Morrison, Morales Put Superman Back in Action
Publication Date: August 1, 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
· Grant Morrison
· Rags Morales
· Andy Kubert
Book Review: Superman - Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52)
by R.J. Carter
Published: August 1, 2012
I was there when John Byrne rebooted Superman with the Man of Steel miniseries and subsequent ongoing titles. The crux of the reboot: simplification; make Superman the absolute Last Son of Krypton and depower him to a more relatable level.
And for a while... it worked.
How quickly the time has passed. With the advent of DC's New 52, it was deemed time to reboot the world again, in a sort of retroactive fashion. Some titles kick off in present day, with an unknown past both familiar and different. Others kicked off five years in the past, allowing new readers to pick up the new history. Superman was able to do both, with current stories taking place in the Superman books, and the prologue occurring in DC's flagship title: Action Comics.
Grant Morrison gives us a Superman even closer to the original Siegel and Shuster than did Byrne. This is a Superman who can't fly... yet. This is a Superman who can be hurt, can bleed. His only bit of invulnerability is his cape, and his action attire is a pair of jeans and a t-shirt with the S-shield screenprinted onto it. Under Rags Morales, this simple design actually works. In fact, it works so well I actually prefer it over the armored uniform. The series almost has three distinct people now: young, scrawny-looking investigative reporter Clark Kent; Superman, man of the people; and Superman, aloof alien defender of the planet.
Superman and Clark Kent aren't the only revised characters. Lois Lane isn't just Clark's rival for headlines -- she works for an entirely different newspaper. Or rather, Clark does -- he works at the Daily Star, just as he did back in the 1930s for Jerry and Joe. Superman's actions are more down-to-earth, more rooted in saving people and rooting out evil men. Lex Luthor, while evil and machiavellian, isn't even on Superman's radar yet. The bald, energy-drink guzzling, slightly out of shape scientist retains his xenophobia, refusing to even refer to Superman by anything other than "it." But he also has made a deal for his survival in the coming apocalypse -- an apocalypse that has visted a number of planets, including Krypton: Brainiac. Under Morrison and Morales, Brainiac is an artificial intelligence that is something of a mix of a museum creator and a fanboy. What Brainiac collects is remnants of lost planets, bits and pieces of society, shrunken in jars and preserved.
Apparently Earth is on the schedule for demolition, bringing Brainiac to our little backwater corner of the unfashionable end of the galactic spiral to add Metropolis to his collection. And when he encounters a living, breathing Kryptonian -- well, that's a bit like one of us going to a yard sale of old clothes, baby toys and ratty old furniture only to find a perfectly preserved copy of Action Comics #1 volume one behind a cushion. He has to have it. This also nicely explains how Superman acquires his new uniform, even if the Jim Lee design does make it look as though every DC Universe hero went to the same One Day Only sale at Paul Gambi's, getting the same suit in a different color. Since he's still elected to wear the t-shirt in Action on a few occasions, perhaps we'll get to keep it around (and maybe even see it in Justice League).
Joining forces later in the volume with Andy Kubert, Morrison serves up a brilliant tale of time travel featuring the adult Legion of Super-Heroes, bringing the modern-day Superman into the past to battle some time-travelling villains and a recurring foe who has been lurking in the shadows for most of this issue. I may be leaping at shadows, but I'm thinking Morrison may have a new twist on a much more twisted Mxyzptlk.
Superman's been through a number of changes over the years, from impacting (Man of Steel) to nonevents ("My hair is long now.") to stupid ("I'm electric! For no reason!") As reboots go, the New 52 Superman -- at least in Action Comics -- is one fans should be able to rally around. I know this fan is.