Action Comics #3 came out this week and while very good, it didn't match the spectacular level the first two issues did. It was not as if there was one thing which stood out as knocking the book down from its lofty perch. Rather it was a number of small things which seemed to knock the book down a slight peg.
My biggest problem with the issue was around pacing. For me, this issue simply felt rushed with the plot pulled forward rather than progressing there naturally. It is times like this that I realize I am a typical comic fan, probably frustrating to creators. I have complained of the pacing in Supergirl as being too slow. Now I am complaining that this issue of Action was too fast. It is times like this I feel like Salieri in Amadeus, complaining about songs with too many notes ... as if he understood genius. But after two issues sort of guiding us into this new Superman mythos, gliding along at a pace which let the story breathe, this issue flew by. In particular, the latter half of the book felt rushed.
And that feeling for me was exacerbated by the somewhat rushed appearing art by Rags Morales in his section of the book. I consider Morales to be a polished artist, panels being efficient and effective. Here, it just looks more haphazard than I am used to seeing from him.
In contrast, the opening pages have a different pace and look, having the same effortless story-telling I was used to reading here. That dichotomy of the issue made it feel even more disjointed.
Now it sounds like I am going to trash the book. The truth is Action has been my favorite of the New 52, making me forget that this is yet another reboot of Superman's origins as revealed itself. And this issue is still very good. But just not at the near perfect feel of the first two.
The opening pages are a flashback to Krypton and the capture of Kandor by Brainiac. The art here is just lushly drawn by Gene Ha, fresh from his Flashpoint:Project Superman mini-series.
This Krypton truly feels alien with its organic energy structures, robot servants, and glass buildings. But the conversations here strike me more like nobility, chatting and gossiping about politics and entertainment as they walk through a paradise. Now it is hard to know if this indicative of everyday life on the planet or the upper class. But it would be an interesting contrast to think of Superman fighting for 'the little people' on Earth despite growing up in luxury on Krypton.
Nice mention of Lyra Lerrol here, a silver age Kryptonian character.
And I loved how the stars are so prominently reflected in little Kal's eyes, a nod to his ultimate destiny.
But the laid back and casual courtly setting is destroyed as Brainiac arrives. Jor-El is able to warn Lara to get Kal and get out of the city. It turns out that another scientist Van-Da allowed the Brainiac tech into the planet's system. Suddenly, the stately servant robots mutate into Terminauts (nice new name for Brainiac drones). With the planet's database copied, Brainiac plans to 'preserve significant artifacts' and destroy the rest.
Ha really shines here as there is a great 2 page spread of Kandor being 'bottled' just as Lara escapes. It is the perfect exclamation point for this opening sequence which just exploded off the page. Just well done.
I really hope Gene Ha finds steady work somewhere.
And this is our first look of the new Krypton with some beats from the old one. We hear of guilds. We learn of Kandor. Even the outfits feel like polished Silver Age ones, upgraded.
This Krypton sequence is actually Clark's memories coming to him in a dream. He is awoken by a knock on the door as Inspector Blake, he who tried to stop Superman from harming Glen Glenmorgan back in the first issue.
Blake never really explains why he is there other then saying that Clark is making all the wrong enemies with his expose articles in the Daily Globe. But Clark stands firm in his search for truth.
Luckily Blake doesn't discover Clark's Superman suit. But his landlady does and asks him if he is an alien.
This is a good example of the rushed look of Morales this issue. Clark's pinched face in the second panel just seems messy.
It turns out that Glenmorgan has the propaganda machine churning out anti-Superman rhetoric, focusing on evidence that Superman is an alien. And despite a couple of issues showing Superman to be the hero of the people, the citizens of Metropolis seem to buy it hook, line, and sinker.
I do like that Clark and Jimmy are friends in this DCnU. And Morrison starts to plant the seeds of how Clark ends up at the Planet. Again, it is a nice nod to Siegel and Shuster that Morrison has Clark starting out at the Daily Star, working for Editor Taylor.
So if this issue was supposed to show how the people of Metropolis slowly turn against Superman that would have been fine. But there is much much more here.
While Clark is talking to Jimmy about the 'alien angle', Lois shows up. My guess, based on Lois' comment, is that Lucy Lane is going to be a fun-loving flight attendant again.
So Morrison must want to show how time is flying, or show how Clark is reacting to this turn of the public tide, but some of the scene transitions are stark and jolting. So to go from the restaurant scene to Clark on his lap top didn't flow. And that is with the hint that Krypto (a huge Worg like wolf on Krypton) is somewhere out there, either spiritually or in some sort of Zone.
As for Clark's one man crusade against Glenmorgan, we find out that he has a mysterious informant he calls Icarus. I have heard a bunch of rumors on the net and I freely admit that I didn't think of it ... but it has to be Perry White.
I also like the compare/contrast moment here with Clark/Lex both having mysterious voices on the other end of the line. Clark's is helping him defend people and bring justice. Lex' is planning world domination/destruction.
Again, the whole feeling of the people of Metropolis turning against Clark just happens too fast. After only a couple panels showing the anti-Superman media blitz, the people are shown throwing bottles and bricks at Superman. I just would have liked this plot to grow a bit more slowly, showing the public perception turning against Superman slowly rather than such a hot and cold phenomenon. And I don't need 12 issues of that like Grounded. But having the city turn on the hero in 3 pages felt rushed.
And that is with this great panel of Clark talking to the Kent's picture. I want to see some of that early Smallville stuff at some point, including Pa's home spun wisdom about helping folks. The costume in the trash image is a bit overused.
Icarus has clued Clark into Glenmorgan's plans to build robot driven trains with low quality while cutting jobs.
Clark goes to investigate at the same time that Lois and Jimmy are there. That also hints that Perry might be the informant.
Before Clark can ask the tough questions too much, the robots on the assembly line begin morphing into Terminauts. Someone has let Brainiac into the system.
So this issue we have the people of the city turning against Superman, Glenmorgan continuing his corruption, and now Brainiac invading. But we aren't done yet.
Brainiac is in the 'Steel Soldier' technology turning John Corben into a high-tech mobile Brainiac probe.
There are some nice touches here. We learn that Corben's heart has burst in the process (setting up the need for a K-heart). And we see Corben cry at the loss of his humanity, claiming he did it all for Lois. Man he's got it bad.
The inclusion of Brainiac into Metallo's origin is new and feels right. But this is yet another new plot in the book.
And once Corben declares himself as the alien entity Lex has been talking to, Luthor introduces himself. Again, this is a young and brash Luthor. He usually is so careful in exposing his inner thoughts and plots.
And that's that. Twenty pages of comic (despite the extra buck), 10 pages of interviews and super-comic material. And 7 of those were the Krypton pages. That means that everything else is stuffed into 13 pages. Could all these plots have worked if those 10 extra pages were stories? Probably. Would I have liked the events of this issue to instead be shown over 2 issues? Definitely. It almost was as if Morrison needed to get to a point in the story by the beginning of issue number four and as a result this issue suffered a bit. I couldn't savor this issue ... I had to wolf it down.
That said, I like this Clark and this Superman. And I loved the Krypton pages. Action Comics #3 wasn't perfect. But it was still a good read with some shining moments thrown into the sprint.