Sunday, September 25, 2011

DC New 52 Review: Action Comics #1

This is my second review of the current DC Relaunch. I want to start by saying, I'm not against reboots. My feeling is that reboots allow you to move iconic characters forward without losing the ability to return them back to the qualities that make them icons without undoing the stories that evolved them. My only issue with this one is that DC got a partial reboot just a couple years ago with Infinite Crises and with the average story taking almost six months worth of issues, I don't really think that got as fleshed out as much as it could have. I'm also a huge fan of the Superman work but Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, especially Superman: Secret Origin which was just released collected form this year, and I think it's a shame to throw that out when it's still so fresh. But I'm going to judge each comic individually on their own merits.

Action Comics #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Pencils by Rags Morales
Inks by Rick Byrant
Cover Price: $3.99

In a nutshell:
Superman, hero for the little guy!

Despite his icon status, perhaps because of it, Superman is one of the hardest characters to write and make captivating. Part of it is because Superman is up on a pedestal and I would argue that he belongs there and that it's very possible to tell good stories using the character by tapping into the readers core fears, hopes, and inspirations, especially in a cynical age where we could use it. Perhaps part of the struggle writers have in doing it is because Superman's become this household name and corporate representation to everything Americana, which makes it hard to distinguish him and to give him an opinion or have him take risks. Well, this Superman breaks the mold, or at least the mold that we've come to think of him as. In truth when Superman first started in 1938 he has a little more swagger. In fact in his very first story in the original Action Comics #1 he breaks into the Governor's mansion and breaks all kinds of laws to stop a wrongful execution and beats up a wife beater. He's going to make sure that right is done and he's not concerned about breaking some rules to do it (after all, he's Superman, who is going to stop him?). Grant Morrison's current take on Superman appears to go back to these roots and this story starts off with Superman taking on corrupt capitalists and not in the most delicate way. Grant Morrison is about as close to a rock star as there is in comics and even though you know he's a bit of a provocateur he's definitely an A List writer.

Why did I pick it up
I love Superman but enjoy so few of his comics. Grant Morrison wrote All Star Superman which is one of my favorite comics of the last decade and even though everything I've heard about this series makes it sound completely different, this is the one book of the New 52 that appealed the most to me. Also, perhaps because I loathe Jim Lee's new costume design for Superman, the T-Shirt and jeans seems to work for me, which I wouldn't think it would.

The Good:
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this issue, definitely appreciating a Superman that has a progressive edge to him, especially as it seems there is more and more ingrained corruption in our society and the media and politicians have become so accepting of it. This Superman is a little radical in today's world and, from my perspective, that's not radical at all! This isn't my favorite take on Superman but this is a Superman I was to read and, so far at least, it's a Superman comic I want to follow. Art is important to me and Rags Morales has a style I can appreciate (lets put it this way, Superman's jeans actually look like jeans, not skin tight spandex with seams). This Superman is all new and yet looks classic. Superman isn't married to Lois Lane in this version which I know will upset some of the die hards the way it did with Spider-Man when his marriage was retconned, but it gives us a chance to get a little more romantic chemistry into the book and one of the good things about rebooting a series is that you can get to unload baggage without undoing it.

The Bad:
It's not Superman Secret Origin! No, seriously, for two decades John Byrne's Man of Steel set the ground work for Superman and when Geoff John's Secret Origin replaced it, it was such a good story, it's a damn shame that almost immediately it is undone, especially because I felt there was something magical about the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank Superman stories and I was hoping to see more added to them. That's less of a criticism of this story as it is praise for another story. The only concern I have about where this book is going is the glimpse we got of General Lane (Lois Lane's military father) and Lex Luthor who look like they're going to be the main antagonists of the book, and I'd really hate to see typical arch enemy/evil mastermind scheming pull away from the part of the story that I think is the more appealing. But we'll have to wait to see.

Is it worth it?
This and Justice League are the only books from the relaunch that I've noticed having a $4 cover price as opposed to the $3 price that most of the other books have (which in my opinion is already too much in the current economy especially because you can find most comics a year later on ebay for a fraction of the cost and with the collected editions becoming the more desired format). But, if $4 is something you're willing to spend on a comic book, this is the one to pick!

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