Friday, September 16, 2011

Action Comics #1 Review

Unless you have no interest in comics and therefore, no soul, I’m sure you are well aware of DC comic’s monumental 52 relaunch. A bold attempt to reclaim the loyalty of fickle fans while simultaneously kindling interest among a broader demographic of people who would possibly like to start collecting comics but are afraid of being overwhelmed by frustrating crossover events and decades worth of fuzzy continuity. Now, with the entire DC Universe being given pretty much a clean slate, the new 52 offers the perfect jumping on point for readers old and new alike with 52 number one issues sporting new directions, new creative teams, and new interpretations of our favorite superheroes.
In an attempt to retain the best possible aspects of the prior continuity while offering a fresh, exciting interpretation of areas that could be improved upon the re-imaged DC Universe sees some of its core characters like Batman and Green Lantern left pretty much untampered with while B-listers like Captain Atom, Hawkman, and Green Arrow given new aesthetics, and status quos to make them more modern and relevant. But perhaps no character underwent more of a face lift then the big guy himself, that’s right, the man of steel, Superman.
In the months heading up to the relaunch Superman pretty much had it made. He was happily married to his long time love interest Lois Lane and had achieved a considerable measure of success as one of the Daily Planet’s star reporters. He had successfully mentored Kara Zor El (Supergirl) and Conner Kent (Superboy) into mature heroes whose nobility and sense of justice and morality were almost a perfect reflection of his own. He was the undisputed paragon of the superhero community, solid, soldierly, super.
So imagine my shock when I open the pages of Action Comics #1 and Superman is dangling a man threateningly above his head atop the balcony of a 20+ story building. Imagine my distress as he is surrounded by a swat team who hates and fears him, ready to fire away at the slightest provocation, imagine my bewilderment at seeing his very “un-super” looking choice of apparel. Superman in Levis!? What was so wrong with the red trunks over blue spandex!? And are those short sleeves he’s wearing!? And work boots!? Who is this guy!? Surly it cannot be the same superhero whose standard is one of the most instantly recognizable symbols in all of the modern world, the same superhero whose mythology is enriched with affinities to Moses, Jesus, and every foreigner who ever set out for the new world, risking life and limb just to fulfill the dream of being a part of this great country. But the more I read the more I realized how the man on the pages epitomized the core of who Superman is behind the title and the costume and the mystique, a hero of the people. That is the crux of who the character is, and that is certainly what writer Grant Morrison and artist Rags Morales delivered in Action Comics #1. Not so much a salubrious, borderline messianic figure but rather a rough and tough champion of the common man whose ardent pursuit of truth and justice in a corrupt, unscrupulous world make him an outlaw rather than an idol, a vigilante rather than a superhero.
The changes are no less prevalent for Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent. Not yet an award winning reporter Action Comics #1 sees Clark as an underpaid stringer cutting his teeth on human interest stories, living in a dinky apartment and barely able to make rent. His marriage to Lois has been dissolved and the two are now working for two competing media outlets. She makes an appearance along with several other recognizable characters from Superman’s supporting cast including his hair impaired arch nemesis Lex Luthor. No longer a villain but now on the right side of the law in this re-imagining, Lex is a military contractor working with the authorities to subdue and capture Superman.
All in all this first issue of Action Comics was an absolute blast, and I cannot recommend it highly enough if you have any interest in Superman or comic books in general. The writing is great the art is great and superman, unlike his portrayal in the mopey, introspective “grounded” storyline that ended the old continuity is really super again. Although not able to take the sky just yet this Superman is not afraid to face danger head on and throw himself in the mix while at the same time smiling and saying nice things to people. Although he may not yet be strong enough to change the course of mighty rivers this superman will not hesitate to throw himself in front of an out of control train even if it means enduring some cracked ribs and blood streaming out his ear. Because of this I suppose I can forgive the jeans and the work boots, heck I kind of dig them. After all it’s not what he wears but what he does that truly makes him Superman.


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