Review by C.J. Bunce
As much as I am a fan of Rags Morales’s art style, Grant Morrison’s reboot story of Superman in the flagship title Action Comics for the DCU is really pretty ho-hum, if not plain disjointed, and ultimately hits the floor with a thud. The excitement, energy, and portrayal of the great power of Superman of the past is non-existent here.
Much has been said about Superman’s new costume–shirt and cape are not all that different, but he is wearing jeans and no red boots–and ultimately that doesn’t matter. Morrison’s writing is just…odd. Even read by someone with an extensive vocabulary, from seeing the use of the archaic and out-of-place word “teetotal” on page one to a character named “Mrs. Nyxly,” you get the feeling that someone is putting us on here. A key story element about a problem with a train comes out of nowhere. Can this Superman see the future? Doesn’t seem to be what is happening here. There are just elements here that don’t jibe. And why does Superman have these strange gold, shining eyes? At first I thought this was meant to convey a Bizarro appearance, which could have been fun, but on re-read that’s not the case.
In one scene Superman captures a baddie named “Glenmorgan” for using “illegal cheap labor, no safety standards” which echoes a bit of what we’d expect from a 1970s Green Arrow, so maybe this new Superman will be pursuing non-obvious villains down the road. But unfortunately we only get this in a singular image of the book.
OK, I’ll say it. Superman with jeans and some form of brown dress shoe looks, well, just plain silly. What’s the point, and does it say anything about the character we care about? Wearing jeans makes him modern? Who in the USA in 2011 wears brown dress shoes with jeans rolled up at the cuff? There’s nothing cool about this look. Dorky, yes. Cool, no.
The standard cast of Superman is here as well, evil-without-explanation Lex Luthor, goofy Jimmy at the paper and sassy looking Lois Lane. In this brief intro they appear as mere caricatures.
Strangely enough the best parts of Action Comics #1 are four entire pages of entirely visual content with no words. The value in this first issue is Rags Morales’s renderings, not Morrison’s story. What appears to be happening here is a Smallville sequel, a boy of steel instead of a man of steel. Isn’t that what Superboy is for?
Stepping back from the story and art, other than Justice League, all the rest of the New 52 appears to be priced at $2.99. Inexplicably this is a $3.99 book. Unfortunately it doesn’t offer enough to keep anyone reading except maybe the diehard Superman loyalist. With all the solid books introduced this past month featuring Batman, other Justice League characters and the unexpectedly refreshing non-A list titles, this title won’t make the cut for anyone looking to end up with only a few titles for the long haul.