Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Action Comics #1: My Review (SPOILERS)

WARNING: This post contains spoilers and half baked opinions on Action Comics #1 (2011)

I usually refrain from writing reviews of new comics on this blog but I couldn't resist dashing out a few of my initial thoughts on Grant Morrison and Rag Morales' Action Comics #1. It is after all the biggest Superman reboot since 1986 and the first 'Number One' issue of Action Comics since 1938.

My initial reaction to Action Comics #1 was 'Why have they turned Superman into Spider-Man?'  There are plenty of familiar Spidey themes to be found here. A misunderstood young super-hero is hounded by the police until he finds refuge by swiftly changing out of his home made costume on the rooftop of his cheap, rented apartment. Sound familiar?  The other major influence on this issue is of course the original Action Comics #1. Just like his Golden Age counterpart this Superman is a hot headed crusader for social justice who likes nothing more than to throw wife beaters through windows and dangle corrupt rich guys from rooftops.

What we seem to have here then is a Golden Age Superman informed by the Marvel Age of comics, specifically Spider-Man.  But the Morrison and Morales' Superman is more than that.  Strip away the superficial resemblances to Peter Parker and we still have Superman at his core.  Parker is very much a hero motivated by guilt and the feeling that he can help so he should help. This Superman however is a man who's motivated by outrage at the injustice he sees and is blessed with the ability to actually do something about it.  This isn't a hero who thinks "With great power must come great responsibility" this is a hero who thinks "With great power comes a chance to stick up for the little guy."  Morrison and Morales convey Superman's joy at being able to help with every panel.  And that's what Superman is, a friend who wants to help. Action Comics #1 is an interpretation of this core truth that is very different from recent interpretations of the character but that core truth is still there.

Action Comics #1 manages to be just as fast paced as last week's Justice League #1 but is much more successful than that comic because it manages to cram so much into one issue while never sacrificing its momentum.  Other highlights of the issue include a Clark Kent who is just as much of a crusader for justice while in reporter mode as he is in hero mode, and a Jimmy Olsen who is more of a peer to Clark than a kid sidekick.  Lex Luthor is fantastic.  Once again Luthor sees himself as the only man who can save the Earth from this alien invader.  Luthor sees Superman as an foreign threat to Earth's delicate natural balance and is just as ruthless and manipulative as he's always been.

While Action Comics #1 may seem like a radical departure then, it's still recognisably Superman.  Luthor is still an evil genius who's the hero in his own head and Superman is still a friend who wants to help.  And Lois is still the one who named Superman!  Fresh, new and exciting but not so different at it's heart. Check it out!

UPDATE: (MORE SPOILERS) Look out for the blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to the Legion of Super-Heroes! I missed it on my first and second reading and then saw it pointed out on a message board. Looks like DCNu Clark still knows the Legion. Whether Grant Morrison or Legion writer Paul Levitz will expand on this hint remains to be seen.


  1. Wow, what a great review! This sounds really exciting and find out more about it! I've always loved the Golden Age Superman and found it sad that they abandoned him so early on in his history. Good for Morrison to have the common Sense and taste to do the job!!! If only more creators would go back to the original material the way Morrison did here and Miller did with Batman, the DC universe could become cool and relevant again the way it once was way back when.

  2. Thanks! :) I wonder why it took DC so long to have someone return Superman to his roots considering that approach has always been so successful with Batman.

  3. Nice point with the Golden age superman, and for thanks god that Lex Luthor is still Luthor

    hey.. you are killing me with that legion reference I Cant see it.. Maybe because i´m not a big legion fan, but still I want to know =)

  4. Clark's landlady says three friends called for him, two guys and a blonde girl. They're Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl. It's a very, very subtle reference but apparently Morrison promised a Legion reference in issue 1 at the San Diego Comic Con and that's it.

    Personally I hope both Morrison and Levitz leave it there. I think it's enough for us to know that Superman knew the Legion. I'd prefer them to leave us to fill in the continuity gaps in our minds than tie themselves in knots trying to explain it like Byrne and Levitz did in the '80s.



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