Grant Morrison is doing the heavy lifting in Action Comics, laying out the Man of Steel's first super-hero adventure. In the back-up feature, Sholly Fisch is giving us wonderful glimpses into the events that made Clark who he is. Last month's look at the Kent's trials and tribulations around conceiving was sweet and beautiful.
Action Comics #6 back-up takes a much closer look at Clark's childhood, focusing on the day he is leaving Smallville and heading to Metropolis. Much like what Morrison is doing in the main story, Fisch is really giving us glimpses into Clark's past, giving us some but not all information, and building a complete story through these captured moments. Sure, we see enough of Lana Lang and Pete Ross here to get a feel for their friendship with Clark. But things are implied, not shown. It leaves the door open for more.
And as this is Smallville, we really get sun-dappled art by Chris Cross. His sometimes heavy lines are gone here, and the coloring by Jose Villarrubia really adds to the story. There is a feeling of country sunshine here, brightness, but also the hint of sunset ... reminding us Clark is moving on.
So we see Clark give the Kent farm to the Fry family, a neighbor whose farm was foreclosed. With Clark moving on, the farm needs to be tended. Why not give it to someone who has been oppressed?
This really has a Golden/Silver Age feel to it. There isn't a Kent homestead for Clark to retreat to, no chance to pick Ma and Pa's brains for wisdom like in the Byrne era. This chapter in his life is closed.
As Clark roams through the house one last time, he is struck by memories.
One is him crying, wondering why he is different.
I liked this one, Pa talking about how Clark needs to stand up to the bullies in life ... the oppressors. Look at how almost washed out the art looks here, like a faded photograph. Just a great mix of words, theme, and art.
This was perhaps my favorite page in the whole book. What a home run by Cross!
But more than that, you get the sense that Lana is in on the secret. She says that Clark has too much to offer to the world than to stay on the farm. And how else did they get up there? What else could Clark mean when he asks her is he should take her down? He leaped up there with her.
And Lana leaning her head on Clark's shoulder. Wonderful. And again, that sort of brightness to the art just works. If I knew it wouldn't be ludicrously expensive, I'd buy this page.
But the time has come for Clark to move on. The Smallville Three Musketeers are breaking up because Clark has bigger things he needs to accomplish.
It is also clear that Pete isn't in on the secret (at least not openly, remember he did know in the Silver Age). But he seems surprised at how heavy Clark's boxes are. If he knew Clark could juggle cars, he woudn't be shocked.
Smiling, Clark leaves his home, heading to the big city.
These quiet moments, these looks back, tell us how and more importantly why Clark is Superman. There is the perfect feel of innocence in this short story, a sort of idyllic setting explaining how Clark became the ethical and helpful person he is. Just great stuff.
In some ways I am envious of Fisch. He gets to puts some bricks in the foundation of this Superman. But rather than having to write the bluster of heat vision and K-Bombs, he gets to write these more personal moments that add depth the the characters here. I would love that gig.
And Cross' art here is the right fit, matching the mood of the story perfectly.