ComicsHistory Review: Action Comics #1: The New 52 Take on Superman as an Homage to the Original Action Comics
Grant Morrison’s “New 52” take on the Man of Steel in this rebooted Action Comics #1 hearkens in many ways back to those glorious days of yesteryear when Superman was literally the newest (and only) tights-wearing superhero on the block.
I had read some background info on this new version of Superman, and read an interview Grant Morrison granted (and I cannot recall where that article is on the web; sorry), in which he discussed how he literally wanted to take the Superman character back to his roots in the late 1930s, in the original Action Comics #1 and other issues, in which Superman was more of a crusader against injustice and corruption. Many of us grew up with either comic book, movie, or television versions of Superman in which he is saving the planet, or facing down nasty aliens, or doomsday monsters. And that is not what the “original” Man of Steel fought against. He battled corruption, military dictators, illegal arms manufacturers, and other “real life” villains. Morrison said he wanted to take this new version of Superman back to those roots.
After reading his Action Comics #1 (with very good art by Rags Morales), I can see what he meant. Having read the original Action Comics #1 story (no, I am not rich enough to own that book—I wish!), I detect the original flavor of the character in both the story and in the art. This Superman operates outside of the law (just as Batman does in the “New 52” Justice League), and his focus is bringing corrupt officials, mob bosses, and their ilk to justice. And if he breaks a few laws and defies orders from the police in the process, then so be it.
NOTE: MAJOR SPOILERS LURK BELOW THIS LINE—BEWARE!
This Superman has attitude! He basically heckles the police to shoot at him, knowing that the bullets will just bounce off his tough hide. Apparently the public and the government don’t really know much about this super-powered vigilante. He wars blue jeans, thick combat or construction work boots, a rather short red cape, and a short-sleeved Superman “S” t-shirt. His face, in several close-up panels, is quite young, in his early-to-mid-twenties perhaps. The authorities, aided by an expensive consultant named Luthor (of course), have laid a trap to catch Superman. In conversation between Luthor and General Lane (yes, you-know-who’s daddy), we learn that Superman had appeared on the scene only six months earlier, his powers are increasing with time, and that at least Luthor believes that Superman in really a non-human, being most likely an alien from another world. Hmmm…think Luthor may be on to something?
Without giving away too much of the story, let’s just say that the end is something of a cliffhanger, and that the reference to a “speeding bullet” comes to mind.
In terms of the illustrations, penciller Rags Morales serves up great visual impression of the new Superman and his intensity is clearly evident on the facial close-ups. I especially liked the homage paid to the original Action Comics art as several panels of the new Action Comics depict Superman in poses that look a LOT like what you would see in the old 1938 and 1939 issues of Action Comics. Another way this Action is similar to the original, is that there is no attempt at an origin story. No memories of the farm in Smallville, or conversations with the ghost of Jor-El. Just the introduction of a super-vigilante out to clean up a corrupt Metropolis.
This story obviously takes place before the events in Justice League #1, since the costumes worn by Supes are radically different in the two books. While I originally was not really crazy about the whole reboot of the DC Universe, I must say I like what I have seen so far in these two books. Next up is a review of Detective Comics #1 in a day or so. Stay tuned!