It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to purchase Action Comics #1. In fact, it’s been approximately 73 years since that opportunity last came along. Despite some trepidation about the rebooting of my favorite superhero, I took that opportunity.
I had a kneejerk reaction to the issue, but decided to wait a few days and read it again. There’s something to be said for forming a reflective opinion, even if we’re talking about comic books. I just read it again before homework, college football, and homework engulf my weekend. It reaffirmed my initial reaction.
I loved it.
The issue takes place early in Superman’s career, but it’s not an origin story. Kal-El has been on the scene for about six months and we are dropped into the middle of the action. Action is the operative word as this comic lives up to its name. The story is go, go, go as a young Man of Steel leaps (more on that later) around Metropolis helping those in need. It’s a familiar story, but Superman is different.
Writer Grant Morrison has stated that it is his intention to hearken back to the original Superman stories by Joe Schuster and Jerry Siegel. This was back before Supes was synonymous with “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Rather he was often referred to as “Champion of the Oppressed.”
This is a Superman of the blue-collared worker and not just because he wears blue jeans and work boots. He looks out for the proverbial little guy and he doesn’t care whom, be it corrupt landowners or the police, gets in the way. Even as a Harry Potter-looking Clark Kent working at The Daily Star (another 1930s callback), he writes stories that expose corruption at the top. I absolutely love this aspect of his character. It gives him more of a defined mission besides punching out supervillains.
This Superman is young and brash. The media has described him as “angry and cynical.” I didn’t really see that characterization in this issue. Yes, he’s more rough and forceful than I’ve seen Superman before. But part of the point is this is him at the beginning of his career. He’s young, his parents have passed away, he has a well-defined sense of right and wrong, and he is going to do something about those wrongs with his superpowers. That adds up to some immaturity and some mistakes made.
I appreciate the immaturity because it’s going to provide opportunity to see him grow up. I have only read Superman stories where he had it all figured out and his powers were at their absolute peak. This is something new.
Even though he is more brash and forceful, he is actually less powerful. This is a callback to Schuster and Siegel. He can’t fly yet. He can “only” leap tall buildings in a single bound. He can get hurt more easily. Not counting the Doomsday series where Superman, you know, died (the first comics I read), this is the most I’ve seen a pained Superman in a single issue. He actually has to be rescued at one point.
Despite all these old school trappings, the book feels very modern. It all feels fresh. Yet at the same time it feels familiar. We get to meet Lois, gunning for a Planet story, unaware of who this Clark Kent to whom Jimmy is talking (they’re best friends for six months). We see Lex Luthor. His hatred for the Man of Steel is explained in a remarkably efficient and highly logical manner.
(I’ve talked a lot about the writing and characterization, but I want to throw in that I really enjoyed Rags Morales’ art as well.)
Most of what I’ve read about DC’s New 52 has been a mixed bag. Some great comics, some subpar stuff, and a lot of things in the middle. I’m not going to be making weekly trips to the comic book shop like I did as a kid. But I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed Action Comics #1. I’ll be back at the shop in a month to purchase Action Comics #2 and I have a feeling that I’ll be coming back each month. I look forward to seeing where Clark and this story are going.