Friday, August 3, 2012

Review: Action Comic #12

Action Comics #12 came out this week and followed the blueprint it has had for the last year. This book continues to be extremely fast-paced, filled with action, splattered with ideas and concepts, and mixing in Golden Age and Silver Age and modern sensibilities. It somehow is both a dense read and a quick read if that is possible. And as a result it is one of those rare books that lies at the top of my pile (read first because I know it will be fantastic) and then is immediately put at the bottom of the weekly pile (read last because I know it will be fantastic) to be reread sooner rather than later so I can digest it some more.

An issue like this makes me again groan about the fact that Morrison is leaving the book in a handful of months. Because who would ever want to step into these shoes, trying to match this substance and maintain this pace. This issue isn't flawless (one moment rings wrong) but it is simply fantastic, reminding me that these stories are supposed to send me somewhere extraordinary.

The art on the book is split in third with Cafu, Rags Morales, and Brad Walker all handling some of the pages. Despite that, the power of the story is enough to carry me over the different styles. It helps that all three provide great art, bringing the story to life. Despite the number of artists on the book, it was still a smooth read.

The book starts with Superman's mind being played with by Captain Comet, being shown visions of both his life and a possible future. That vision ends with a Superman/Lois wedding on the roof of the planet, a new Camelot with flying heroes dotting the sky, a dream come true.

Superman is somehow roused to reality as the image of Lois returns to her current battered form, after all she was slammed into by a speeding fire truck last issue.

But even this dying Lois says she wishes the marriage would happen.

I don't know if Morrison has ever picked a side in the Clark/Lois marriage but the fact that this is part of Superman's perfect future and that Lois wishes it would happen makes me feel that, at the very least, he isn't vehemently opposed to it.

Snapped out of his fugue, Superman fights the Captain. And during that brawl, Comet continues to try to sway Lois' niece Susie to join him. He has told her of the 'million pointed spear' and 'the cuckoo's nest' ... those sort of throwaway ideas that Morrison may never touch upon again.

And Comet also shows his origin. What struck me here is how similar it is to Superman's and yet how different the results are. Born in Kansas, Adam Blake was mutated to a neo-sapien evolved form by the passing of a comet. It is the same Captain Comet origin we have always had in the DCU.

And yet, there is no kindly couple here, no loving environment to help guide Adam into becoming a purer hero like Clark.

Instead he is alienated, hated, isolated ... to use his words 'trapped alone in a hell-world'.

So instead of helping everyday people, becoming a hero and inspiration, Comet is alone, hitchhiking in the rain, and ultimately recruited into a neo-sapien army.

This could have been Superman ... but Clark had the Kents in his life. So Comet is a foil for Superman here. He was the 'Kansas Strongman' who took a very different path. Recently Superman has been wondering just what type of hero he should be, street level or global. Here at least he sees what he could have been.

And the 'long hairs' that recruited Adam Blake are the 'Oort-kind', aliens bringing neo-sapiens into their fold to make them 'strong warriors'.

Again, as with many big ideas in this book, we simply have to accept the Oort-Kind and roll with their presence. I have never heard of them. Are they 'good guys' defending the universe? Or are they using Blake as they build their army?

But again, it is this sort of rapid-fire layering of ideas one on top of the other that is the magic of this book.

As for the other subplots brewing in the book, Johnny Clark's fireman uniform is discovered and it is assumed that he has been vaporized. Thus Clark has lost his second secret identity in a short time.

Later it is revealed that there really was a Johnny Clark who died in the line of duty, that Clark borrowed the identity.

Part of the joy of this book has been seeing a younger and more impetuous Superman, the guy who hoisted Glenmorgan over his head while standing on the penthouse patio.

So I like that here he realizes that Comet's telepathy can't work on him if he simply gives into emotion and action. If his mind is white-hot with anger, he is sure to be impervious to the subtleties of mental assaults.

Did anyone else get a whiff of Wolverine when this beserker Superman says he is going to do what he does best?

But this motif of Superman being a man of physical feats, of action here in Action, has been one of the stronger foundations of this book.

But even that might not be enough to beat Comet. Luckily Susie decides that she doesn't want to join the Oorts and instead turns her powers against Adam. As a result, Superman is able to bash him to the point that the Comet has to retreat to his spaceship a galaxy away.

Again, the contrast of Superman and Comet is a such a nice subtle part of this book. Comet sounds the hero saying that he is here to save everyone. Superman tells him that he went about it the wrong way. Maybe this interaction will make Superman realize that he can't force justice onto people. Comet can't step in and control people and whisk away Susie for her own good. Superman can't force dictators to step down, to bring water to the deserts. He was pondering these things last issue.

Now the part that I thought was a bit off, albeit extremely Silver Age.

With the battle over, Superman scoops up Lois and takes her to a local hospital where the trauma surgeons say her case is hopeless. Not willing to give up, Superman reads all of the medical literature in minutes and performs the surgery himself, using his fingernail as a scalpel, and leaving Lois alive and scarless.

While Morrison wants Superman to be near-divine, this seemed like too much. I don't want someone to blame Superman for not curing someone's cancer or doing brain surgery (the impetus for .... brrrrrr .... Grounded). I don't need him to be everything.

Still, there is a Silver Age feel to this absorption of all knowledge.

As for the identity crisis, Batman reminds Superman that he needs to resurrect Clark somehow because Clark helped out plenty of people too. Superman needs Clark. So how to bring him back? I mean there was a funeral and grieving.

Enter Mrs. Nyxly finally shows that she is from someplace 'bigger', a higher mathematical dimension (presumably the 5th dimension). She was sent to Earth 57 years ago to help Superman (I'll have to check if her Silver Age first appearance was in 1955 ... which would be fantastic).

And she can wish away Clark's death!

And we finally learn who the 'Teetotaler' is. He isn't Mxyzptlk. He hurt Mxyzptlk! And others as he escaped from Zrfff. Lord Vyndktvx (read Lord Vindictive?) is the Envious One and he hates Superman. But there is hope.

I love that last panel, a sort of multi-dimensional Picasso-esque Nyxly, showing that she simply isn't from around here.

And unfortunately she is right because the story ends with Vyndktvx in Susie's room. We know he lures her into his Anti-Superman army.


That is a lot of comic there. And I didn't really even cover the fight pages!

There is almost too much to recap - Comet and his origin, the reflections of Comet/Superman, the Oorts, Nyxly and Vyndktvx, the magical return of Clark, surgeon Superman, and a vision of a Lois/Superman wedding. And all of it written and drawn beautifully.

This comic is simply wonderful.

Overall grade: A

1 comment:

Dave Mullen said...

An issue so exciting and stuffed with ideas and subplots it almost defies an in-depth review... I will just say then I thought it was excellent.

All the concern I've had about the books direction and Morrison's focus comes together that bit more this issue as the final couple of pages blow everything out onto a whole other scale; generally I've come to despise these year+ long arcs where a plot is stretched out over an extended arc and the writer/publisher expects you to sit through it for the payoff - which is usually dissapointing. Here though it looks like we're in for a real treat and a long arc that will fully reward.
This issue of Action was so stuffed with ideas and expanding on what we'd been seeing these last ten issues I think what we're seeing here is Morrison's prelude & encore to All-Star Superman...