Review: The New 52 – Action Comics #1 (DC Comics)

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Action Comics #1 (featuring Superman)
Title: “Superman Versus the City of Tomorrow”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Rags Morales w/ Rick Bryant
Cover by: Rags Morales w/ Brad Anderson
Variant Cover by: Jim Lee w/ Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair
Originated as: Action Comics (1938)

First, let me say that I am thrilled to be able to witness the release of an all-new #1 issue of such an historic title. The original Action Comics #1 was an anthology title (as virtually all comic books were at the time) released on April 18th of 1938 (with a June cover date) and featured, among other stories, the first ever Superman story by two co-creators of Jewish descent, writer Jerome “Jerry” Siegel and artist Joseph “Joe” Shuster. The story, simply called “Superman” was a 13-page lead feature originally intended to be a newspaper strip a few years prior. There’s so much more to the origin of this landmark, milestone, watershed publication that simply won’t fit here. Suffice it to say: Action Comics Vol. 1, No. 1 as well as Superman the character were the first-of-a-kind and ushered in the Golden Age of a new cultural art form devoted to 4-color icons, a medium we all know and love some 73 years later.

Obviously one of the primary targets of the reboot and re-launch initiative was Superman. The custodians most in charge of DCs library of characters, co-publishers Dan Didio & Jim Lee, believe that Superman had gotten a bit weathered and old as a character and concept, to state it simply. As a result of their “get younger, get more relatable” initiative for the blue Boy Scout, we now have a younger and less experienced Superman in this new iteration of Action Comics. Also, award-winning best-selling writer Grant Morrison (he who previously re-imagined Superman in the best-selling, critically acclaimed All-Star Superman series a few years back) has stated that he would like to get Superman back to his core essence as an alien from another world, and re-imagine him for the 21st century.

As the story begins it’s apparent that collective mission is definitely accomplished. We find our caped intrepid in a modern-day setting, straddling the line between public enemy number one and crusader of the oppressed. The general public – especially law enforcement – does not understand his nature, are wary of his presence and intentions, yet those he plays hero to are grateful of his intervention. Many of them refer to him as “it”. Yeah, definitely the alien-not-of-this-world-and-not-like-us treatment. As expected, Superman will not stand for any thuggish, roguish behavior from perpetrators, especially when it affects the innocent citizens of Metropolis. Of course that’s the job of the local police who are trying to arrest our hero. He retorts a great line:

  • “How about you and your boys deal with the real criminal scum in this city, and then you won’t need me to do it for you.”

I like the realistic cockiness of this Superman (which coincidentally is consistent with the original Action Comics #1). I mean, if you were as super as he you’d have a certain confidence and badass attitude about you. However, before anyone cries foul, I think, like Thor, Superman will eventually learn humility as he becomes more of an Earthling than just a displaced alien from Krypton with otherworldly powers that clearly set him apart from humanity.

We soon learn that classic primary Superman foe, Lex Luthor, is working as a consultant to the U.S. military, specifically to General Lane, father of fledgling Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. General Lane is so hell-bent on apprehending Superman that he literally sends in the tanks and helicopters. There’s plenty more action and heroics in this issue than what I’ve described. We also meet the Clark Kent alter ego, Jimmy Olsen, the aforementined Ms. Lane and Kent’s landlord Mrs. Nyxly.

Rags Morales’ pencils and Rick Bryant’s inks give the book a smooth look that is, like the story, one-part throwback to the Silver Age and one part contemporary. The overall layouts and action sequences are really dynamic and truly display some fine storytelling with pictures. Accompanied by Morrison’s rollicking yet razor sharp and super-focused script, the overall package of this oversized issue is truly impressive. Bravo, DC! Mission accomplished. This is the best Superman-starring comic I’ve read since All-Star Superman #1 & 2. – Professor’s Grades: Script = A- | Art = B+ | Accessibility = A-

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