Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Action Comics #6 review

It says Action Comics on the cover, but we're firmly in All-Star Superman territory here, as Grant Morrison dips into his bag of high concepts. In doing so, and with the aid of artists Andy Kubert and John Dell, he gives us the best issue of this comic since the DC New 52 relaunch.

A side-story amid the ongoing Brainiac storyline, 'When Superman learned to fly' sees the Superman of 2012 travel five years into the past - the regular Action time setting - to 'save the life' of the rocket which brought Kal-El to Earth. At his side are the founders of the 31st-century Legion of Super-Heroes - Saturn Woman, Cosmic Man and Lightning Man. Last month members of the Anti-Superman Army stole the rocket's power source which, the mad scientist addressing the troops informs us, can yield different varieties of Kryptonite guaranteed to give Superman a headache - and worse.

We soon learn the surprising location of the villains' secret headquarters, get a new spin on Titano the Super-Ape and see the true significance of that oft-told first meeting between young Clark Kent and the Legion.

I could go into more detail, but most comics are better read than described and if you're at all interested in Superman, this isn't an issue to miss. There are hints about the gathered villains (amusingly, one of 'em will be familiar to Golden Age fans as Lois Lane's niece, Susie Tompkins*), insights into how Clark felt about being sent across space and more personality for Lightning Lad - sorry, Man - than he's had in years.
Good lines abound, my favourite being a toss up between 'How about no teeth?' and 'We'd built him up as this idol in our minds, this myth, and he was just a gawky caveman kid.' Check out the book to see how much better they are in context.

Action Comics #6 is mainstream Morrison at his best, with character as much to the fore as ideas in a story that requires concentration, but no PhD. And the odd iffy face apart, penciller Kubert and inker Dell do a tremendous job delivering powerful visuals that grab the eye without compromising the storytelling.

The story ends with hints about the future, while the comic closes with a back-up tale focusing on the past, specifically the day Clark Kent left Smallville. He goes with a typically generous gesture to a neighbour, and the love and support of pals Lana Lang and Pete Ross. Writer Sholly Fisch delivers a heartwarming, but never cloying, snapshot of Clark's life just before he moved to Metropolis, while illustrator CrisCriss and colourist Jose Villarrubia make the memories sing. There's one almost-full-page panel for Clark and Lana that's simply gorgeous in the way it marries the everyday and the super.

This is the first comic I've read this week, but I'll not be surprised should it be the best - it's issues like this that will ensure Superman survives the 21st century - and maybe even reaches the 31st.

* Susie image borrowed from the excellent Supermanica, used with permission!

10 comments:

  1. I'd not been impressed by the first few issues of Action Comics or the revamped Superman so had dropped both. But you made this comic sound so enticing. I might have to pick it up...

    ReplyDelete
  2. See what you reckon, Rob. At the very least, it has the Adult Legion for you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I caught the mention of a Susie at the end... but I have to admit, Susie Tompkins is (barring a memory lapse) a whole new character to me! Good call!

    And yeah, a really great issue.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ugh. This is the first review in recall that I strongly disagree with. This two parter is the nadir of Morrison Superman scripts to me. It also spits in the face of being 'new reader' friendly 'cause if a forty year comic reader has little clue what the heck happened, what chance do the newbs have? At the DC message boards I had someone suggest I read it multiple times to get all the nuances but you know what? That's homework and I only reread books I enjoy, not ones I hope to someday understand...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, you should not have to read a comic multiple times, or consult a Morrison fan site, or whatever, to get enjoyment out of a book. I think our different point of view comes from my never really believing DC were going to make every issue new-reader friendly. Every first issue, maybe, but not subsequent. This issue, certainly, fails any 'every issues someone's first' test, Steve.

      Delete
  5. Playing in the Morrisonverse is definitely an acquired taste. Not knowing what's going on is part of the charm for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's one way of looking at it, Keith!

      Delete
  6. I always enjoy your reviews and you did an excellent job of recapping the issue without spoiling anything; however, I think that Action Comics #6 was fairly unfocused and not Morrison's best work. Don't get me wrong Morrison is a brilliant writer, but the whole concept behind DC's new 52 was to draw new readers i and I think that Morrison's bizarre bag of concepts introduced at such an early stage in the game defeats the purpose of a Superman revamp. Overall, I thought that the issue was solid and I'm excited to see where the run will carry us to.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It'll be interesting to see if this issue does skew subsequent sales. The inconsistent (he said, politely) work of supposed regular artist Rags Morales, can't be helping.

    ReplyDelete