Saturday, June 9, 2012

Review: Action Comics #10

Action Comics #10 came out this week and continued a run of great and fascinating reads in this re-imagination and reboot of Superman. I am definitely on the Grant Morrison roller coaster here and like most coasters I am enjoying the ride.

So let's get something out of the way. I am loving this book finding it to be an interesting mishmash of Golden Age sensibilities, Silver Age goodness, and current distrust and paranoia. It certainly has been a fast paced whirlwind of concepts and standard Morrison craziness. And that's the great part.

The fascinating part is that this is about as nonlinear a reboot or retelling of Superman that I have encountered. And having been around as long as I have, I have lived through some reboots, Birthrights, Secret Origins, etc. We barely know this Superman or this Clark Kent from 5 years ago and yet we have already had a side adventure with the current Superman as well as a look at an alternate universe Superman.

So when I see that the latest arc is the 'death of Clark Kent' and the creation of a secret secret identity, I have to pause ... at least a second. I want to learn more about Clark, his relationships, his history. I want to see him at the Planet or out researching a story. So to delay that knowledge, just 10 issues in (really 7 given the side stories above) is risky. How will people know if they like this new history if they aren't really getting it.

But, as I always say, the bottom line is the quality of the story. And Morrison continues to bring it. His stories do reveal a lot about the character just not via exposition and more through nuance. I only hope Clark isn't gone too long. I read the book as much for Clark as I do Superman. I think this is a feint by Morrison and we see Clark back here in #12.

Rags Morales is on art here and brings a quiet steadiness to the book. There are some flourishes which I love and will point out moving forward.

The issue promises a standoff with Nimrod the Hunter, even implying he is responsible for Clark's death.

So no surprise when the book opens with Nimrod, real name Maxim Zarov, hunting down Superman. This is early Superman so it is interesting to see how easily Zarov is able to triangulate sightings of pre-Superman super-events to Smallville and ultimately the Kent Farm. Throughout this issue, I think we see Clark a bit free and easy with his dual identities and suffering a bit for it.

Of course Maxim Zarov sounds suspiciously like 'General Zaroff' from the Most Dangerous Game.

Clark meanwhile is incensed at the murder of a young girl in Hob's Bay. He heads to a bus station locker (#38 ... like 1938?), fetches a red Superman t-shirt (we see white, tan, blue as well) and tracks the man down.

But this is where we see the naivete of this Clark. He first knocks on the door as Clark. When the door is slammed in his face, he breaks it down moments later as Superman. And he isn't happy.

So this isn't his Superman suit, which seems built more for JLA high-falutin' super-heroing. This is his jeans, t-shirt, protector of the little people street uniform. I don find it interesting that he has a stash of shirts of different colors. This one is red ... and clearly he is raging. On Brainiac's satellite it was white and he was fighting for planetary life. Is Superman plugged into the 'emotional spectrum'?

And does that make his standard blue uniform the one of hope?

This leads to a League meeting where Superman talks about being proactive. Stopping poverty in Somalia to start. He casually reveals that Batman is a billionaire (again that lack of understanding of the importance of identity protection).

Batman doesn't want to be a living weapon from America. Wonder Woman wants to make things better. The Flash knows that they aren't gods. They have limits ... and laws.

Again, this is a young Superman. Rather than inspiring people to reach for the stars, this young guy wants to hoist us on his shoulders and carry us there. And when no one agrees to join him on his mission, he sullenly leaves. That doesn't make him an 'emo loser'. It makes him an idealist who is trying to figure out the right way to help people ... as many people as possible.

This is also a 'young' JLA. Is this the "first" time Batman realizes he needs to worry about Superman.

But perhaps the best thing about this scene is how physically dominant Wonder Woman is. She is the tallest in the room, bigger than Cyborg. She's so big she busts out of the panel. Just a nice way for Morales to portray the majesty of Diana.

Not getting the answers he likes from his hero pals, Clark decides to hang out at his tiny apartment with Jimmy and Lois. They are hoping to bring him to the Planet for a meet and greet and hopefully a job.

I like the easy feelings of friendship here, just three friends hanging out. This is that sort of quiet characterization that this book is full of. I know a lot about the relationship of these three from this panel.

Meanwhile, Jimmy is floored at how stunning Lana is. And Clark is surprised that Lois' 'Superman scrap book' includes things he did before he showed himself. I think here is where Clark suddenly realizes that smart people are going to be able to trace things back to him. That maybe the secrecy of his secret identity (which he already revealed to his landlady) needs to be more carefully guarded.

And he should be worried because Nimrod is in town, trailing Clark and getting ready to strike.

But another threat is coming to Metropolis. This 'Adam' has come back to his 'home planet' to conquer it. And he clearly has either mystical power or mind powers.

Is he someone new? Or maybe the new Dr. Destiny?

On the way to the Planet, Clark spies on of Glenmorgan's disgraced goons standing outside the Daily Star, acting like a suicide bomber. Acting heroically Clark tries to stop the detonation but can't. People are hurt. But at that range, Clark Kent has to 'die'.

Of course, these are the earliest days of Superman. He probably has never had to fake his death or create a crazy excuse to explain Clark's appearance, disappearance, or survival before. So Clark is 'dead'.

But Nimrod isn't buying it. He goes to Clark's apartment only to be told that Clark has died.

And then ... shocking ... Superman shows up to stop Zarov. Nimrod fires and exploding shell (maybe another homage line to the intial Superman's level of invulnerability) which ricochets and burns/scars Zarov's face.

Despite the 'Clark is dead' tag line delivered by Mrs. Nyxly and Superman, I don't know if Nimrod is buying it. And again, it is all too convenient that Superman is there. Who wouldn't think Clark is Superman?

But Clark is dead, which means we'll have a 'new secret identity' next month. Or maybe he goes 'Superman 100% of the time'  trying to tirelessly change the world.

In some ways, this whole issue shows that Superman hasn't quite reached the lofty pinnacles of heroics and ethics that he eventually role models.

Mr. Myxyzptlk (or the Teetotaler, whatever you want to call him) decides to enter the picture and make a deal with Zarov.  We know he takes the deal ...

Because we saw him looking like this in Action Comics #6.

So let's put this all together. A relatively green Superman comes to realize that he hasn't kept his secret identity completely secret. He also realizes that he wants to start helping out on a global scale despite local authority. And then, Clark gets 'killed' basically taking care of the first problem and letting him actualize the second.

I think this is going to end up being a 'lessons learned' story arc by Morrison. When this is done, Kal will probably realizes that he is Clark and can't give that up. That he can't coerce and needs to inspire. And that maybe the rage of the red shirted Superman is something he needs to move past.

Anyways, as usual, this issue flew by at a breakneck pace. And Action Comics certainly remains a very entertaining read for me. I am learning about this new Superman, just in a whirlwind sort of way rather than a liner exposition.

Overall grade: B+


Dave Mullen said...

I've enjoyed much of Grant Morrison's run so far and this issue is another full of great ideas and future subplots being seeded, but I'm falling into the area you cite of being increasingly weary and confused by the unheralded skipping to-and-fro between Past, Present and Future, not to mention a serving of the odd alternate Universe. Ten issues in this is a very unreasonable and thoughtless approach for a book that is supposed to be appealing to the mainstream audience of new readers. Morrison needs a stronger editor in my view as as with his Batman and Final Crisis work I have the impression that he's being given a completely free reign to follow his muse with no one interjecting and offering some constructive criticism and guidance - i.e. an Editor.

I liked the plots this issue, so many intriguing plotlines being set up - the notion there was a mystery 'Superman' operating before Clark, the mystery of 'Mr Mxyzptlk', Lana Lang's current status, but on the flipside I had trouble rationalising why the leg breaker T-shirted vigilante Superman is operating in tandem with Idealist-Superman in his shiny armoured guise. IT is very noticable that there is a brick wall between the reader and what's going on in Clarks head, and this made the book hard to follow. Morrison is throwing ideas out there like confetti but to a reader I'm not confident it is all making any narrative sense - how can you possibly tie together the focus on this young proto-Superman with the looks into alternate earths and possible futures we've been served with? The shifts between streetlevel vigilantism and dips into cosmic saga's we don't fully understand. It's a book that's all over the place as a narrative.

I think the problem I'm having with the books approach is summed up by Clark Kent bluntly being announced as Dead and gone. Presumably the result of the explosion. But if that's the case where's the necessary body or remains? Why is Clark suddenly dead? It's simply because Morrison says so. Just like everything else. It is 'so' just because Morrison tells us it is and we should join all the necessary dots to make this make sense, not him.
I'm getting tired of it.

Anonymous said...

You might like to visit "Superman Homepage" re. the NEW SG FILM in development.-
After all, we are all in the same boat, even if we hold a lot of differences re. Supergirl as of now.-
NEW SG FILM in development!!

Anonymous said...

Re. The Supergirl Movie, its a rumor at the this point and nothing more. Supposedly pre 2004 Avika Goldstein was conjuring with an Earth Angel Supergirl movie script but the project went nowhere.
Likely this project will end the same way.
I'd like to see Supergirl become a popular film franchise but I think she has some brand identification problems with the non comics buying public.
On the other hand I've always maintained that she is a natural for television, either animated or live action. Just keep the producers of "Smallville" far away from the project...


Martin Gray said...

I loved this issue. I was a tad confused by having Superman operate in both tee and armour, maybe that'll be explained. You weren't serious about the tee shirts reflecting his emotions, we're you? Please God the GL business doesn't infect this book.

But yeah, so much going on, and little Easter eggs such as the Swan bar and Gregory Reed on the cinema board. I'm still wondering if Mrs N is a new version of Mxy's girlfriend, undercover!

The scene with Clark, Lois and Jimmy was my favourite, that easy friendship was gorgeous to see. It made me think of the alternates who came into the President Superman storyline.

And the back-up was great too.

Anonymous said...

In effect Kal El has three secret identities, Clark Kent, The Vigilante and Imperial Superman with the second empire uniform.


Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I agree thatMorrison is probably being given a lot of leeway here with this book. Sometimes that's good. Sometimes that's inscrutable.

So can he tie up all these wild ideas eventually into a cohesive Superman that the future will be built on? I hope so.

I was half-kidding about this shirt colors Mart. I hope it isn't GL-based. But there is no denying that this red-shirted Superman is the most rage-filled we have seen.