Friday, December 9, 2011

Review: Action Comics #4

Action Comics #4 came out this week and continued the absolute breakneck pace that writer Grant Morrison has brought to this title. For me, this has been the best book of the DCnU relaunch, a mix of nostalgia, history, action, and characterization.

And this issue is no different. There is a lot to process here as Morrison continues to throw idea after idea at us in the context of high speed action. So we are continuing to learn about Superman and Clark ... and Lois and Metropolis. And we are learning about Luthor and General Lane ... and Metallo and Brainiac. And there isn't much exposition here. We are learning by seeing, not by being told. It is daring and is grabbing me as a reader.

As interesting is the lack of a true 'origin' in the book yet. We haven't seen Krypton explode. We haven't seen the desperate parents or the kindly couple. We are going to learn about that as we go along. And yet, we haven't seen Superman's actions from the beginning. There is no 'first sighting rescuing a space plane' event in this new run. We met Superman when he confronted Glenmorgan but he is already semi-established. Morrison has dropped us into the middle of the action and we haven't had a chance to catch our breath. It is exhilarating.

So yes, you can tell I liked this issue a lot and I'll jump into the story soon. The one downside here was Rags Morales art. While I think it still is very good, this issue looked a bit more rushed than I am used to. It seems rougher, less detailed. While that can add to the frenetic feel of the book,  it slightly detracted.

So 'The Collector of Worlds' has arrived, turning Earth's technology into a robot army and preparing to catalog the history of the planet and destroy it. Perhaps the most panicked of the characters in the face of this threat is Luthor. And he was The Collector's liaison!

Anyways, I think there is something ironic about what he says here. He blames Superman for the arrival of Brainiac ... not himself! Amusing. It is like other times when Luthor says he would have saved the world if Superman wasn't around as he is surrounded by the carnage he has wrought.

That said, Luthor has seemed a bit too openly cowardly for my taste in Action. In this issue he has seen running around pleading for his life. It seems somehow beneath Lex. I preferred the initial presentation of this new Lex, where he was smug and untouchable. It is hard to respect this Luthor and as a result a bit harder to fear. Of course, it may be this event that steels him into the cold blooded Lex I am used to.

As if in counterpoint we see the cool and calm John Henry Irons sipping a cocktail while the world crumbles around him. But that apathetic response is shelved when Irons hears the President call for Superman for help.

Irons realizes a Man of Steel is needed. The scene works well and is a glimmer of optimism.

Clark slipped away from his auto factory tour when the assembly robots turned into android killers. And despite the recent sway in public opinion, Superman jumps into the fray to save people.

Despite the devastation around them, the police initially try to arrest Superman! One thing I liked here was the old school 'slap on the bracelets boys' (which sounds like something Siegel would write in the 30s) 'or stand back and let me do my job'. That's heroism. And it sways the cops who finally realize Superman fighting for the good of the Earth outweighs the petty insult to someone like Glenmorgan. Superman is winning people over.

I don't quite understand the white shirt here.

Meanwhile, John Corben has been turned into 'the Voice' of the Collector, the mouthpiece of the alien invader. But Corben's voice occasionally breaks through the robotic tones of his programmer. Corben is still in there somewhere. And Lois tries to coax that true person out by reminding him of all the things that make him human. Hey ... he likes the Chili Peppers ... he can't be all bad.

What it does do is show that the Lois/Corben relationship was more than a date or two. She talks about a trip to Maui. I do like Lois' bravery here. I think she is going to be great in this book.

Despite her pleadings, the 'Metallo' personality wins out and Superman has to come in and save the day.

One of the things that Morrison has been touching on in these early issues is the initial distrust the population has of an alien hero. Corben drives that point home when he talks about how the Metal Zero program was initiated immediately after Superman went public. It is purely an anti-Superman program. That has to be demoralizing to Superman who has tried to help people. It is a sort of psychological attack on top of the overwhelming physical attack of Metallo and the robot army.

And, as if in counterpoint again, to stifle Metallo's words, Irons shows up, as Steel, to help. "I'll take care of this." Just awesome. For Superman, he suddenly has to feel like he is not alone. That he has a friend. That there is someone else out there who cares.

I'll cover the back-up Steel feature separately and soon. I like the low tech look here.

Unfortunately with museums purged of 'important artifacts', the Collector collects Metropolis, bottling it! This is the second time Metropolis has been bottled in recent history (it was in Johns' Brainiac arc). And look, there are more bottles and other cities. Is one of them Kandor? Is that piece of Superman mythos back ... so shortly after New Krypton? Is that how Clark learns his heritage?

This is clearly Brainiac-y enough to be Brainiac, what with the green head and pink electrode nubs. But the centipede look is new. I would wonder if this was a drone but it is doubtful *the* Brainiac would let a drone be in charge of his collection.

With Metropolis gone, things have changed. While his troops remain with their guns trained on Superman, General Lane asks Superman if he can help rescue Lois. General Lane! This will clearly be a turning point in Superman's career. This will make him a hero in the world's eyes. I mean, already attitudes are changing. But what plan could this brash Superman have?

What's worse is we have to wait 2 issues to get to the next chapter! An interlude? Already? Within the first arc? I don't know if this pacing is right. Unless it is planned to give Morales more time to finish the story and tighten things up. The next issue blurbs are about the actual origin, the rocket trip from Krypton, so hopefully things it will slip into the arc seamlessly.

The bottom line is that this comic remains the cream of the new universe. I want to read the next issue immediately after reading this book and that is always a sign of a winner.

Overall grade: A


valerie21601 said...

Maybe the white Superman shirt is a tip of the hat to the Linda Danvers, Supergirl?

mathematicscore said...

I think they might be trying to show how "not-a-costume" it is at this point; After all, didn't he throw away his blue shirt earlier?