and Lois feels she is competing with young Clark Kent. Morrison does an excellent job at introducing all the characters that belong to the Superman myth, and incorporates a few new ones. The first six issues deal with Superman's fight with Braniac and the robot rebellion, and how Metropolis gets acquainted with its new hero. After this, there are 2 issues that narrates the destruction of Krypton and Superman's arrival to earth, and how he learned to fly. There are 2 back-up stories with Steel, and 2 back-up stories of the Kents (notice that while in Rocket Song, Martha Kent bemoans a miscarriage, in Baby Steps, this miscarriage does not occur) before they find Kal-El in their rocket, and of Clark's last day in Smallville.
Morrison's narrative is quite interesting and yet, I think it may be too much influence by the soap opera qualities of Harry Potter stories. Mrs. Nixly turns out to be an alien that has to be there to protect Superman? There is also a struggle with the K-Men and a group of villains in When Superman Learned to Fly. Although attempting to explain the transition from jumping to flying, and adding importance to his spaceship to prevent further problems with robots on earth, the plot lacks luster entirely. And The Last Day seemed to fill up some space. I'm more afraid, however, of the Harry Potter-like phenomena that may appear in future stories. For these reasons, I find this volume likable.
The artwork in these stories was commendable. It lives up to Superman.
on March 28, 2014
First, let me say that I have not been a fan of the new 52 from DC comics. I also don't like what they've done with Superman. I liked it when they brought back his parents in the revamping that took place in 1986. I don't like that they killed them off in this new revamping. I also don't like the new Superman costume. There was nothing wrong with the old one and there was no need to change it. Finally, I don't like the fact that in this new universe you can't buy just one comic to test the waters and see if you like it. All the stories are 20 issues long and crossover into titles you're not interested in.
That being said I have to say that this volume of Superman was a refreshing change. I thought this was great. It's not the best Superman I've read but it is the best I have read in awhile. The art was excellent and the story was not too involved. I liked the explanation of Superman's new costume (even though I don't like the new costume). I actually liked the costume with the T-shirt, jeans and cape better than the Kryptonian armor one. Overall this one was exciting to read and nice to look at. The only complaint I have is that the final stories seemed like filler and weren't all that exciting.
on November 4, 2013
Superman is one of those characters that can sometimes be easily dismissed as too much of one thing or another. Then a great writer comes up with a fresh viewpoint that invigorates the Man Of Steel and makes him endlessly fascinating once more. Regardless, Superman is reliable and always there and as a result, there will always be a new voice to bring out the best in his universe. For my money, Grant Morrison has done this with Action Comics.
In this arc, the Man Of Steel is more of a ragged, unpolished being that is still learning of himself both inside and out. Grant Morrison is tasked with retelling a classic tale that feels new and does so very well. Here, Superman feels relevant and contemporary, being a healthy mix of awkward, heroic and rough-around-the-edges. Grant Morrison manages to mold his own persona into the story without making it feel out of place. While it's nowhere near his creator-owned works, his fingerprints are noticeable.
Lighter and more sci-fi oriented than the recent film, Action Comics fits well into the current canon of the Man Of Steel.
on September 11, 2015
I'm not the biggest fan of Grant Morrison, I'm not one of those people who worship him, but I was really curious with this title being one of the best out of the beginning of the New 52. After years and my interest in starting Superman finally cracked and I decided to go to the beginning (like all continuity purists) and finally bought Superman, Action Comics Vol 1 and oh my God is this the same as all the other Morrison comics. The dialogue is clunky at times, there are words/sentences that are either awkward or just not needed, the characters actually having speech bubbles for their strange grunts took me out of the story, and for some reason there are these panels that makes the story confusing, but if you take them out it would make the story much more clearer.
Overall this is not terrible, but I had to keep stopping myself to continue and think about how it could have been better. Yes, there is fascinating points and I was engaged for the most part, but it's far from perfect. Just like the title of said comic, this has more Action, which I liked, but less character, but I guess that just means I have to pick up Superman v1 if I really want to get into his character. Is this a must read? No. Did I enjoy it ? A bit, but it'll take me a lot of convincing to go pick up vol 2 any time soon.
on August 15, 2013
I remember being bummed when the New 52 was announced. I loved the way things were going in Superman's titles. He had survived a war between Earth and New Krypton, and battled a new upgraded Doomsday and his clones.
But then I sat down and actually read the titles of the New 52 Superman. This book shows Superman early in his career. This has elements from the classic golden age Superman. He can't fly, but can leap an eighth of a mile. He is resistant to injury, but not completely invulnerable (confirmed when he gets knocked out while stopping a runaway train). He is the champion of the oppressed, and at the start of the book he is combating corruption instead of your typical comic book supervillain.
Enter Lex Luthor, who is a trusted advisor to the military and is helping them in trying to capture the "alien menace." When Superman is eventually captured by the military, he is experimented on Luthor. They electrocute him, his him with deadly gas. All just to test his resilience. Superman breaks free when Lex makes the typical bad guy mistake of stopping to monologue at the hero. Superman was able to recover long enough to muster up the strength to break free.
The public distrusts him, now that his alien origins are revealed to the public. Clark Kent is harassed by the police because he dares speak out against the corrupt cops and politicians.
Enter Brainiac, who arrives on Earth after picking up a signal let out by Superman's rocket (because of the military experimenting on it). We get another bottled city of Metropolis angle (not as good as Geoff John's version a few years ago, but it's still good on it's own). The military is forced to trust Superman, and believe he's the only one capable of saving Metropolis. Superman can't fly, so he has to use his mind to figure a way up to the ship, which he pulls off by running and jumping off of a ramp at superspeed.
On the ship, Superman is greeted by Brainiac, who is easily smacking around Superman. Superman finds Kryptonian armor that is left over from the remains of Krytpon in Brainiac's trophy room. It's got some cool features. When Superman's family item (his baby blanket which he wears as a cape) touches it, the nanotech in the suit reads it and takes on the House of El colors of logo. Superman fights Brainiac, and wins. He receives the key to the city and has now earned some trust from the people.
There's a short story involving Superman teaming with the Legion of Superheroes. But frankly it's not as good as the first story in the book. I say buy this book. It's Superman refreshed. He's like a combination of Superman throughout the ages. He's more aggressive like the early days of comics. But he is still a hero willing to lay it on the line for other people like the last 50 years.
on March 19, 2013
The Flashpoint Crisis Crossover event in DC Comics that "rebooted" the fictional DC Universe also brought the DCU back towards where it was in the beginning of the characters' stints as heroes. Most of the titles now begin five years after the advent of "the age of heroes", as the public in the DCU calls the current time frame. In these comics stories, the five years (or longer for some heroes, it's uncertain) the heroes have been active are periodically explored through the device of flashbacks. There is a case or two where the actual beginnings are shown in an ongoing story. The first story arc of Justice League (before it skipped ahead five years to the "present day" in the second arc) would be one example of this, and the "new 52" version of Superman: Action Comics would be another.
In the case of AC, it is an ongoing series that tells the story of Superman's beginnings as a super-hero. This is a separate series from the Man of Steel's other title, called simply Superman, which takes place in the same "present day" (five years later) as the other titles. I have heard one person compare the current AC run to the now-classic Batman title Batman: Year One, and the comparison fits. In the hands of writer Grant Morrison, this is the type of ambitious re-imagining of the Superman mythos that John Byrne spear-headed for DC Comics with his seminal work, Superman: The Man of Steel, in 1986.
As the story begins, Supes has appeared in the public eye in Metropolis, while as Clark Kent he works for a newspaper that is the competition for The Daily Planet where he will eventually work for a time. He is friends with Jimmy Olson, and - sort of - friends with Lois Lane. He and Lois are more like friendly adversaries in the journalism business. Also, at this point, Clark's powers are still in flux. He can't quite fly yet, and he is still very vulnerable to bruises and other injuries, though his healing factor is enough to make him recover quickly enough. He is able to pass off injuries as him being "roughed up" by the corrupt police or criminal elements he exposes in his articles. People believe him, because at this time, Metropolis is basically as crap-sack a world as Gotham City was when Batman first started.
What's more, like Batman experiences in Gotham City at around the same time, Superman is distrusted and hounded by the police early on. He is feared, and labeled an "alien monster" and so on. There are moments that he apologizes to his dead parents' photo for failing them in using his powers for good. He tries, but no one seems to want his help. They fear him. But the status quo will not last. There is an enemy alien approaching who is going to become one of Superman's most memorable recurring adversaries. This enemy is allied with Lex Luthor, and the agenda (unbeknownst to Lex, to be fair) is to destroy the world. To make matters worse, Supes is given a choice between saving Earth or saving fellow Kryptonians. Will he submit to this sadistic choice? Or will he find a way to save everyone?
Beyond the above story there are several "vignettes". They are divided between the origin of John Henry Irons' - who becomes the cybernetically suited hero Steel - career as a hero, an adventure of Superman with the Legion of Super-heroes, and the life of Clark and his parents pre-Superman. Morrison plays up the whole Moses and Christ-figure idea for all it's worth. Shortly after marriage, Clark's parents still can't conceive a child, due to medical reasons. In despair, they ask their pastor why God is "punishing them". The pastor alludes to figures of the Bible such as Moses and Samuel the Prophet, and tells the Kents that God has a purpose for them, so don't lose faith. The suggestion is that God sent Clark to earth. It's really rather bold to have this classic symbolism of the character made explicit once again, especially in our post-modern age where such notions as hope or faith are laughed at, but Morrison pulls it off nicely.
If the reviews are any indication, there are some that hated the smaller stories. I loved them. They fleshed out the character, and told us more of who Superman really is. We have a story not just of incredible adventure and super-heroics, but one also of faith, family, coming-of-age, and service to others. This was an ambitious, but successfully executed, tale.
One final part I liked about this first volume of AC was how they returned Clark's powers to the less game-breaking levels of the 1986 reboot, and away from the stupid Silver Age levels they were again approaching the past few years. It makes Superman struggle more, and makes him more "human" in a way. When he succeeds, the reaction isn't quite as "ho-hum" as before, but instead is one you really cheer for.
I can't say enough how great a beginning to this new iteration of Superman this story was.
on February 26, 2013
General Lane and Lex Luthor team up to capture the new super hero calling himself Superman. But is the deal Luthor has made with an alien intelligence worth the price?
I know this is the comic book equivalent of blasphemy but I've never much cared for Superman. In fact, his death and/or replacement is about the only thing that's ever made me buy his books i n the monthly format. When the New 52 hit, I thought Superman might have suddenly become interesting. Did he?
Yes. Grant Morrison returned Superman to his roots in this volume. Gone is the near omnipotence that I've found boring for decades. He's much more like one of his inspirations, Hugo Danner of Philip Wylie's Gladiator. He can be hurt. Not only that, he actually has a personality for a change. Grant Morrison has taken Superman and made him a crusader and activist of sorts.
The stories in this volume are okay to really good. They suffer from a bit of Morrison-itis. A ton of things going on, not a lot of focus. Still, Morrison reintroduces a ton of classic Superman characters and concepts in this volume and actually makes Superman a fairly fresh and interesting character for the first time since John Byrne's reboot in 1986. I like what he's done to freshen up Lois, Jimmy, and the Daily Planet. Not too sure about the adult Legion of Superheroes yet but we'll see.
The artwork is very good, the best Superman's had in years. I actually like the t-shirt and jeans costume quite a bit. The costume minus the red underroos seems incomplete. Maybe it needs some black or something.
Like I said, this is probably as interested in a Superman comic as I'm ever going to get. At the end of the day, though, it's still Superman. 3.5 stars.